Cape Town is one of the largest cities in South Africa and located in the Western Cape Province. It is located in the south-west corner of the country near the Cape of Good Hope, and is the most southern city in Africa. It is a stone's throw from South Africa's world-famous Cape Winelands around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek.
The most popular view on Cape Town is from Bloubergstrand. By Fluglotse2000
Cape Town was founded as a trading post by Jan van Riebeeck on account of the VOC (Dutch East Indies Company) in the year 1652 and is therefore often called the Mother City. The first settlers were mainly Dutch and German, with some French Huguenots that had to flee from their home country. The first settlers soon explored the inland and founded the cities of Stellenbosch and Paarl in todays Cape Winelands. The Voortrekkers (Pioneers of European descent)started from here to explore and settle the rest of South Africa's inland.
Today Cape Town is the legislative capital of South Africa. It is a world-class cosmopolitan city with numerous sites of historical significance, and a lively nightlife, as well as a big gay community.
- The summer months of December and January, as well as early February are usually very hot, but the humidity is low. You should stay inside or in the shade during the midday heat and use sufficient sunblock. You will fight for space on the beach around New Year's with all the local tourists but it is still a great time to visit as lots is happening.
- The winter months of June and July are a bit rainy, which does not mean rain every day. Often you will have one or two days of rain and a week of total sunshine, but it can rain for two weeks straight on occasion. It can also get very cold at night, with temperatures as low as 6 or 7C (this is the temperature of the ocean so it will not get colder unless you go far inland) but 10-12C normal. It will become warmer during the day, with temperatures between 14-20C typical. Sunrises and sunsets are best in the winter, as is the seafood!
- Best month to visit are:
- October and November: Weather is better, spring is in the air, but it is not as hot yet.
- March, April: Although it starts raining, it is still warm.
Cape Town International Airport (CPT)  is the second largest airport in South Africa (the largest being in Johannesburg). There are several flights daily to Johannesburg, Durban and all other major South African cities, we well as the Namibian cities of Windhoek, Swakopmund and Walvis Bay and other destinations, including Gaborone, Maun, Harare and Nairobi.
Further international flights arrive from Buenos Aires, Doha, Frankfurt, Kuala Lumpur, London and Singapore.
See also Discount airlines in Africa and Air travel in South Africa for further information.
Cape Town has a few train connections to other cities in South Africa. Cape Town's main train station is located in the city centre, at the corner of Adderley Street and Strand Street. Please take care of your belongings!
A daily train departs for Kimberley (16.5 hours), Johannesburg (25 hours) and Pretoria (27 hours).
Weekely trains leave every Monday for Bloemfontein (23 hours), Pietermaritzburg (34 hours) and Durban (36.5 hours).
The Metrorail trains are a great way to get between Cape Town and neighboring towns such as Stellenbosch and Simonstown. Be careful when travelling by train, especially at night. Make sure to ride first class to get at least some comfort and to enjoy the presence of safety guards.
The train line from Cape Town to Simonstown is really nice, as it runs all along the coast. The trains to Stellenbosch run every two hours (more or less), but this journey might take a while. Asked at the ticket counter if there is an earlier train you could use, as there are also trains to Stellenbosch starting in Bellville and Eersterivier.
Be aware of pedestrians on highways and National Roads, too! By Fluglotse2000
Several major highways start in Cape Town:
NB: hiring a car in South Africa is generally very expensive, as is petrol. However, the vast majority of the roads in and around Cape Town are of a European or American standard.
All major bus companies have Intercity connections from Cape Town, taking you to all bigger cities in South Africa and to Windhoek in Namibia. There might be up to 6 buses a day to certain cities.
The starting point is next to the train station at the corner of Adderley and Strand Street, near the Golden Acre building. Please ask at the nearby tourist information or in your hotel for connections and where your bus is going to leave, as finding your bus can become difficult.
If you are staying downtown or close to it, then you can walk to most of the major sites.
Metered taxis are controlled by the city council and can be considered safe and reliable. The price per kilometer is around R8-R10 and can often be read at the taxis side door. You can also set a fixed price with the driver, especially when going to a far away destination.
Minibus taxis are only advisable for locals. They cover most of the Cape Town Metropolitan Area and are very cheap. But they are crowded and less safe than normal taxis.
There is a network of public buses (Golden Arrow buses) that offer cheap and fast connections for example from the city centre to the Waterfront. They run mostly during the day. It is better to ask the driver where the bus is going, to make sure you wont end up somewhere else.
The best way to get around in the City Centre cheaply is to hire a Rikki. This multi-passenger mini-minibus zips around from place to place. No guarantee you'll get to your destination directly, but it is safe, fun, and all the drivers are characters. Meet supermodels going to their photoshoots or artists going to their studios. During busy times of day (or year) you may have to wait a while and there is no booking ahead! 423 3888.
You can also hire a Vespa or other brand of scooter. A number of places in the city offer this service and it is a great way to be mobile and save over hiring a car. Vespa Cafe is recommended on Kloof Street.
Unless you love the pain of cycling up and down mountains while dodging city traffic on narrow streets, cycling for transportation is not recommended. However, cycling in the area is, and is very popular.
There is a system of public train transport, although it is mainly use by locals. Operator Metrorail  has done a lot to increase safety and comfort on board the trains, but they still do not live up to European standards. So make sure to buy a first-class ticket. Trains normally leave from Cape Towns main train station (at Adderley Street) and the four lines serve the suburbs in the east and south, including the Cape Flats. A nice scenic drive can be done south to Simon's Town, all along the east coast of the Cape Peninsula.
- The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront  is a huge shopping and entertainment area at the slopes of Table Mountain, next to the harbour. It is very popular with tourists, because of the high density of shops, restaurants and amusement possibilities, like the Aquarium or the Marine Museum. Harbour tours and trips to Robben Island start from here, as well as helicopter flights to the Cape Peninsula.
- Robben Island, Phone: (0)21 413 4200, . Located just off the coast from Cape Town, this was the location used during the apartheid days to hold political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela and the late Walter Sisulu. Some of the tour guides were themselves political prisoners so they have plenty of insight about what went on there. Tours run several times per days, seven days a week from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront. Tours cost R150 for adults and R75 for children.
informal settlement in Khayelitsha, Cape Town's biggest township. By Fluglotse2000
Cape Town City Hall near the Castle is an example of Victorian architecture. By Fluglotse2000
- Bo-Kaap. This neighborhood, located on a hill south-west of downtown is the area historically inhabited by mainly Muslim descendants of slaves from South-East Asia (hence an older term for the area - 'Malay Quarter'. It's a common location for film shoots, as there are some very colourful buildings, quaint streets, mosques. views over Cape Town and some great food sold on the side of the street. It's well worth wandering around for an hour or so, as well as visiting the Bo-Kaap Museum (a view of a prosperous Muslim family from the 19th Century).
- South African Parliament, . Cape Town is the legislative seat of South Africa (the Presidential seat is in Pretoria and the Supreme Court is at Bloemfontein). A tour of this compound will acquaint you with South Africa's recent history and its political system. The tour includes visits to the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces and the old apartheid-era assembly which is now only used for caucus and committee meetings. Tours are free and offered a few times per day in various languages.
- The Castle of Good Hope. Popularly called 'The Castle' by locals, it has extensive displays of historical military paraphernalia, a history of the castle, an art collection and the William Feur Collection (including old Cape Dutch furniture). You can eat inside the Castle at the restaurant or cafe, as well as buy wine.
Museums and Galleries
- South African National Gallery, Phone: (0)21 4674660, . Located in the Gardens area of Cape Town off Government Ave (about a 20 minute walk from downtown). Contains extensive displays of South African art, as well as information on the history of censorship of art during apartheid. Open Tuesday to Sunday, 10:00-17:00. Entry is R5 and free for students and children.
- District Six Museum, 25A Buitenkant St., Phone: (0)21 461 8745, [email protected], . Open Monday-Saturday 09:00-16:00. Admission is free. District Six is an area near downtown Cape Town which remained multiracial well into the 1960s against all attempts by the government to declare it a "white only" area. Eventually the residents were all evicted and the buildings were bulldozed. The area remains uninhabited. The museum provides information about the area, the eviction, the Group Areas Act, and the people who used to live there. The director of the museum is a former resident. There is a small bookstore with an excellent selection of books on South Africa's history, District Six and apartheid.
- Hike Table Mountain. This is the mountain located in the center of Cape Town, part of the Table Mountain National Park (part of the UNESCO Cape Floristic Region World Heritage Site) running along the peninsula to Cape Point. Table Mountain is known for the unusual "table cloth effect." That is, when the top of the mountain (which is relatively flat) is covered in clouds, the clouds drape down the side as a table cloth hangs over the edge of a table. The hike takes about 2 to 3 hours, depending on your fitness and enthusiasm, but is well worth the effort for the sense of achievement; there's even a cafe at the top of the mountain to reward your quest. For those seeking less strenuous hiking, numerous other paths trace the contours of the mountain and wander through the protea bushes and fynbos, with breathtaking views. There is also a cable car that goes up if you prefer not to hike (which is how most people get to the top!). The website Nature South Africaprovides free hiking guides and information.
- Township Tour The townships are the places where people were forced to live (based on race) under the apartheid regime. To some extent townships continue to retain their apartheid-era racial makeup, for a variety of reasons. Touring the township may seem strange, even inappropriate, but it is a good way to learn about South Africa's history, and the poverty that many people continue to live in. People in the townships are friendly and the children love visitors. Some townships however can be dangerous (see the warning on the South Africa page) so don't go alone unless you know what you're doing. The townships tours are safe. If you want to bring sweets or gifts for the children, it is best not to give it directly to them, but to give it to the tour guide who will distribute them later. There are several tour companies which offer tours, one of which is Sam's Cultural Tours (phone: (0)21 695 0768, cell: 082 970 0564). Tours can be booked directly or through one of Cape Town's many booking agencies. Tours run once or twice per day.
- Kayaking in False Bay. Rent a kayak in Simonstown and see the False Bay from another point of view. Make sure to stop at the penguin colony at Boulders, where you can see the African Penguin (formerly called Jackass Penguin).
- Cape Peninsula. Go from Cape Town down to the Cape of Good Hope via Simonstown and the penguin colony at Boulders. Visit Cape Point and maybe have lunch there. Go back along the west coast through the exclusive suburbs of Camps Bay and Llandudno.
- Winelands. Tour through the Cape Winelands around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. Go to some of the vineyards for wine-tastings and enjoy a break at the beautiful old cities.
- Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, . View the hugely diverse and beautiful plants and flowers of the Cape flora in one of the most stunning botanical gardens in the world. Plants from all of the regions of South Africa are on display, including rare succulents from the Richtersveld, a giant baobob tree, and interesting medicinal plants. Numerous paths wander through the grounds situated on the back side of Table Mountain. Several restaurants, a gift shop and indigenous nursery are also available. At various times of the year concerts are performed in the open air amphitheater. Art is frequently on display, including large Shona stone sculptures from Zimbabwe. The gardens are also home to the National Biodiversity Institute.
- Visit Ratanga Junction in summer and enjoy a day with your kids at this theme park.
- Attend Major Events throughout the year. There is a great Cape Town Jazz Festival, the Cape Town Minstrels at New Year's Day, the MCQP costume party bash in December, the Cape Argus cycle race in March, the Spier Summer Arts Festival, the X-Games, beach volleyball tournaments, etc., etc. You probably know about these if it is the reason you are going to Cape Town, but if not check out the calendar of events just in case your trip coincides with one.
- Attend Smaller Events as well. Music (see below) and the arts are great in Cape Town, especially theatre and jazz. The main theatres are the Baxter Theatre and the Artscape Theatre, but other venues (Independent Armchair Theatre, Off Broadway and others) also are worth checking out. Buy tickets online at Computicket. Time Out magazine lists what's on. The Labia Cinema has an African Screen showing African-made and African-oriented films all year 'round. Listings in newspapers too.
The University of the Western Cape, the University of Cape Town, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and Stellenbosch University are all located in or near Cape Town. Cape Town's medical research is world-renowned, and Groote Schuur hospital is where Hamilton Naki and Christiaan Barnard performed the first heart transplant.
The V&A Waterfront is the prime tourist destination for souvenirs, though these tend to be typically touristy (i.e. expensive and not necessarily authentic). More authentic curios for better prices can be found every Sunday at the Green Point market outside the Green Point stadium, in walking distance from the V & A Waterfront. Many of these same curios can be purchased during the week in the several multi-story shops at the lower end of Long Street. For the real deal with authentic artefacts complete with provenance and ethnographic background, go to Church Street where there are a couple of shops but be prepared for sticker shock.
If you like South African wine, buy it here (or anywhere in South Africa) before you leave, because it is much cheaper and there is more availability than overseas. Top guide to wines is the John Platter's Guide, with a few others around too, and with thousands of wines available from the region, you will need a guide (see below for shops that have knowledgable staff). Read Wine magazine (or the iconoclastic Grape) for the latest information.
- Vaughan Johnson's Wine Shop V & A Waterfront. Quality selection but not exhaustive. Knowledgable staff.
- Caroline's Fine Wines V & A Waterfront and lower Long Street in the City Centre. Better selection and more knowledgable staff. City Centre location recommended, but both are excellent. Foam inserts and boxes for international shipping or for checking with your luggage (safe!).
- Wine Concepts Newlands (Southern Suburbs). Another great wine shop, certainly the best outside the City Bowl. A franchised location is on Kloof Street in the Lifestyle Centre.
- Ultra several locations around the city, the one in Green Point is the most accessible to tourists. A warehouse bottle store but with a remarkable wine selection across all price ranges. Case discount (even on mixed cases). Good if you want to stock up for a road trip. Stash a bottle of Amarula Cream in your backpack while you're at it.
Arts and Crafts
Distinctively Capetonian in character -- are everywhere, from chickens made of plastic bags to bead and wire work to pottery, glass and embroidery. If you don't buy a chicken from a rastafarian at a street corner (the authentic experience -- about 30 rand depending on the size), then try Heartworks (Kloof Street or in Gardens Centre mall) or the Red Shed at the V & A Waterfront. There is also a high-end craft boutique in the Cape Quarter in De Waterkant.
Contemporary South African art has been riding a big wave in the international art world. It is on par with the best in the world and undervalued (unless you buy a William Kentridge). If you like real art as opposed to curios, crafts or posters, and you have the budget for it, there are several serious galleries in town. Try Michael Stevenson Gallery first, then Joao Ferreira Gallery, AVA Gallery or Bell-Roberts Gallery, and there are several others worth seeing. Art South Africa is the art magazine to read if you want to know about the artists, and the adverts list the shows and the galleries.
Food in Cape Town is generally of high quality. The wines are much celebrated, but the surrounding region is also a major fruit producer, and the Karoo lamb is widely regarded. Seafood caught locally is superlative, but ironically much of it goes internationally (e.g., tuna for sushi) because of the prices that can be gotten. Ask about the local linefish -- yellowtail, cape salmon, kingklip, kabeljou and others are great eating. Oysters in season are also exceptional, farmed and wild from Knysna or wild flown in from Namibia.
As one of the main tourist spots is the V&A waterfront, you will find a broad range of restaurants, but they are often crowded and expensive. Another highlight is the area around Long Street with its many cafés and restaurants (frequented by a multi-ethnic clientele), while the trendy area of De Waterkant between Bo Kaap and Green Point above Somerset Road also boasts good food and a great vibe. Dine with supermodels and other beautiful people in Camps Bay, which has many hip eateries and nightspots overlooking the beach along Victoria Road.
Farther afield, Hout Bay at the west side of the Cape Peninsula is very good for fresh crayfish (lobsters - they have become quite expensive, around R300, though). Kalk Bay on the east side of the peninsula offers a big variety of fresh fish and the restaurants in nearby Simonstown are also good.
Do not neglect the Cape Winelands for food if you have a car. In Stellenbosch, Spier has several restaurants, including the fun, afro-chic Moyo, and many wine estates offer food of different types and quality. The village of Franschhoek is the culinary navel of the wine region, with La Quartier Francais a perennial five-star winner, but only one of many excellent restaurants.
Caveat Emptor: make sure you know what the price is before you order rare delicacies in restaurants as there have been a few rare but high-profile cases of heinous overcharging where the price is not on the menu, particularly for perlemoen (abalone) and crayfish (similar to lobster).
- Hildebrands, V&A Waterfront. Offering Pizza and Pasta, but does not live up to the standard of Italian food.
- Tasca de Belem, Victoria Wharf, shop 154, Piazza Level, phone 4193009. A very good Portuguese restaurant that offers some exquisite meals. Medium price range.
- Bayfront Blu, Two Oceans Aquarium, phone 4199086. Offers breakfast and coffee all day and also serves good seafood, like Swahili prawn curry. Tables offer view on water and Table Mountain
- Willoughby's, Victoria Wharf, has some of the best seafood including excellent sushi at very good prices.
- Unnamed Restaurant, Company's Garden. Small; offers good refreshment in a quite atmosphere after a tour through the city. Basic local kitchen.
- Mama Africa, 178 Long Street, phone 248634. African style tourist restaurant offering local and African meals, like Bobotie and Potjiekos, but also springbok, kudu and crocodile steak. Good range of wines. Affordable. Live marimba music some nights.
- Africa Café, 108 Shortmarket Street, phone 4220221. Affordable and very good. Maybe the best restaurant in Cape Town for African cuisine. Lower to medium price range. Serves fixed menu, all you can eat of 12 - 15 different dishes. Touristy.
- Sunflower Health Cafè, 111 Long Street. Vegetarian restaurant, with a limited range of warm meals. Good prices.
- Long Street Cafè, 259 Long Street. Very popular. Fresh European kitchen. Also good for a drink.
- Lolas Across from Long Street Cafe. Vegetarian food with local color and great karma. Good conversation and even better meals. Mingle with dreadlocks, artsy types and brooding poets.
- Biesmiellah, Corner Upper Wale/Pentz Street, phone 4230850. One of the oldest restaurants around, known for its Malay kitchen. No alcoholic drinks available. Medium price range.
- Jewel Tavern, Vanguard Road near Duncan Docks, phone 4481997. Increasingly popular Thai restaurant. Preferred destinations for Cape Town's bon viveurs. Guest can watch how their meals are prepared. Affordable.
- Five Flies, 14-16 Keerom Street, . Enjoy a wonderful, multi-course meal in a stylish restaurant housed in one of Cape Town's oldest still-standing buildings. Favorite of local diplomats. Menu changes regularly; book reservations online.
- 95 Keerom, 95 Keerom Street, A top class Italian restaurant with modern decor and a trendy atmosphere. Attached to the nightclub Rhodes House.
- Other Restaurants of Note include Madame Zingara, Yum, Fiammas, Manna, Millers Thumb, Olympia Cafe and Savoy Cabbage. Pick up a copy of Eat Out magazine for reviews and updates on the trendiest spots.
Long Street, which can be easily reached from St. George's Cathedral and the Greenmarket Square, is famous for its bars, restaurants and clubs. This is the ideal place if you want to end the day with a drink. It is also one of the few truly multi-ethnic, multi-racial nightspots in the city. See the new South Africa, not just other tourists.
A more upmarket (but still affordable) collection of bars, etc. can be found in Camps Bay, one of the suburbs on the Atlantic Ocean side of the Cape Peninsula. From Cape Town simply go to Green Point and Sea Point and follow the road along the coast. You will see the bars along the road and the beach of Camps Bay also invites you to spend a few minutes resting, before you enter the next establishment.
- Caveau Wine Bar & Deli has over 300 wines by the glass and an award-winning wine list at that. In Heritage Square, city centre.
- The Nose Wine Bar has many wines by the glass, but pricey. In Cape Quarter, De Waterkant.
- The Twelve Apostles is actually a high-end hotel, but you can go to their bar for a drink overlooking the sea for a stunning sunset and a glimpse of whales if you are lucky.
You will have live entertainment (normally something like jazz or kwaito music) in many bars and sometimes you will have to pay to get in.
- Mannenbergs Jazz Café, V & A Waterfront. Popular jazz café specializing in distinctive Cape Jazz. Snacks and coffee during the day and live jazz every evening. Bookings/reservations essential. Many famous jazz musicians have already played here.
- Club Georgia, 30 Georgia Street, offside the Buitensingel, phone 4220261. Popular with over 25-year olds. Music from all over Africa is played, especially Kwassa-kwassa, Kwaito, Ndombolo and Rai. 9.30pm until late.
- The Fez, 38 Hout Street, Greenmarket Square. Popular, stylish night club popular with the under-30 crowd. Defined by lively, varied house music and a North African decor that manages to avoid kitsch, but the line for admission can be long if you arrive after 11pm (and the bouncers are straight out of a bad movie). Still, it's worth it. Open late.
- Other Live Music Venues include Kennedy's on Long Street, The Green Dolphin at the V & A Waterfront, Marimba at the convention centre, and Marco's African Cafe on the edge of Bo-Kaap.
Accommodation in Cape Town ranges from hostels (of which there are many) to luxury accommodation. Actually, there are so many hotels, B&Bs and guesthouses that it can be difficult to decide where to stay! Try searching the official tourism web site for your budget, dates, and desired rating. It's a sophisticated search engine, and more and more places are letting you book directly online. Note that these accommodations have all been accredited (meeting minimal requirements) and many have received internationally standard star ratings (1 to 5), so you can trust what you see.
Consider sleeping in one of the suburbs. It is normally much quieter and there is less traffic than in Central Cape Town. The suburbs in the south, like Camps Bay or Simonstown or near the winelands (see Cape Winelands) may offer better quality for a lower price.
Many guesthouses and backpacker's accommodation are along Long Street. As rates and services change quickly take a look before checking-in.
- Nine Flowers Guest House, 133-135 Hatfield Street, +27-21-462 1430 (Fax & Tel), . Very central, helpful staff, nice rooms.
- Tudor Hotel, Greenmarket Square. In the city center, near the Waterfront, Parliaments Garden or the Malay Quarter Boo-Kap. R210.
- Long Street Backpackers, 209 Longstreet, Ph: +27-21-4230615, Fax: +27 21 4231842, . Offers dorms as well as private accommodation and a good range of travel-services.
- NG Church Overnighthouse, Cr. of Lincoln and Allen Drive in Bellville, Ph: +27-21-9313733, Fax: +27-21-9313736. Mostly for visitors of patients of the Karl Bremmer hospital, but anyone is welcome. Bring your own towel and food.
- Drive & Camp, Ph: +27-72-640 1045, . Rental of camping equipment. R 120 per day.
- Sunset Lodge, Bloubergstrand. Offers luxurious suites in this popular suburb, famous for its spectacular views on Table Mountain and long white beaches.
- Villa Atlantica, Camps Bay. Luxury hotel located at the Atlantic Ocean and with stunning views on the famous 'Twelve Apostles'. Suites should be booked long in advance, as they are often booked out. R2600.
Gays and lesbians
Cape Town is often seen as the gay capital of Africa and indeed, it has a very big and lively gay community. The Gay Quarter of the city is centred around Somerset and Main Road in the suburbs of Green Point and Sea Point, where you will find a number of gay and gay-friendly B&Bs, pubs, clubs and cabarets.
Cape Town is also host of the annual Gay Party' organized by "Mother City Queer Projects . It is an hugely popular event, taking place in mid-December. The Gay Pride Festival takes place in Cape Town, too.
Cape Town's area code is 21, prefixed with a '0' when calling from elsewhere within South Africa.
There are plenty of Internet cafes and access rates are cheap.
Penguin colony of Boulders
. By JensANDMarian
- Boulders beach is famous for its penguin colony and you can watch penguins in their natural habitat. September is the breeding season and you can see penguins hatching out of their eggs.
- Cape of Good Hope to experience the wildness of the natural habitat preserved here. Stunning views and for sure you will meet one of the local baboons or ostriches. Be sure to stop in Simonstown on your way back to relax with a wonderful view on the False Bay.
- Hout Bay also known as the "Republic" of Hout Bay by its locals is a beautiful calm bay on the Atlantic Ocean. It has a quaint fishing harbour and boat trips to Seal Island.
- Chapmans Peak experience one of the most scenic drives in the world, as you drive up the Chapmans Peak Drive and look north over Hout Bay the view of the bay and the fising boats is awesome.