Author: Lucy da Costa
Feeling overwhelmed or under-prepared for your trip to Cape Town? This checklist of the 10 best things to do in Cape Town should provide some inspiration for your travels.
Here are my top ten things to do in Cape Town:
- Go hiking on some of the World’s most beautiful trails
- Enjoy Africa’s sunset from these secret spots
- Experience local food and crafts at Cape Town’s many markets
- Do a community tour of South Africa’s third largest township
- Have afternoon tea at Mount Nelson Hotel
- Go shark-cage diving
- Have a birds’ eye view of the Mother City
- Explore Cape Town’s peninsula
- Listen to local bands at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
- Volunteer your time to Cape Town communities
It goes without saying that South Africa has some of the most beautiful hiking trails which attracts tourists for this very reason. But Cape Town’s hiking trails are set aside from the rest because of the views it boasts when you reach the end of your trail. The Three Peaks is the most famous hike in the Mother City. These mountains, Devil’s Peak, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head enclose the city – almost ‘guarding’ it. The hike is breath-taking. There are many options for this hike – from easy to The Three Peaks Challenge. For those of you who are wanderlust and seek the lesser known hiking trails, there are plenty! Here are a couple at the top of my head: Myburgh’s Waterfall Ravine for those who are more confident hikers, the Wolfberg Arch Trail for those wanting the perfect picture, and Constantia Nek for the whole family. The only question is: if not, why not?
The sunsets in Cape Town are some of the most beautiful I have ever seen – and I have seen my fair share of sunsets around the world. If you don’t want to take my word for it, search #capetownskies on Instagram and see the 21,000 images that upload. They speak for themselves!
Whether you take a hike up Lion’s Head to get that beautiful shot whilst sitting above Camps Bay or take a drive up Signal Hill to have a picnic, you won’t be disappointed. During my time in Cape Town, I found a personal favorite spot – a cave just below Chapman’s Peak lookout.
Cape Town is known to be an up-and-coming for craft-makers and ‘hipsters’ in South Africa. Thus, some of the best markets can be found here. There are so many markets to choose from! I honestly couldn’t pick my favorite. Bay View, Mojo, The Watershed, Old Biscuit Mill, Greenmarket Square, Route 44; there are too many to choose from. You will be blown away by the amazing local food and wine, live South African music, and beautiful handmade crafts and clothing. This is definitely the ‘go-to’ plan when nothing has been scheduled for a Sunday morning.
Take African Impact’s very own Community Tour run by Thulani. You will learn more about Cape Town’s history and the influence Apartheid still has on the city today. Thulani is a wealth of knowledge and has lived in Khayelitsha (ASouth Africa’s second largest township) most of his life. He will take you on a journey through the Cape Flats from Langa, Cape Town’s oldest Township, through Cross Roads and Gugulethu where you will end in Khayelitsha. He is a local, he knows the locals, and you are in safe hands. As an intern, it was so useful to put my work in Khayelitsha into context and gain a greater understanding of South African history.
Self-proclaimed as “An oasis of calm within Cape Town’s beating heart”, The Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel should definitely be on your list! I managed to escape the backpacker lifestyle for an afternoon and experience a traditional British afternoon tea, complete with a beautiful view. The 5-star hotel lends a sanctuary to those wanting to escape the hustle and bustle of Cape Town. You don’t have to pay a pretty penny to feel like a royal.
If you’re anything like me, you’re an adrenaline junkie! In Cape Town, you have the opportunity to come face-to-face with a shark! But not just any kind of shark, the biggest and baddest of them all – the Great White. Familiar to the Cape Coast, these giants frequent the shores sounding many shark alarms (particularly at Surfer’s Corner in Muizenburg). African Impact partners with a shark diving company that takes care of your outing. With just a cage separating you and a hungry shark, this is something not everyone will be able to say they’ve done in their lifetime.
On a side note, I didn’t see an infamous Great White Shark. However, the Copper Sharks surrounding me were still amazing and I doubt I could tell the difference anyway.
There is no better way to get a new perspective on Cape Town’s beauty, this time from high in the sky. Beginning with a run off Signal Hill or Lion’s Head, you fly above the city before landing in Sea Point. This is one of the best views you can get of the Mother City. Afterwards, you can take a stroll along the promenade and maybe even grab some ice cream from The Creamery.
Get a chance to see what the Cape Pennisula has on offer, with a full or half day of exploring. Begin at Hout Bay and make your way down the peninsula to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope and maybe even stop for a quick wine tasting at Cape Point Vineyard before crossing over to the other side to catch the penguins on Boulder’s Beach.
I have so many amazing memories of Cape Town but this is definitely up there as one of my favorites. My second weekend here, the volunteer house booked to see The Soil at Kirstenbosch, who are an Acapella trio from Soweto (Africa’s largest township). We listened to their incredible voices while snacking on some cheese and crackers. Let’s not forget about the award-winning South African wine that us concert-goers got to enjoy.
Last but definitely not least, has to be volunteering with African Impact. It’s so interesting hearing peoples’ reactions when you tell them you have worked in Khayelitsha. But after working there for 9 weeks I know it’s a brilliant, vibrant community full of love and hope. You’ll have heard it before but the children are some of the happiest I’ve ever met and I think we have a lot to learn from them about the way we live our lives. This has been the longest time I have ever been away from home but the Lionhouse (Cape Town volunteer house) now feels like a second home. The staff, the communities and the other volunteers make Cape Town extremely hard not to love.
Come volunteer with African Impact and help us change the rest of the world’s image of Africa together.