Best known as the site of the prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 of his 27 years as a political prisoner. 3/4x-daily tours (lasting approximately 4 hours) are led by former inmates – and this is a poignant and humbling experience. Buy your tickets in advance and go as soon as you arrive, as rough seas or high winds may result in cancellation (money-back guarantee). You may only visit Robben Island on an official tour – there is no other access.
Robben Island tours: www.robben-island.org.za
The iconic landmark of this fabulous city. If the views from Derwent House aren’t enough, you can travel up on foot or by cable car and marvel at the vista. We recommend doing this early in your stay as Mother Nature (wind and cloud) doesn’t always cooperate! Buy your tickets online before you go to save yourself a second queue. And ask us for guidance on hiking routes up – we’ve prepared some sheets for you, or ask for a guided hike referral.
Table Mountain: www.tablemountain.net
The tail of the Table Mountain range, it juts dramatically into the sea from the Nature Reserve. Take time to explore the flora and fauna and the beaches in the area, one of the many super hiking trails and snap that iconic picture of yourself at the Cape of Good Hope sign! Don’t forget to stop off at Boulders Beach to visit the world’s only land-based penguin colony on your way back . . . and be sure to take in one of the world’s most spectacular drives en route there or back – Chapman’s Peak Drive. You can do this trip most comfortably in a day, self-driving if you have a car, on a group tour with Springbok Atlas, or on a private tour with one of our super-duper recommended driver/guides.
Cape Point: www.capepoint.co.za
Boulders Beach: www.capetown.travel
Chapman’s Peak: www.chapmanspeakdrive.co.za
District Six is the address of one of the darkest chapters of Cape Town’s apartheid history. Originally established as a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants, District Six was a vibrant residential centre with close links to the city and the port. On 11 February 1966 it was declared a white area under the Group Areas Act of 1950, and by 1982, the life of the community was over. More than 60,000 people were forcibly removed to barren outlying areas aptly known as the Cape Flats, and their houses in District Six were flattened by bulldozers. A museum commemorates the history of District Six, while the wide open space where a vibrant mixed community once existed speaks volumes. Visit on a Free Walking Tour of Cape Town – no bookings required, just pitch up.
Free Walking Tours: www.nielsentours.co.za
District Six Museum: www.districtsix.co.za
Also known as the Malay Quarter, Bo Kaap is Cape Town’s colourful home of all things Cape Malay – just wander around on your own, exploring another fascinating culture in the city’s mosaic . . . pop into Atlas Trading for spices, or Biesmillah for a taste of Cape Malay cuisine. Love to cook? Ask us about booking a half-day tour and cooking lesson in Zaidie Misbach’s home. Visit the Bo Kaap Museum to see how the district evolved through the centuries, or for more background and history, take a free walking tour.
Bo Kaap: www.theculturetrip.com
Bo Kaap Museum: www.iziko.org.za
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
You don’t need the slightest interest in things botanical to find a visit to the world-famous gardens fascinating – but if you are a keen horticulturalist, you’ll need to spend a couple of days. Renowned as one of the most diverse botanical collections in the world, Kirstenbosch contains over 7,000 species, including many rare and endangered. But there are also non-botanical attractions like the Boomslang – or Tree Canopy Walk, an elevated walkway through the trees that gives new meaning to the term “bird’s eye,” and a fabulous series of open-air evening concerts at the amphitheatre all summer long. It’s also the starting point for the Skeleton Gorge hike up the back-side of Table Mountain and a couple of other rewarding hikes. Get there by car, taxi or the Hop-on, Hop-off bus.
Kirstenbosch Gardens: www.sanbi.org
Hop on, Hop off Bus: www.citysightseeing.co.za
If you don’t have time or transport to get to the Cape winelands in Stellenbosch, Paarl, Franschhoek or Durbanville, never fear: Cape Town has its own beautiful wine region tucked in on the rear slopes of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles range. The birthplace of the South African wine industry in 1685, Constantia is today home to eight wineries and produces some excellent white wines, blends and an award-winning sweet dessert wine in Vin de Constance (Klein Constantia). Get there by Uber, taxi or the Hop-on, Hop-off bus that offers a free wine tasting loop around a few wineries.
Constantia Winelands: www.constantiavalley.com
Constantia Wine Route: www.constantiawineroute.com
Although you may need to be brave to take the plunge and actually swim, Cape Town and surrounds offer a wealth of seaside options -- there are beaches to suit every mood. The four Clifton beaches are where locals go to sun and socialise, while gorgeous Camps Bay is a great place to watch the sun set, walk the beach and pop into a myriad of bars, restaurants or cafes for refreshment. But don’t miss beautiful Llandudno, the huge wild, empty stretch of Noordhoek or the chance to swim with penguins at Boulders Beach in Simons Town. Bloubergstrand is the place to go for kite surfing and some of the best views of Cape Town and Table Mountain, while Muizenberg, lying on the Indian Ocean seaboard, offers warmer water than that of other Atlantic Ocean beaches of the Cape peninsula, making it a favourite for swimmers and a great family beach.
Cape Town Beaches: www.capetownmagazine.com
Secret beaches: www.insideguide.co.za
Cape beaches: www.southafrica.net
Company’s Garden / Government Avenue
So named because it was planted originally by the Dutch East India Trading Company back in the 1650s to grow food, the Garden offers a shady green place to wander on hot days, feed squirrels, and access the Houses of Parliament, National Gallery and Slave Lodge, once the residence of the slaves who played a big part in building Cape Town. Then visit the Iziko South African Museum, which features one of South Africa's only two planetariums (the other one is in Johannesburg).
Company’s Garden: www.southafrica.net
National Gallery: www.iziko.org.za
Take a tour through one of Cape Town’s many colourful informal settlements or townships – catch a glimpse of how the vast majority of South African city dwellers live, far from the comforts and sophistication of central Cape Town. These vibrant communities were born of hardship, but today are lively communities housing vast populations – a real eye-opener into some of the critical issues confronting policy makers in this country in transition. Go a step further and do a township cooking course, eat at Mzoli’s or head to Khayelitsha for gospel music on a Sunday.
Cape Townships: www.capetownmagazine.com
Cape Flats: www.capeflats.org.za
Township tours: www.gocamissa.co.za/
Touristy, yes – but worth a visit nevertheless: we recommend Sundays, rainy days and days dedicated to the kids! A development of the historic docklands, the Waterfront houses over 400 shops as well as bars, restaurants, craft markets, the Aquarium, buskers and continually changing attractions in addition to boat rides out into Table Bay. It is also the end station for the Hop-on, Hop-off bus lines, the home of the Springbok Rugby Museum, the Cape Ferris Wheel and the Robben island Ferry Terminal.
V&A Waterfront: www.waterfront.co.za
Meander through stunning countryside, the breathtaking Helderberg Mountain range dominating the landscape, stopping to taste South Africa’s many fabulous wines or enjoy a gastronomic sensation at one of dozens of world-class restaurants dotted throughout. Start with the American Express certified “World’s Best Wine Route” in Stellenbosch, head over the pass to charming, quaint village of Franschhoek and on to historic Paarl. Closer to the city is South Africa’s Sauvignon Blanc capital, Durbanville, with its rolling hills and scenic splendour, and when you have more time, venture beyond to Robertson, Elgin, Swartland and Wellington, to name a few. Visit the winelands on a group tour or book one of our recommended guides to take you for the day so you can enjoy your tasting!
Cape Winelands: www.winelands.co.za
Stellenbosch Wine Route: www.wineroute.co.za