Cape Town is like no other city in South Africa, often bringing awe to visitors. It will take you a moment to ajust, but you’ll probably also fall under the unique attraction of the place.
The iconic Table Mountain sits right in the middle of town, with the different districts surrounding it, secluding them from one another, and giving them a tragic atmosphere, with the beautiful beach on one side and the moutain in the backgrounds.
What will probably strike you first when arriving in town is the visible wealth difference displayed compared to any other place in South Africa, and also the many white faces you will see. Fortunately, the black population also takes advantage of the many things this town has to offer, but you will take the guess that not everybody can afford to live in the same neighborhoods. The apartheid’s ending has not yet ended the separation between the different layers of society in this country.
The landmark of the city, around which it has swelled, you won’t want to miss the magnificent views from atop.
Once up there, well, there’s not much to do but circle around the mountain top. Take your time, and enjoy the views.
If you take the long ring, you’ll find at the further end there is another path leading you even further. This path will actually bring you all the way to the other end of the mountain. It’s an interesting walk, with less people along the way.
Notice this is the arrival point for people walking up, which leads us to your options on how to get to the top:
– the easy way, and let’s call it the normal way, going up (and down) the cable car
– the hard-core way, walking up (or down), which will take you many hours and definitely make you sweat
You might think you could go up the cable car, and down by foot, and you could. But it must be a long walk down, a knees bruiser, and once you’ve done the whole tour of the mountain, you won’t feel like it. So just take the return ticket.
As for when to go there, well, anytime of the day will do. But I must say we went in the morning, and it was already getting hot, even in winter. Windy conditions seem to be a reason to close up the cable car, so you don’t want to be stuck up there. Also, we were surprised by the length we stayed up there, maybe 3 hours, when we thought it would be a quick trip up and down the cable car. Finally, I’d suggest you do it after you’ve gone through the city a bit, so that you’d recognize some areas from atop, giving it more interest.
Cape of Good Hope & Cape Point
Obviously after which the city is called. Surprisingly quite far away, it makes a beautiful and interesting day trip. As you wouldn’t expect, the most interesting to see is not the Cape of Good Hope itself, but actually Cape Point is.
At Cape Point, you will walk up to the light house (or take the funicular), only to learn that it is not in service anymore, but that it is the other one further down that is. Indeed, the first one was too high and too often hidden under the fog, and thus not spottable by boats.
From this high point, you will have great views onto the ocean and feel like at the tip of the continent, which… you are not! You will also be able to walk along the magnificent cliff towards the second light house.
You are neither at the tip of the continent, which is the Cape of Good Hope itself, a small hike away, nore at southernmost point, which is actually some 200km east down the coast.
As for the Cape itself, will, brace yourself for deception, as it is barely marked by a small sign, and offers nothing of much interest. It’s basically a pile of rocks. Better do the hike from the Point, and see it from up high. You can also drive there, if you really must, but be prepared for the numerous coaches.
On this walk from the Point to the Cape, you will see a beach from far up. Don’t be afraid to take the long wooden staircase down, you will reward yourself with a great swim, and will be able to tell your friends you bathed at the Cape. And wave at the other walkers who didn’t dare walk down.
Simon’s Town & Boulder’s penguin beach
Well documented everywhere, my expectations for the penguin reserve were low. Well, it turned out I shouldn’t have, as it was a cute stop.
The area is kept very simple, with a wooden pathway leading to both sides of the beach. The beach itself is pretty small, and numerous penguins come and go to the sea. And they’re as cute as you’d have pictured.
Chapman’s Peak drive
To get to the Peninsula, don’t miss the narrow path on Chapman’s Peak drive, departing from Hout Bay. The tragic views on the ocean, the Chapman’s Peak and the Table Mountain are well worth the small fee required to drive through. And you’ll get to go through Camps Bay and Hout Bay, which I’d also call Little Beverly Hills.
It is actually a short cut from the other road, which requires you to drive all around the mountain through less interesting parts of the city.
The different districts
Cape Town is divided in many different districts, which follow one another along the natural borders created by the ocean and the mountain. You will quickly get to recognize them by their distinctive features, and end up having a favorite one depending on your taste.
City Center & Bo-Kaap
Home to the financial district and other administrative buildings, the city center is a mix of big buildings and more local feeling areas. Many boutique windows can been seen along the side walks, and a few markets are scattered in different places.
Among many interesting areas to visit, you might consider visiting the District 6 Museum, which relates how the District 6 neighborhood was emptied of its inhabitants during apartheid, or the Bo-Kaap neighborhood, home to the muslim community and distinctively recognized by its colored houses.
At night time, don’t miss an ambianced meal at Marco’s African Place and, for the partyers, a binge drinking & clubbing session down Long Street (although it seems it is now abandoned to the teenagers, hipsters prefering trendier places in near by areas).
Green Point & Sea Point
Right next to the City Center, Green Point is the new trendy district, with apartment complexes being built at every corner. Affordable accomodation can be found in this area for visitors, and it is centrally located.
Sea Point is where the Miami Boulevard comes alive. Huge luxury apartment buildings follow the beach front and its joggers, seperated only by the palm tree double lane road on which expensive cars ride along.
Beaches at Camps Bay, Hout Bay, Clifton & Bantry Bay
These four districts resemble more of a little Beverly Hills. Huge mansions follow the the beach front, often making you wonder how they hold on, as many are built within cliffy spots of the mountain, leaving little space for cars to go by.
Camps Bay will probably seduce you, with its many restaurants, palm trees and party atmosphere. An afternoon at the beach with the Table Mountain in the background also fits for amazing scenery. Beware, the waters are freezing in that area!
Victoria & Albert Waterfront
For us, a mystery within the town, the Victoria & Albert Waterfront is the still in use pier that has been refurbished into an overpriced and overrated DisneyLand of restaurants and luxury hotels.
All the tourist coaches seem to mark the stop as well, probably for them to spend in the shopping mall on items you can find just about in any city around the world.
Just skip the area.