‘Capetonians’ tend to be quite proud of their city’s natural beauty – but sometimes it takes the viewpoint of an outsider to drive home that fact. And I can attest to that as I moved to Cape Town from up-country back in 2001 and remember remarking on how beautiful the mountain looks at every possible angle.
Below are some ideas on things to see and do next time you are visiting us down here at the tip of Africa; it is just so easy to see most of the surrounding coastline, mountains and winelands as they are all within an hour’s drive of central Cape Town (commonly referred to as the “City Bowl”).
1. The Beaches
You can find a beach to suit your mood; from hip and happening (Clifton 4th beach) to quiet and tranquil (Cape Point Nature Reserve). Sun tan, picnic, go for sundowners, play volleyball, swim or surf in the sea, or wade in the tidal pools, there is a beach for everyone. The warmer waters are on the Indian Ocean side:
– Diaz Beach
– Fish Hoek Beach
– Glencairn Beach
– Muizenberg Beach
– St James Beach
– Main Beach (Betty’s Bay)
– Silver Sands Beach (Betty’s Bay)
While the Atlantic ocean offers beautiful white sandy beaches that are sheltered from the wind, the water tends to be quite cold:
– Bakoven Beach
– Big Bay Beach
– Blouberg Beach
– Camps Bay Beach
– Clifton Beaches
– Dolphin Beach
– Hout Bay Beach
– Llandudno Beach
– Long Beach
– Milnerton Beach
– Noordhoek Beach
– Sandy Bay Beach
– Scarborough Beach
– Table View Beach
– Witsands Beach
2. The Mountains
Most people will opt for the easy escape and take the cable car, but in my honest opinion you simply cannot come to Cape Town without experiencing even a short hike on one of the many trails available on the mountain. Just make sure you do not venture off the trails and please heed the warning signs for dangerous routes.
It is quite surprising how many hikers you will find on Lions Head at 06:30; many people use the relatively quick ascent and descent (depending on your fitness levels) as a work-out before heading to work.
Another epic hike if you have a few more days at your disposal and you are more of a serious hiker will be to tackle the Hoerikwaggo Trail run by SanParks. It is an iconic 5 day 4 night trail, but you can also opt to just do a portion of the hike like we did for a friend’s birthday; doing the 2 day hike from Silvermine into Cape Town. The facilities are spectacular considering the cost and you really get an ‘out of city’ experience.
3. Food & Drink
There are many diverse restaurants for breakfasts, lunches, dinner and coffee spots to choose from all over Cape Town. Probably my favourite coffee spot at the moment that combines a cup of coffee, breakfast and a touch of art is Haas in Rose Street; you can try a Kopi Luwak if your wallet is deep enough for such a splurge. For peace and tranquility Daily Deli in Tamboerskloof is hard to beat. But artisan roasters are popping up all over the city and Truth Coffee Company has launched a massive and beautifully renovated coffee shop in Buitenkant Street. They specialise in artisanal coffee, taking coffee back to its roots by serving you delicate blends that don’t require sugar or cream to enjoy a good cup of java.
You are spoilt for choice when it comes to Cape Town’s innumerable restaurants and pubs. You will discover food from around the globe from Mexican, to Thai to the inevitable seafood restaurants. Visit the following website for a variety of restaurants in and around Cape Town: Dining out
4. The Vibe
Probably the best way to get you in touch with the vibe of the city is to pound the pavement. Starting at the top of the Company’s Garden and joining up with St. George’s Walk down into Green Market Square before turning around and heading up via Long Street to complete the loop; it will certainly open your eyes to the creativity and energy that abounds in the city.
Local music, arts and culture is the pulse of the city. Live music can be heard from most street corners and there are also theatres and music venues dotted all around the city, the most popular being the Artscape Theatre, where local and international artists showcase their talent.
5. The Markets
Craft markets have been popular for years in Cape Town with Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens being a firm favourite for Sunday strollers. The Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock has been a great success with people from all walks of life coming to eat, drink and ‘chillax’. It is open on Saturdays from 09h00 to 14h00. By mid-morning the covered market on the grounds of the Old Biscuit Mill is swarming with people flocking to more than 120 vendors for local and organic produce, artisanal cheese and bread, craft beers and gourmet foods. Sit down at one of the long communal tables and relax with a snack or a glass of wine or beer and watch the passers-by.
Greenmarket Square in Cape Town
Image courtesy of Cape Town Magazine
Some other favourites include Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay and Porter Estate Produce Market in Tokai Forest. The lively and friendly atmosphere is contagious and certainly a must for any foodie.
6. The Wine Routes
With most wine farms in the region boasting some spectacular views it is hard to stay away. Take a drive out and enjoy some lunch with a glass of wine. The Stellenbosch wine region is the biggest and commonly known as the best red wine region in the country. Even a stop off in the town of Stellenbosch itself will be a great reward as it is the second oldest town in South Africa with Dorp (Town) & Kerk (Church) Street being well worth a walk / drive through.
Franschhoek is one of the most beautiful wine valleys in the Cape region. It is commonly known as the ‘gourmet capital’ of the country; many travellers choose to base themselves here for a day or two to use it as a base for wine tasting and enjoying some of the country’s finest restaurants both in the town and on the surrounding wine estates.
The Constantia valley on the other hand is the most easily accessible wine region from the Cape Town city centre; outside rush hour it takes about 15 minutes. With the cool sea breezes coming off False Bay the area is good for sauvignon blanc.