Cape Town, the largest city of South Africa, is a great destination as there is plenty to see in the city itself, as well as in the immediate surroundings. From exploring its colorful neighborhoods of Bo Kaap or Camps Bay, to taking the ferry to historic Robben Island, to venturing out towards the southwesternmost point of Africa at Cape of Good Hope: three days in Cape Town is barely enough.
Our accommodation was located in Cape Town’s City Centre, close to all major sights and landmarks. The neighborhood itself did not have much highlights, apart from the many local markets selling anything from flowers to fresh produce to souvenirs. At nighttime, we found it very quiet outside, and would recommend visiting the Waterfront or Camps Bay neighborhoods instead.
On the base of the Signal Hill mountain, you can find the colorful neighborhood of Bo Kaap. It is famous for its colorful houses and cobblestone streets. The area is quite residential, but nevertheless worth the short walk from the city center. Alternatively, if you are not staying in the city center, you can see the colorful houses of Bo Kaap from the Table Mountain.
The waterfront area of Cape Town is a modern neighborhood where the upper class enjoy their shopping and free time. It is home to a number of large shopping malls, the Cape Town ferris wheel, and other entertainment. At nighttime, the waterfront terraces are fully occupied by locals enjoying the sunset and comfortable weather. The waterfront is also the departure point for ferries to Robben Island.
On the western side of Cape Town, you can find the neighborhoods of Camps Bay, Sea Point, and Green Point. Especially Camps Bay is a great area to base yourself in, as the area is very lively at all times of the day, offering plenty of waterfront restaurants and beaches. It also offers great views over Lion’s Head, which can be unmistakably recognized from here.
A trip to Robben Island is a must on your itinerary when in Cape Town. A ferry ticket cost 320 Rand (25$), and includes a guided tour once on the island. The ferry takes about 30 minutes, and after disembarking, the first thing you’ll do is pass under the chilling Robben Island welcome sign, which yields the Apartheid slogan.
The first part of the tour is a bus ride along the coastline of the island. Here, you see the old prison, residences of the guards, school, lighthouse, and other landmarks. Halfway, the bus will stop for 15 minutes allowing you to buy a coffee, or enjoy the amazing views over Cape Town. Despite it being warm outside, the ocean water remains under 20°C year-round.
One of the most impressive sights on the bus tour was the former “house” of Robert Sobukwe, a political dissident opposing the South African Apartheid. In reality, the government put Sobukwe in this house and gave him house arrest. For years, Sobukwe was not allowed to have contact with other prisoners. He was finally released in 1969, but remained under house arrest on the mainland.
The bus tour takes about 90 minutes, and afterwards you will be shown around the old prison by an ex-prisoner or person with historical knowledge of the prison. During the tour, the horrible living conditions inside the prison and political situation of the country are discussed at length. Just before the end of the tour, you’ll be able to get a glimpse of the prison cells, including Nelson Mandela’s.
The Table Mountain offers the best views of Cape Town. To get to the cableway station, you can either drive yourself (15 minutes from the City Center), or use on of the Hop On tour buses. The entrance fee is quite hefty (20$ round-trip), but worth every penny. On the top, there are lengthy walking trails and countless viewpoints. The most impressive views can be had right from the upper cableway station: here, you get brilliant views over Lion’s Head, Cape Town, Robben Island, and Table Bay.
On the other side, you will have views over False Bay and the mountainous Cape Peninsula. If you’re lucky, you will also be able to spot a variety of animals, like the small dassie, a rabbit-like creature surprisingly enough related to the elephant. After spending an hour at the top, we decided to head back down using the cableway. For adventurous folks, walking down is an option, but will take about three hours.
On our last day in Cape Town, we decided to take a road trip around Cape Peninsula. We went south on the east coast along False Bay, returning to Cape Town via Cape of Good Hope and Table Bay on the west. On the way, you will pass through many picturesque small towns, like Simon’s Town. The waterfront shopping street makes for a great coffee and rest stop.
Just south of Simon’s Town you will find Boulders Beach, the famous beach home to the African penguin. Unfortunately, the walk to the beach is not very peaceful, as tens of touts try and sell anyone anything. After paying a small entrance fee, you can enter Boulders Beach, and almost immediately you are surrounded by penguins. It is quite a surreal sight, as you would normally expect cold conditions, yet these penguins have perfectly adapted to the warmer temperatures.
The southern part of the Cape Peninsula is home to the Cape of Good Hope Natural Reserve. You have to pay a fee to enter 135 Rand (10$), but again, it is worth every penny. The major sights in the Natural Reserve are Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. At Cape Point, after a short hike to the lighthouse, you have great views over Cape of Good Hope. This is the southwesternmost point of Africa, where ships start to travel more east than south. It also marks the meeting point of the Atlantic and Indian Ocean.
From Cape Point, you can hike 90 minutes to Cape Town (round-trip), or drive. If you opt to drive, you will pass various rough but beautiful white beaches. On some of them, you will find ostriches, a strange sight we definitely not expected to see in this area of the country.
On the way back to Cape Town, we took the Chapman’s Peak toll road, a winding road along the ocean near Hout Bay. The road itself is a major piece of engineering, and the views over the bay towards Cape Town are fantastic. Be sure to make plenty of stops along the way to enjoy this part of Cape Town to the fullest.
We, Mark & Herta, are currently backpacking through Europe, and eventually planning to settle in London. Beyond that? The possibilities are endless.Read Mark & Herta’s full story.