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Planning a trip to Cape Town? Read our guide for inspiration about places to visit and things to do during your time in this incredible city.

by Tom Blakey

With its iconic Table Mountain backdrop and spectacular coastline, Cape Town is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

Many of our South Africa holidays start in Cape Town and we recommend spending at least 3 or 4 full days here. We’ve put together this Cape Town guide to help you get the most out of your visit.

Our Luxury Travel Consultants are happy to offer further advice and guidance on what to see and do in and around this incredible city.

Summit Table Mountain

Towering 1086 metres over Cape Town, Table Mountain is the most iconic landmark in South Africa and summiting this famous mountain is something that every visitor should do.

The best views of Cape Town, Robben Island and the Peninsula are from the Table Mountain Cableway. The cable car rotates, giving you incredible 360 degree views of the city as you gently make your way to the summit.

For keen walkers, the summit can also be reached on foot via a number of beautiful trails. Walking from the base to the top should take between 1-3 hours.

When you reach the top you can simply relax and take in the spectacular scenic views of Cape Town, Table Bay and the surrounding mountains. Or, if you prefer, you can explore the summit further by joining a guided walk in Table Mountain National Park, or hiking along one of three trails that start at the Upper Cable Station. For those who are looking for an adrenaline-fueled experience there’s an option to abseil back down the mountain.

Learn about South Africa’s political history

We believe that all visitors to South Africa should take the time to understand the country’s political history as this will offer a much more meaningful travel experience. During your time in Cape Town we recommend that you visit Robben Island and the District Six Museum to gain insight into South Africa’s history and Nelson Mandela’s legacy.

Robben Island has become synonymous with the former leader of the free and democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years in its maximum security prison. Visiting Robben Island is a sobering and inspirational experience that you will never forget.

The District Six Museum is located in the former inner-city residential area. The museum was founded in 1994 as a memorial to the residents of District Six who were forcibly removed from their homes during Apartheid in South Africa. The museum has an impressive collection of historical materials including photographs, paintings, artefacts and books as well as audio-visual recordings of District Six, most of which were donated by its former residents. This fascinating museum has been designed in such a way that a visitor can wander in off the street and take a self-guided tour, however it is much better to take a tour with an ex-resident of District Six as they will provide historical information and commentary as well as answer questions. The site has been nominated as a National Heritage Site and is therefore a conservation area of Cape Town and should be treated with sensitivity and respect.

If you’re on a Wayfairer tailor-made holiday we can include a visit to Robben Island and the District Six museum in your itinerary – please ask your Fair Travel Consultant about this.

Visit Langa Township

The townships of South Africa are the place where the heart of the nation beats and it’s here where you’ll have a chance to see ‘The real South Africa’.

The term township refers to urban living areas that were reserved for non-whites from the late 19th century until the end of Apartheid. During Apartheid non-whites were evicted from areas that were designated as “white only” and forced to move into separate settlements. These sprawling settlements, designed to alienate communities, were essentially slums with no running water and tiny houses made of scraps of wood and metal. Living conditions were cramped and unhygienic. Post-Apartheid, shacks are being replaced by government subsidised houses, roads are continuously being improved, and basic services are being installed.

A visit to a township can be a fascinating and insightful cultural experience for tourists and responsible township tourism is welcomed by the residents as it offers an opportunity for them to promote their heritage, generate an income, and develop community initiatives.

If you’re on a Wayfairer holiday and would like to gain an insight into the unique lifestyle of the residents of Cape Town’s oldest township, Langa, we can arrange a walking or cycling tour for you. You’ll be accompanied by a guide who still lives there and they will take you to community projects, craft markets, restaurants and taverns (also known as “shebeens”) run by local residents. Langa is a hive of activity and you’ll be amazed by the vibrant and positive atmosphere and the spirit of entrepreneurship and creativity that surrounds you.

Discover the Atlantic Seaboard beaches

Cape Town's stunning rugged coastline has some impressive beaches, each with its own unique appeal. Whether you’re interested in surfing, swimming, sheltered sunbathing, sunset cocktails or penguin spotting, there’s a beach to suit everyone.

The four Clifton beaches and nearby Camps Bay are located a few minutes from the city centre on the Atlantic Seaboard and they’re Wayfairer favourites. Known as Cape Town’s ‘Riviera’, the Atlantic Seaboard runs from the V&A Waterfront down to the idyllic Hout Bay. This scenic coastal route encompasses Green Point, the Sea Point Promenade, which runs from Mouille Point to the end of Sea Point, the upmarket beachfront neighbourhoods of Clifton and Camps Bay, and the quaint harbour village known as the Republic of Hout Bay.

Clifton has four beaches called 1st, 2nd, 3rd and 4th beach and has blue flag status, not least because of the turquoise water and white sands. These beaches are Cape Town’s premier beaches, divided by granite boulders and packed with beautiful people in summer. Camps Bay, just up the road from Clifton, is a long, sandy beach with palm trees and a wonderful promenade lined with trendy restaurants, cafes and cocktail bars, with a spectacular backdrop of Lion’s Head and the 12 Apostles. From Camps Bay you can walk to Glen Beach which is a small beach set in a little enclave and great for surfing, and Maiden’s Cove which is very much a family beach just in front of the Glen Country Club.

Llandudno, set in an exclusive neighbourhood, is one of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Town. If you’re not a strong swimmer then settle for a dip as the currents are strong, but it’s great for surfers. Sunsets at Llandudno are incredible.

Hout Bay is a protected harbour bay and it’s perfect for walking and horse riding. The Chapman’s Peak side of the beach is better for sunbathing and it’s a good place for swimming as the waves here are gentle.

Spend a day at Muizenberg Beach

Muizenberg is a small town with a beautiful beach and one of the most active surfing communities in South Africa. This laid-back town is located in False Bay, which makes for warmer waters than the beaches along the Atlantic seaboard. Muizenberg Beach is the ultimate family beach, with its iconic, colourful Victorian beach huts. It’s also a Blue Flag Beach, which means it gets top marks for safety, recreational facilities and eco-consciousness.

Say hello to the penguins at Boulders Beach.

Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town is home to a colony of thousands of African penguins and a visit to this beach, just outside of Cape Town, is highly recommended.

South Africa’s penguins are under threat from loss of habitat, declining fish stocks and their ever-encroaching human neighbours; however, by making a visit to see the penguins at Boulders Beach you are in fact helping them. Every year over 60,000 visitors flock to Simon’s Town to see the famous penguins and this generates income which helps boost the penguin conservation efforts through South African National Parks (SANParks).

Wayfairer Top Tip: To get really close to the penguins stroll along the wooden boardwalks that thread through the dense vegetation, over the dunes and round to neighbouring Foxy Beach.

Take a whale watching trip to Hermanus

July sees the start of the incredible whale watching season when southern right whales migrate from Antarctica to mate and rest in the Western Cape’s waters. From July to October whales can be seen all along the coast from Cape Town to the Eastern Cape, though the most reliable sightings are usually on the aptly named Whale Coast and the world’s shore-based whale-watching capital, Hermanus, which is just a 90-minute drive from Cape Town.

If you’re on a Wayfairer tailor-made holiday and you’re visiting Cape Town between July-October, we can include a whale watching trip to Hermanus in your itinerary – please ask your Fair Travel Consultant about this.

Explore the Cape Winelands

With its rolling vineyards, towering mountains, world-renowned wine estates, charming towns and of course endless South African vino to sample, the Cape Winelands are not to be missed during a visit to Cape Town.

There are various wine tours departing from Cape Town, but we suggest that you hire a car as this allows you to explore the region at your own pace. Various routes lead to the winelands, however the most popular route is along the N1 from Cape Town towards Stellenbosch and beyond. The Cape Winelands is an easy day trip from Cape Town, however we highly recommend spending a night or two in these beautiful and romantic surroundings.

If you’re on a Wayfairer tailor-made holiday and would like to include a visit to the Cape Winelands in your itinerary, please ask your Fair Travel Consultant who will be happy to accommodate your request.

Explore Cape Point

Cape Point is located at the tip of the Cape Peninsula, 60 km south-west of Cape Town, in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve within Table Mountain National Park. The National Park includes the Table Mountain chain, which stretches from Signal Hill to Cape Point, and the coastlines of the Cape Peninsula.

This area offers some of the most breathtaking ocean and mountain scenery in the world and we highly recommend that you visit Cape Point as a day excursion from Cape Town, or even as an overnight trip. During your visit to Cape Point you can take photographs from the dramatic viewpoints, spot cape mountain zebra and eland, watch whales move past Cape Point on their annual migration (June to October), walk the shipwreck trail, learn about the maritime history, or take the Flying Dutchman Funicular to see the old lighthouse and enjoy the panoramic views. For the more adventurous you can also take part in activities such as sea kayaking, scuba diving and mountain biking.

Visit the V&A Waterfront

Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is a world-class shopping and entertainment venue which sits right in the middle of a picturesque working harbour with Table Mountain as its backdrop. It has been a working harbour since 1860 when trade routes to the East transformed the seafront into a lucrative trading post. In 1988, the redevelopment of the historic docklands built on this legacy, transforming the harbour into a 21st Century ‘trading post’, complete with an array of shops, entertainment venues, offices, hotels, luxury apartments and restaurants.

There are a number of activities for tourists at the waterfront, including seal watching, a visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium or the Maritime Museum, boat trips around the harbour and along the coast, or an exciting helicopter tour.

Stroll along historic Long Street

A stroll along Cape Town’s Long Street is a must for any visitor to the city. It’s one of the oldest and most iconic streets in Cape Town, with colourful Victorian-era buildings featuring beautiful “Broekie Lace” verandas.

The street is famous for its bohemian vibe and its lined with second-hand book shops, antique stores, vintage clothes shops, restaurants, backpacker hostels, trendy clubs and buzzing bars. This vibrant street has a fantastic atmosphere in the evenings and the parties can last from sunset until the early morning.

If you’re ready to start planning a holiday to Cape Town please call one of our Africa Luxury Travel Specialists, on 0203 143 4293 or send an online enquiry to inspire your journey.

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