The port city on the southwest coast of Africa is one of the most popular travel destinations worldwide. Cape Town itself offers its visitors many exciting sights, but the surrounding area is always worth a visit. Miles of sandy beaches invite you to swim; and the famous Table Mountain with its impressive view over the city has always been a real tourist magnet.
The center of Cape Town is seething with liveliness – especially at night when the trendy bars and clubs open their doors. 3.7 million people chat in the three main languages, Afrikaans, isiXhosa and English, and warmly welcome their visitors with their warm hospitality.
In the following we present you the most exciting tours, the most beautiful attractions and the best sights in Cape Town:
1. Table Mountain – symbol of South Africa
Table Mountain is undoubtedly the most famous part of an entire mountain range that shapes the silhouette of Cape Town in a unique way and has become the symbol of the entire rainbow nation of South Africa. The total area is around 6,500 hectares, at its highest point, the Maclear’s Beacon, it reaches an impressive 1,087 meters. Numerous hiking trails lead up to Table Mountain.
The most beautiful route is the approximately five-hour Königsweg, Skeleton Gorge. Alternatively, it is much less strenuous with the cable car to Table Mountain. Above you will not only find an impressive view of Cape Town, but also a fascinating variety of plants and some animal species (including baboons). Crows and rock slate live in the sandstone crevices.
2. Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
In the course of just 20 years, this place in Cape Town went through a unique transformation. From a rather run-down port area, one of the most attractive and modern leisure areas in South Africa was created on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Old warehouses became a chic shopping mall, and the former pump house now houses top quality restaurants.
Overall, the waterfront is now one of the most expensive and well-kept areas in Cape Town. It is considered extremely safe and is therefore one of the most important sights for tourists. The latest highlight is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) with an impressive collection of contemporary art. The museum opened in September 2017.
3. Robben Island prison island
One of the most important sights of Cape Town is of course the historic island of Robben Island, which is located in Table Bay in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Mother City. Until the mid-1990s, this was the prison in which Nelson Mandela was held for almost 20 years. The prison facilities were closed in 1996, and a year later a moving natural and national monument was created here, which has been open to the public ever since.
Robben Island offers a natural habitat for seals and penguins as well as a colorful variety of plants. The starting point for the popular excursions to Robben Island is the Nelson Mandela Gateway on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. The building is next to the clock tower. Before the crossing to the island, photos can be viewed here and initial information can be obtained. Modern ferries take visitors to the island in around 30 minutes.
4. Excursion to the Cape of Good Hope
Even if the Cape Point Nature Reserve is not directly in Cape Town, an excursion to the so-called “Cape of Good Hope” is of course an absolute must. The currents of the two oceans meet here and there is a lot to discover for young and old. With a little luck, you can even spot ostriches, baboons and even zebras in the surrounding landscape. Whales and dolphins can also be seen again and again from the coast.
The journey via Chapman’s Peak, one of the most beautiful panoramic roads on earth, is particularly impressive. It runs with over 100 curves between Noordhoek and Hout Bay directly along the rocky coast and reveals unforgettable impressions, especially in good weather. The most famous sight is of course the sign at the Cape of Good Hope, where thousands of tourists take their souvenir photos every day.
5. Colorful Bo-Kaap
Back in Cape Town, a visit to the so-called Bo-Kaap is a must. This interesting part of the city is also known as the Cape Muslim Quarter. In fact, the Cape Malays are the descendants of Asian slaves who came to South Africa in the middle of the 17th century and who have been able to preserve their Muslim identity in the colorful quarter to this day. The historical part of the district, which has now grown rapidly, is particularly worth seeing.
As reports of pickpockets in Bo-Kaap have been piling up recently, we recommend a guided tour with a local guide. He can also tell you more about the development of the district and gives you an idea of why the brightly colored, pastel-colored houses, in addition to the minarets, characterize the residential area. They were not only a sign against the black and white scheme of apartheid, but above all an expression of the regained freedom of their ancestors.
6. Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
Cape Town’s Newlands district is home to one of the most beautiful sights for nature lovers. The Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is located on the eastern slope of Table Mountain and was founded to preserve the region’s unique biodiversity. Therefore, only native plants can be found here, for example heather, South African silver trees and cycads, a rock garden, a succulent bed and much more.
Open-air concerts are held here regularly from the end of November to the beginning of April. The botanical garden is also worth a visit for hikers: Several hiking trails have their starting point here, including the aforementioned “Skeleton Gorge” up to Table Mountain. The Botanical Garden covers about 600 hectares and is home to over 7000 species of plants. We particularly like the unbelievable silence in the midst of beautiful nature, just a stone’s throw from the bustling city center of Cape Town.
7. The Two Oceans Aquarium
Almost 100 different species that live in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans can be admired in the Two Oceans Aquarium. The journey through the underwater world leads past 30 pools and a water tank several stories high. Sharks up to four meters in length and rays can be seen here. The animals are fed by a diver every day at 3 p.m. – this is a great highlight, especially for children. The Two Oceans Aquarium even offers booking a dive with the sharks in the tank.
Further exhibitions present plants and fish from the two oceans as well as an African river system, frogs, seaweed and other sea plants. The popular attraction also offers an interactive children’s playground, which is right next to the penguin outdoor enclosure. Here the children can play and paint to their heart’s content. Their games are inspired by the numerous sounds and images of the Two Oceans Aquarium that surround them. The puppet “Peter the Penguin” supports playful learning with songs on the subject of nature.
8. Hippie flair in Woodstock
For a long time Woodstock was considered a hopelessly dilapidated industrial district, around which whites avoided. The crime rate was as high as the unemployment and homeless rate in the district. But at the beginning of the 1990s an unbelievable change set in, the old factory halls were taken over by more and more artists and young creative people. Woodstock flourished and is about as important to Cape Town today as Soho is to New York.
It’s stylish and hip, especially during the day a stroll through the relaxed Woodstock is a real pleasure. For our editors, the Neighbourgoods Market is one of the best sights in Cape Town. The market with lots of hippie spirit, handmade products and, above all, countless delicacies takes place every Saturday in Woodstock’s red-painted Old Biscuit Mill. It is rightly considered the best food market in all of Cape Town!
9. Penguins at Simon’s Town
The highlights in the Cape region include the penguins in Simon’s Town, only around 35 kilometers from Cape Town. Simon’s Town is even connected to the metro network and can therefore be reached from Cape Town without a car. South of the small town, a spectacular sight in South Africa awaits at Boulders Beach: a huge penguin colony right on the beach! Up to 2500 animals live here not far from the metropolis and are the only remaining penguins in Africa in the wild.
A visit is always great fun, as the cute African penguins usually pace lively through the sand or plunge through the waves on the hunt for fish. A paved boardwalk leads along the penguins so that you can experience and photograph them in a very natural way. With a little luck you can get even closer to the animals, because the neighboring public beach has no barriers and is visited very regularly by the penguins.
10. Tour to the vineyards in the Western Cape
We admit: We could actually list 20 other sights in Cape Town (e.g. Camps Bay, Muizenberg, Hout Bay, Blouberg Beach or Constantia). Nevertheless, we would like to try to provide a complete package of attractions and highlights in and around Cape Town that is as varied as possible. Of course, a tour of the vineyards in the Western Cape should definitely not be missing from our recommendations. Above all we would like to recommend Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl to you!
All three have picturesque historic town centers and are home to the best wineries on the African continent. Our favorite is Stellenbosch, home of the world’s best Sauvignon Blanc white wines. If you are not traveling by rental car, you can also join guided combination tours and no longer have to worry about your ability to drive during the wine tasting. If you travel individually, you should plan at least one night in Stellenbosch – the place has a lot of flair!