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Travel Guides Mapped

Make some room, bucket list. Here are 21 things to do in Cape Town, South Africa

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Kellie Paxian May 10, 2019 2:32 pm

Cape Town truly has it all.

When you have a backdrop that is one of the New 7 Natural Wonders of Nature, it’s no wonder (see what we did there?) that Cape Town is filled with some of the most epic things to do on Planet Earth.

You’re going to want to experience everything that this electric, fascinating, stunning city has to offer, so set your alarm because this city does not sleep and neither can you!

Here are our recommendations for things to do in Cape Town. You’re going to want to bookmark this one.

Ride the hop-on, hop-off bus

things to do

Cape Town hop-on, hop-off tour bus. (Shutterstock)

We wouldn’t recommend this touristy activity in just any city, but in Cape Town, it’s a great way to get the lay of the land. And what a beautiful land it is. Your ticket is good for the whole day, and you can stay at each stop for as long as you please; definitely a better option than Ubering around the city.

Take in the city’s backdrops of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, stroll through the gorgeous Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, get some fish and chips at Hout Bay, and wash it down with a delectable cocktail at the ritzy Camps Bay.

You’ll feel like you just toured Rio de Janeiro, San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, and Beverly Hills in one day.

That’s Cape Town, baby.

Hike Lion’s Head at sunrise

things to do cape town

Lions Head sunrise. (Kellie Paxian / Daily Hive)

To get the best view of Table Mountain, you have to work for it. The peak of Lion’s Head wins our vote for best view in Cape Town. We recommend starting one to two hours before sunrise so you reach the peak when the most epic lighting hits the city.

There are some parts of this rocky trek that will require you to climb ladders or hoist yourself using chains, but we promise once you get to the top, you will feel like the most accomplished hiker there ever was. While it is moderately challenging, the reward is beyond worth it. With stunning 360º views of the Mother City, the peak of Lion’s Head makes you truly feel like you’re on top of the world. 

Check out the African penguins at Boulders Beach

things to do

Penguins on Boulders Beach, Cape Town. (Shutterstock)

Bet you didn’t think you were going to see penguins in Africa, did ya?!

Just outside of Simon’s Town on the way to Cape Point, you can watch thousands of these little tuxedo-wearing treats waddling around, swimming, guarding their nest, and just overall bein’ real cute amongst the granite boulders and crystal clear waters.

Tip: if you head to the sandy cove just to the left of the official entrance, you can usually still catch a glimpse of the little guys but avoid the admission fee.

Go wine tasting in Stellenbosch

things to do

Stellenbosch looking at Simonsberg in South Africa. (Shutterstock)

Stunning views and even better wine will make for a perfect day in South Africa. This is a lovely way to escape the action of downtown and take in the beauty of the vast South African countryside. We recommend Delaire Graff Estate, but you can’t go wrong by visiting Babylonstoren, Tokara, Cavalli Estate, or any of the other wineries in the region.

Take the cable car up Table Mountain

things to do

Cable car going up Table Mountain. (Shutterstock)

This topographical marvel is one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature for a reason! The top is extremely flat, a few degrees cooler, and kind of feels like you’re on another planet. You can definitely hike it on one of the trails with varying degrees of difficulty, but taking the cable car works just as well if you prefer a more leisurely approach. Make sure to purchase your tickets ahead of time to skip most of the line.

Leave yourself at least three hours for Table Mountain. The cable car takes five minutes each way, there may be a lineup, and there’s so much to see at the top. You won’t want to rush it!

Visit Robben Island

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Robben Island, Cape Town. (Shutterstock)

There are few cities where you can stroll through sites that literally changed the course of history within the lifetime of our generation. Cape Town is one of those cities. Catch a ferry from the mainland to visit the old prison grounds and cell of former South African president Nelson Mandela, who was jailed here for 18 out of his 27 years in prison. Tours leave from V&A Waterfront and include a bus trip of the island and a visit to the prison. It’s an experience that is both eye-opening and inspiring.

Go shark diving

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Great white shark cage diving in Gansbaai, South Africa. (Shutterstock)

Great white sharks are sadly becoming more endangered, and South Africa is one of the only places that you still have a chance at a protected, up-close-and-personal encounter with this incredibly powerful fish. Tour companies such as White Shark Ventures will take you out to Gansbaai in the Western Cape, for a Jaws-like experience you won’t forget.

Zip up your wetsuit, jump into the freezing cold water, and when you hear the boat crew yelling “DOWN, DOWN, DOWN” – shove on your snorkel mask, duck underwater, and make sure to keep your fingers on the inner bars!

While Great White sightings aren’t guaranteed (as is the case with all wildlife encounters), an epic experience definitely is.

Watch the sunset from Signal Hill

things to do

Sunset views from Signal Hill. (Shutterstock)

Cape Town boasts epic sunsets that are a daily phenomenon. One of the best vantage points is from the top of Signal Hill, which offers an incredible vista of Table Mountain, Camp’s Bay and the rest of the city.

Bid adieu to the day as you watch the African sun slowly tuck behind the horizon, turning the sky pinks and purples and oranges. You’re not the only one chasing this epic sunset, so get there early and snag a prime spot.

Get that ‘gram at Bo-Kaap

things to do

Bo Kaap, Cape Town (Shutterstock)

This former township is now an Instagrammer’s paradise, but its history is rooted in slavery. With vividly coloured houses that were painted to represent the primarily Muslim culture of their inhabitants, this historic area has turned its dark history into one of the most vibrant spots in the city.

Learn about this significant part of Cape Town’s cultural heritage at the Bo-Kaap museum or walking tour, and wander along the cobblestone streets to capture the rainbow beauty in all its glory.

Go paragliding

things to do

Paragliding in Cape Town, South Africa. (Shutterstock)

Cape Town is a city that’s all about landscapes, epic adventures, and stunning views. There’s no better way to experience this than flying through the air. You can paraglide off of Signal Hill or Lion’s Head using a certified operator, and both offer spectacular views of the city and sea.

Heads up that Cape Town is next-level windy, and the paragliding tours are weather dependent – cross your fingers for a tame day!

Party on Long Street

things to do

Long Street party street at night. (@oneupbarcpt/Instagram)

Believe me when I tell you I have never doubted my dance moves more than on a night out in Cape Town. These people of this city know how to move!

Long Street gives off vibes to the tune of Bourbon Street in New Orleans with its open-air Victorian-style terraces and party people spilling out onto the street. Just make sure to be mindful of your belongings and travel with friends to guarantee your experience is nothing but delightful.

Visit the Cape of Good Hope

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Cape of Good Hope. (Shutterstock)

The South Westernmost point of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope offers stunning cliffside views of the waves crashing and hidden sandy coves with white sand. But beware – the wind is no joke! It’s a common myth that you can see the Indian Ocean and Atlantic Ocean meet at Cape Point, but this is actually found at Cape Agulhas. It’s a beautiful drive along the coast to reach here, and you are likely to see some baboons along the way!

Beach bum it up at the four beaches of Clifton

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Four beaches of Clifton. (Shutterstock)

Cape Town is flanked by coves of stunning beaches, and the four beaches of Clifton are some of the most popular spots for sunbathing and dipping your toes in the icy Atlantic. While each beach offers beautiful white sand and turquoise water, where they differ is in the crowd they attract. 1st beach is typically less crowded and attracts an older, tamer crowd. 2nd is a bit trendier but still accessible (your surfer-chic look will fit in great here). 3rd is where all our gay besties go. And, 4th beach is the boujiest of them all, bringing in all the who’s who of Cape Town.

Your string bikini will look fab no matter which beach you choose, so lather on the sunscreen and hit the beach.

Explore V&A Waterfront

things to do

V&A Waterfront, Cape Town. (Shutterstock)

There is so much going on at this vibrant water’s edge. You will feel like you’ve stepped into an outdoor shopping centre in Los Angeles or Sydney with this sophisticated mall, live performers, local market, upscale restaurants, and chill open-air bars.

There are photo ops for days along the marina with the sailboats, Ferris wheel, Table Mountain backdrop, and giant Cape Town-branded photo frames. This is also where you can bargain for the best price in one of Cape Town’s many adventures – shark diving, safaris, paragliding, etc. etc.

Cruise along Chapman’s Peak Drive

This nine-kilometre scenic drive connects Hout Bay with Noordhoek, and is one of the most dramatic seaside roads in the world. Hugging the coast of the Atlantic Seaboard, this road balances on the edge of Chapman Peak mountainside as it falls sharply towards the sea. An epic cruise and scenic view.

District Six Museum

things to do

District Six Museum. (Shutterstock)

The people of Cape Town have been through tremendous struggles and triumphs with regards to racial equality, and each and every local will have a story to share. Up until the early 1990s, an institutionalized racial segregation called the apartheid forced 60,000 inhabitants of various races out of the inner city residential area. District Six Museum tells their story.

Sip a boujee cocktail at Camps Bay

things to do

Sunset at Camps Bay. (@chinchillacpt/Instagram)

This affluent area will make you feel like you’ve slipped away to Beverly Hills for the afternoon. You’ll have major real estate envy as you see the luxurious cliffside villas perched on the mountain behind you. Sip a cocktail at one of the posh lounges along the main strip and take in the gorgeous views of the palm-fringed white sand beach dotted with yellow umbrellas, as the waves crash against the shore.

Shop at Old Biscuit Mill

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The Old Biscuit Mill market. (Shutterstock)

In the heart of one of the most eclectic and artsy neighbourhoods, Woodstock, lives a market of the same singular nature: the Old Biscuit Mill. This is where creatives, business owners, artisans, and vendors of all sorts come together to offer unique creations for purchase. The market is a great place to snag some unique souvenirs, support the art economy, and chat with the friendliest locals about their craft.

Visit Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

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Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. (Shutterstock)

If you love flowers, nature, or just generally beautiful things, Kirstenbosch is calling your name. Kirstenbosch is internationally acclaimed as one of the seven most magnificent botanical gardens in the world thanks to its diversity of flora and its stunning setting at the eastern base of Table Mountain. A perfect place for a picnic or a stroll.

Visit Muizenberg

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Colourful huts of Muizenberg, Cape Town. (Shutterstock)

Afrikaans for “mice mountain”, Muizenberg is a beautiful seaside suburb that is well known for its signature colourful huts lining the beach. With its sloping white sand beach and consistent waves, Muizenberg is considered to be the birthplace of surfing in South Africa. Stacked with shops and restaurants, tourists and locals alike flock to this area on warm sunny days – it’s definitely worth checking out.

Eat fish and chips at Hout Bay

things to do

Fishing boats in Hout Bay, Cape Town. (Shutterstock)

This seaside neighbourhood attracts visitors for its delicious seafood, waterfront views, marina, Seal Island (seals galore), and charming old fishing village atmosphere. Grab a serving of fish and chips at Mariner’s Wharf and take in the surroundings.

Want to share your own knowledge on Cape Town or a different city right here on Mapped? Email us at [email protected]

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