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The top things to see and do in Cape Town
Destinations & Inspiration

The top things to see and do in Cape Town

Suzie Dalton
By Suzie Dalton - 12 minute read

Fan­cy a city break sur­round­ed by nat­ur­al beau­ty? Want to explore incred­i­ble beach­es – before din­ing in the best restau­rants? His­to­ry buff or keen shop­per? Wine con­nois­seur or gin-lover? What­ev­er your dream des­ti­na­tion involves, Cape Town packs it in by the buck­et-load (and it also hap­pens to be an incred­i­ble des­ti­na­tion for a home swap). So let’s take a quick look at just some of the best things to do and see in Cape Town. 

Explore the Cape Winelands

Vineyards at Stellenbosch

The vine­yards at Stel­len­bosch are dazzling.

A short dri­ve from cen­tral Cape Town is the incred­i­ble town and region of Stel­len­bosch. The town itself is beau­ti­ful, and as the sec­ond old­est town in South Africa, it’s steeped in his­to­ry. But it’s the wine routes that real­ly steal the show. Here you’ll find more than 200 wine and grape pro­duc­ers – and with such an abun­dance of options come the prospect of a lazy week explor­ing the region’s top winer­ies. From Caber­net Sauvi­gnon and Grenache to Sauvi­gnon Blanc and Ries­ling, you can lit­er­al­ly nar­row done your tip­ple of choice with this help­ful overview.

Anoth­er top pick is Fran­schhoek, which also hap­pens to be the culi­nary cap­i­tal of South Africa, so this is a region that’s very much worth vis­it­ing! One of the most fun ways to see the vine­yards in the area is with the hop-on-hop-off wine tram – though there are so many wineland estates to vis­it in the region that you may sim­ply be hap­py to pick one where you can while away a very hap­py after­noon with a great meal and some deli­cious drinks. 

Head for the mountains

Table Mountain

Admire Table Mountain’s world-famous flat top from afar – or bet­ter still, hike up there!

Table Moun­tain is an icon­ic sight for a very good rea­son – it’s impres­sive to look at, and it comes with seri­ous boast­ing rights if you man­age to hike your way to the top! At 1,085 metres above sea lev­el, this exhil­a­rat­ing trek cul­mi­nates in views over Cape Town, and it’s said that the moun­tain is home to more species of plants than exist in the entire British Isles. 

If you’re not feel­ing up to the ascent (or even the descent) con­sid­er hop­ping in the cable car – this also hap­pens to be a great option for those with mobil­i­ty issues, and we’re hap­py to report that there are path­ways that are suit­able for wheel­chair users. Take a look at the Aer­i­al Cable­way web­site for more acces­si­bil­i­ty infor­ma­tion and to plan your vis­it in advance. 

Man sitting on edge of Lion's Head at sunset

Join a guid­ed tour for the safest way to see the sun­set over Cape Town.

Anoth­er note­wor­thy hike is Lion’s Head. This is great at any time of the day, but it’s par­tic­u­lar­ly love­ly at sun­set. Locat­ed between Table Moun­tain and Sig­nal Hill, you’ll ben­e­fit from the most incred­i­ble 360-degree views, so an evening hike will afford you the chance to see the moun­tains trans­form as the light fades, while Cape Town lights up below you. 

At 669 meters above sea lev­el, the hike will take you around 90 min­utes for the ascent. For the opti­mum expe­ri­ence, join a guid­ed tour so that you can safe­ly nav­i­gate the steep paths and learn a lit­tle about the sur­round­ing area. Then when you’re ready, enjoy the walk down­hill under the twin­kling stars – perfection! 

Spend time at the beach

Colourful beach huts on Muizenberg beach

The beach huts at Muizen­berg are as pret­ty as their surroundings.

Whether you’re a keen surfer, avid sand­cas­tle-builder or cham­pi­onship sun­bather, there are beach­es galore to enjoy in this mag­nif­i­cent city – and what beach­es they are! With views of the Twelve Apos­tles, Camps Bay is pop­u­lar with fam­i­lies (par­tic­u­lar­ly as there are a num­ber of good restau­rants, cafes and bars on the oth­er side of the road) or for a brac­ing­ly chilly dip on a hot day, head to Beta Beach at Bakoven. 

If you want to try your hand at surf­ing but don’t fan­cy tak­ing on the epic waves wit­nessed at Long Beach, then head for Muizen­berg where colour­ful beach huts make the per­fect back­drop for your vaca­tion snaps (don’t for­get to share these on our social media chan­nels using #welove­home­swap), while the shel­tered waters and rock­pools at St James Beach are per­fect for chil­dren. For more sandy sug­ges­tions, we love Plan­et Ware’s round-up of the best beach­es in Cape Town.

Spot exotic animals

Penguins at Boulders Beach

Meet the pen­guins at Boul­ders Beach.

Keen to see ani­mals in their nat­ur­al sur­round­ings? Then get your­self to Boul­ders Beach which is home to a large colony of endan­gered African pen­guins! There are cur­rent­ly 2,0003,000 pen­guins liv­ing here, so you can either admire them from the board­walks, or keep your dis­tance while hav­ing a splash in the warmish water. 

For more ani­mal fun, keep any eye out for flamin­gos in the water­ways, whales from the months of May to Novem­ber, dassies (brown fur­ry mam­mals) sun­bathing on the rocks at Table Moun­tain, or you could go snorkelling in the kelp for­est where you might spot Cape Fur Seals. These seals can be pret­ty hefty (the males weigh up to 300kg) so you might feel more com­fort­able admir­ing them from afar – they can often be spot­ted in the har­bours of Kalk Bay and Hout Bay. Like­wise, Chac­ma Baboons might be spot­ted at Cape Point, but don’t get too close (par­tic­u­lar­ly if you’re plan­ning on hav­ing a pic­nic), as they’ve got an aggres­sive side when they spot some­thing they want to eat! 

Eat, drink and be merry

Baskets of fruit at Oranjezicht City Farm Market

Find the best pro­duce in Oran­jezicht City Farm Market.

Cape Town has a great rep­u­ta­tion for food and drink – the only chal­lenge is know­ing where to start! First and fore­most, a gen­tle nod needs to go to the tra­di­tion­al South African braai, which is their ver­sion of a BBQ. If you’re stay­ing in one of our mem­bers’ love­ly homes, head to Oran­jezicht city farm mar­ket to buy great pro­duce direct from the local farm­ers – then you can find some great tips on how to cre­ate the per­fect braai in our blog on BBQ styles around the world’. If you don’t hap­pen to have an out­door space of your own, then head to Oudekraal, Maiden’s Cove or Wyn­berg Park where you’ll find braai facil­i­ties, or if you sim­ply can’t be both­ered with cre­at­ing a fire, then enjoy a pic­nic at Kirsten­bosch, which has a rep­u­ta­tion for being one of the most pic­turesque botan­i­cal gar­dens in the world. 

Next up, let’s remem­ber that Cape Town has the ben­e­fit of a beau­ti­ful coast­line, so the seafood is sen­sa­tion­al. Head to Mariner’s Wharf at Hout Bay for the fresh­est fish and chips, or immerse your­self in this arti­cle on the best seafood restau­rants in Cape Town to find your next meal. And let’s not for­get that Cape Town ben­e­fits from access to the most amaz­ing local botan­i­cals, so gin pro­duc­tion is big busi­ness here! We like this blogger’s round-up of the best local gins to try in Cape Town – this arti­cle might even inspire you to do a tour of some of the local gin distilleries.

Get a waterside view

Boats at V and A Waterfront

Start a sea kayaking tour from the V&A Waterfront.

To get a real appre­ci­a­tion for Cape Town, it’s best seen from every angle. Whether you’re look­ing over it from a moun­tain top or immers­ing your­self in the action by pound­ing the pave­ments, it’s a tru­ly stun­ning city. But seen from the water? Well, that’s an even bet­ter expe­ri­ence. Of course, you could hop on a boat tour, but to real­ly appre­ci­ate the scenery, we’d sug­gest tak­ing a guid­ed sea kayak trip. If you leave from the V&A Water­front you’ll be able to admire Table Moun­tain, Lion’s Head and the Green Point Light­house from afar. There’s a good chance you’ll catch a glimpse of dol­phins, seals and more – and you might even spot a whale! Alter­na­tive­ly, start your adven­ture from the jet­ty in Simon’s Town if you want to kayak out to the pen­guins at Boulder’s Beach. 

Get your culture fix

Colourful houses in Bo Kaap

Bo-Kaap is an Insta­gram­mers playground.

Fed up of Cape Town’s stun­ning coun­try­side and coast­line? Of course you’re not, who could ever get bored of that?! But if you are ready to feast your eyes on some­thing spe­cial and absorb a lit­tle of Cape Town’s rich and dynam­ic cul­ture, then head to the his­tor­i­cal neigh­bour­hood of Bo-Kaap to admire the daz­zling array of bright­ly-coloured hous­es. Just a 5‑minute walk from cen­tral Cape Town, the area is home to the old­est mosque in South Africa (Auw­al Mosque), while the rain­bow-hued hous­es orig­i­nat­ed from the local Mus­lims paint­ing their homes to cel­e­brate Eid. 

Con­sid­er tak­ing a free walk­ing tour to learn more about the area, and pop into the Bo-Kaap Muse­um to immerse your­self in the rich cul­tur­al his­to­ry, before strolling to the V&A Water­front for a leisure­ly mean­der around the famous food mar­ket. While you’re here, explore Zeitz Muse­um of Con­tem­po­rary Art Africa, or if you’re a sci­ence buff, head across town to The Iziko South African Muse­um, which is the country’s old­est muse­um (and where you can see dinosaur skele­tons and 700-mil­lion-year-old fos­sils). Cape Town is sim­ply burst­ing with great muse­ums and gal­leries so there’s plen­ty more to choose from – and of course, a trip to the city wouldn’t be com­plete with­out a vis­it to Robben Island, where Nel­son Man­dela was a pris­on­er for many years. 

Take a road trip

Road and mountains

Head to Chapman’s Peak to admire the coast­line from a great height.

The Cape Penin­su­la Road Trip gen­er­ates a lot of hype – and right­ly so. It goes against the grain to hop in your car and dri­ve away from the city you’re meant to be explor­ing, but the sheer size and scale of this coun­try means that Cape Town’s delights extend far beyond down­town. Chapman’s Peak should be one of your key tar­gets – stretch­ing between the fish­ing har­bour at Hout Bay and the artis­tic com­mu­ni­ty based in the vil­lage of Noord­hoek, this wig­gly windy 9km route has 114 curves – though there are mir­rors on the route to help you care­ful­ly nav­i­gate blind spots. Pack a pic­nic, as there are plen­ty of spaces to stop, plus more than 60 pic­nic bench­es are locat­ed along the road’s park­ing bays so that you can admire the immense beau­ty of the rocky coastline. 

Oth­er pop­u­lar road trips from Cape Town include the Cape Winelands route to Cape Agul­has, or head inland to explore Route 62 which detours via Oudt­shoorn, before reach­ing Gqe­ber­ha (for­mer­ly known as Port Eliz­a­beth) – this road trip also hap­pens to have a rep­u­ta­tion for being the longest wine route in the world. 

Unusual things to do in Cape Town

Man and woman sandboarding the dunes in Cape Town

Cape Town is rich in unusu­al activ­i­ties – like sandboarding!

Most guides to the best things to see and do in Cape Town will agree on many key points – you should enjoy the beach­es, see the pen­guins, delight in colour­ful neigh­bour­hoods and hike a seri­ous­ly stren­u­ous flat-topped moun­tain. But we also couldn’t resist includ­ing a few things that won’t nec­es­sar­i­ly make it into every guide to Cape Town…

  • Go to the night mar­ket at Hout Bay. From food and cloth­ing to arts and crafts, this pop­u­lar haunt is jam-packed with both tourists and locals. Keep an eye (and ear) out for the musi­cians and entertainers.
  • Tour a vine­yard – on a seg­way! Spier’s whistlestop tour of their vines via seg­way is real­ly quite unique.
  • Pay a vis­it to the unfin­ished Fore­shore Free­way Bridge. This half-com­plet­ed con­struc­tion start­ed in the 1970s and then came to a halt – so the high­way ends abrupt­ly! It’s a great spot for a photo. 
  • Take a tour of the street art in Wood­stock. From beau­ti­ful ani­mals to human rights state­ments, this neigh­bour­hood is inspi­ra­tional for all the right reasons.
  • Watch an out­doors movie at The Galileo in Kirsten­bosch Gardens.
  • Dis­cov­er the hid­den beach at Skele­ton Gorge (but don’t swim in the water).
  • Sup­port the not-for-prof­it Mon­key­biz shop in Bo-Kaap which is reviv­ing the tra­di­tion of African bead­work. Treat your­self to some art­work, safe in the knowl­edge that you’re sup­port­ing local fam­i­lies and dis­ad­van­taged women. 
  • If you’re feel­ing brave, go shark cage div­ing. If you’re lucky’, you’ll come face-to-face with a Great White or two…
  • Adren­a­lin junkie? Then try your hand at sand­board­ing in the Atlantis Dunes. There’s even a ski lift’ option.

Have you got some sug­ges­tions on what should be added to our round-up of the best things to see and do in Cape Town? Then share the love! Our friend­ly com­mu­ni­ty are sim­ply bril­liant at trad­ing exper­tise with each oth­er, so feel free to send us your sug­ges­tions via the Feed­back tab, and we’ll add them to this article.