Things to see and do in Cape Town, South Africa
Along with the Kruger National Park, Cape Town is one of the must-see destinations for any trip to South Africa. This beautiful city is a favorite among travelers from all over the world. It is a hub of art and culture as well as fine dining in South Africa.
As the first place discovered by European travelers to the southern tip of Africa, Cape Town has a rich and varied history, an amazing ecology and many unique attractions.
Cape Town is 1 400 km from Johannesburg and 1 600km from Durban.
History of Cape Town
No mention of Cape Town is made in the history books until Bartolomeu Dias rounded the Cape during 1488. In 1497, Vasco Da Gama sailed past the Cape Peninsula on his way to Mozambique and Antonio de Saldanha, named this place Taboa da caba meaning ‘Table of the Cape’ in 1503.
Explorer after explorer kept sailing on by until the Dutch East India Company sent a contingent to set up a halfway station at this point. This is where the story of Cape Town truly begins, when Jan van Riebeek first set foot on these bountiful lands and set up shop in 1652 on behalf of the Dutch.
These first inhabitants planted vegetable gardens and orchards at the site of today’s Company’s Garden and built a wooden fort to defend their new territory. They channeled water from Table Mountain’s springs to sustain their crops and harvested wood from the mountain forests to build houses and ships.
In 1654, the first Asian inhabitants of Cape Town arrived and in 1658, the first Javan and Madagascan slaves landed. In 1666, work began on The Castle, which replaced the previous wooden fort and conflict between the local Khoi and these foreign invaders escalated. In 1679, Simon van der Stel became governor of the Cape and started the wine industry on the outskirts of town.
In 1795, the British took occupation of the Cape, only to hand it back to the Dutch in 1802. By 1806, the British were back, and they formally took over the Cape during a treaty with France in 1814. As an important port of call on the Spice Route, Cape Town thrived under British rule.
Feeling that their culture was threatened by British rule, the Dutch inhabitants of Cape Town moved out of town in search of greener pastures. They set up their own provinces further north and these soon came into conflict with British aspirations to unite Southern Africa under one flag.
Eventually, these were combined into the Union of South Africa in 1910 and later broke away from the British commonwealth on 5 October 1960 to form the Republic of South Africa.
A huge variety of people have called Cape Town home during the years, and all these combined are what gives the city its amazing multicultural diversity.
Cape Town Tourism
The City of Cape Town actively promotes touristic activities in the city. There is always something on the go in the Mother City, and it is a prime destination for top sporting events, concerts and cultural exhibitions.
As such, Cape Town has an excellent touristic infrastructure and one of the best public transport systems in the country. Every major hotel group is represented here, the airport is known as the best in Africa and you could easily find enough things to see and do in Cape Town to keep you entertained for several lifetimes.
Apart from hotels, you’ll find the full spectrum of accommodation available in the city from rooftop camping in swish Airstream trailers, to the real thing in campgrounds within the city. B&Bs, self-catering rooms, apartments, houses and cottages are all available here.
Things to See in Cape Town
It seems that something new to see and do crops up every day in Cape Town.
There are hundreds of restaurants to choose from, every genre of art is well-represented here, the wines are world class and the attractions endless. These are some of the major sights you should include in your trip to Cape Town:
- Table Mountain
- The V&A Waterfront
- Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
- The Winelands
- The Castle
- Company’s Gardens
- District Six
- Cape Point
- Robben Island
- Chapman’s Peak Drive
- Iziko Museums
Apart from these (and many more) places to see, you will find no shortage of activities in Cape Town. You can walk, hike, and bike around amazing natural sites like Lions Head, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, Constantia, Noordhoek and any of the brilliant white-sand beaches. Alternatively, take a helicopter flip, an executive sports car, electric scooter or luxury motorcycle to see the city sights.
Fishing, diving, horse-riding, swimming, and picnicking are possible at a wide range of venues dotted in and around town. You can explore nature in numerous reserves both onshore and inland and no matter where your tastes lie, you’ll find something tasty to eat or drink in this culinary wonderland.
Markets, shopping centers and quaint shops are filled with local arts and crafts as well as designer fashion and décor, and there is something happening every day of the week in Cape Town.
Some of the major events hosted here include:
- Two Oceans Marathon
- Cape Town Cycle Tour
- Cape Minstrel Carnival
- Sun Met horse race
- Veuve Clicquot Masters Polo
- South African Navy Festival
- Cape Town International Jazz Festival
- Cape Town Whisky Festival
Cape Town is easily accessed on commercial as well as charter flights to Cape Town International Airport. From there you can hire a car, take the bus or arrange a transfer into the city.
There’s never a bad time to visit Cape Town. Get in touch with African Travel Guide for more information about accommodation or things to do during your visit.
Please Note: The details shared herein were correct at the time of publishing. However, with time some of this information may change. We recommend confirming information with suppliers prior to making final travel arrangements. If you do happen to find an issue with any information we’ve shared here, please feel free to contact us so that we can make the relevant changes.