Top things to do around Cape Town

View of Cape Town from Table Mountain
Cape Town Bo-Kaap area
You have probably seen some pictures of this area before, with beautifully colored houses and cars along broad streets. This area invites you to walk around, take some pictures of the bright houses, and enjoy dinner or an afternoon coffee in one of the nice cafés and restaurants of the area. You can also continue your walk towards Long Street, where you will find a lot of restaurants, bars, shops and street life.

District Six Museum
Definitely worth a visit is this museum if you want to learn something about the history of South Africa, specifically the Apartheid area. The museum is well done and succeeds in telling personal stories, which makes it very relatable.
Another nice aspect of the museum is its small restaurant, which features traditional meals and a cozy atmosphere. Try the Bobotie wrap!

Muizenberg Beach

Muizenberg Beach
Cape Town has an overwhelming amount of beautiful beaches, so it is hard to see all of them unless you have a lot of time. What makes Muizenberg Beach stand out is its array of colored houses right on the beach, giving it a very special look. It is usually also very lifely and a great spot for surfing!

The waterfront is probably the most modern area of Cape Town, offering a large selection of international restaurants, shopping centers, museums and bars.

Waterfront and Robben Island Museum

Robben Island
The Robben Island Museum is located at the Waterfront and is the starting point for any trip to the island. Tours of the island are usually done by former prisoners, so they promise to be not only informative, but also a bit personal. We strongly advise you to book a ticket upfront if you want to see Robben Island during your stay! We didn’t know about this, and were really surprised to see the boat sold out for the next 10 days when we asked at the ticket office. It was recommended to come back and wait in case tickets become available, but we learned later that seats of people not showing up will not be resold and filled, so the only chance you have is if someone cancels their tickets upfront.
We missed this place and could only see the free Robben Island Museum, which is in itself worth a visit.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain
One thing every visitor of Cape Town has to do is to go up Table Mountain. You should do that on the first sunny day, as the risk of having the “Table Cloth” block your view is quite high. We went there on the first day in Cape Town.
You have two options for going up: take the cable car, or hike to the top.
As we were a bit lazy that day, we (shamefully) took the cable car option. Arriving at the bottom, we saw some endless lines of visitors, however almost no one was waiting in the online ticket queue.
Luckily we had bought a local SIM card with internet access earlier, so we could purchase online tickets while waiting – the best way to get to the top without waiting for hours, unless you book your tickets in advance and plan your trip before.
The top of Table Mountain gives you amazing views of the city, a lot of hiking opportunities, and a beautiful landscape. We easily spent more than 3 hours on top, enjoying the view, climbing the stones, and hiking on the endless trails in this beautiful landscape. If you feel adventurous, you can do Abseiling from the cliffs of Table Mountain, which is probably not recommended if you are afraid of height like me…

Chapman’s Peak drive
Definitely not to be missed is the Chapman’s Peak drive – a small, mountain-bound road that offers spectacular views at every corner of the way. Take enough time to drive here as you will likely take lots of stops to enjoy the scenery.

Dog taking a walk on Nordhoek Beach

Nordhoek Beach
This is a wonderful beach to relax and not have too many people around. The beach seems endless and has beautiful white sand. Staying in Nordhoek definitely has the plus side of being close to this place! When you go here in any other period than full summer, the water is likely going to be quite cold – swimming is better done at any place east of the Cape in these times.

Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

Boulder’s Beach
Another must see of Cape Town is its infamous penguin colony. You can easily get to Boulder’s Beach both via Nordhoek and Muizenberg areas.
Visiting the penguin colony requires you to pay a small entrance fee, and you are required to stay on wooden walkways at all times. There are two main walkways, going to left and right directions right after the entrance. The way to the right will lead you through the more hidden parts of the colony – you see nesting, housing, and find penguins really up close. This way ultimately ends at a platform right at the beach, where you can observe penguin beach life in all its glory. The walkway on the left will lead you to the beach faster, but is also usually more crowded.
There is also an open beach right next to the colony – it is accessible via a similar walkway that parts to the right directly in front of the entry, outside of the paid area. This beach allows you to relax and swim, and potentially meet some penguins up close in case they pass by the area.

Hiking Trails at Cape of Good Hope and Chapman's Peak Drive

Cape of Good Hope
This is yet another amazing natural park to explore. It can be combined with other things to do in the area (Nordhoek beach, Boulder’s Beach) but you should plan enough time to enjoy the cape fully. The cape area is part of a closed area you need to enter, so keep in mind that entry is not possible at any time, and arrival in the evening is often not possible. There is an incredible amount of trails and hiking paths in this area, so you could easily spend more than a day just exploring this bit. As we “only” had 7 days in Cape Town, we had to limit our hike to the southernmost area.
From a nearby parking, you can hike up to a first lighthouse with a great terrace view, and from here you find additional paths leading further into the cape area. When we were there, the final part of the way (to the second lighthouse and the south western point) was closed, so we could not continue all the way, but the hike was well worth it.

View from Stellenbosch to Cape Town

This area is famous for its wines and a beautiful scenery. You can visit various wineries while enjoying a sunny day in a great landscape – what more to ask for?
The area also offers breathtaking views of Cape Town and its surrounding mountains.

Rocky beach near Hermanus

Hermanus is known as one of the best spots to observe whales from the shore in South Africa, so if you are interested in whale watching, this might be a nice stop to add to your tour. You can drive there directly from Cape Town, which will take you 1,5 – 2 hours depending on your starting point. The route to drive there is beautiful, leading you through Stellenbosch. We took a day return trip with a rental car and we had a lot of time to explore the area, but you could also consider to stay overnight in the area, especially if you want to go on a boat trip for whale watching. Many hostels offer organized day tours to Hermanus.
Apart from seeing whales up close, Hermanus also offers beautiful cliffs and landscapes next to the water.

Marcos African Restaurant
A great place if you want to explore traditional South African dishes with live music performances.
We tried exotic dishes like crocodile carpaccio, ostrich and springbock meat.
Price Range: medium
Location: Bo-Kaap

Batavia Café
Nice place for a coffee and cake in the Bo-Kaap area

District Six Museum Café
Great place for a snack or drink to combine with your museum visit. All food is prepared according to traditional recipes, which you can also find on displayed on the walls.

Long street
In the area between Long Street and Buitengracht, you will find all kinds of bars, cafés and restaurants for day and evening visits.
I liked some of the cafés here and think that some of them are also well suited for getting some work done, so if you are looking for a good coffee and some wifi, this might be the place to go.

Choosing the right area
Before choosing your place to stay, consider the following: Do you want to stay in the city and enjoy the city life? Do you prefer a laid back beach atmosphere? Or do you want to be surrounded by nature in a calm area?
For city life, you should stay in the area around Waterkant, city center and Bo-Kaap.
If you prefer nature to city life, you will find some amazing places in Nordhoek or Gordon’s Bay.
For a bit of laid back atmosphere and surfing opportunities, you might find a place next to Muizenberg Beach.

Atlantic Point Backpackers Hostel
During our stay in Cape Town, we stayed in the Atlantic Point Backpackers Hostel. Important for us was a central location to enjoy some city life, while at the same time easily getting into nature. The hostel offers both: it is in walking distance from the Waterfront and Bo-Kaap areas, and also really close to Table Mountain National Park. The hostel offers arranged day trips, which is especially great if you do not want to get around on your own with a car. It also has a weekly Braai (traditional barbecue) on Sunday night, which unfortunately did not happen when we were there, as the number of guests was quite low. We received some great tips from the hostel staff and met some nice people there.

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