Top Ten Reasons to Visit Cape Town
Before life as we know it slowly melted into the new world order of the pandemic, I found myself happily living in Cape Town, a city I had been to many times before and always felt an affinity with. Not only is it a scenically stunning place to be, but it offers an active lifestyle one where I spent several mornings a month hiking up Lions Head to watch the sunrise and afternoons running along the seaside promenade. On the weekends I would head to the beach, or out to the Winelands or wander the city center or waterfront in search of new cafes, hidden gin bars and boutiques, feeding my earring habit at artisan markets, how many pairs are too many?
Even though safari is the star of any trip to Africa and it will always remain my happy place to be out in the bush atop an open Landcruiser in search of wildlife, the opportunity to send guests to Cape Town and collaborate with them to tailor their experience in the city is one of my favorite things!
Here is my personal list of what makes Cape Town so special.
1) The Landscape
Iconic Table Mountain, Devils Peak, Lions Head, and Signal Hill form the unmistakable natural features that loom over the city and divide the more central ‘City Bowl’ nestled on one side from trendy Camps Bay, Sea Point, and Green Point on the other. I have loved hiking each of these unique points and a trip up the slowly rotating cable car of Table Mountain is a must-do. When you are in Cape Town you truly feel like you are at the end of the earth as the rugged mountains meet the sea, and the city clings to all the space in between.
A tour down the gorgeous peninsula from Chapmans Peak to the Cape of Good Hope is one of the best coastal drives in the world. At the end of the road, you will see where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet at a dramatic point of land and you can search for wildlife in the nature reserve, as the Cape Floral kingdom meets wild windy beaches. There is no end to the natural beauty of this region.
2) The Food
Fine dining spearheaded by celebrity chefs at a fraction of the cost of at-home, fresh organic food grown locally, and my morning stop for fresh juice and an embarrassingly elaborate smoothie bowl were all part of life in Cape Town. Weekend and night markets are exploding with creative food stalls a cooking class in colorful Bo-Kaap will introduce you to the spices and influences of Cape Malay culture.
I am happy to share restaurant suggestions and highly recommend a private walking tour as the best way to see the city, through the lens of food, and eat your way through Cape Town.
3) The Drinks
In another life, I trained as a certified beer sommelier and remain an absolute nerd on this subject, and Cape Town delivers. However, beer will never be the star here. South African craft gin is second to none, with a range of colors, flavors and a gin and tonic at sunset is a quintessential safari experience. A gin tasting at one of the city’s many artisanal distilleries or a flight of gin at the secret bar hidden in the back of a chocolate shop is a must for those that enjoy this clear spirit.
Beer and wine aside it is the wine that makes South Africa famous, and the Cape Winelands start to appear just 20 minutes outside the city. Gorgeous estate wineries are nestled in lush valleys and the region produces some of the best wine in the world. Pinotage South Africa’s signature cultivar but a day out with an expert wine guide will open up the world of South African wine.
4) The Wildlife
For such a cosmopolitan city there is a surprising amount of wildlife. Adorable African penguins can be found at Boulders beach and Bettys Bay. The waters off the city are teeming with whales, dolphins, seals, and sharks, I have even spotted the spray of whales from high up on Lions Head. Whether with flippers on, in a cage, on a stand-up paddleboard on in a Kayak you can interact with all this marine life in Cape Town.
Down the Cape, you will find curious and often very naughty baboons, ostrich, eland, zebra, and many other creatures great and small.
5) The Café Culture
Cape Town loves coffee and with so much of the world’s supply coming from the continent, it is no wonder that has found a home here. The city is full of the cutest cafes where I would happily spend the afternoon with my laptop or a good book. Art is further down the list but the intersect of coffee and art is evident everywhere in Cape Town, and it extends to bakeries and unique deli’s allowing for endless options. Please feel free to as about my favorite cafes to spend the day.
6) The History
South Africa has been through a lot in its long and varied history and emerged the other side as the ‘Rainbow Nation.’ Cape Town is a living museum to the past with so many sites to explore. Visit Robben Island, just visible off the coast where Nelson Mandel was imprisoned for so many years, or learn the details at the District 6 museum and the national gallery. There are plenty of historic Jewish sites that a passionate local guide will make come alive, and The Company Gardens are an homage to the survival of past settlers. Old Cape Dutch architecture and the Cape Castle fort nicely round out a historical day in Cape Town
7) The Shopping
As I alluded to above I own way too many pairs of earrings, and several of them have come from Cape Town. From fashion designers to African artisan crafts and beading, Cape Town has amazing Shopping. I made a weekly trip to both the Old Biscuit Mill Market and the Oranjezicht markets to browse the stalls for jewelry, clothing, crafts and to eat all the food. The Watershed Market on the Victoria and Albert waterfront is the best African Art and products, elevated- a one-stop-shop for the best souvenirs while supporting local enterprise. With the excellent exchange rate, shopping in Cape Town is dangerously easy.
8) The Gardens
Cape Town is undeniably beautiful and its many parks and gardens are worth a visit. The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens host an incredible summer concert series, and have a stunning canopy walk and endless trees and exotic flowers to explore- you will not regret a visit here. The Company Gardens show how passing ships restocked with fresh food after months at sea with every type of fruit tree. A little further out in the Winelands, the gardens at Babylonstoren are an absolute Eden and give me faith that the world is going to be okay- I insist on a stop here on any tour of the Winelands.
9) The Beaches/ Coastline
Cape Town has some of the best beaches and the wildest coastline I have ever seen. Even if it is 100% on the sand you a probably not going to want to take a dip in the sea though, as cold Antarctic currents keep the water freezing cold on the hottest days.
In all my years of travel, a strip of empty beach in Hermanus, just two hours outside the city remains my favorite of all time. A stay at the luxury Eco lodge Grootbos will give you access to this magical place and the surrounding Fynbos (the smallest of the floral kingdoms and only found in this part of the world.
Trendy Camps Bay is a great place to spend the day at the beach or have a cocktail along the promenade and a private picnic on a hidden strip of white sand on the Peninsula adds to any day tour there.
10) The Endless Activities
As a bit of a recap, I could spend a lifetime exploring Cape Town, and cannot wait to get back there and continue doing so.
I have yet to take to the coast roads by side care on a motorcycle trip, and I am sure I am missing out on new restaurants and cafes, and I never went skydiving.
Over a three or four-night stay you can explore so many aspects of the city, with touring catered specifically to you and your travel companions. I would suggest a trip up Table Mountain, a day down the Cape Point Peninsula, and some time in the Winelands to scratch the surface of this.