Tips from a backpacking mod
The Sights of Cape Town.
A blog all about the best things to see and do in Capetown, South Africa.
Table mountain – Probably the number 1 tourist attraction in the mother city and therefore it gets very busy. It is also a weather dependent location and can very often be closed due to high winds, visibility, rain or a combination of all three making it closed at least 25% of the time. Therefore whatever your plans are for the day, if you see that Table mountain is open, change them and get up there. Recently my mate spent 4 days in Cape Town. Day 1 it was open but we said we’d go the next day as we were doing the red bus tour. The mountain was closed the next 3 days due to weather so he never made it up there.
You can book tickets on line and this is the best way to do it. Details here. https://www.tablemountain.net
My advice is to get to the base of the mountain around 7.30am before the queues become too big. Opening time is 8am. Once it gets busy you can be queuing for over 2 hours. Plus being first up the mountain is great. You have the place to yourself for a period of time and it’s really peaceful and you can have breakfast looking out across Cape Town, a spectacular view. Cost is R295 pp. If you have twitter follow Cable mountain gateway – it gives you regular updates on the weather and if it’s open or closed.
Also, when you get into the cable car people rush in to get by the open window. Don’t worry about this. The car rotates as you go up so everyone gets a chance there.
If you are feeling fit you can actually hike up to the top of table mountain and the website will give you details for guides, cost etc.
Robben Island – This is where Nelson Mandela was in prison. As you can imagine it’s a very popular trip and because of that you cannot just turn up and buy a ticket. You’ll never get on. You must either book on line or you can buy them in advance at the Robben Island museum (located by the clock tower in the V&A waterfront where the tour boats leave from) or you can buy them from Pick and pay supermarkets. I would suggest online is the best option and the earlier in advance the better. Tickets are R360 for adults and R200 for children. Boats leave 0900, 1100, 1300 and 1500. 9 or 11 is best time in my opinion. It’s a 30 min boat ride and if you get lucky you may see some whales. I did when I went. Make sure you book a few days in advance or you’ll find it full. Once over there you’ll get a full guide around the island and in the prison one of the former political prisoners will take you around. Details in the link.http://www.robben-island.org.za
The South Africa/Springboks rugby museum: This is located on the edge of the V&A waterfront opposite Mitchells pub. It’s a history of South African rugby along with some interactive stations to test your kicking and passing abilities. I enjoyed it and it’s only R75 to get in. Booking is not required.
The V&A waterfront– Full of shops, bars, restaurants, it’s a really vibrant place. Great for a meal on the waterfront or looking up at table mountain. However it is a tourist trap and comes with all that goes with that. Crowds of people, more expensive drinks and meals etc etc. But it’s a good vibe and safe to walk around. Also good in the evening with some bars that have live music or show the 6 nations, world cup etc (The Ferryman, Mitchells to name but 2).
The Noon day gun:Since 1806 a navel gun has been fired over Cape Town at noon as a time signal for ships. It continues to this day and is a good and interesting thing to go and see. Hosted by a Petty officer from the South African navy he will talk you through the history of the tradition and then fire the gun. It is free to go and watch and you need to be there before 11.30am as that’s when all the loading and stuff starts. It takes place on Signal hill, but not at the top where all the parascending takes place, but at Lion Battery. In fact it is quite difficult to find and you will need a GPS or good map to get you there. But once there it is worth it. Not many people think about going to see this so it makes it all the more special to have been, in my mind anyway. The guns are not too far up the hill from Long St and the link below has a map of the location which should make it easy for you to find, or get a good taxi driver who can get you there. https://www.sa-venues.com/attractionswc/noon-day-gun.htm
Basic directions are up through the Bo-Kaap area. On foot take Longmarket street and keep going until it ends. In a car follow Kloof Nek Rd from the city and take the first turn off to the right at the top of the hill.
Signal Hill:This is located along the road from the ‘Lions Head’ and the turning is directly opposite the road that leads up to table mountain. It’s basically a view point giving amazing views out over Cape Town or up to table mountain. You can also paraglide from here for around R750, landing down at Sea Point.
Sunday Jazz brunch:There a number of places in Cape Town that do this and if you like a bit of jazz on a quiet Sunday this is worth doing. The Winchester Mansions hotel (Harveys restaurant) in Sea Point is considered one of the best. Cost is R345pp. Times are 11am to 2pm and you get a huge selection of pastries, sushi, full English breakfast to keep you going for the full 3 hours (all you can eat). Details here http://www.winchester.co.za/signature-events/ There are also other good places as well though, for instance The Mount Nelson Hotel which is exceptional food (R445).
Wine tasting:As you can imagine there are many vineyards around Cape Town where you can go and try some of the great wines they produce around here. The oldest one here is Groot Constantia. However my favourite is Buitenverwachting. Details here http://www.buitenverwachting.comIt will cost you R50 for the wine tasting which gives you 6 wines to sample. If you want to buy a bottle and have lunch there after that’s catered for as well. Details for Groot Constantia here https://www.grootconstantia.co.za
Cape Town two oceans aquarium
This is located down by the V&A waterfront, just along from the red bus stop area which you can’t miss. I went the other day and thought it was a really good visit and something that could be done if you happen to be where when it rains or is cold. They have some good displays and there is one huge aquarium with a viewing area where you can watch the divers go in and feed the fish with a presenter there who talks you through what’s going on. The divers can even speak to you. Great for the kids to see. If you are a licenced diver, you can pay to dive in this tank as well. Feeding times are 1200 and 1400. I saw the 1200 one where they fed all the rays. They also have penguin feeding at 1130 and 1430.
Cost – Adults are R175, children 13-17 R130, 4-13, R85 and under 4 free. If you want to dive its R870. I thought that was expensive as I can get a normal dive for around R500-600.
Full details of the aquarium can be found here; https://www.aquarium.co.za
Photo credit Paul Ryhs
Around the suburbs of Cape Town
Cape Town is a well spread out city and getting to some of the places worth visiting requires a car in reality which also gives you your freedom with no time constraints. Below are some of my favourite spots.
Hout bay food/craft market – Held Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays. This place has a great vibe about it and is great for families to visit. Located in a warehouse at the end of the harbour road it is full of local craft stalls, food stalls selling amazing foods from around Africa along with a good bar, seating area and live music at times. This is well worth a visit and something I would strongly recommend. If you visit you can link it in with a drive over the beautiful Chapmans peak. For more details read my blog entry – Places to mooch in Cape Town.
Photo credit Paul Ryhs
Observatory area and old biscuit mill – Observatory area is a small location with a number of vintage and second hand vinyl shops which I loved. Also some great little cafes, many of which cater well for vegetarians and vegans. It has a nice bohemian feel about the place. The Old biscuit mill is similar to Hout Bay market but is located in the Woodstock area of Cape Town. On Saturdays the food market is great and it is a thriving place to visit. You can also get a great Aperol spritz there. More details of these areas in my blog post, Places to mooch in Cape Town.
Kalk bay – A beautiful small district of Cape Town, Kalk bay is a fishing village located on False Bay and one of my favourite little places. Great for many things and well worth a visit. Located between Muizenburg and Fish Hoek. More details in my blog post, A visit to Kalk Bay.
Photo credit Paul Ryhs
Simons Town:A slightly bigger version of Kalk Bay and just as charming and picturesque. This is a small navel port which dates back to the 1800’s. It has lots of nice little coffee shops and cafes along with some interesting thrift/antique shops. It’s also the town where Capt Scott and his team stayed before setting off on their ill fated expedition to Antarctic in 1910.
Boulder beach – Located just on the outskirts of Simons Town, you go swimming with the penguins here. Cost to get on the beach is about R65. Good to do if it’s not too cold. It’s not a set up thing. These animals are wild and it is the colony. It’s very interesting and great when they are swimming around you. Travel out of Simons Town towards Cape Point and just before the golf course turn left down Bellevue Rd. At the end there is a car park. Park up and follow the signs to the beach down a small path. There is a booth to pay entry. The beach can be a bit crowded at times, but if you are already in your swimmers turn left on the beach and walk all the way to the end. There you’ll find some large rocks with a hole you can crawl through. Once through, wade around the next rock (thigh high) and you’ll come to a smaller isolated beach and it’s much easier to interact with the penguins there.
Cape point (cape of good hope) – Something I think is worth doing, but not everybody wants to go here. Cape point is a national park and there’s more to see than just cape point. There are a couple of small interesting stop offs once in the park and some amazing scenery. Keep an eye out for ostrich, tortoise and other animals. Also watch out for the baboons when you park up. They will take food and drink from your hands and some will get in the car and nick stuff given half a chance. Just be aware of them around you. There is a train that will take you up to the top of Cape Point (R50) or you can chose to climb the steps if you’re feeling fit. Details here http://capepoint.co.za
Photo credit Neil Berrett
Stellenbosch – The well known wine growing area located about an hours drive outside of Cape Town. It’s a pretty little town near with lots of nice cafés and restaurants all of which sell lots of the locally produced vino. It’s worth a few nights stay if you have the time but it’s pricey. Google the Duck parade as one thing to do there. Also there’s obviously plenty of wine tasting around as well at any number of vineyards.
The West coast – This is worth taking a few days/week or more maybe to drive up to Langanbaan and Paternoster on the west coast and maybe further. They are maybe 2 to 3 hours north of Cape Town. Really nice places and particularly Paternoster. All the buildings are white like a small Mediterranean village and some lovely restaurants. I loved it there. It’s a very chill place. If you go make sure you get a drink in the bar at the Paternoster hotel there….very unusual.
Paul aka the backpacking mod has been on an epic solo trip across South Africa. He retired from the police and decided it was time to embark on an amazing year long adventure. His reason, well beacuse life is for living whatever age you are!
If you have any questions on Cape town we'd be happy to help answer them.