Cape Town has been named one of the 52 places to go in 2014 by the New York Times, and it’s easy to see why. The vibrant city offers world-class restaurants and nightlife, a diverse culture, and plenty of historical sights along with adventure excursions. Here are the top 10 things to do in Cape Town.
Sources: SouthAfrica.net, AfricaTravelAssociation.org, CNN.com, LonelyPlanet.com, TheGuardian.com
Accessible by ferry from Cape Town, Robben Island is the prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years before the fall of apartheid. Multiple other South African political leaders also served time here, and many of the tour guides are themselves former political prisoners. Since convertion into a museum in 1997, Robben Island has become an important symbol of democracy’s victory over apartheid in South Africa.
Sound terrifying? Don’t worry, the professionals know how to keep you safe, and believe it or not this is one of the most popular tourist activities in Cape Town. You’ll take a boat ride out to a shark cage, and when you get in you’ll be able to see great white sharks up close. This is not for scaredy cats.
Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most famous icon, and you can get to the top via cable car in about five minutes. With rotating floors and large windows, it will let you take in spectacular views of the city and surrounding scenery as you ascend. If the cable cars don’t spike your adrenaline levels enough, daredevils can choose to abseil down off the mountain.
Named after Queen Victoria of England and her youngest son, Alfred, the buzzing V&A Waterfront features shopping, dining, nightlife and a bustling harbor that attracts millions of visitors annually.
There are very few places where you can get close to wild penguins. Boulders Beach is one of them. Just don’t get too close – if you disturb them, they do bite! You might also spot dolphins, whales and sharks swimming in the bay here.
Culturally diverse Cape Town is known for its wide assortment of incredible restaurants, but make sure you eat seafood while you’re visiting. Some of the world’s best tuna and prawns are caught by Cape Town fishermen.
Stunning scenery, a famous culinary scene and some of the world’s best wines call for a trip to the Cape Winelands. Drive about 40 minutes from Cape Town to visit multiple wine estates, all with their own individual historical charm. Many feature Cape Dutch-style architectural heritage. Active travelers can also enjoy cycling, walking and hiking routes throughout the Cape Winelands.
With nearly 20,000 acres of cliffs and hiking trails, Good Hope Nature Reserve is a paradise for nature lovers and those interested in seeing wildlife. Aside from the spectacular native flora, you can spot animals such as zebras, baboons, ostriches, and elands.
An important and sobering reminder of Cape Town’s past, the District Six Museum recalls an apartheid-era travesty when the community of District Six was delegated whites-only and 60,000 Cape Colored residents were forcibly removed from their homes. Their homes were then demolished, and the displaced people who had lived there were left to get by in barren, outlying areas known as the Cape Flats. The museum includes many interactive exhibits that rely on storytelling by former residents. Those evicted are invited to indicate with chalk where they once lived on a map painted on the floor.
10. Take a township tour
To truly understand Cape Town, you should take a township tour to see how South Africans really live. Townships are urban areas on the outskirts of the city that were set aside for non-whites during apartheid. They often lack basic things like electricity and running water, and even though apartheid is over many people are still living there in poverty. Look for a tour company that takes small groups and has roots in the township – that way you’ll know the money you are spending on the trip is actually going into the community.