My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Written and Published January 22, 2019


My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa


My Favorite 25Things to do Cape Town, South Africa - Understand


Cape Town needs no introduction - it's famous for its incredible scenery, quirky weather and European 'savoir vivre' lifestyle. The former British 'Cape Colony' has been getting much cheaper since the harsh devaluation of the South African Rand. It's now starting to become a victim of its own success, with a huge influx of European tourists and Chinese tour groups.

Cape Town is a rather small city, with just a few focal points of interest; compared to my last visit a few years ago, it now feels exceedingly crowded.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

The city is blessed with warm, sunny weather in summer (much like San Francisco) and misty, rainy days during most of winter (just like San Francisco in winter). While quality hotels here aren't cheap, prices for local services like food of comparable quality are easily 40-50% lower than in the US.

South Africa is home to a huge agricultural industry and a number of food entrepreneurs have set up shop to make use of this bounty. However, good and cheap food needs to be discovered in Cape Town - it is NOT on every corner.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa


My Favorite 25 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa - Get Around


With its small streets - many with a steep slope - traffic feels incredibly hectic in Cape Town. South Africans are good drivers in terms of skills, but drive small cars in an aggressive manner - more like traffic in Germany or Dubai than what we are used to in America.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Uber is in town and rides are very affordable. The same is true for car rentals which give you many more options to explore the 'hinterland'.

Don't rely on public transport here; it's spotty and unreliable and after dark it's just a big no-no.

My Favorite 25Things to do Cape Town, South Africa - Safety


Cape Town Downtown and Woodstock are shaky areas. If you are a local you won't have trouble staying safe but for the uninitiated I'd avoid the areas at night and be extra careful during the day. The Cape Town suburbs are much safer (as further you go away the safer it gets) and Stellenbosch seems another world all together.

Walking after dark isn't usually a good idea anywhere in the Cape Town area - stay in your car after dark and avoid neighborhoods that you are not familiar with.

My Favorite 25Things to do Cape Town, South Africa - Pollution


Don't worry about pollution in Cape Town - you will barely notice any.

My Favorite 25Things to do Cape Town, South Africa - Connectivity


For a (almost) First World country the Internet speeds in the Cape Town area are atrocious. Expect 1 Mbit and less for most public WiFi (that also come with a limitation on Megabyte usage).

Many hotels (including chain hotels) do little to provide quality Internet. I eventually bought a Telkom SIM card which delivered good speeds. You pay about $7 per Gigabyte of data.

My Favorite 25Things to do Cape Town, South Africa - Sights


Cape Town is world-famous for its scenery and it is (not just) a tourist trap - it is just stunningly beautiful to see the mountains that make up this southeastern edge of Africa.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain

This landmark is a 3,000 ft rock that towers over the city of Cape Town, not unlike Hong Kong or Gibraltar (those Brits liked their rocks). The sheer rock face that drops down to the scenic beaches is something you can't get enough of, even when you live in Cape Town.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Table Mountain attracts a fog layer at many times, so try to time your visit on a clear day (lunchtime is usually a safe bet). There is a two-hour hike up the mountain or a 5-minute cable car ride. The cable car ride is ZAR 150 one-way or ZAR 280 return. It's so fast that it's hard to justify the two-hour hike, but it is scenic in its own right.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

There'sa number of trails at the top, which you can freely roam without being bossed around by guards. Some of the visitors take it too far and dangle off the cliff edge, which is notrecommended. Plan at least an hour to take in the 360-degree views and to have some time to escape the crowds up there.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Chapman's Peak Drive / Chapman's Peak Hike

Chapman's Peak Drive connects Hout Bay and Noordhoek on a superbly scenic drive of 9kilometers. You will need to pay a ZAR 48 toll, which is totally worth it; there'swonderful views, especially later in the day with the golden light hitting the long bay. It's two sections - one a perfectly paved, wide road and another one that is barely big enough to drive at 15mph. It's a treat for your eyes and soul and no Cape Town visit can be complete without it.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Noordhoek

Noordhoek must have once been a rustic village, but it is now an upscale town with pretty houses and a fantastic beach.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

A few years ago, I went to the Foodbarnat the Farm Village, which had excellent tapas-style food and lovely staff. I went back this time and found the staff to be apathetic. From the 4 tapas we ordered (each costing about $5), two were bad and two were excellent. Talk about hit-or-miss.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Lion's Head Trail

Lion's Head is another sheer rock face just next to Table Mountain, with even better ocean views. Go on the trail well before sunset (as the hours after dark can be dangerous) and take some water.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens isless a sight for its manicured flowers and plants and more for yet another perspective of - you guessed it - Table Mountain. The many short trails here provide a great way to stroll around the interesting flora, though.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

The promenade along Sea Point Beach and Clifton beaches

Cape Town residents love their seafront (which is much like an Middle EastCorniche, like in Abu Dhabi) - everyone and their cousin come out here at the weekend for a run or stroll. It's a long stretch of safe seafront, with a stunning sunset at the end. Do this at least once - or even better, find a hotel that is on the promenade.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

CBD

The Cape Town Central Business District isn't terribly impressive and has been taken over by the seedier parts of the city (like, for instance, San Francisco). The best area is up Long Street towards Kloof Street, which has a number of good food and drink options. Skip the rest, unless you really need the touristy pictures.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Cape of Good Hope

The Cape of Good Hope was a marvel of my trip here a few years ago. I was almost the only person there and discovered the most southwestern point of Africa in peace on a calm and clear day. This time, it costZAR 150 per person and it was all different; it was windy, cold and incredibly crowded, with Chinese tour group after tour group in big buses racing tothe parking lot for a two-minute stop.





To avoid such crowds, come equipped with good hiking boots and leave the car at the Buffelsfontein Visitors Center and go for a hike to take in the magnificent views. Otherwise skip it.

Kalk Bay

Kalk Bay is a popular lunch spot along the route to the Cape of Good Hope. I'm not sure I would recommend coming here anymore... Yes, the ocean views are awesome, but it's hectic, crowded and expensive now (which is still rather cheap when seen in USD terms, though).



Stop by Olympia Caféfor brunch if you can get parking and a seat.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Boulders Beach

Boulders Beach was home to just a few penguins a few years ago, but has grown into a major colony, with 3,000 penguins now roaming there.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

The government has decided to make it part of the National Park and charges a $5 entrance fee for something that's worth just a few minutes of your time. Well, surprise - the penguins are everywhere now and the next city block (which also has parking) has them, too. Let's see when it will also become a National Park extension.

Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch is just 30 minutes from downtown Cape Town with no traffic and it's another world. It looks just like a more European version of Napa Valley.

There's plenty of wineries and a tasting of five wines and a gourmet lunch is usually under $15. This is remarkable value and the tasting itself (without food) can be had for just $2. It's hard to even get ONE glass of wine in Napa Valley for this. Now you might think wineries are makeshift areas with picnic tables, but the ones here would easily compete with the most stylish ones in Napa.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

I visited Rust en Vrede and Middelvlei Wine Estate, which were both excellent. The former has super-friendly staff and the more sophisticated food, while Middelvlei scores with a more rustic setup and an authentic 'farm experience'.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa



My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa



My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

There are at least two dozen more wineries and you can spend a week just drinking your way through the many options here.

Downtown Stellenbosch along Church Streethas a number of outdoor cafes and eateries. None struck me as much better or worse than the other; food can be hit-or-miss here.

The best place for food I found in town is Thirsty Scarecrow,which can't decide what it is - hipster foodie spot, bar, wine tasting placeor farm. Anyway, most of it (especially the flatbread) is way above average.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 25Things to do Cape Town, South Africa - Eat & Drink


While most of Africa's eateries seem to always be open in Cape Town (although often not when I showed up), you need to carefully watch the opening hours. That means YOU NEED TO CALL AHEAD, since Google and Foursquare often have incorrect data. My experiences included:

  • AtThe Test Kitchen, I asked for a seat at the bar and assured I'd be gone after a quick 45-minute meal. While there were plenty of empty tables and no line I was not served, though I was reminded that I could make a reservation for a lunch almost a month away!

  • I noted that a popular coffee shop in Stellenbosch (Schoon de Companje) closes every Saturday afternoon until Tuesday morning.

  • The Kitchen - my favorite spot - only opens Monday to Friday for breakfast and lunchand closes at 3.30PM sharp.

  • An ice cream store closed up 'in my face' at 5PM on a sunny Saturday.

  • A popular tapas place opening at 6PM gave me the worst seat in the house, despite me clarifying that I was there for a super-quick meal, and while there were NO other diners there (!) until I left at 6.45PM.


Woodstock

If you want to experience Cape Town food, there is no getting around that you'll need to eat in Woodstock - a former seedy area that has been gentrifying a lot, but is still considered dangerous at night.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

The Kitchen

Clearly the star of food in Cape Town. This small eatery cooks lunch from scratch every day. The ingredients are fresh and organic and the recipes are intricate. A big lunch plate is just ZAR 70. Go early or late to avoid the huge lines and go there hungry to eat two plates - it is that good.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Watch the hours, as stated above, as it is only open Monday-Friday (except for holidays) between 8.30AM and 3.30PM.

The Test Kitchen

The fine dining version of The Kitchen is The Test Kitchen. It's a few blocks away, at the Old Biscuit Mill (see below). Book at least a few months ahead as it sells out ages in advance. It's expensive for South Africa, but certainly not for US standards.





The Old Biscuit MillFarmer's Market

The equivalent of the SF Ferry Building Farmer's Market is the Saturday morning happening at The Old Biscuit Mill. Lots of food from South African entrepreneurs can be found in the huge food stand area to the right when you enter. It gets crowded, so come early or late to get a relief from the masses.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Burrata

Burrata isalso in The Old Biscuit Mill, but come here for dinner any day. The restaurant is one of the best organized I have ever seen and the staff are motivated beyond their chef hats. The team spins out fantastic Italian food creations for prices you won't believe;a whole Napoli-style pizza made with fresh ingredients is just $3. And this is agourmet restaurant, not a dump. AMAZING.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa



Rosetta Roastery

Rosetta is the de facto hip coffee shop in Cape Town. Coffee isn't much of an addiction here (maybe because of all that summer sun) and this place was surprisingly empty. I found the interior design top-notch but the coffee just OK.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Superette

Superette is the place for breakfast if you like eggs (I don't). I saw tons of good reviews and it looks fantastic.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa



Tribe Coffee

Tribe Coffee is a more relaxed version of Rosetta that seems to get even fewer people (much to my amazement). The coffee is just OK, but the setting is beautiful and it's beyond cheap.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Espresso Lab Microroasters

ELM is in part of the same compound as Burrata and The Test Kitchen. The staff are incredibly friendly and there must have been 12 baristas there on the day of the Farmer's Market (their busiest day). I wish SF had that kind of setup and less attitude.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

CBD - Along Kloof and Long Streets

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Most of the CBD is a sketchy affair, but there's a few exceptions to be found if you are ready to explore.

Hudsons The Burger Joint

Hudsons is a chain and a local mainstay. The Kloof Street location is a beautiful spot with a great patio. The burgers are good (though not incredible) and cost just $6 in a restaurant. Wow!

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Yours Truly

Yours Truly is the spot to be seenwhen in Cape Town; you'll mostly meet locals here who never give up their seats onthe wonderful summer patio.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

Unframed Ice Cream

Unframed Ice Cream is likely the best ice cream in Cape Town. However this does not mean so much, as I found it lacking in taste and having too much salt.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa



Jason Bakery

This was one of the many places I could not try out, since their opening hours are so sporadic. Unlike its name it's actually more of a cafe and makes sandwiches. It closes early on Saturday (REALLY?) and reopens on Monday. Oh my.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa



Chefs Warehouse

The same story here. At 4.01PM I was a minute too late and was yelled at to stay outside while lunch was still in full swing inside. I very nicely asked for some 'leftovers' to try and was told to, "Go away".





Reviews for the food here are excellent, but it's $50 for two people for the 3-course tapas set. That's expensive for South Africa.



There's also a health food and juice place in Cape Town called nü, which has a few outlets and gets decent reviews.

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 25 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa - Roadtrips & Garden Route


The area east of Cape Town is known as the Garden Route. The name will sound misleading when you drive a few hours east of Cape Town (as it looks more like a desert), but once you reach Mossel Bay, George and Knysna you will see what why it is dubbed that way.

The Southern coastline is easily as beautiful as the Big Sur / Monterey area in California. In addition some parts look more like Norway than the Monterey Coast. The area suffers from lots of fog but often has beautiful sunny days in summer.

In general the area is safe, has extremely friendly people, excellent food, great wines and low prices. I liked the area so much I would skip Cape Town entirely on my next trip!

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South AfricaMy Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South AfricaMy Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa

My Favorite 26 Things to do Cape Town, South Africa