9 Top Things to Do in Cape Town

When it hosted 2010 FIFA World Cup, Cape Town became famous for using vuvuzelas—long plastic horns—instead of their voices to cheer and jeer at soccer matches. Since then, vuvuzelas have become popular souvenirs for anyone visiting South Africa’s “Mother City.” But getting your own vuvuzela is only one of many things to do in Cape Town. Set between scenic mountains and bright blue ocean, Cape Town has gained many honors as a top travel destination for its beautiful setting and unique, cosmopolitan culture. It was voted the best city in the world to visit in the 2023 Telegraph Travel Awards, and named Africa’s leading city destination in the 2022 World Travel Awards.

spectator in stadium blowing long plastic horn as South African national flags flying in the background

A 2010 FIFA World Cup spectator blows on a vuvuzela. Photo by Andrew Moore.

Cape Town has so much to offer that most Ujuzi travelers spend four to five days in the city and surrounds when visiting South Africa. Below, we’ve highlighted our favorite things to do in the Mother City.

travelers pose for selfies at Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa

Friends take photos of the view from Table Mountain.

Marvel at the View from Table Mountain

Named Africa’s top tourist attraction in the 2020 World Travel Awards, Table Mountain is a wonder of the natural world. Enjoy its splendor on a hike to the top. Or take the cableway—gondolas provide riders 360° views of the mountain and Cape Town below. On many afternoons, you can watch clouds cascade over the mountaintop like waterfalls.

a pair of African penguins groom each other with their beaks as they stand on a rock with sea in the background

A pair of African penguins groom each other near Boulder’s Beach, South Africa. Photo taken by Kathryn Kingsbury on an Ujuzi safari.

See Penguins

Penguins in Africa? Yes! African penguins thrive in the warmth of the Western Cape. They have two large colonies near Cape Town: Betty’s Bay and Boulder’s Beach. Boardwalks allow visitors to get an up-close view of these endangered birds without disturbing their habitat. You can also paddle among them on a sea kayak!

These charming birds are so popular among our travelers that we include seeing them as an option in all our sample itineraries in the Western Cape, such as our South Africa Land & Ocean Safari.

view of cliffs and blue ocean

Visit the Cape of Good Hope for stunning views of the ocean. Photo by Gustavo Yoneya.

Explore the Cape of Good Hope

Cape of Good Hope National Park offers arresting panoramas of the Atlantic Ocean and False Bay. You will also find breathtaking plants and flowers here. The Cape of Good Hope is part of the Cape Floristic Region, named a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization for its high concentration of flowering plant species. The best viewing is at Cape Point—the southwestern most tip of Africa. There, you can ascend by foot or cable car for staggering vistas of False Bay. You’ll feel like you’re on the edge of the world.

rolling vineyards with rocky outcrop or mountain in the background

The Cape Winelands offer bucolic serenity. Photo by Mpho Mojapelo.

Tour the Winelands

Enjoy breathtaking scenery as you sip world-famous wines. A day in the Cape Winelands typically includes visits to several wineries, so you get a broad sampling of specialties. As you travel between vineyards, you’ll see beautiful examples of Cape Dutch architecture, rolling farmlands, and spectacular mountains.

Highlights of the Cape Winelands include:

  • Paarl, home to more than 20 vineyards and best known for its Shiraz. Paarl means “pearl” in Afrikaans and is named after a granite mountain that gives off a pearlescent shine after the rains.
  • Franschhoek, an area settled by Huguenots in the seventeenth century and now with 30 wineries. The village of Franschhoek has a charming downtown with flower gardens, art galleries, and chocolatiers.
  • Stellenbosch, South Africa’s second oldest European settlement after Cape Town. More than 200 grape growers and vintners are part of the Stellenbosch Wine of Origin region. Many of the wineries feature classic Cape Dutch architecture with thatched roofs and stucco walls.

Are you less into wine and more into being in the great outdoors? Because of the beautiful scenery, the Cape Winelands are also a popular spot for hot air ballooning and horseback riding.

Check out our Winelands & Wildlife sample itinerary—which starts with two nights in Cape Town and two nights in Stellenbosch—for one idea how to incorporate a visit to the Winelands on your safari.

a great white shark in blue water looks at two people in an underwater cage taking pictures of it

A great white shark checks out two divers in Shark Alley near Gansbaai, South Africa. Photo courtesy of South African Tourism.

Dive with Sharks

The strip of ocean between Dyer Island and the mainland town of Gansbaai is also known as “Shark Alley.” It’s one of the best places in the world to see great white sharks—and it’s only a two-hour drive from Cape Town. Dive in the safety of a cage for eye-to-eye contact with a great white shark! This adventure is one of many aquatic activities—including snorkeling with seals—in our South Africa Coastal Adventure sample itinerary.

view of prison gates from inside of a stone prison

Robben Island held a number of political prisoners during apartheid, including Nelson Mandela. Photo by Grant Durr.

Visit Robben Island

Recognized as a World Heritage Site, Robben Island sits off the South African coast and is visible from parts of Cape Town. It housed political and other prisoners over the course of three centuries, including anti-apartheid activist Nelson Mandela. Visitors flock here from around the world to see Mandela’s former cell and learn about political prisoners’ contributions to South African democracy.

entry to castle of good hope-it is an archway with romanesque columns in a stone wall with a stone tower above

The Castle of Good Hope was built by the Dutch East India Company in the late 1600s. Photo taken by Kathryn Kingsbury on an Ujuzi safari.

Tour the Castle of Good Hope and Grand Parade

Built in the 1600s, the Castle of Good Hope is the oldest colonial building in South Africa and the world’s best preserved Dutch East India Company fort. Formerly an administrative and military center, today it boasts exhibits where visitors can learn about Cape Town’s multicultural history.

Next to the Castle of Good Hope, the Grand Parade forms Cape Town’s main public square. It is the spot where Nelson Mandela addressed the nation on his release from prison in 1990, and again after his election in 1994. Markets and other community events often take place here.

A southern right whale breaches the surface at Walker Bay, South Africa. Photo by Olga Ernst.

Enjoy Coastal Towns

If vibrant Cape Town is the Mother City, the smaller towns dotting the neighboring coast are its daughters. They each offer excellent dining, shopping, and coastal enjoyment.

Among the most popular is Hermanus, a former fishing village on Walker Bay that offers excellent whale watching. Simon’s Town hosts South Africa’s largest naval base and is perfect for sea kayaking and penguin-watching. The picturesque fishing hamlet of Hout Bay is also a popular vacation town among South Africans.

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront offers restaurants, shopping, and entertainment. Photo by Daniel Case.

Stroll the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

Located in South Africa’s oldest working harbor, the V&A Waterfront attracts 23 million visitors a year with its shops, dining, and arresting views of Table Mountain. Performers roam through the crowd, bringing music and magic that will brighten your stay. Stop in at Two Oceans Aquarium for an up-close look at inhabitants of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Or visit the Zeitz Museum to view a vast collection of contemporary African art.

Aerial view of Cape Town south africa

Aerial view of Cape Town, South Africa. Photo by Sharaan Muruvan.

Plan your visit to Cape Town!

Ujuzi can help you plan your trip to Cape Town and beyond. Pair a stay in Cape Town with several days in the South African bush for the safari of a lifetime! Contact us to make your travel dreams come true.

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