9 Reasons to Visit Cape Town

Cape Town became an international darling when it hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup. South African spectators captured the world’s imagination during televised soccer matches by blowing on vuvuzelas—long plastic horns that emit a sharp, loud note. The colorful vuvuzelas stood as a symbol of a vibrant city.

Encircled by mountains and the ocean, Cape Town is breathtakingly gorgeous. Over the centuries, Cape Town has developed a unique, cosmopolitan culture that includes indigenous Africans, Indonesians, and Europeans. In the mid-1800s, it removed racial qualifications for voting. By 1948, it was among South Africa’s most racially integrated cities. Colonial forces and apartheid suppressed these advances, but Cape Town’s multicultural tradition persisted—playing an important role in South Africa’s post-apartheid commitment to racial equality.

group of spectators in stadium blowing long plastic horns

Spectators at the 2010 FIFA World Cup blow their vuvuzelas. Photo by Jason Bagley.

A City to Love

Cape Town has gained many honors as a top travel destination. It edged out London and Barcelona as the world’s leading festival destination in the 2020 World Travel Awards, and also received an honor for hosting Africa’s leading airport. Publications like The New York Times and Daily Telegraph have called it the world’s best place to visit.

Here at Ujuzi, we love Cape Town too. It has so much to offer that most of our travelers spend 4 to 5 days in the Cape Town area when visiting South Africa. Below, we’ve highlighted our favorite things to do in the Mother City.

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!

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 for having non-tropical concentration of higher plant species in the world. 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.

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 horseback riding.

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!

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.

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.

a small blue-and-red ship standing on concrete with a person looking very small in the foreground

Besides having many shops, restaurants, and entertainment options, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a working shipyard. Photo by Igmar Grewar.

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.

Want to Visit 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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