Cape Town is South Africa’s answer to tourists looking for a combination of fun, glitz, sport, national parks, wildlife, beautiful beaches and vineyards. In just one day you could see penguins or sharks or even whales, revel in some of the world’s best scenery, take in history that combines all the best of Europe and Africa and still have time to kick back at night to appreciate the local produce be it wine from local vineyards or sea food from the ocean.
One of Cape Town’s best features and probably one of the first things you’ll notice on arrival, is the iconic Table Mountain rising above the city. The flat-topped mountain is more than 1000m in height and offers stunning views over the city and its surrounds including Table Bay and the mountains to the south. It is possible to hike to the top but to save time you should catch the cable car. If you wish to walk there are trails on top.
Back in town, stop off to see some of the colonial buildings including the Parliament Buildings, the Groote Kerk church or Betram House. There are also a number of fine museums and galleries to visit. The moving District Six museum, telling the terrible story of the forced removal of its inhabitants in 1966, might be of particular interest if you wish to visit some of the outlying townships. Tours to the townships usually incorporate the museum.
From here make a beeline for the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, one of the city’s most popular entertainment districts. This Victorian harbor has been wonderfully restored and has a combination of shops, restaurants and museums. Dine with splendid views across towards Robben Island, which once housed political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela, or looking back towards Table Mountain. There’s also the fantastic Two Oceans Aquarium here that both kids and adults will love, featuring all manner of sea life like sharks and penguins.
However if you’d rather see the real thing take a scenic drive in the afternoon across the cape peninsula to Boulders Coastal Park south of Simon’s Town. Here there is a colony of charming African penguins who are resident all year round. In summer you can hang out on the beach with them or even swim with them in the water. South of here is the rocky promontory of Cape Point but as evening settles you should head back into Cape Town along the scenic coastal route stopping off at some of the idyllic beaches and fishing villages along the way such as Hout Bay, Fish Hoek or Llandudno.
For dinner nestle into a place at Camp Bay or further north at Clifton where you’ll find anything from burgers and beer to cocktail bars. If you want more funky, home-grown action head to the Observatory neighborhood south of downtown. The cafes and clubs here largely serve a student population and are fun for a night out. We haven’t even mentioned the fabulous botanic gardens, the opportunities to see whales and dolphins just off shore, the amazing vineyards to explore or the incredible array of jazz, food and wine festivals that are on all year round in Cape Town.
You will probably have gathered by now that a day in Cape Town isn’t nearly long enough, but it should be long enough for you to realize how much more there is to see and do and have you longing to return soon.