Cape Town is an incredible city with many great things to do. Regardless if you come here for the first time or you’re a frequent visitor there will be always something new to experience and to try in the city. We’ve put together this list of things to do in Cape Town based on one’s interests to make your choice easier. Whether you are an adventure lover, a culture vulture, or a foodie you’ll find here the best activities to include in your Cape Town itinerary.
There are some things that just can’t be skipped when visiting Cape Town. Here is a list of 9 such activities that we as locals recommend to every tourist coming to the city.
You can find more information on the highlights of Cape Town in our post on 15 top places to visit in Cape Town.
Take a cable car up to Table Mountain
- The best time of the day to visit – mornings and evenings, in the afternoon the mountain is often covered in clouds. I’d suggest checking the forecast or looking out of the window before you decide to go up.
- Opening hours – in summer (November to March) from 6.30 am (first car up) to 4 pm (last car up)/5 pm (last car down), in winter (April to October) from 8 am
- Admission fee – one-way (up or down) ZAR 220/US$12 for adults and ZAR 120/US$6 for children. A return ticket adults – ZAR 395/US$22 (morning time) and ZAR 340/US$19 (after 1 pm); children – ZAR 195/US$11 (morning time), ZAR 170/US$10 (after 1 pm).
Table Mountain tours & activities
Visiting Table Mountain is a not-to-miss thing to do in Cape Town. Taking the cable car is the fastest and easiest way of getting to the top. If you’re up for a little adventure and have enough time you can get to the top by following one of the Table Mountain hiking trails. From up there you can get some of the best views of the city and the surrounding area. Once on the top, you can spend a couple of hours there it’s a massive area with several great look-out points, walking routes, a restaurant, and a souvenir shop. The ride in the cable car takes 5 minutes.
During the December holiday and over the weekends in summer I’d recommend buying your tickets in advance. In the peak season, you might spend some time waiting in the queue to board the car. Besides some breathtaking views on the top of Table Mountain you can see many cute little dassies (rock rabbits) running around and occasional baboons looking for food. If you’re going up in the morning or evening take a jacket or a jumper it gets quite cool up there.
It’s very important to have travel insurance when you go to a faraway country. Cape Town offers a great range of outdoor and adventure activities from hiking and paragliding to shark cage diving and abseiling. Before going on an adventure make sure you have insurance to cover you in case something goes wrong. If you don’t have an insurance company we can recommend using World Nomads. They’ve been working in the travel industry for many years, have flexible policies, and specialize in covering outdoor activities. It takes only a couple of minutes to buy your insurance online from anywhere in the world. You can buy it to cover the entire trip or specific days. Get an instant quote right now!
There are many great coffee shops in Cape Town where you can stop for coffee and breakfast on the way to Table Mountain or Lion’s Head.
Watch the sunset/sunrise from Lion’s Head
- Best time of the day to visit – sunset or sunrise for safety reasons it’s not recommended to wander around at night time. If you want to come for the sunrise join a group or a tour.
- Opening hours – 24 hours
- Admission fee – free
Lion’s Head tours & activities
Another iconic mountain in Cape Town. It is not as high as Table Mountain but it is one of the best spots in the city for watching the sunset. From the top of Lion’s Head, you can see the City Bowl, Camps Bay, Sea Point, Robben Island, and many other city attractions. If you can’t make it for the sunset you can come here at any time of the day the stunning views are guaranteed. Lion’s Head hike is one of the best hikes in Cape Town. It’s a little bit challenging. The last part involves ladders and ropes, make sure to wear comfortable shoes and a suitable outfit. Locals come here for the sunset as well.
If climbing to the top of Lion’s Head is too much of a mission you can enjoy the sunset from the top of nearby Signal Hill. Getting up there is much easier; you can basically drive all the way. I’d suggest arriving at Lion’s Head or Signal Hill at least an hour before sunset. You’ll need some time to find a parking spot and to get to the top.
Explore the colorful Bo Kaap neighborhood
- Best time of the day to visit – any time of the day through the light around midday is not the best for taking photos
- Working hours – 24 hours
- Admission fee – free
Bo Kaap tours & activities
The brightest and the most colorful neighborhood in Cape Town. Colors rule here; green, red, blue, orange, yellow, and purple houses lined up along the narrow cobbled streets of Bo Kaap. It’s difficult to choose where to pose for photos. Despite its funky look Bo Kaap wasn’t always that colorful. Its first residents were slaves brought to South Africa mostly from Malaysia and Indonesia. The second name of the neighborhood is the Malay Quarter.
After the abolition of slavery in the United Kingdom, local residents decided to paint their houses in different colors as a sign of freedom and individuality. Nowadays Bo Kaap has become one of the city symbols like Table Mountain or Robben Island.
Stroll along V&A Waterfront
- Best time of the day to visit – any time of the day through the light around midday is not the best for taking photos
- Working hours – 24 hours
- Admission fee – free
V&A Waterfront tours & activities
V&A Waterfront is probably the best and safest area in the city for walking pretty much any time of the day. There are several attractions to visit here; V&A Clock Tower, Two Oceans Aquarium, Cape Wheel, and Zeitz Modern Africa Art Museum. You can spend an hour or two walking around, watching street shows, drinking coffee, eating, shopping, etc.
There are many restaurants, cafes, and souvenir shops here. The area is always busy and full of people, it has a nice festive vibe. Vovo Telo coffee shops and bakery is our favorite place to come for breakfast or stop for a cup of coffee with a freshly-baked pastry. Many cruises and boat tours leave from the Waterfront.
Visit Robben island
- Best time of the day to visit – mornings, the tour takes almost 4 hours.
- Departing times – boats leave 3 times a day; at 9 am, 11 am and 1 pm, and 3 pm
- Admission fee – ZAR600/US$33 adults, ZAR310/US$17 children (2-17 yo). The price includes a return boat ride and a 2-hour guided tour.
Robben Island tours and activities
Robben Island is a very important place in South African history, a place where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison. The total area of the island is 5km, and it can be visited only as a part of a tour. Tours leave from V&A Waterfront. There are 3-4 daily departures. The tour takes between 3 and 4 hours. I’d strongly recommend doing the earliest tour that leaves at 8.30 in order to have enough time to visit other city attractions in the afternoon. During the tour, you’ll learn about the history of the island, and its most famous prisoners, visit Mandela’s cell, and get some time to walk around. You can buy tickets online.
The name in Afrikaans means “Seal Island”, you can see quite a lot of seals on the Island and on the way to it. Robben Island has a long history; for almost three centuries it was used as a prison mostly for political convicts.
Books about South African history
Visit Camps Bay
- Best time of the day to visit – any time of the day though in the second half the light is better for taking photos, at sunset the area looks stunning.
The fancy neighborhood of Cape Town with beautiful beaches, ice-cold water, luxurious mansions, and posh restaurants. Even if all these don’t sound like your kind of place, it’s still worth coming here for the spectacular view. White sand beaches, huge boulders, blue color water, and an impressive mountain range in the background. It’s definitely one of the most beautiful areas of the city. Camps Bay is a great area to come for a cocktail, to stroll in your bikini along the beach, or just to take some awesome photos.
Explore Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
- Best time of the day to visit – any time, in summer it’s nice to hide from the scorching afternoon heat in the shade of the trees.
- Opening hours – summer 8am-7pm, winter 8am-6pm
- Admission fee – ZAR210/US$11 adults; ZAR30/US$1,5 children; (6-18 yo), free for children under 6.
Kirstenbosch is a green paradise within the city. You will be surprised by this lush green garden. A visit here is a not-to-miss thing to do in Cape Town. One can spend a full day here. There are many walking routes through the garden including some challenging longer routes like the Skeleton Gorge that take hikers from the Garden to the top of Table Mountain.
The Garden is a great place for having a picnic on the grass. No need to bring food and drinks. You can buy a picnic basket at one of the local restaurants. They have a great variety of basket sets including vegetarian, pescatarian, and gluten-free options. There are several thematic gardens that represent the vegetation of the different parts of South Africa. A canopy tree walkway is not to miss in Kirstenbosch, a metal bridge that makes its way over the trees of the Arboretum. The shape of the bridge was inspired by a snake body, it’s quite curvy. The bridge offers great views of the Garden.
Taste wines in Constantia
- Best time of the day to visit – any time of the day
- Opening hours – most tasting rooms are open between 10am and 4pm
- Tasting fee – between ZAR 70-100/US$3-5 per person
Constantia tours & activities
Wine tasting is a bucket list activity in Cape Town. In Constantia, you will find some of the oldest wine estates in the country that make exclusive wines. What can be better than driving around beautiful wine farms, tasting great wine, and enjoying the fantastic scenery of Constantia? Some of the most renowned wine estates in Constantia are; Klein Constantia, maybe one of the most beautiful wine farms in Cape Town; Groot Constantia, the oldest wine farm in South Africa; Steenberg Vineyards, which boasts a luxury hotel and produces great wines.
If you’re planning to do serious tasting rather take a taxi or use a shuttle bus don’t drink and drive. There are several accommodation options in the area if you have time you can spend here a couple of days tasting wine and relaxing. There are wine estates in Constantia in two days you’ll be able to visit all of them without rushing around.
Places to stay in Constantia
If you have more time and would like to do more wine tasting in Cape Winelands make sure to visit Durbanville wine farms. It’s a different wine route in Cape Town that produces great wines and offers some stunning views of Table Mountain.
Drive around the Cape Peninsula
- Best time of the day to visit – it’s better to drive in the morning to have enough time to explore the area.
- Opening hours – Chapman’s Peak Drive is open 24 hours, most National parks work from 8am to 6pm.
- Admission fee – Chapman’s Peak drive tall road ZAR 57/US$3 per car,
Cape Peninsula tours & activities
A road trip around Cape Peninsula is one of the most scenic drives in the city and a perfect place for a day trip from Cape Town. It’s definitely a bucket-list thing to do in the city. The famous Chapman’s Peak drive is a part of it. A big part of the drive is along the rugged coast of the Atlantic Ocean. There is a great number of look-outs and viewpoints where you can stop along the route. It’ll take pretty much a full day to do the drive and to stop at the main attractions. There are many nice restaurants along the route to stop for breakfast or lunch. To do this trip you can rent a car or join one of the suggested tours.
The highlights of the drive
- Seals at Hout Bay. Here you can see seals at the harbor or do a boat tour to spot more of them and even snorkel with these majestic creatures
- Chapman’s Peak Drive is a 15-kilometer breathtaking road along the rugged coast of the Atlantic Ocean with stunning look-outs.
- The beautiful beaches of Kommetjie are one of the best places for surfing in Cape Town.
- Cape Point Nature Reserve is one of the best places in Cape Town to do hiking, there are several trails inside the park
- The penguin colony at Boulders Beach is a beautiful white-sand beach surrounded by huge boulders with many cute African penguins.
- Colorful beach cabins in Muizenberg are a row of red, green, yellow, and blue wooden cabins along the beach
There is really a lot to see and to do in the area if you have time to spend here a couple of days might be a good option.
Places to stay along the Cape Peninsula
Paragliding from Lion’s Head or Signal Hill
If you’re looking for a breathtaking adventure in Cape Town tandem paragliding from one of the iconic city mountains is a perfect activity. During the flight, you can enjoy the fresh sea breeze and breathtaking views of the city. The landing is on the beach at Sea Point. You can go paragliding any time of the day but paragliding at the sunset is a majestic experience. The flight is around 20 minutes during that time you get to see Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Robben Island, Camps Bay, the Waterfront, the Atlantic Coastline, etc. Pretty much all main city attractions.
Go on a safari drive
There are a couple of big private game reserves not too far from Cape Town that can be visited as a day or a two days trip from the city. I’d definitely recommend doing a safari drive in a private game reserve if you are not planning to visit any of the National Parks in South Africa. A trip to Africa won’t be complete without seeing African animals roaming freely in the wild. A great thing about visiting one of the game reserves near Cape Town is that it’s malaria-free.
Aquila Private Game Reserve is one of the most popular places to do a safari from Cape Town. The reserve is 170km away, it can be visited in one day from the city. Here you can see many animals including the Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo). There are hundreds of animals in the park. You can do a morning, afternoon, or night safari driving yourself or join a safari drive with the park rangers. The game reserve offers hotel rooms and cottages on its territory. Staying here for a night is a great way to explore more of the park and see more animals. Book your room at Aquila Reserve online.
Inverdoorn Private Game Reserve is another popular place to go on a safari trip from Cape Town. The reserve is 140km away from the city, it can be visited as a return day trip from Cape Town. Visitors can see here the Big Five and many other African animals like zebras, giraffes, antelopes, cheetahs, etc. The reserve offers luxury accommodation on its territory. Book your accommodation at Inverdoorn Game Reserve online.
Cape Town has several excellent surf spots spread out along its coast suitable for all levels. The best time to surf is in winter when the bigger swells come through. Inside False Bay the water is slightly warmer and breaks are relatively safe for beginners. The best spots for beginners are The Surfer’s Corner in Muizenberg and a couple of beach breaks at Big Bay/Bloubergstrand. Both places are about a 30-minute drive from the city center. Long Beach at Kommetjie is a good spot for more advanced surfers.
Surfing lessons are from ZAR 500/US$27, the price includes a surfboard and a wetsuit. If you know how to surf and don’t need lessons you can rent a surfboard.
If you want to learn surfing in Cape Town it’s better to stay in Muizenberg or Big Bay there are a couple of surf schools and gear rental places there.
Bloubergstrand/Big Bay is the best place in Cape Town for kitesurfing. You can kitesurf here all year round, but the best time is November to March when the winds are strong and consistent. Kite lessons, 3h30min. from ZAR950/US$50 per day including gear. From our experience, I can tell you it’s more difficult than it looks.
Do a whale-watching tour
Cape Town is an incredible place for watching wildlife. Not many other big cities in the world can offer the incredible biodiversity of Cape Town. In a couple of days driving around the city, you can see both the African Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo) and the Marine Big 5 (whale, shark, seal, penguin, and dolphin).
Every year between July and November Southern right whales come to South African shores for breeding. The months of July, August, and September are the peak season when your chances to spot whales from a boat are very high. Hermanus is the best spot for whale watching near Cape Town. These gentle giants are incredible creatures. Being able to see them from close by is once in a lifetime experience for many people. Even compared to a big boat that can fit about 40 passengers they are huge.
As a bonus in July and August you get to see baby whales like any babies they’re very cute and playful. If you have some time we’d recommend spending a day or two here, it’s a beautiful town. There are many great things to do in Hermanus.
Whale watching tours
Snorkel with seals
Watching these playful animals from close by is a fun and exciting experience. There are many Cape Seals in the cold water of the Atlantic Ocean around Cape Town; your chances to see them snorkeling are very high. These guys are very curious unlike many wild animals when they see people approaching they are very likely to get closer and check you out. The water is cold, and you’ll need a wetsuit even for snorkeling but the gear is usually included in the price of the tour. Snorkeling is done from boats. The boats leave from the Waterfront and from the harbor in Hout Bay.
Boat and snorkeling tours
Renting a kayak or joining a tour and rowing around the Cape Peninsula enjoying the fantastic scenery and observing the diverse marine life of the region is an amazing thing to do on a nice summer day. There are several popular spots in Cape Town for kayaking; V&A Waterfront, Hout Bay, and Simon’s Town. At the Waterfront and Hout Bay, you’ll see Cape seals, maybe some dolphins, and many sea birds. Kayaking from Boulders Beach you’ll see many African penguins and birds, a chance to see dolphins and seals. If you don’t have much experience kayaking in the open water I’d recommend instead joining a tour.
Explore Cape Winelands
Stellenbosch is famous for its great wines, breathtaking scenery, and one of the best Universities in the country. There are about 160 wine farms in the Stellenbosch area; most of them have tasting rooms. You can come to Stellenbosch just for a day or spend here a couple of days. It’s a great place for a weekend escape from Cape Town. You can enjoy the beauty of the area and taste some of the best wines in the country.
There are many wine farms in Stellenbosch, don’t try to visit as many can it will just spoil the whole experience. Rather choose 4 or 5 places and take your time, learn about different cultivates, taste, compare, and do chocolate or cheese & wine pairing.
There are many things to do in Stellenbosch besides wine tasting (hiking, cycling, horseback riding, etc.) to keep you busy it’s totally worth staying here for a couple of days.
Places to stay in Stellenbosch
Franschhoek is the renowned food capital of South Africa. Despite the small size, it’s home to some of the best restaurants and finest wine estates in the country. Like Stellenbosch you can visit Franschhoek as a day trip from Cape Town but if you have time I’d recommend staying here for a couple of days. It’s a perfect place for a romantic getaway or a family holiday. We love coming here for Valentine’s Day or our wedding anniversary there are many things to do in Franschhoek. If you’re a single traveler joining one of the wine-tasting tours or jumping on the wine tram are two great ways to explore the area.
There are really many wine farms in the area. We have a couple of favorites that we visit almost every time we come to Franschhoek. Many wine estates have restaurants where you can combine wine tasting with lunch. If you decide to stay in Franschhoek for dinner I’d recommend booking it at least a day in advance.
Places to stay in Franschhoek
Recommended books & guidebooks
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How to get around Cape Town?
The easiest way of getting around the city is to rent a car especially if you’re planning to do day trips and visit some attractions outside Cape Town. You can rent a car at the airport on arrival and drop it in when you leave. For driving around the city I’d suggest renting a smallish car that you can easily park on the narrow streets of Cape Town. All roads around the city are tar no need to rent a big off-road car.
Using the Cape Town Sightseeing bus to commute between city attractions is a good way for those who don’t want to rent a car. There are different routes that cover pretty much the entire city. On the bus, you get a lot of information about the city and its attractions. There are 1 and 2-day bus tickets. You can buy City Sightseeing bus tickets online.
Cape Town travel planning resources
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The pretty half of Stingy Nomads, responsible for all our land adventures (hiking, climbing, walking the Camino) and following them write-ups. Alya loves walking since she was a child, she prefers to walk 1000 km with a backpack rather than to do a 10 000 km road trip (actually any road trip). Alya is a big fan of Latin America, the Spanish language, and dancing. Every time we go away she desperately misses our dog Chile.