The Ultimate Cape Town Travel Guide

What you need to know

Language: English is the most commonly spoken language in Cape Town, followed by Afrikaans and Xhosa. South Africa has eleven official languages, so you’re likely to hear more.

Currency: South African Rand (ZAR)

Plugs: Two-prong and three-prong – you can find adapters at most corner tech stores.

Bank cards: You can pay with debit card at almost all retailers and restaurants. These days, most entrepreneurs even have small card machines – and we’re a city of entrepreneurs!

Safety: Crime outside extremely poor neighbourhoods is mostly limited to petty crime. Stay vigilant, don’t walk around at night, and avoid empty streets if you’re solo. And check out my post on safety tips and resources in Cape Town.

Getting around: Public transport in Cape Town is limited – but the MyCiti bus covers most popular parts of Cape Town, and is safe and convenient. If you’re spending a while in Cape Town, I’d recommend renting a car. It’s a sprawling city!

Climate: Cape Town has a Mediterranean climate, mild with low humidity. Our summers are hot, windy and beautiful. Our winters are chilly, seldom freezing, and reasonably rainy. The best time to visit is definitely dependent on the type of trip you’re interested in, but in general, Spring (September – October) and Autumn (March – May) are ideal.

lions head sunset cape town

Best things to do in Cape Town

There is so much to do in Cape Town, it could never be limited to one list! However, since not everyone can spend years exploring the Mother City, we’ve reduced our favourites to the absolute best things to do. Whether you’re spending two days or two months here, you’ll want to tick off these adventures! They’ll introduce you to Cape Town’s cultural hubs, scenic landscapes, and magical diversity of fauna and flora.

Hike up Table Mountain

exploring newlands forest

Hiking up the steep slopes of Table Mountain, you’ll come across plants unique to the mountain, found nowhere else on earth – not even a few kilometers away. For much of the hike, it doesn’t even feel like you’re in a city. And when you reach the top, the city is totally out of view, and you’re surrounded by fynbos, red-water dams, and the little animals that call this stretch of land home.

Summiting Table Mountain is very challenging, but exploring a contour path is a lot more maneagable! And if you want to reach the top but you can’t hike up, consider taking a cable car up and trekking down!

You can check out some hiking trails on Table Mountain and beyond here!

Snorkel with seals in Hout Bay

Hout Bay is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Cape Town, not least because of all the seals you’ll find here! If you want to see them in their natural habitat, you can join a local boat tour. This will take you to Duikers Island, where hundreds of seals make their home. 

Snorkeling with them, you’ll see the young ones flit about, holding your gaze and showing off a bit. You’ll also here their constant chatter, and watch them stream bubbles as they move. It’s quite a magical adventure!

If you’re already an experienced snorkeler and would prefer to explore on your own, check out our post on the best places to snorkel and freedive along Cape Town’s coast, as well as what you might see underwater!

cape fur seal

Listen to live local music at Armchair, Observatory

armchair-theatre

Now, while Kloof is polished and beautiful, Observatory Lower Main Road is creative, quirky, grungy, and very South African. It’s a street you can explore all day, with charming cafes, thrift stores, bookstores, record shops, and pubs. 

My favourite place in Observatory, though, is Armchair. This is a bar and live music venue, that I’ve found to be one of the best showcases of South African talent. You’ll find mostly rock here, but also jazz, grunge, and more difficult-to-identify genres.

In addition to the music, they also have a large outdoor area with a fire pit and a great intimate atmosphere, and an upper story where you can play pool or foosball, or relax on the balcony. They even have comedy and karaoke nights!

Sail off to watch the sunset from the Waterfront

Joining a sailing cruise from V&A Waterfront is the absolute best way to see Table Mountain and the city in its full glory. And of course, golden hour is the best time to see it! That’s why, while you can join a sailboat cruise at any time of day, I’d highly recommend a sunset trip.

In addition to the stunning views, you’ll spot seals and fish, and depending on the time of year, even a whale and/or dolphin! And you’ll get a glass or two of bubbly to take it all in with. 

Of course, evenings get chilly, so be sure to dress warm – and prepare to get a little saltwater on you! When you return from your adventure, you can enjoy dinner at the Waterfront, and make a whole evening of it.

Visit a beach on the Atlantic Seaboard

One of the things Cape Town is famous for is our beaches. And for good reason! Cape Town’s many beaches are stunning, with fine white sand and clear (cold!) water.

Some of our beaches, like Llandudno and Muizenberg, are world-renowned for their excellent surfing. While others, like Windmill Beach, are incredible snorkeling and free-diving destinations, giving you access to a whole new world of marine life unique to the Cape.

All of them are excellent places to relax and sunbathe, with occasional bracing dips in the water. You’ll find the Clifton Beaches the very best for this kind of laid-back beach trip, surrounded by natural beauty and kitted with umbrellas and ice lollies.

Neighbourhoods

  • Families: Sea Point – safe, central, fun and beautiful, Sea Point is a big favourite for familes. It’s also my neighbourhood!
  • Nature-lovers: Hout Bay – surrounded by mountains and ocean, Hout Bay is dreamy.
  • Party animals: CBD/City Center – with both Kloof and Long Streets, central Cape Town is also party center.
  • Student vibes: Observatory – near the University of Cape Town, Obs is iconic for its student house-shares, thrift stores, cute cafes and local music haunts.

Acommodation

Budget

Central 91 Loop Boutique Hostel | Scenic – Nature & the City

Mid-range

Central – Tintagel Guesthouse | Scenic – Bliss Boutique Hotel

Luxury

Central Belmond Mount Nelson | Scenic – Twelves Apostles Hotel & Spa

If you stay in Cape Town for longer than two weeks, I’d highly recommend exploring beyond the city. Particularly if you’re a nature lover or an adventure enthusiast! My favourite of this list is camping in the Cederberg (especially Rocklands, where you can enjoy world-renowned outdoor bouldering and sport climbing). As well as Cape Point Nature Reserve, the very tip of Africa!