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22 Cheap things to do in Cape Town | Free & thrifty fun

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Looking for cheap things to do in Cape Town? I’ve got you covered! I’ve been searching out activities to fit a shoestring budget for years now, and I’ve put together a list of all my absolute favourites.

So, if you’re nearing the end of your money before the month, or you’re sitting at home keen to get out without blowing too much cash, read on for some of the best activities in Cape Town. I’ve separated the list into free things and cheap things, with an average cost for each, so that you can really plan according to your own budget.

Free things to do in Cape Town

Before we launch into the cheap things to do, let’s take a look at what’s absolutely free. We’ve all had those days where we just don’t have anything to spend, but it’s the weekend and the sun is out and it’s definitely not a day for staying indoors. And I won’t lie, there isn’t loads to do in our mother city on days like these. But there are some, thank goodness!

Stroll along Sea Point Promenade

We live in the beautiful neighbourhood of Sea Point, and the long winding promenade is worth doing over and over again. You hear and watch the crashing of the waves along the coast, and watch paragliders floating above you and landing on the green. It’s also a wonderful place to people-watch, and perhaps more importantly, dog-watch! Glenn and I love seeing the dogs all let off their leashes and running about together.

The promenade stretches on for ages, taking about an hour to walk one way. I’d recommend popping down to the rock pools to see the sea anemones and darting fish that live so close to us!

This year (2022), you may also get to see a display of my favourite South African photographer, Thomas Peschak’s work. These pieces wonderfully showcase the beauty, delicacy and importance of ocean life.

Go to the beach

Cape Town has truly some of the best beaches in the world. With fine white sand, a powerful ocean, and usually beautiful natural surroundings, they are one of the best things to do in Cape Town, particularly in summer!

Cape Town’s beaches also have so much variety to them. But some of the best beaches for swimming and relaxing on the warm sand are Llandudno, Clifton, and Muizenberg.

Hike up Table Mountain

Of course, you can’t spend even a week in Cape Town without going up Table Mountain! And for those of us living here, at least one hike up the mountain is a big must. There are a number of great Table Mountain trails to enjoy, but all the trails up are pretty tough. So do be aware, it’ll take it out of you! But if you pack a lot of water, and wear good shoes and light clothing, you’ll be just fine.

Of course, you don’t have to go all the way up the mountain. And while it’s an incredible view up there, you can experience much of the mountain’s biodiversity and lovely scenes without a killer hike. The Pipe Track and the Contour Path, for example, will take you around the lower part of the mountain. You also get Newlands and Cecilia forest, both free to enter and exciting to explore.

Take a short sunset walk up Kloof Nek Corner

An easy hike on Table Mountain worth special mention is the short trek up Kloof Nek Corner. This hike takes about thirty minutes, and it is the absolute best place to see the sunset. From the top (which is right at the base of the mountain’s rocky, difficult uptake) you can see the city laid out on one side, Lion’s Head in the centre, and the Twelve Apostles stretching away on the other.

Kloof Nek is a great hike to do with a group of friends, but it’s also an uncommonly safe trail to do on your own because it’s so well frequented. Just be sure to get back down before the sun is fully gone.

Have a picnic somewhere lovely

While a picnic is not totally free because you need to pay for the food, it’s really easy to pack whatever you want into a basket or a bag, and bring it to one of Cape Town’s many beautiful areas. We have parks, beaches, mountains and gardens, and you can choose any of these to have a lekker picnic.

One of the best picnicking spots in Cape Town is Newlands Forest. It’s really central, but feels like you could be miles away from the city; you’re totally surrounded by nature. There are also a good few picnicking spots there! We’ve found that one of the best ways to do this is to make a plan with friends, all bring a snack or two, and then share it together.

Take a walking tour of the city

Most tours of the city aren’t free, but not all! Free Walking Tours Cape Town offers just what the name says. You can join them for a historical walking tour and learn more about the city’s past with interesting facts and fun presentations.

There are various tour options, and they run multiple times a day, so they’re a great option if you want to end the day with something free and fun, or start the day off the same way!

The tour guides make their money from tips, so if you love the tour, it may not end up being totally free, but that’s up to you.

Hang out at Green Point Park

There are a number of free gardens and parks in Cape Town, but perhaps the most beautiful (and central) is Green Point Park. It’s really big so that even on busy days there’s plenty of space for everyone.

The park has a lovely children’s playpark, making it one of the best things to do in Cape Town with kids. It also has a large lake with ducks and other birds, a natural fynbos area, and large swathes of tree-studded grass. It’s dog park area, where pups can roam and run about without a leash, is a favourite dog-friendly activity in the city!

Join a beach cleanup

If you want to give back a bit while also getting out of the house, a beach cleanup is a great option! Cleanup events are run on the first Saturday of every month – and that’s citywide, so you can just make your way to the closest beach, and it should be happening there.

Of course, if you’re not in it for the social element, you can just do some solo cleaning up. It’s best to bring a bag with you every time you go to the beach, actually! But it does also feel good to do it with a little community of fellow helpers.

Take a dip at dawn or dusk

Saunders tidal pool in Sea Point

Say it three times fast and a kelp-covered siren will grant you a wish…

No, but really, a dip in one of Cape Town’s many tidal pools as the sun rises is SUCH a beautiful way to start the day — and a sunset swim is just as good a way to end it. You’ll find many other locals enjoying their cold water immersion (the fancy name for getting into our icy sea!), and while it’s a challenge to brace yourself for such cold, it’s super worth it. Your body feels amazing, good chemicals start a-buzzing in your brain, it’s all great stuff. 

My two favourite tidal pools for these morning dips are Saunders in Sea Point, and Dalebrook in Kalk Bay, but there are plenty all around Cape Town.

Cheap and fun Cape Town activities

Got a bit of money to spend on fun but you’re still on a tight budget? There’s so much you can do in our beautiful city. Here are all my favourites!

Go gin tasting

Cost: ~ R60/person

One of my favourite budget activities in Cape Town is going gin tasting! At the Cape Town Gin Company, you can taste three gins with different mixers, as well as the same three gins clean.

You’ll learn about how they’re made, what they add, and what cocktails you can make with it. It’s also just good fun to go with a few friends – I went on a sisters’ weekend as a pretty perfect start to the evening! And while you can buy a bottle of gin afterwards, you definitely don’t have to.

Go wine tasting

Cost: ~ R70/person

Another bit of budget boozy fun is wine tasting! And the city is famous for it. You can join wine tours, you can go out to Franschhoek or Stellenbosch and have a weekend of it. But the cheapest option is to head to one of the beautiful Constantia vineyards and do a wine tasting there. They cost between R70 and R100 for a wine tasting of three to five wines.

Wine farms are also a great place to explore, with beautiful gardens and vineyards stretching over the hilly Constantia terrain. Our favourite spot in the area is Buitenverwachting – five fantastic wines for R70, and a lovely laid-back atmosphere.

Join a little Seal & Harbour Cruise

Cost: ~ R60/person

I haven’t done this specific activity myself yet, but I’ve been on a Waterfront cruise and being on the water with this view was absolutely lovely. So, considering it’s ratings, I expect this low-budget cruise is similarly well worth it. It’s a short trip, only about thirty minutes, but it’s a lekker little adventure!

Check out Daddy’s Deals for a half-priced meal

Despite the name (which always has me asking… why that?) Daddy’s Deals is a very helpful resource in South Africa. You can find genuinely nice restaurants and cafes offering half-priced meals and two-for-one deals every day.

And while it’s not cheap by everyday standards, if you’re planning a birthday or a holiday, they even have half-priced getaways and full-body massages and the like. Very cool!

Stroll through Green Point Park with an ice cream

Cost: ~ R46/person

Green Point Park appears twice on the list! High praise. That’s because just outside the Bay Road entrance is a Creamery ice cream shop. It’s a bit pricey for an ice cream place, but if you order the half-and-half single scoop with your two favourite flavours, they give you almost a full two scoops! It’s also some of the best ice cream you’ll have.

Have coffee with a friend

Cost: ~ R35/person

Cape Town is surrounded by natural beauty and has a modern coffee culture that rivals the best in the world. I recently spent three months in Europe, and craved the Cape Town coffee scene, it’s just that good. Our coffees are also well-priced and rarely go over R35 for a cappuccino. So, a great budget activity is to call up a friend and have a little coffee date.

Watch a film at The Labia

Cost: ~ R70/person | R50 for students, seniors & children

Glenn and I absolutely love going to The Labia. It’s a lovely old cinema with a classy atmosphere and great prices, sitting right in the heart of the city. You can buy vodka slushies or a beer at the entrance (or just take in your own snacks – they allow that!)

The Labia also often showcases arthouse and local flicks, so you can choose between blockbusters and more cultural options. We’ve done both, but I think the best film we’ve watched here is a beautiful South African film, Five Fingers For Marseilles.

Dinner and a movie

One of the best things about The Labia is their movie deals! For R120 – R180 (depending on the restaurant), you can get dinner and a movie ticket for two, which is just a crazy bargain.

Spend the afternoon at Kirstenbosch Gardens

kirstenbosch gardens

Sugarbird at Kirstenbosch Gardens – photo by Callum Evans

Cost: ~ R80/person | R45 for students | R25 for children aged 6 – 17 & free for younger children

The beautiful Kirstenbosch Gardens is a terrific place to stroll around admiring our local endemic plant life and the many birds they attract. You can enjoy a picnic date (our second date was here!) or a great big friends picnic on the lawn. It’s a fantastically beautiful place to relax (and perhaps recover from a hard week).

Kirstenbosch is also the starting point of two of Cape Town’s best hiking trails. So if you’re feeling adventurous you can start by exploring the gardens, and then move onto a challenging trek up the mountain.

Watch a student performance at Baxter Theatre

Cost: Varies, and free or discounted for students

The Baxter Theatre has some terrific performances, and they’re always well-priced. But the best bargain is student performances. These allow UCT students of drama and the performative arts to showcase and practice their skills. We’ve been to see operas, comedies, and dramas here at the Baxter, and always for free when we were students.

It’s also really fantastic to support the local arts, and makes for a lovely, classy night out.

Visit the seals at Kalk Bay

Kalk Bay is a wonderful place to explore, with seals lazing in the sun, brightly coloured ships bobbing in the water, and a generally cheerful vibe that is always enjoyable. I’d recommend you visit on a sunny day!

You can catch a train to Kalk Bay, which, while the trains are in pretty poor condition, gives you a beautiful view over the coast as you approach. It’s also under R10 for the trip. And once you’re here, you can stroll along the vibrant main street, take a dip in the tidal pools, and walk out on the docks to see the seals, the fishermen and the crashing waves. It’s really one of my favourite places to spend a happy Saturday! The street even has galleries and quirky stores you can have good fun exploring without spending a cent.

If budget allows, you can also get cheap fish and chips and Kalkies, or an ice cream at the famous Ice Cafe.

Explore one of our art galleries or museums

Cape Town CBD has a good few museums and art galleries that showcase local talent, history and culture. You can spend hours exploring one of these and enjoying a lovely cultural experience on a budget. You can check out the Iziko website to choose between them and check prices (and discounts)!

Grab some street food

The best place I would recommend for this is at the Grand Parade opposite City Hall. This area is really vibrant, with loads going on at all times and a beautiful view over some of the city’s best buildings. It can be a little dangerous though, so be sure to keep your bag closed and secure.

Grand Parade has a number of tiny structures from which people sell various traditional street foods. You can buy some samoosas and koeksisters here for a couple rand each, and then explore the city on foot while you munch.

Last thoughts on cheap Cape Town activities

There you have it, my list of top things to do in Cape Town on a shoestring budget. After spending years in the city studying on a student loan, and then working a minimum wage job for two years, I have spent many weekends trying all the different ways to have good fun with little or no money. And it’s been, for the most part, a blast!

Of course, spending time with friends watching movies, braaing or just chatting over a cup of tea is often the best cheap fun when you live in Cape Town – but we all need to get out a bit, and this list hopefully gave you a few ideas on how to do that.

Let me know if I’ve missed any good ideas!

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