Cape Town panoramic

The Ultimate Cape Town Travel Guide

Having lived in South Africa for a few years, Cape Town was unfortunately not the city I lived in. Fortunately, it was easy to visit Cape Town regularly from Johannesburg which I did many times. Having traveled all around the world, it is without hesitation that I still say that Cape Town is the world’s most naturally beautiful city. The contrast between the mountains, ocean, and beach are unlike anything else I’ve seen. I hear Rio in Brazil is similar but I will have to visit for myself and see!

Maidens cove Cape Town
Beautiful beach views from Maiden’s Cove overlooking Camps Bay

There are so many stunning things to see and activities to do in and around Cape Town, it’s no wonder Nelson Mandela said “The Cape is South Africa’s gift to the world”. In fact, if I didn’t have to worry about finding work and applying for a South African visa, Cape Town would be at the top of places I’d want to live. The cost of living in Cape Town isn’t cheap, but it’s not that bad either!

View of Table Mountain from the top of Lion's head
View of Table Mountain from the top of Lion’s head

Anyway, before I get carried away, this is my ultimate guide to visiting Cape Town. If you’re planning a honeymoon to South Africa, make sure also read my perfect South Africa honeymoon itinerary where I planned my readers honeymoons visiting Cape Town and other highlights of South Africa.

If you need help planning an itinerary for Cape Town depending on the amount of days you have, make sure to read my Cape Town Itinerary post which goes into how I would plan a visit of 3 days, 5 days, or one week in the Mother City.

Getting in and around Cape Town

Compared to Johannesburg, Cape Town is a much smaller and easier city to get around. There is even a reliable bus system that goes throughout the city.

Using Uber in Cape Town

With the introduction of Uber, Cape Town has become significantly easier to travel without a car. The App is readily used by tourists and locals alike. It’s intended effects are on full display as it is much easier to get a taxi nowadays and you’re no longer at the mercy of the sketchy local cab drivers that always surely rip you off.

A ride from the airport to Camps Bay is R250-300 and rides within the city are R50-100. Uber is also a great way to go medium distances like visiting South Africa’s wine country. It’s easy to grab an Uber to Stellenbosch or Franschhoek for under R600 one way. When you’re ready to go to another wine farm, just use the app again and wine hop this way without having to risk bribing the South Africa cops. 

It’s a cheap way to get around and definitely makes life easier for the visitor that is not used to driving on the other side of the road.

Rent a car in Cape Town

highway cape town n2 driving
Driving into Cape Town from the airport. Follow the N2 all the way

Renting a car is a very popular option as well and my most preferred option. While you don’t really need a car in the city anymore, there are many day trips outside of Cape Town where a car is just better than an Uber. Cape Point and shark diving in Gansbaai are two that quickly come to mind. Also, having a car in the city makes getting from place to place quicker and more convenient.

They are readily available for rent at the Airport and the roads in Cape Town are in great shape. There are also many places in Cape Town proper to rent a car for the day (although this will cost more).

Drive a scooter around Cape Town

I’ve been to Cape Town many times and on one of my most recent trips, I started driving a scooter around town. One of my friends had been living in Cape Town for many years and she swore by her scooter. I rode scooters all day every day while living in Bali and absolutely loved the freedom so I thought I would give this a shot.

Cape Town Vespas signal hill

Turns out, it is an amazing decision to rent scooters in Cape Town. I did this over New Years when the traffic is unbearable and this was the best decision I ever made. I could easily skip traffic by going around cars and would reach anywhere I needed to go in Cape Town within 20 minutes. This probably saved me like 1h every day and maybe 2h on others which really is invaluable.

Cape Town Vespas scooter rental

On top of no not having to deal with traffic, the views from a scooter is just insane. Cape Town is already so beautiful but to see it from a scooter is even more so. Every morning, I would get up early and drive over Kloof Nek to Camps Bay and enjoy the breathtaking views of the ocean and mountains. It really didn’t get any better. In addition, it’s also a great way to make the day trip from Cape Town to Cape Point.

Cape Town scooter traffic
Skipping traffic in Cape Town. No better feeling

Driving around Cape Town in a scooter was also not scary at all. The traffic really isn’t fast moving and cars are more obedient than I thought. I would just avoid driving on the freeways, especially on windy days.

Unfortunately, scooter culture has never picked up in South Africa and there are very few shops that rent scooters. Cape Town Vespas is one of the best shops in Cape Town but you’ll have to pay premium prices as they are vespas (still much cheaper than renting a Vespa in the Amalfi Coast for example). Scooter Dr is another shop that rents scooters but you’ll need to provide a license that allows you to drive scooters that are 125cc and above (A1 in Europe).

What to do in Cape Town

Cape Town is a traveler’s dream. There is so much to do and see in this city that a week will feel too short. In a perfect world, I would allot at least 4 days to seeing Cape Town as a visit to South Africa.

Robben Island

Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned for 27 years of his life. It’s since been decommissioned as a prison and nowadays it is a museum paying tribute to Mandela’s life. It’s a 1 hour ferry ride from Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront to the island where tours run regularly throughout the day. I think for historical purposes, Robben Island is definitely worth the visit.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is perhaps Cape Town’s most well known attraction and is one of the seven natural wonders of the world. Famous for its impossibly flat “table-like” peak (where it gets its name from), the mountain is visible from all of Cape Town.

Table Mountain in the distance from the Bo Kaap neighborhood
Table Mountain in the distance from the Bo Kaap neighborhood
waterfront table mountain
Beautiful Cape Town waterfront overlooking Table Mountain in the distance

To visit Table Mountain, you can either hike up (1.5 to 2 hrs) or take the cable car. The cable car is a great experience in and of itself, whisking visitors to the summit for ~R300 round trip. Once at the top, there are gorgeous vantage points of the city, as well as a restaurant/bar.

Beautiful Table Mountain
Beautiful Table Mountain

The best views of Table Mountain itself are from Lions Head in my opinion. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see low lying clouds fall through the mountain.

Table Mountain seen from Lions Head with some light clouds rolling through.

Hike Lion’s Head

The Lions Head hike is my favorite hike in the city. The views from the top of Table Mountain, the 12 apostles, and the Atlantic ocean are just mesmerizing. It’s not an “easy” hike but it is the shortest at 45 minutes to 1 hour. It’s also far less crowded and touristy than Table Mountain since the only way to reach the top if by foot.

Lions Head hike sunset
Erica and I on Lion’s Head.

Bring some wine and hike up for the sunset. Find your own little rock and just watch the sun go down. Nirvana!

Lion's head cape town south africa
What a view

For the extra adventurous hikers, make sure to visit Devil’s Peak located right next to Table Mountain for an adventurous hike with much fewer people!

Bo-Kaap Neighborhood

Located at the base of Signal Hill, the Bo-Kaap neighborhood is famous for its colorfully painted houses and cobblestone streets. It was formally known as the Cape Malay Quarter, a township during the Apartheid era. The residents of this neighborhood can still trace their roots back to the Malaysians, Indians, Sri Lankans, and African people brought here by the Dutch as slaves back many centuries ago. The inter-mixing of these various groups through the generations resulted in the “Coloured” demographic.

Bo Kaap with table mountain the distance
Bo Kaap with table mountain the distance
Bo Kaap cape town south africa
Bo Kaap neighborhood

Coloured, while considered racist in most other parts of the world, is actually a totally acceptable term in South Africa. Coloured, aka mixed race people, proudly refer to themselves as coloured. Sample some delicious Cape-Malay style cooking while in this neighborhood and take plenty of pictures!

Clifton and Camps Bay Beaches

Cape Town has some amazing beaches in the city. Camps Bay has a long stretch of sandy beach on the main boardwalk. Clifton, adjacent to Camps Bay, is more secluded and offers some fantastic beaches. Some of the most expensive real estate in the country are in these two neighborhoods.

Clifton 4th beach cape town
Clifton 4th beach. This picture is over New Years so it is PACKED. Normally, it is nowhere near this busy.

While the water is not warm by any means, it’s swimmable during the summer months.

Viewpoint at Maiden’s Cove

Located just between Camps Bay and Clifton, Maiden’s Cove is a breathtaking viewpoint away of Camps Bay and the 12 apostles. There is ample parking here if you’re driving, or you could just walk from Camps Bay or Clifton. There are rocks along the beach that you can walk on as well if you’re feeling a little adventurous. Come here for the sunset if you want the most amazing photos!

Maiden's cove camps bay cape town
What a view…

Oranjezicht Market

In recent years, Cape Town’s opened the ultimate in farmers market in Granger Bay. The Oranjezicht market is open Wednesday afternoons, Saturday, and Sundays. It is located right on the waterfront with views of the ocean. You can find absolutely everything here from delicious foods, fruits/veggies, pottery, art, plants, juices, biltong, alcoholic drinks, and more.

oranjezicht Market
oranjezicht Market
oranjezicht Market

This market is also the ultimate in Instagram markets. It’s almost as if they specifically designed this market with Instagram photos in mind. Nevertheless, it is totally worth a visit if you’re in Cape Town on one of these days.

biltong at oranjezicht market
My personal favorite, biltong.

Cape Town Helicopter Tour

If you fancy spectacular views of Cape Town from the air, look no further than taking a helicopter tour around the city. There are numerous companies that do the helicopter tour in Cape Town with most offering similar tours and prices. I went with Cape Town Helicopters which I can highly recommend. Cape Town helicopter tour south africa Cape Town helicopter tour south africa Cape Town helicopter tour south africa Cape Town helicopter tour south africa

The tours range in length from 10 minutes observing the city, to a full hour visiting Cape Point and back. Prices vary depending on the length of your trip but the standard short flight around Cape Town is quite affordable in my opinion at around R1,000.

Cape Town helicopter tour south africa

You should definitely pre-book this trip especially in the high season but it is a great way to start or end your trip with those majestic views of Table Mountain and Lions head!

What to do outside of Cape Town

When you’re bored in Cape Town, don’t worry, there is even more to do in the surrounding area of the city. There is an array of day trip options available to Cape Town visitors and here are my favorites.

Cape Point via Chapman’s Peak

Cape Point is the perfect day trip out of Cape Town. Cape Point is located at the southern tip of Africa (although most southern tip is actually Cape Agulhas) where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meets. The drive goes through Chapman’s Peak and its windy mountainside roads offering some of the most dramatic views you’ll ever see. For lunch, stop at Chapman’s Peak Hotel for some amazing seafood!

Boulders Beach african penguins
On the drive to Cape Point, make sure to stop here at Boulder’s Beach to witness the African Penguins

Stop by at Boulder’s Beach to see the African Penguins (always a crowd pleaser) up close before finally reaching the Cape of Good Hope National Park. From here, you have two options: Hike to the Cape Point lookout, or do the Cape of Good Hope trail. Both are fantastic but if you have extra time, do both.

Hike to the Cape of Good Hope as well!
Hike to the Cape of Good Hope as well!
Noordhoek Beach
Stunning Noordhoek Beach on the Chapman’s Peak drive

The Cape Point lookout takes only 1 hour, and the Cape of Good Hope will take 2-3. Both offer stunning views of the area. Watch out for the baboons however! They are not scared of people.

Cape Point south africa
Cape Point

End the day with a visit the iconic and colorful beach houses at Muizenburg Beach, aka the ultimate Instagram photo spot.

Muizenberg beach from another angle
Muizenberg beach from another angle

Make sure to read my detailed Cape Point day trip itinerary if you’re keen to do this trip!

Shark Diving in Gansbaai

I did this countless times in South Africa because it is always at the top of people’s lists. After doing so much scuba diving, it’s hard for me to recommend this anymore as I don’t think it is healthy for the shark ecosystem to bring so many tourists.

Great Whites Shark Cage Diving
Great white coming near the cage.

Nevertheless, this is a very popular day trip from Cape Town. Located 2 hours east of Cape Town in the town of Gansbaai, this area of South Africa sees an insane amount of Great White sharks thanks to a large population of seals.

There are many tour companies that offer this activity in the area and prices include the pickup from Cape Town. Prices go up each year but in 2018, it hovers around R2000 per person.

Wine Tasting around Cape Town

I’ll keep this short, the Cape wine region is the most visually stunning wine region in the world. Nowhere else comes close to the visual beauty that the Cape provides. From Cape Town, it’s easy to visit the wine farms. Constantia is only 20 minutes away while Stellenbosch is 40 and Franschhoek just under 1 hour.

Sunset delaire graff
The views of Delaire Graff during the sunset

Wine tastings are incredibly affordable at R30-50 per tasting and some of the best restaurants in South Africa are located here. What’s best about South Africa is wine tastings are all conducted on the actual premise with spectacular views of their vineyards. Reservations are not required in 95% of the wine farms. You can just rock up, have a wine tasting, enjoy the views, and proceed to the next place.

clouds estate south africa
Clouds Estate in Stellenbosch with amazing views of the valley

There are many tour companies that book day trips to the wine region. Unless you’re a solo traveler, I would just recommend going yourselves by following my one day wine farm itinerary by using Uber. Not only will you visit nicer wineries, but you can spend as much or as little time at each one. Price-wise, DIY with Uber will likely be cheaper than booking a tour if there are 2+ people in the group.

Morgenster wine farm views
Morgenster wine farm views. Great place to do wine and olive oil tasting

I’ve written numerous posts dedicated to wine tasting before so give them a read if you want more insight into this wonderful place!

Visit Hermanus

Hermanus is a quaint seaside town about 1.5 hours east of Cape Town that is famous for its whale watching. During the winter months between June and October, Southern Right whales routinely come visit this part of the country. There are multiple daily departures on whale watching expeditions to see these amazing animals. Also, Hermanus is just an amazing little town with some incredible scenery, and beaches. It is one of the top destinations in the world to kitesurf.

Hermanus Sunset
Sunset over Hermanus town.

Where to stay in Cape Town

There are no shortage of amazing accommodation options in Cape Town. The city has options for travelers in all budget ranges from the $20 hostels, to the $2000 luxury villa in Clifton Beach. The cheaper options will likely be in the city center whereas the options with beach views in Camps Bay, Clifton, Seapoint, and Greenpoint will command a premium.

Houghton view guesthouse
Just breathtaking views of the Atlantic and Lion’s head from the private deck of my Camps Bay hotel!

Personally, I would elect to stay in the beach facing areas just because I think the views of Cape Town as just stunning and are worth the premium. I would stay away from staying in the V&A Waterfront just because of how touristy and congested it can get. It’s a great place to visit but there’s no point to stay there in my opinion.

Budget Options (Under $100)

  • Ashanti Lodge GardensThis is my favorite budget but not super budget accommodation in Cape Town. Located near the base of Table Mountain, this guesthouse has comfortable dorm rooms and private rooms, as well as a pool and cool common space to hang out with other travelers. It’s also close to lots of good restaurants and walking distance to Table Mountain
  • The B.I.G Backpackers GreenpointA great hostel option in Greenpoint offering modern and industrial accommodation options.

Middle End ($100-300)

Higher End Options ($300+)

  • 12 Apostles HotelOne of the most famous hotels in South Africa. The 12 Apostles is known for its luxury and high end finishes. Located in a hilltop area 2 km south of Camps Bay, this hotel offers stunning views of Cape Town, and peaceful serenity unlike any other.
  • South Beach Camps BayAn amazing luxury hotel just outside the main strip of Camps Bay. This hotel has an amazing infinity pool offering views of the ocean and the surrounding mountains. Some rooms even have a private pool.
  • Pod Hotel Camps Bay: One of the best hotels in Camps Bay with prime ocean views
  • MannaBay Boutique Hotel: Amazing boutique hotel in Oranjezicht at the base of Table Mountain offering stunning views

Ultra High End Options ($500+)

  • Silo Hotel: Super industrial and high end hotel in the waterfront area
  • One and Only Hotel: Very high end hotel in the waterfront with spectacular views of the city and Table Mountain

Airbnb and Afristay in Cape Town

Cape Town has REALLY stepped up its homestay game in recent years. The options available in some of Cape Town’s prime neighborhoods are absolutely stunning. I prefer staying in other people’s apartments for my own travels as you regularly find more stunning accommodations at a cheaper price. In addition, the pictures you see are exactly what you get whereas you never know what room you’ll be getting at a large hotel.

Just as an example, check out the following Airbnb options. The prices are on par with hotels of the same caliber but you can get some very interesting properties.


airbnb clifton cape town
Airbnb unit in Clifton Beach. Look at those views!

Camps Bay

Airbnb camps bay
Airbnb unit in Camps Bay

Where to eat in Cape Town

Cape Town is as cosmopolitan of a city as it gets. The culinary scene has been on a tear in recent years and you can find some of the best restaurants in the world here. While this list will surely always change as new restaurants open and old restaurants close, here are some of all time favorites:

Budget Eat Options

  • Nandos: This is South Africa’s crown jewel in my opinion. The grilled peri peri chicken here is a must have especially for those that don’t have Nandos at home. Even if you do, it is supremely better tasting in South Africa. In fact, while I lived in South Africa, I estimate I consumed about 100 chickens from this establishment.
  • Market on the Wharf: Located in the V&A Waterfront, this is a permanent food market that has some incredibly tasty options. Make sure to visit the exotic food stall to try some game meats.
  • Mzoli’s Place: Located in the township of Gugulethu, this is a local experience like no other. On Saturdays and Sundays, locals and tourists alike come here for the ultimate braai (bbq) experience. You pick you meats raw and bring them to the braai area where they are grilled to perfection. Local liquor stores across the street will have all you need for drinks and the making of a good time.
  • Neighbourgoods Market: Located in the Old Biscuit Mill, every Saturday this market features dozens of the best local vendors serving up affordable and delicious bites. Drinks are also served here and it’s a great overall hangout.
There’s nothing to hide here as you can see them grilling the chicken at Nandos!

Middle End

  • Hussar Grill: There are two locations in Cape Town, one in Greenpoint and one in Camps Bay. This is a famous old school steakhouse that serves some delicious steaks as well as game meats. Best of all? Steak in South Africa is not an expensive endeavour, even by local standards. A steak here will be R150-200 and will more than fill you up.
  • Bo-Kaap Kombuis: I think Cape Malay Cuisine is the most unique food in South Africa. It mixes local flavors with that of the traditional southeast Asian and Indian foods belonging to the slaves that were brought over centuries ago. Located in the Bo-Kaap district of town, this restaurant offers stunning views of nearby Table Mountain as well as some delicious food!
  • Pot Luck Club: Located in the V&A Waterfront, this is a permanent food market that has some incredibly tasty options. Make sure to visit the exotic food stall to try some game meats.
Half KG steak at Hussar Grill.

High End Cape Town dining options

  • The Test Kitchen: Consistently ranked in the top 50 restaurants of the world, The Test Kitchen offers some of the most innovative and delicious food in South Africa. It has likely changed a lot since I went in 2014 but one thing is still true, be sure to make reservations well in advance.
  • Carne SA: Delicious Italian influenced restaurant that specializes in meats, including various cuts of beef and numerous different samplings of game meat.
  • La Colombe: One of South Africa’s most acclaimed and iconic fine dining destinations. La Colombe is located in a wine farm nearby to Cape Town is always consistently delicious.

Where to go after Cape Town?

Most people use Cape Town as the launching point for traveling in South Africa or the rest of Africa. It would be a shame to fly all the way to the southern tip of the world and only stay for a few days in Cape Town after all!

From Cape Town, the following options come to mind:

  • Garden Route: Rent a car and drive the Garden Route to Port Elizabeth. This is one of the best road trips in the world in my opinion. Read about my Garden Route roadtrip itinerary.
  • Safari: Fly to Johannesburg and go on a safari in the Kruger, Limpopo, KZN, or North west province. There are game reserves around Cape Town too but the best that South Africa has to offer is in the Northeast of the country near Johannesburg and Durban
  • Namibia: Drive north along the west coast of South Africa and visit Namibia. Namibia has the most unique and stunning desert I’ve seen in my life. The red desserts of Sossusvlei and Deadvlei are a sight to behold.
Deadvlei namibia sossusvlei namib desert
Enjoying the surreal views in Deadvlei, Namibia


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  1. Hi thank you soo much for including pictures and so much detail! I was feeling overwhelmed planning my SA trip but your blog has really helped. I will now just be following your itinerary, it is perfect for me and my partner!! I love all of the adventurous activities you mentioned.

  2. Nice information about cape town places which are best places, a place that draws you in and doesn’t let go. I’d really love to visit Cape Town your photos make it looks amazing! Hiking to the top of lions head is definitely on my bucket list!

  3. Hi Johnny,

    I came across your fantastic blog while researching for our first trip to Cape Town in March.

    I’m looking forward to visiting the wine region and exploring Cape Town. I’d love to see some elephants in their natural environment but didn’t want to drive as far as Addo. Can you tell me if there’s any reserves nearer to Cape Town or is Addo the only option?

    Many thanks,

    • Hey Susan, there are definitely some game reserves nearbt to Cape Town. Check out Aquila, sanbona, fairy Glen etc.

      They are not going to be the same experience as that of going to the kruger, limpopo or kwazulu natal but you’ll be able to see the big 5 at some of these.

  4. Hi Johnny, there are a lot reports that the great whites sightings have been very low. Is this true? Also, is there a best time to dive?

    • Hi rishi, I had friends that just went in August and they say great whites and tiger sharks! The best time is in the winter months but I’ve been on all times and have seen at least a few of them.

  5. Fantastic advice, Johnny, but would you please help me streamline? We only have 2 1/2 days before heading to Zulu Nyala and want to make the most of it. Arriving early on the 16th and anticipate being settled at the Taj by 12pm. We know we want to hike up Table Mountain, get to Camps Bay, V&A Waterfront and hit the vineyards. Mint & Bombay Brasserie are convenient at the Taj but, recommended dining along the way? If you could provide the ultimate agenda to follow, I’d be truly grateful! Thank you!!

    • Hi Joann, sounds like a pretty great trip! I would spend one day to do the sights around Cape Town, including Bo-Kaap, waterfront, Camps Bay, and I would hike up Lion’s Head over Table Mountain (better views and more fun hike) and take the cable car to see Table Mountain. I would spend the next day going to the wine farms, you can follow my one day itinerary if you’re keen! Definitely have lunch in the wine country (Jordan, Vergelegen, Delaire, Tokara etc.)

      As for your half day depending on how long it is, I would spend it in Cape Town and explore the areas you missed during the other two days. Enjoy!

  6. I am pleased to remember a trip to Cape Town and I recommend this city to everyone. It was there that I discovered the South African wines and the first time I ate ostrich meat dishes. It is also a city that I would like to return to. The first time I did not have time to climb the Lion Head or swim in a cage surrounded by sharks.

  7. Great article, thanks for the tips! Indeed, South Africa has some of the most stunning landscapes on earth and is the perfect spot for an adventure! Unfortunately, the country is also tainted by violent crime and scams.

    Do be wary of the pickpocketing, robberies, muggings, fake tour guides, beach thefts, drink spiking, currency switcheroo, tourist prices, car pull over scam, fake airport taxi drivers, luggage theft, bogus airport employees, carjacking, car crash scams, smash and grab, ATM scams, fake police, corrupt police and many more!

    • Hey great question! I wondered the same thing when I first went shark diving in Cape Town. At teh very least, I thought I would be completely submerged under water and sharks would be circling around me while I was breathign from scuba gear. But that’s not the case here!

      I don’t know of any services that will allow you to dive with the great whites in Gansbaai without a cage. I wouldn’t recommend that either. Those shark diving places chum (throw fish guts into the water to attract the sharks) the waters and the sharks associate people in wetsuits with food. However, there is a place called Aliwal Shoal which is half way between Port Elizabeth and Durban and that place is amazing for its shark diving (without cages). Although you wont’ see great whites here, there are many large shark speciesi that you will see at once. Would highly recommend this place!

      • I found that from a search before. Couldn’t find anything in Gansbaii. Too bad as my time/sched is dedicated to PE-Cape town. Will have to try to find some time to get to Aliwal Shoal. If not, cage ‘swimming’ will have to do for now and maybe come back next time to do real diving! Thanks a bunch!

        • Ah yes, that would be tricky to go from Durban to PE. Regardless, you’ll still enjoy it. Not every day you get to see great whites up and personal!