Top Ten Must Dos In Cape Town, South Africa

by Annie Bierbower

When studying abroad in one of the world's most loved cities, the problem isn't finding something to do but where to start. The beauty, diversity, and beautiful climate of Cape Town make it a treasure trove of places to see and things to do all year long. So don't waste a moment of the sunshine being overwhelmed. This top ten list of must dos will help all Cape Town newbies set off in the right direction from the very beginning of their study abroad program in Cape Town.

The Table Mountain, South Africa

The Table Mountain, South Africa

1. Table Mountain

Table Mountain National Park is the gorgeous mountain range that provides Cape Town with its one of a kind backdrop. It includes many other popular peaks such as Devil's Peak and Lion's Head but Table Mountain is the most prominent. Clouds usually gather along the flat top of the steep mountain and are affectionately referred to by locals as the tablecloth. Hike one of the many trails or ride the new cable cars and reach the top of the mountain while enjoying 360 degrees of breathtaking views.

2. A South African Braai

A braai is a South African barbeque and while there are plenty of favorite locations throughout the city they tend to spring up just about anywhere. The barbeque experience is taken to a whole new level with the marinated chicken, lamb, ribs, and steak that will typically grace your plate. Not to mention the plethora of sides such as spicy bean salad or mielie bacon bread.

3. Robben Island

While the island is best known for the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela, it has always been an island of outcasts. The secluded location has been used as everything from a leprosy colony to a prison for political exiles and is now one of Cape Town's most popular tourist sites. It is seen as a symbol of triumph against adversity and tours are lead by former prisoners.

Only a 30 minute ferry ride from the waterfront, the island is small and flat but holds endless history. Unfortunately, much of it is dark. Prisoners were forced to work in a quarry. Nelson Mandela visited the site after his release and placed a single rock next to the site. Prisoners followed suit and created a pile of rocks that is now viewed as a monument against apartheid and the saying “The Journey is never long when freedom's the destination,” can be found along the side of many buses that drive visitors to the ferries.

Robben Island Cape Town, South Africa

Robben Island Cape Town, South Africa

4. Africa Beaches & Penguins

This list could easily be just about beaches since there are so many quality locations. Visit Boulder Beach where you can hang out in blue waves near a colony of penguins! Saunders Rocks offers safe tidal pools. Worried about tan lines? Don't fret just visit Sandy Beach, the most popular and secluded nude beach. Clifton Beach is perhaps the most popular and actually includes four beaches in this upscale suburban area. It is protected from the wind and is a top destination for water sports.  

5. Cape of Good Hope

Also known as Cape Point, it is a long outcropping of steep green cliffs. The cape was actually a bit of a ship burial ground initially because the lighthouse was invisible to ships from a certain angle. Now it is a popular tourist local equipped with tidal pools, beautiful views, and vineyards. Visitors can enjoy lovely strolls, visit the lighthouse, or dine in one of the delicious restaurants.

6. Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

The term boardwalk doesn't do it justice. The area is packed full of dining, nightlife, and shopping but offers much more. See history and a cutting edge modern city meet along the ocean. Spend days wandering through the waterfront or start a journey to another location. Ferries leave for Robben Island from here and it is home to other attractions such as a famous 100 year old Dragon Tree and the restored Gothic style Clock Tour. Plus, seals can usually be seen lounging along the coastline.

7. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens

The gardens are listed in the top seven botanical gardens in the world. It is recommended that visitors spend about half a day wandering through the exquisite flowers, trees, and ponds. Both relaxing and exciting, the expansive grounds spread over 528 hectares and include hiking trails, restaurants and a full summer concert schedule. Whether you spend the whole day reciting scientific names of indigenous plants or just a few hours admiring the colors, the site is a must see.

The Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

8. Langa Township

Langa, which means sun, is a suburb of Cape Town. It was originally developed as an area for black Africans to live during the apartheid. Tours lead by locals offer the chance to be welcomed into the homes of residents and enjoy homemade meals. See what life is like and how it is changing in the townships of post apartheid South Africa. Many visitors say it is the highlight of their South Africa trip

9. Lion's Head

This mountain is on the other side of Table Mountain.  The hike starts easy and gets a little more challenging but it only takes about 1.5 to 2 hours and offers amazing views of the city, coast, and the mountain range known as the 12 Apostles.

10. Old Biscuit Mill

The factory has been converted into a market full of arts, food, and culture. The multitude of cafés and quirky shops make the perfect location for sunny outings. It is a great place to drink morning coffee and try some new food. Try to visit on a Saturday and experience the weekly Neighborgoods Day.