Ultimate Cape Town Travel Guide

On my first trip to the continent of Africa, I was lucky enough to spend about a week exploring the wonders of Cape Town. It truly has stunning natural landscapes, delicious and diverse cuisines and so many activities for all ages.

Check out all of my tips in the ultimate Cape Town travel guide!

What to expect in Cape Town

What to Expect in Cape Town

Cape Town is a cosmopolitan city with a wealth of historical sites, café culture, and lively nightlife.

  • Language: South Africa claims a whopping eleven official languages but the most common you’ll hear in and around Cape Town is English—the lingo of business and media—followed by Afrikaans and Xhosa on the streets.
  • Currency: The South African rand
  • Credit Cards and Banks: The majority of retailers and restaurants accept debit card as payment.
  • Climate: Humidity is quite low in Cape Town, so while the summers are hot, they aren’t too muggy. Wintertime, however, is chilly with the ocean winds blowing in from the southeast.

The best times to visit are the cusp months, October and November, springtime in South Africa, or from December to February when the days are at their longest and warmest. Winter from June to August tends to be rainy and cold.

Aerial Cape Town

Getting Around Cape Town

Getting Around Cape Town

Cape Town is rather spread out and with many things to do around the Cape, I recommend renting a car. It will save you from spare you from the somewhat unreliable public transportation and pricey taxis.

Getting Around Town

I highly recommend renting a car—especially if you plan to do road trips. Overall, the best way to get around Cape Town is by car, because although the street signage can be a bit confusing, you’ll find that the city is auto-friendly with ample parking and not a lot of traffic.

Uber enjoys a healthy clientele in and around Cape Town, so you can use the Uber app to get around if driving on your own doesn’t sound like a great idea.

Getting To Cape Town

From Cape Town International Airport, you can rent a car, take a metered taxi (about R300 to R400) or catch the MyCiti shuttle bus (about R64 per person but depends on your destination) into the city centre.

Where to stay in Cape Town

Where to Stay in Cape Town

Cape Town, and South Africa in general, is filled with beautiful, luxury boutique hotels. Note that in Cape Town, hostel prices are fairly high, so unless you’re traveling on your own, you might as well stay in a hotel.

The Best of Budget Accommodations in Cape Town

  • The Backpack Cape Town: A colorful and trendy hostel with dorms for up to eight people, private rooms, and a studio apartment with a kitchenette. The premises also boast an outdoor pool, a café and bar, free continental breakfast, and free Wi-Fi.
  • Fritz Hotel: The budget but charming House Fritz Guest House is in the center of town, just 15 minutes away from the Green Market Square. Tucked away in a quiet residential area, the B&B offers spacious rooms with hardwood floors, some with private gardens or balconies with views of Table Mountain.
  • Ashanti Lodge Gardens: This lodge is a former Victorian mansion that has been converted to a beautiful hostel just a brief walk from the Iziko South African Museum. Accommodations are geared toward a variety of travelers: simple dorms, campsites, and private rooms with bathrooms en suite.
MannaBay Sunrise

The Best Luxury Accommodations in Cape Town

  • South Beach in Camps Bay: South Beach is a gorgeous collection of waterfront apartments with ocean-view balconies and kitchens. As you can imagine, they are fairly luxurious and have modern amenities, flat-screen TVs, free WI-FI, and continental breakfast served in-room. Ask for the upgrades if you can—these come with direct pool access and whirlpool tubs.
  • MannaBay Boutique Guest House: Mannabay is a sophisticated hotel with eclectic decor and offers a beautiful swimming pool, a fire pit, and complimentary airport transfers. Each one of the eight luxury rooms is distinctly decorated and can host up to 16 guests. The rooms are huge and have spacious bathrooms, walk-in showers, and under-floor heating—ingredients for a heavenly stay! Enjoy complimentary drinks served every afternoon at High Tea.
  • Cape View Clifton Beach House: The stylish and flawless Cape View Clifton is the perfect place to relax. The rooms are spacious with stunning panoramic views and made-to-order breakfast. Book a romantic deluxe or junior suite or spring for a two- or three-bedroom suite with your band of girlfriends. The Clifton area is a beach lover’s paradise with four coves protected from the famous southeasterly winds.
  • One Marine Drive: Located just outside the city in Hermanus, One Marine Drive is the ultimate boutique hotel. It’s absolutely adorable, comfortable and top off the line! It is the perfect spot to take in the incredible natural beauty of the coast.

What to Do in Cape Town

What to Do in Cape Town

Surrounded by so many natural sights, there are endless adventures you can get into in Cape Town!

  • Cape Point Road Trip: Take a drive along the beautiful coastal road to scenic Cape Point. The highway will take you through historical Hout Bay and Sentinel Peak and to the winding Chapman’s Peak Road. Cape Point is located in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and has dramatic views of the ocean, a charming historical lighthouse, and dangerous rocks that have led to many a shipwreck in olden times.
  • Lion's Head

  • Hike Lion’s Head: Need to escape the city? The options are endless around the mountains and national parks. One of the more popular is Lion’s Head, a slightly challenging but rewarding climb.
  • Cable Car up to Table Mountain: You can hop on the cable car to scale nearby Table Mountain and see its panoramic views over Cape Town.
  • Helicopter Tour

  • Helicopter Tour: Several helicopter companies offer scenic flights of Cape Town with stunning views of the city and the Cape of Good Hope. 
  • Day Trip to the Winelands: Take a drive up to the Stellenbosch Winelands and have a delicious lunch and wine tasting at any of the beautiful farms or estates.
  • Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden

  • Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden: The Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden is home to a large collection of African plants and offers trails carved out for trekkers and stone sculptures set in the gardens for artists. In summertime, you´ll often find live concerts held on the grass on Sundays. 
  • Shop at Watershed: The Watershed is an indoor market on the waterfront that offers a variety of treats, including artist exhibitions, workshops, and products for your mind and body.
  • Cape Town Street Art

  • Woodstock Art Walk Tour: Since 2010, Woodstock has been the epicenter for street art, and these days you can hire a guide to take you around to see more than 40 pieces of artwork from local and international artists. Truly a place to get inspired!
  • Visit Gondwana Game Reserve: Take a trip a few hours of the city and get your chance to see the Big 5 on a real African game drive! Gondwana is committed to conservation and has an amazing property!

Where to eat in Cape Town

Where to Eat in Cape Town

There’s no end to delectable restaurants and cheerful cafés in Cape Town. The city’s rich history of colliding cultures has led to hearty, award-winning cuisine . . . you’ll find samosas, curries, chakalaka, imifino patties, pizza, and gelato.

First, Grab a Coffee!

  • Truth Coffee: Grab your daily cup of joe at Truth Coffee! Truth Coffee boasts a relaxed yet trendy steampunk vibe.
  • Tribe Coffee: Tribe is an exceptional café in the heart of Cape Town. It is an unassuming café just a brief walk from the Woodstock train station.
  • Bootlegger Coffee: A small chain across Cape Town, these coffee shops have quickly become my favorite. Great coffee, food and atmosphere!

Coffee in Cape Town

Brunch , Lunch & Dinner

  • Willoughby & Co: Willoughby & Co on Victoria Wharf is the locals’ much-loved, go-to restaurant for sushi.
  • Clark’s: Perfect for brunch and lunch! This place has really good food and drinks, and sits right in the middle of downtown.
  • Mojo Market: Open seven days a week, hit up this market for a snack, a meal and some shopping!
  • Mama Africa: As the restaurant claims, “If you haven’t been to Mama Africa, you haven’t been to Cape Town.” A vibrant yet cozy oasis where you can enjoy authentic live music, traditional foods, such as shaved meats and game kebab, and a gift shop open in the evenings.
  • Bocca: If you are craving authentic and delicious Italian food, you have to hit up Bocca! Just, yum.
  • Three Wise Monkeys: The perfect stop if you’re craving some Japanese ramen noodles, sushi and other Japanese dishes.
  • Codfather: Codfather Seafood & Sushi is a lively restaurant that’s always full of hungry patrons. Your taste buds will thank you after the heaps of deliciously prepared fish, prawns, langoustines, crayfish, and more.
  • The Biscuit Mill: The Old Biscuit Mill is a heartfelt collaboration between chefs, designers, photographers, and other artists in and around town. Once a biscuit factory, it now hosts a market featuring more than 100 specialty traders every Saturday.

The Biscuit Mill

For a Special Night Out

  • The Test Kitchen: Located in The Old Biscuit Mill, the Test Kitchen is a blend of South African and Latin cuisine with inventive dishes, including home-smoked trout with parsley jellies and saffron pickled onions, light curry-glazed kingklip, and cauliflower salad with caper and pine nut salsa.
  • The Pot Luck Club: Situated on the top floor of the Silo of The Old Biscuit Mill, it has been dubbed the coolest place to be in Cape Town and its success is based on innovative cuisine, served in a relaxed yet edgy environment.

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Read Next: 20 Photos to Inspire You to Visit Cape Town

 

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Kiersten Rich
Kiersten Rich is the bikini-obsessed author of award-winning solo female travel and lifestyle blog, The Blonde Abroad, featuring travel tips, fashion, food, festivals and photography from around the world.