Steeped in history, Cape Town – one of South Africa’s crown jewels – continues to be a popular vacation spot at the top of travelers’ bucket lists. And it’s no wonder why. Cape Town features some of the world’s most amazing natural landmarks such as Table Mountain, man-made attractions like Two Oceans Aquarium and traditional eateries to satisfy your appetite for tasty South African cuisine. And for an extended stay, go beyond the city limits to explore the country’s diverse wildlife.
Are you game? Check out the deets on how you can make the most of your time when visiting the Mother City.
See Cape Town’s Top Attractions
Cape Town’s iconic landmarks are best seen from Table Mountain, and the panoramic views as you ascend the mountain in the Aerial Cableway are just as incredible. Table Mountain looms over the city, making it the perfect backdrop for must-see sites like the Rhodes Memorial and Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the first garden in South Africa to showcase the country’s indigenous and diverse flora.
And no trip to Cape Town is complete without a visit to Victoria and Alfred Waterfront to experience the Two Oceans Aquarium. Home to more than 3,000 sea creatures, this facility offers memorable experiences. You can take a dive to explore marine life such as the yellowfin tuna and striped bonito; stop by the Touch Pool to get some hands-on action with starfish and Hermit crabs; take a 90-minute catamaran ride in Table Bay to see dolphins, seals and whales; and get up close and personal with adorable Rockhopper penguins.
And you can't miss out on picking up homemade tableware, vases or tiles at Clementina Ceramics.
For history buffs, don’t miss Cape Town’s District Six Museum, an interactive experience about contemporary South African history focused on the forced movement of 60,000 inhabitants during Apartheid in the 1970s. It’s hard not to miss the big map of the district on the museum’s floor with handwritten notes from former residents marking where their houses were located. It’s a must-see exhibit.
For shoppers, Cape Town offers well-priced jewelry, textiles and leather goods. Don’t know where to go? Try first-rate malls like Canal Walk (home to about 400 stores), the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront shopping complex and the Tyger Valley Shopping Centre. And you can’t miss the homemade tablewares, vases or tiles at Clementina Ceramics or Whatiftheworld Design Studio, where a rotating collection of furniture, lighting and other design products created by local talent is on display.
Get Wild at These Popular Game Reserves
From Cape Town, the options for safaris and outdoor adventures are limitless. Although it’s an eight-hour drive along South Africa’s scenic coastline, the 49,000-acre Shamwari Game Reserve is worth the lengthy road trip for the chance to see leopards, lions, elephants, hippos, giraffes, rhinos and zebras. Looking for a place to stay? There are many good options, including the Riverdene Family Lodge and Explorer Camp, a back to basics wilderness bush camp.
And if that’s not enough nature to keep you busy, you can travel to northeast South Africa (close to the Mozambique border) to experience world-renown Kruger National Park. This famous wilderness reserve boasts 147 species of animals, and if you’re looking for award-winning, luxury accommodations, the Sabi Sabi Selati Camp is a great option for park visitors. Within Kruger National Park, there are quite a few game reserves, including Kapama Private Game Reserve, which offers “game drives” that give guests the opportunity to spot impalas, giraffes, hippos, cheetahs, wildebeest, spotted hyenas and more than 350 species of birds. There are also tours to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre, where visitors can get close to or see animals like the king cheetah, white rhino, cape vulture, African wild dog and ground hornbill. Knysna Elephant Park and Kapama Game Reserve are a few other options for naturists and wildlife enthusiasts.
Get Your Grub On
The restaurant scene in Cape Town has become increasingly sophisticated with restaurants like world-class master chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s Nobu that serves classic Japanese cuisine with a contemporary twist. Looking for more places to eat? Try Anatoli, a cozy traditional Turkish restaurant in Green Point; Mzoli’s Place, an open-air shack restaurant that grills meat while patrons dance to local bands; or the Africa Café, a popular restaurant that offers traditional South African dishes.
For a fun foodie day trip, you can head to the Swartland neighborhood and dine at the Royal Kitchen (located in the Royal Hotel at Riebeek Kasteel) to try the oxtail bobotie, a curry spiced meat. Afterward, you can tour the Allesverloren Wine Estate, set in a converted 18th century cottage, and sip port or sample some Cabernet Sauvignon at Kloovenburg, along with its olives and handmade jams.