Many travellers think that the highlight of Cape Town is the many beautiful vineyards that surround the outer lying areas. While visiting the wineries and sipping on South Africa’s local red’s and whites is a definite must-do, there is so much more to this coastal city than relaxing above rolling hills in the country. The city centre has everything from fun on the beach, hiking and kite-surfing to shopping and dining all within a short distance drive from each other.
Here are a few tips for what to do, where to shop and where to eat if you only have 48 hours to absorb everything Cape Town has to offer.
What to Do
Robben Island Museum
After a multimillion-dollar renovation, the Robben Island Museum, where former President Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison during apartheid, reopened to the public in 1997. Take a ferry from a waterfront terminal to what used to be the island’s maximum-security prison, where they see Mandela’s cell. Here you will also be able to see the African penguin and herds of springbok.
Table Mountain National Park
Take the cable car up to the often-foggy top of Table Mountain. This expansive flat surface is the Table Mountain National Park, which dominates this city’s every vista. The aerial cableway reaches the top in five minutes or hike this magnificent mountain via the steep path all the way to the summit. Once there, replenish at the Table Mountain Café.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
At the foot of Table Mountain and covering more than 1,235 acres, the Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden was the first garden devoted to indigenous flora. This garden also has several easy-to-follow trails that wind through fynbos and forest and even end up at the top of Table Mountain. In summer, evening concerts and open-air cinema screenings bring out residents and tourists in droves.
Where to Shop
Green Market Square
Situated in the CBD, on a tree-shaded, cobbled square in the business district, this open-air market has aisles packed with jewellery, textiles, paintings, and curiosities from every corner of South Africa. Listen to local musicians play as you browse and shop.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
This is Cape Town’s most popular shopping centre. Surrounded by sea-views, a harbour, exclusive restaurants and world-class shopping with more than 450 retail outlets. Check out the Victorian Gothic-style clock tower and then catch a ride on the 131-foot-high observation wheel.
Cape Quarter Lifestyle Village
Surrounding an outdoor courtyard in the chic Green Point neighbourhood, the Quarter sells contemporary African crafts, locally designed fashions, and home decor. It is designed in the Cape Malay architectural style influenced by the area’s Dutch settlers, with dark beams and multicoloured facades.
The Red Shed Craft Workshop
Located on the V&A Waterfront, this experience provides an alternative to mall shopping. Browse stalls for recycled-glass vases, antique silver jewellery from Ethiopia, and hand-painted cushions in safari animal shapes.
Where to Eat
Long Street is the hub of the CBD where all the tourists flock to for the vibrant nightlife. Here you will find one-of-a-kind shops and eateries in every price range, open until early morning. The menu at Long Street Café, located in a former bookstore offers a diverse range from Thai wraps to waffles and ice cream.
Down the street, Lola’s has a wide range of meals from sweet corn fritters, anchovies on toast to steamed west coast mussels.
Camps Bay Retreat
If you’re spending a day to the beach or heading for a Sunday Drive past the sandy beaches, plan to stop at Camps Bay Retreat. They hold a traditional South African braai (barbecue) on Wednesdays and Saturdays amid impeccable lawns, herb gardens, and restored fynbos. Or stopover for some fresh scones while taking in the view.
A repurposed former 1786 guard station now features contemporary South African cuisine and a long wine list. If you’re looking for something more casual with a great view, try the Rumbullion. They serve picnic-style breakfasts and lunch pizzas with expansive views of Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles mountain range.
Marlene Dietrich once ate here, and this Sea Point spot has become a local legend since opening in 1959. Stick to the fresh seafood, and request a seat on the recently refurbished terrace, a popular spot for “sundowners”.
For more on the magnificent Mother City and our best spots to stay there click here.