Travel Tips

Must-See Sites in Cape Town, South Africa

Must-See Sites in Cape Town, South Africa

Although the capital of South Africa is located in Johannesburg, Cape Town is the heart of the country. It is often ranked as one of the best cities to visit in the world. The climate, its location by Table Bay, and natural scenery make it a great travel destination. Cape Town can be the home base of an African Safari, but it has plenty to offer to make it a worthwhile stop all on its own.

1. Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

This area is the most popular tourist destination in South Africa. It has many shops, eateries, and museums, including the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Chavonnes Battery Museum. Located in the Port of Cape Town, you can take ferries from the V&A Waterfront to other destinations around Cape Town, including Robben Island.

2. Table Mountain

You can take a cable car to the top, or the more adventurous can hike up the mountain, for an incredible view of the city. Around the national park, you can spot “Dassies,” or rock rabbits, that are actually closest in DNA to elephants.

3. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

A part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, the garden is home to 22,000 indigenous plants. You can see an enormous baobab tree and plants dating back 3.2 billion years. Take a walk on the Boomslang through the trees or listen to a concert at the outdoor amphitheater.

4. Castle of Good Hope

The oldest building in South Africa was originally built as a fort in 1679. It now serves as a museum of military history and art. The William Fehr Collection has furniture, oil paintings, antique china representative of the earliest settlers of the Cape Colony.

5. Bo-Kaap Museum

In the historical Muslim neighborhood of Cape Town, this museum offers insight into Muslim cultural life. The museum building dates back to the 1760s. Many of the neighborhood’s residents are descendants of slaves. The neighborhood sits at the foot of Signal Hill and is filled with quaint, colorful houses. Every day at noon, you can watch a gun firing ceremony.

6. Robben Island

You cannot visit South Africa without facing its difficult history. Robben Island has served as a hospital, a mental institution, a military base, and most notably as a political prison during apartheid. Tours of the island are guided by former political prisoners who provide personal insight into the prisons as well as a history of the island and South Africa. One of the stops on the tour is at Nelson Mandela’s prison cell, which has been preserved. The island became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999.

7. District Six Museum

This area near downtown remained multiracial until its residents were forced out in the 1960s and their homes were bulldozed. The entire area was razed to the ground and remains uninhabited. The museum is owned by a former resident and offers a history of the area, its peoples, the eviction and the Group Areas Act that tried to designate it as a “White's only” neighborhood.

8. Boulder’s Beach

Home to the African Penguin Colony, it is one of the few places in the world where you can get up close and personal with African Penguins in their natural habitat. African Penguins are known for their braying, so it may get noisy. You can swim in waters shared with these deep-divers.

9. Pan African Market

Located in a fine example of architecture, the market is a great place to pick up custom-tailored garments or traditional African masks. You could spend a day searching for the art and antiques.

10. Chapman Peak Drive

A windy path not for the faint of heart, this stretch of road leading from Noordhoek to Hout Bay offers spectacular views. Originally built during World War I, there are 114 curves along the rocky coastline.

(All photographs are courtesy of the original owners unless otherwise indicated)

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