From the sparkling waters of the ocean to the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town will sweep you away with its beauty. In the rejuvenated facades and busy city streets, you'll find a vibrant, multicultural society with much to explore.
Cape Town lies on the southwest coast of South Africa and incorporates the Cape Peninsula around False Bay. Cape Town is South Africa's second biggest city, often called the "Mother City" for its key role in the country's evolution.
Apart from its natural beauty, Cape Town has its own stylish flair, with a diverse population. The city is full of striking buildings and features like the eye-popping colors of the historic Bo Kaap neighborhood to the arresting Afrocentric design of chic restaurants and lounges, and street art in the East City. From art and design to a thriving nightlife scene, Cape Town is an adventure waiting to be explored.
Cape Town is situated in a breathtaking part of the world, covering a sweeping area from seaside to mountain. A ride up the Table Mountain - so-called because of its flat, rocky top - in a cable car offers spectacular views of the city below, and you can hike around the Table Mountain National Park.
Where else can you go surfing in the morning, hiking up a mountainside at lunch, and then squeeze in penguin watching at Boulders Penguin Colony before dinner? The Winelands, just an hour outside of the city, allow you to explore world renowned viticulture. Cape Town offers a wealth of outdoor adventures to captivate everyone from serious athletes to casual vacationers looking for something new to try.
Like the rest of South Africa, Cape Town has a turbulent past. Robben Island, now a museum, was once the prison home of Nelson Mandela. Tours by boat leave daily, allowing you to explore the grounds of the erstwhile prison, now a UNESCO World Heritage site.
From First Thursdays - a kind of giant art party on the first Thursday night of every month - to Cape Town Fashion Week to the world-renowned Cape Town International Jazz Festival, arts and culture abound. There are concerts, gallery openings, and museums to check out, and the Mother City has a reputation for serving as a launching pad for exciting new artists.
You can't really say that you've been to Cape Town until you've explored its world-class nightlife, offering everything from dance clubs and live music venues to hipster bars and upscale lounges.
Summer in Cape Town runs from about December to February, with average temperatures in the high 70s during the day. It's the most popular time for vacationers. For fewer crowds and lower prices, choose March to May, or September to November when the weather is more temperate. Winter, from June to August, sees cool temperatures that can average in the mid-40s at night and frequent rains. Many people come to Cape Town for specific event like the Cape Town International Jazz Festival in April of every year.
Cape Town International Airport (CPT) is the second busiest airport in the country, with many direct flights to many places across the world. It is located about 12 miles from the city center. MyCiTi shuttle is a rapid bus system between the airport and the City Centre bus station on Hertzog Blvd. There are departures ever 20 minutes, with fares ranging from R80 during off hours to R88 in peak periods.
The Cape Town station is located in the central business district of the city and acts as a hub for the Metrorail Western Cape commuter rail network. It also services Shosholoza Meyl, the national inter-city train, with daily runs to and from Johannesburg. It is also serviced by Rovos Rail and the Blue Line tourist rail companies.
The N2 freeway approaches Cape Town from the southeast and Port Elizabeth, an express route, while the old R310 offers a more scenic route along the water. The N1 comes from the northeast, extending through Paarl and all the way to Johannesburg.
The Greyhound Bus and Intercape Bus Terminals, connecting with the Cape Town Train Station, and the MyCiTi Civic Centre Bus Station, are all located within a few blocks of each other near the intersection of Adderley and Strand Streets in downtown Cape Town. Greyhound, SA Roadlink Bus, Intercape Intercity Bus Liners, and TransLux bus line connect the city with most of the cities of South Africa.
There is a wide range of accommodation available in Cape Town. At the higher end of the scale, the Table Bay Hotel is a luxury property located about 1 mile from the V&A Waterfront. Budget hotels and hostels like the Road Lodge N1 City. The Alphen Boutique is a luxury 5-star property with whitewashed walls that surround a garden courtyard and a pool.
City Bowl - this incorporates the city's center, a busy business district, and an area where you'll find a diverse selection of restaurants, shops, and entertainment choices. Bree Street is the hub of the nightlife scene.
The Waterfront - the most popular way to experience the waterfront is through the massive V&A Waterfront, a huge plaza set within the city's working harbor area. It incorporates theaters and cinemas in addition to a range of restaurants, shops, boutiques, and authentic local artisan craft shops.
De Waterkant, Green Point, Mouille Point and Sea Point - this sounds like a lot of ground, but it covers the area along the Atlantic coast up to Signal Hill. At one time a commercial area, it has evolved into a stylish district with unique shopping finds, many restaurants, and scenic seaside promenade.
The MyCiTi service is the city's most extensive, with a hub at the MyCiTi Civic Centre Bus Station downtown. Fares are based on the designated time period when you begin your trip, with peak pricing during morning and afternoon rush hour periods on weekdays. The maximum fare for 0-5km trip during peak periods is R12.60. A 30 percent discount on all fares is available by purchasing a MyCiTi Mover card, an electronic payment system that is available from ticket booths and kiosks around the city.
Taxis are plentiful and safe throughout most areas of Cape Town. They cannot be hailed from curbside, but you are likely to find them at major tourist areas such as the waterfront area. Your hotel concierge or waiter at the restaurant can call one for you. Fares for a six-mile trip run about R200.
Car rentals are available from a variety of carriers at the airport, with compact rentals starting at about R840. Parking is reasonably plentiful on city streets, with fees collected by parking personnel in cash at about R5 for an hour. Parking on public lots starts at R3.50 for the first half hour, and is free on Sundays and holidays.
Shopaholics will find a lot to check out in Cape Town, from luxury boutiques to bargain hunting at markets. The V&A (Victoria and Alfred) Waterfront is the place to find luxury goods and boutiques of all kinds, set against the backdrop of Cape Town's harbor. Small back-street shops and factory stores are where to find bargains in the Mother City, along with the large Milnerton Flea Market and stalls along Marine Drive.
There are many options when it comes to groceries in Cape Town, including Spar, with a good selection of foods along with a bakery and liquor store at most locations across town. Pick n Pay is another multi-location chain around town. The food section at Woolworth's offers more limited choices, and Shoprite offers food basics at bargain prices. One gallon of milk should cost just under R50 on average, while a dozen eggs will run about R25.
Dining in Cape Town is a multicultural affair. Seafood is a regional specialty, showcased on the menu at places like Pigalle Restaurant in Green Point, with main dishes starting at R200. Mzansi offers an authentic township experience, where the food is cooked in a home in the Langa township and served buffet style for less than R150 per person, including drinks and tip. There are many fine Indian restaurants, including the Bombay Brasserie, a luxurious retreat with an imaginative menu that starts at R70 for mains. There are also French, European, Israeli, and Asian options at all price points.