I visited Cape Town for a week at the beginning of 2019 - part of a total three weeks in Southern Africa. Here are some things I did :)
Strolling through De Waterkant
This is a super pleasant neighborhood, full of lovely architecture. It’s situated between the V&A Waterfront and the inner bowl of downtown, so it’s a very practical area to stay. There are lots of nice restaurants and shops here. Loading Bay is a good cafe and restaurant that also includes a cool clothing shop. It’s next to Origin Coffee, which is a nice laptop-friendly place. All around this block are homey Italian restaurants, colorful buildings and sweet sidewalk vibes. I wanted to go to Pigalle Restaurant but didn’t make it. First Thursdays are art walk evenings, which happen in this neighborhood and branch into the rest of the city.
Beaches in Camps Bay and Clifton
I spent some nights in Camps Bay after staying downtown. I found a nice room with a beach view for quite cheap, so there are deals out there! I really like the relaxed beach vibe of this area. Kind of perfect! In terms of world beaches, it’s up there, maybe just under spots like Copacabana and Bondi and Venice, CA. It’s just super chill, with a nice amount of buzz. Clifton features four beaches, each with their own vibe. I liked third beach the most; well, they’re all good. The water is very cold though! Even in their January summer, it was hard to swim, unfortunately.
Nightlife in Greenmarket Square
I’m not sure if this is technically the name of this area, or just the name of a flea market, or what, but my geotagged photos from here tell me this name. This is like proper downtown, and it has the most nightlife. This area is centered on Loop St and Bree St. Some spots of note are Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room, Hail Pizza, Botanical Bar and La Parada. Tamboerskloof and Gardens are neighborhoods near here. I had a fun, chic meal at Kloof St House.
Sunset champagne cruise from the V&A Waterfront
This is a bougie sort of activity from the most touristy part of town, but I’m personally a sucker for boats. They have free snacks and two complimentary glasses of bubbly. Really it’s all about the views though. The water is perfect, so beautifully blue, and it’s cool to see Table Mountain lit up by the setting sun.
I was there on New Year’s Eve. It’s kind of a shit-show, surprise surprise. Tons of people everywhere, huge queues for everything, overpriced food and drinks. The fireworks were nice. Lasted eight minutes. I wish they were higher in the sky; my view was obstructed by some industrial maritime stuff. I don’t think I’d do this again tbh, but it I suppose it’s generally worthwhile to experience mainstream cultural activities. It gives you a good overview of a society, and you can relate to clear parts of it.
Epic heights on Table Mountain
So this is an obvious must-do activity. Beware that the queues can be super long; I waited over an hour to get up there, maybe two? But the views are terrific, even from the cable car. It’s a really nice scene at the top, lots of paths to walk and views to take in. The weather is totally different from that hight. When I was there, it was over 20 degrees in the city, but super foggy and chilly up on the mountain. I still spent a couple hours there, taking photos. Lion’s Head is another peak to hike, and Signal Hill is a third one, and the easiest. You can actually just drive ride up to this one, or take a cheap Uber.
Afternoon in Simon’s Town
This little village outside of Cape Town proper is super charming. It’s a lovely place to spend an afternoon. I suppose the most amazing part is the beach full of penguins! They’re everywhere, really, and quite adorable. It’s really cool to see such a huge gathering of them. Aside from the cute birds, this town is a nice place to grab a beer and some fish & chips, maybe get a daytime buzz going.
Excursion to Cape Point
This is a large national park destination. You take a car there, or maybe a bus. Maybe you need to queue here too, in a long line of cars. What’s there? Well, Cape Point was too foggy and rainy when I went up to the top, so Cape Point itself was uneventful for me. Having driven out there, Idk if I’d try again. The Cape of Good Hope is part of the same park area as Cape Point. It’s advertised as the southernmost point of the African continent, but that’s not really true. At the spot, it’s called the south-westernmost point, which I guess counts for something. It is a nice area - a fresh beach, crashing waves from the Atlantic, mountains, some wildlife.
Driving Chapman’s Peak
From Cape Point back into the city, you take a road Chapman’s Peak Drive. There’s a lookout point here, and it’s one of the most sublime places I’ve ever been. And when I say sublime, I mean that in its fullest sense - it’s beautiful in that most overwhelming natural way. A mix of awe and terror at the vastness of the universe, and how small you feel within it. It gave me chills to stand at the cliff, to behold the immense sense of proportion stretching out before me. The weather wasn’t good, and it was hard to properly photograph. I guess you have to be there.
Stellenbosch wine tasting
This is a getaway sort of place. It’s the famous wine region of Cape Town, of South Africa generally, technically its own city, or municipality. I didn’t see the town itself, but had an amazing meal and wine tasting at Rust en Vrede - a posh experience in a beautiful setting. The rolling hills and natural greenery in this entire area are a bit like Napa or Tuscany. It’s nourishment for the body and soul alike. My parents really loved it.
Bloubergstrand beach walk
This is a peaceful neighborhood 20 minutes north of the rest of Cape Town. It features perhaps the best view of Table Mountain at a distance. There are lots of kite-surfers and other such sporty types here. It’s a decidedly more low-key vibe, full of pastels and plate-glass sliding doors. I had a wonderful sunset beach walk here, and enjoyed pizza & beer at the Blue Peter afterward.
I couldn’t do everything in my week in Cape Town. I didn’t make it to Hout Bay, or to one of the warm beaches in False Bay. The university area is supposed to be worthwhile, along with Green Point and Sea View. If staying longer, I’d be sure to explore these areas, and also just bask longer in the overall beautiful vibes of the city.
In general, I felt a bit like I was in San Francisco - the brisk summer wind is similar, along with the overall loveliness. There are also similar social blights, like homelessness and mild racial tension. South Africa is an interesting place and you should definitely study its recent history. I was meant to go to Robben Island, but the boat excursion was canceled due to high winds. I still spent some time at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront. He was an awesome man. Too bad he’s gone. But he’s not forgotten.
Anyway, enjoy Cape Town!