Live in the city like a local…

As a South African, I may be biased, but because it so frequently features in travel bucket list compilations and prettiest destination rankings, I feel entirely confident in claiming Cape Town as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Which is why Cape Town need’s a stand-alone travel guide

Known for its prestigious wine farms, the imposing figure of Table Mountain and pristine beaches – the Western Cape has many angles of aesthetic allure, but is it a beauty that goes beyond skin deep? Find out as we take you on a whistle-stop tour of how to get the best out of Cape Town.

The traditional tourist guide to Cape Town

Tourist traps are popular for a reason. These are the top, on-the-beaten-track sights and attractions that are well worth a visit if it’s your first time in the area.

Table Mountain and Lion’s Head

It wouldn’t be a touristic trip to Cape Town without taking the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain. If you’re up for it you can also hike up to the top, or back down. Lion’s Head is the lesser-known hike that is just off to the side of Table Mountain which is also a great spot for trekking.

*Local tip*

It is a little bit pricier, but if you don’t want to wait in a long queue to go up Table Mountain, we suggest buying the fast-track tickets from the official website, priced at Dhs187. Fancy a hill walk? We recommend that you do the hiking trails up to Lion’s Head or Table Mountain as a group. Safety in numbers.

Chapman’s Peak

They often say it’s not about the destination but about the journey and Chapman’s Peak is the perfect live case study of this. It truly is one of the most spectacularly scenic drives on the planet. If you’ve just finished your penguin-watching at Boulders Beach, the start of Chapman’s Peak is a short 20-minute drive away. Cruise through the neighbourhoods before starting what will feel like a life-changing drive. It’ll take you from Noordhoek through to Hout Bay. There are minor toll fees to be paid when driving but this is to keep the road well maintained from landslides that can occur. It’s only Dhs12, and well worth it.

Boulder’s Beach

There are penguins in Africa? Yes, and believe it or not, they didn’t end up there thanks to a fluke of being washed up on the shores, but they do smile and sometimes wave.

A scenic drive away from the Cape Town CBD is Simon’s Town, which is home to a community of African Penguins. There are two ways to see the penguins: first, by wandering along the boardwalk at the sanctuary next to Foxy Beach. This is the best way to ensure that their nests stay safe.

There is an entry fee of Dhs38 for international visitors. Second, to get a little bit close and personal with the birds, you can lay out your towel and enjoy the penguins on Foxy or Boulders Beach.

*Local Tips* 

If you’ve driven yourself to Boulders Beach, park on the main road rather than driving through the narrow residential area.

If you’re sporting long hair, be sure to tie your hair up as it can get windy on the beach.

If you’re not spending the day on the beach and just want to see the penguins – pack a jacket to protect yourself from the windswept sand.

Bo-Kaap and the V&A Waterfront

travel guide for Cape Town

Known for its brightly coloured homes and cobblestone roads – Bo-Kaap is a popular stop for the Instagram generation.

The area is mostly residential so grab a few pics before wandering to the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum, which dates back to the 18th Century.

Next, head to a major section of the CBD – The V&A Waterfront. It is ideal for grabbing a quick bite to eat along the waterfront, getting some shopping done and maybe spotting some sea lions playing on the docks.

*Local tip* 

If you’re visiting Bo-Kaap, like most areas of South Africa, it’s best to visit during the day and with a group of people.

Where to stay

The Mount Nelson

travel guide for Cape Town

A Belmond Hotel, located in Gardens, Cape Town is a stunning option if you want to treat yourself to an indulgent stay.

Rates start from Dhs4,668.

Cape Grace

Wanting to stay slightly more central but still enjoy the luxurious life? Cape Grace is located in West Quay at the V&A Waterfront and is a gorgeous option.

The hotel officially opens this April and rates start from Dhs3,983.

Bartinney Wine Estate

There are also plenty of bed and breakfasts and guest houses on wine farms perfect for a getaway, such as the loft available at Bartinney Wine Estate in Stellenbosch where a minimum two-night stay will cost Dhs904 through Airbnb.

Where to wine farm

Bartinney Private Cellar

travel guide for Cape Town

Bartinney Private Cellar On a dramatic slope of the Botmaskop range, the private cellars of Bartinney Wine Estate are like a painting. Sit on a terrace looking out at the vineyards and the mountainous surroundings as you sip on crisp wine.

Tired of drinking wine? They also have their very own gin tasting that will cost Dhs32 where you will be taught to taste the seasons in gin – sounds bizarre but trust us, you can really taste the dryness in the summer gin.

Bartinney Private Cellar, Helshoogte Way, Stellenbosch, South Africa, tastings start from Dhs15.

Fairview Wine and Cheese

travel guide for Cape Town

A working farm that creates artisanal wine, cheese and meats. Fairview does have a restaurant you can visit to enjoy all the incredible farm-to-table ingredients – but we must recommend doing their wine tasting first. Stand around their barrel-shaped pods and choose from a range of different pairings.

We recommend the Farmer’s Tasting, which consists of a selection of six wines paired with four in-house-made cheeses and two cured meats. This will only cost Dhs19 per person.

Fairview Wine and Cheese, Suid-Agter Paarl road, Suider, Paarl, South Africa. tastings from Dhs7

Thelema Mountain Vinyards

Located in the Simonsberg Mountain range in Stellenbosch, Thelema Mountain Vineyards are a sight to behold. Surrounded by incredible scenery makes the tasting that much sweeter. The history of the manor house dates back to the 1980s when the first wines were released under the Thelema label. The tastings at Thelema start from Dhs35 but the fee is waived if you purchase the wine.

Thelema Mountain Vinyards, Helshoogte road, Stellenbosch, South Africa, tastings from Dhs35.

Off the beaten track

Ashia Cheetah Conservation

travel guide for Cape Town

Not all zoos are for conservation, and not all conservation sites are zoos. Ashia Cheetah Conservation is a testament to the love and care South Africans have towards the animals that inhabit the country.

Started by a German couple, Ashia is a non-profit conservation centre that was founded to prevent the further decline of the wild population.

Functioning as a conservation centre first, they are not always open for walking tours – however, on Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays the team offers a tour of the centre. Each tour only allows 10 guests for the safety of the animals and no children under 16 are allowed.

Walk around the grounds and get a peek into the programme, learn about the genetics of the animals and how they may contribute to the breeding of cheetahs, as well as interesting facts about the resident animals.

Eben Farm 633, Sonstraal road, Paarl, South Africa. Wed, Sat, Sun 9am to 7pm, tickets start from Dhs78 subject to walking tour availability.

A deep dive into the history

travel guide for Cape Town

It’s no secret that South Africa has a troubled history, but what makes it very special is the fact that we celebrate the leaps and bounds that our country has achieved to be where it is today.

There are plenty of incredible museums that offer an insight into the history of Cape Town such as the District Six Museum, which highlights memories and remnants of District Six – a vibrant community that was made up of freed slaves, artisans, labourers and immigrants, until 1966 when the area was declared a “white area” and more than 60,ooo people were displaced and moved to the outskirts of Cape Town and their houses were flattened by bulldozers.

District Six Museum, 25A Butienkant Street, Cape Town, tickets start from Dhs11.

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