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A holiday-maker’s paradise, Cape Town is packed with natural and man-made attractions that should be added to any itinerary for a true Cape experience. From natural wonders and bustling shopping malls to scenic seaside drives, here is a guide to exploring the top 10 landmarks in the Mother City.
The iconic flat-topped mountain is a hiker’s playground offering more than 300 routes to the 1,086 meter summit. If you’re not interested in breaking a sweat, hop on a cablecar and you’ll be taken straight to the top in no time. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway has provided millions of visitors with a world-class experience since 1929. The cablecars’ special revolving floors provide 360-degree views of the mountain and city. Take advantage of the sunset special in summer (November to February) when tickets are sold at half-price from 6 p.m., allowing patrons to enjoy an African sunset atop one of the New7Wonders of Nature.
The Victoria and Albert (V&A) Waterfront is one of the most visited attractions in Cape Town, boasting a string of local and international shops, restaurants, museums, residences and hotels. You could spend an entire day (or two) at the Waterfront shopping the latest fashion trends, eating the most delicious cuisine and exploring the many cultural attractions such as the Two Oceans Aquarium and the Chavonnes Battery Museum. The V&A Waterfront is named after Queen Victoria and her second son, Prince Alfred, who tipped the first load of stone to erect the breakwater for Cape Town’s harbor in 1860.
The city of Cape Town is regarded as the birthplace of South Africa and is known endearingly as the ‘Mother City’ by locals. Owing to its long and turbulent past, the city center is home to a host of historical and cultural attractions that are a must-see on any visit to the Cape. A great starting point is the Castle of Good Hope, the oldest colonial building in South Africa, followed by a walk along the ‘Museum Mile’ situated within the historic Company’s Garden. At Greenmarket Square you can pick up a variety of African curios and souvenirs before grabbing lunch at one of the top restaurants in Gardens or Bree Street.
Robben Island is a 5.07 square kilometer island in Table Bay famously known as the place where former South African president, Nelson Mandela, spent 18 years of his 27-year sentence in prison during apartheid. Since the beginning of the 17th century, Robben Island was used by the Dutch and British settlers, and later the South African government, to imprison political offenders and convicted criminals up until 1996. The island also served as a leper colony during the late 19th century. Today, Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site visited by thousands of tourists for tours of the island and its former prison via the daily ferry from the V&A Waterfront
The prominent peak to the right of Table Mountain is Lion’s Head, a favorite hiking spot boasting 360-degree views of the Cape Peninsula, Table Mountain and the city. Signal Hill is the smaller flat-topped hill extending from the lower slopes of Lion’s Head, known as the ‘lion’s rump.’ Both Lion’s Head and Signal Hill form part of the Table Mountain National Park and are accessible via Signal Hill Road, which ends at a parking lot atop the hill. Like Lion’s Head, Signal Hill offers spectacular views of the Cape Peninsula and is a great site to enjoy sundowners.
Secluded windswept beaches, magnificent views of the ocean and miles and miles of fynbos vistas form part of the phenomenal Cape Point Nature Reserve. Make your way up to the old lighthouse on foot or take the Flying Dutch Funicular and enjoy breathtaking views of the southwestern tip of Africa. Situated within Table Mountain National Park, the reserve boasts several hiking trails, water sport opportunities and picnic sites.
Explore the most beautiful garden in Africa and one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world: Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. Nestled against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden was established in 1913 to conserve and display the rich and diverse flora of southern Africa. The Garden displays a wide variety of unique plant life known as fynbos and cultivates over 7,000 plant species, including many rare and threatened species. Kirstenbosch lies in the heart of the Cape Floral Kingdom, recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
Discover one of the world’s most scenic drives, a nine kilometer winding road carved into the near vertical face of a mountain between the seaside towns of Hout Bay and Noordhoek. Affectionately known as ‘Chappies’, Chapman’s Peak Drive boasts sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean, Hout Bay and the Sentinel, a mountain peak known as the guardian of Hout Bay.
A visit to Cape Town would not be complete without a visit to the beautiful Cape Winelands. A mere 20 – 30 minute drive from the center of Cape Town, the many picturesque wine estates of the Cape are centered around 300-year-old towns such as Stellenbosch, Paarl, Constantia and Franschhoek. A getaway to the Winelands is perfect for spending languid days sipping award winning wines while enjoying top cuisine and magnificent views of the surrounding mountains and valleys.
Home to Cape Town’s most charismatic residents, the African Penguins, Boulders Beach is a popular attraction situated within Table Mountain National Park. Have a swim at the sheltered beach where you’ll find the cute seabirds sunning themselves on the ancient boulders or take a walk to the penguin viewing area at Foxy Beach.