From hiking up Table Mountain to swimming with penguins, Cape Town brims with bucket-list moments. As one of the friendliest, most cosmopolitan cities in South Africa, it’s a dream for solo travellers keen on outdoor pursuits and cultural immersion.
What’s the vibe?
Cape Town is a whirl of history, culture and natural beauty. You can be sipping cocktails at a waterfront bar and 15 minutes later hiking up a mountain or sunbathing on a dazzling, sandy beach.
A Cape Town solo trip overview
Aim for four or five days minimum. Climbing Table Mountain or Lion’s Head is a must, as is exploring the V&A Waterfront. Bree Street and Kloof Street are foodie-fabulous, while Bo-Kaap is a rainbow-coloured delight. Fancy the beach? Hit Camps Bay. And don’t miss Robben Island, Simon’s Town, Cape Point or Stellenbosch.
Where to stay in Cape Town as a solo traveller
Looking for an affordable base where you can meet other travellers? There are plenty of reputable hostels – for example, Never@Home and 91 Loop. Upscale base with magnificent Table Mountain views? Check out the Cape Milner, with its own tapas and cocktail bar. Mojo Hotel, meanwhile, is a cool spot above a street-food and artisan-craft market in Sea Point. For standout luxury, there’s Ellerman House – with sea-view suites in a converted Edwardian mansion – or try Cape Grace, for the spa, whisky lounge and gourmet restaurant.
There’s a leisurely pace to this neighbourhood, just west of the city centre. The eclectic restaurants and variety of accommodation attract plenty of solo travellers – while the beachside promenade is a popular spot for jogging, cycling and idle strolls.
Following a creative boom, this is one of Cape Town’s oldest, most diverse neighbourhoods – all street murals, galleries, craft breweries, quirky markets and innovative restaurants. Think Shoreditch or Brooklyn, with a slightly grittier edge.
It’s overlooked by visitors, but this tiny central neighbourhood is one of the safest, most convenient places in Cape Town. It has a village-like feel, with cobblestones, cute coffee shops and pastel-coloured houses. It’s also the hub of Cape Town’s LGBTQ+ scene.
What to do in Cape Town as a solo traveller
Adrenaline junkie, wildlife-lover or culture connoisseur, you won’t run out of things to do in the city – and you don’t have to venture far to visit game reserves, vineyards, mountains and spectacular coastline. Here’s our pick of the perfect activities to do in and around Cape Town.
Stretching for more than 50km (31mi), from Mouille Point south to Cape Point, the Cape Peninsula features some of South Africa’s most majestic coastal scenery. Surfing at Muizenberg Beach, swimming with penguins at Boulders Beach and hiking the cliffs of Cape Point are highlights. Look out for baboons, but don’t get too close – they’re deceptively feisty.
You’ll have the chance to go stand-up paddleboarding with penguins at Boulders Beach on a day tour of the Cape Peninsula on our 10-day South Africa trip.
A few miles from the mainland off Table Bay, this sombre outcrop was a prison for political activists until 1996. To explore it is a deeply moving experience. If you’re keen to learn more about South Africa’s past – particularly the influence of Nelson Mandela – it is essential viewing. Tours depart three times daily from the V&A Waterfront. Booking in advance is essential.
Eating and drinking in Cape Town
Savour Cape Town’s multicultural heritage in the sheer variety of food. A great place to start is the V&A Food Market: 40 stalls or more selling everything from poké bowls and fresh pasta to Cape Malay curries and wood-fired pizzas. For authentic comfort food, seek out boerewors (farmer’s sausage), vetkoek (deep-fried dough stuffed with minced meat and vegetables), bunny chow (hollowed-out bread filled with curry) and bobotie (a casserole of ground beef, fruit and an egg-custard topping).
Jason’s Bakery and Jarryd’s are among the many superb brunch spots – while the Devil’s Peak Salt River taproom and Woodstock Brewery are craft beer havens. In Cape Town, you’ve also got some of South Africa’s glitziest fine dining restaurants, such as the Pot Luck Club, for innovative small plates.
Stay safe, stay happy
Just be sensible – don’t walk alone at night, stick to tourist-friendly areas and take Ubers rather than public transport. Still unsure? Ask your hosts or hotel staff for advice. When hiking, consider going with a guide, joining a tour or hooking up with other travellers.
Tipping is customary in restaurants – if it isn’t already included, add an extra 10 percent on top of your bill. Politics, inequality and apartheid are highly sensitive issues, so bear this in mind if they come up in conversation. Generally, you’ll find people incredibly warm and welcoming.
Enrich your solo travel experience with a Local Insider and a small group of culturally curious travellers on Culture Trip’s 10-day South Africa adventure, which features a guided hike up Table Mountain (and cable car back down), a wine estate tour in Stellenbosch and a chance to spot the Big Five on a wildlife safari.
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