A Solo Traveller's Guide to Cape Town

Hiking to Lions Head, Cape Town, South Africa
Hiking to Lion's Head, Cape Town, South Africa | © Westend61 / Alamy Stock Photo
Joel Rabinowitz

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

Tokara Wine Estate and vineyards in Stellenbosch

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

Outdoor deck area at Ellerman House in Cape Town
Modern room at Mojo Hotel in Sea Point

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.

Sea Point

Architectural Landmark

A statue of a girl stands tall in the area called Sea Point in Cape Town, South Africa
© Tony French / Alamy Stock Photo

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.


Architectural Landmark

Bold street art on the side of a building in Woodstock, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
© Image Professionals / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Camps Bay

Architectural Landmark

Camps Bay ocean pool with the Twelve Apostles behind
© THP Creative / Alamy Stock Photo
If you need a beach on your doorstep, stay here. With white sand and clear water, it’s perfect for swimming and sunbathing. The road lining the shore pulses with places to eat and drink and an Uber into the centre takes 15-20 minutes.

De Waterkant

Architectural Landmark

Auto rickshaw driving in Loader Street, De Waterkant district, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
© Ulrich Doering / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Go mountain hiking

Natural Feature

A birds-eye view of Table mountain, Cape Town, South Africa
© Mauritius Images / Alamy Stock Photo
Climbing Table Mountain takes two to three hours – it’s a fairly steep, strenuous ascent requiring a reasonable level of fitness. On a clear day, the views from the summit are jaw-dropping. Lion’s Head (a 90-minute climb) is similarly rewarding for views of Table Mountain. Be warned: some sections involve ladders, with sheer drops on either side. Or conquer Signal Hill, idyllic as the sun sets over the Atlantic.

Explore the Cape Peninsula

Natural Feature

Woman with penguins, Spheniscus demersus on Boulders Beach, Cape Peninsula, South Africa
© Ariadne Van Zandbergen / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

Visit Robben Island

Historical Landmark

People standing in the District Six Museum
© Monica Wells / Alamy Stock Photo

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

Market on the Wharf at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

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.

Check out our guide to the best restaurants, bars, brunch cafes and food markets in Cape Town.

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.

Cultural need-to-knows

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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