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Cape Town is a city that can easily soak up several days of travel. Many travellers who initially pay cursory visits to the city end up returning for longer trips; some even relocate here to take in all it has to offer.
It’s important to remember that what to do each day depends on several factors: seasonal events, personal interests and the weather. In a city that can see four seasons in a day, the weather shifts depending on which side of the mountain visitors find themselves. Although it’s almost impossible to forecast the weather accurately for a week-long trip, it’s worth keeping an eye on the weather app to plan activities best suited for warm, or at least windless, weather.
Here is how to spend those seven days in one of the world’s most captivating cities.
Spend the first (clear and windless) day exploring Table Mountain. It may be necessary to move this activity around according to the weather, because the strong southeasterly winds during summer often force the cableway to close, and in winter the mountain may be shrouded in clouds.
For active travellers, at least half a day should be set aside for hiking the mountain. Most amateur hikers and first-time visitors head up the Platteklip Gorge, which although safe and predictable, is a long upward slog that’s often overrun by walkers.
There are other routes up the mountain. The India Venster route, for example, is one of the most scenic yet less travelled hikes in the city due to its narrow ledges.
Many visitors choose to hike up Table Mountain, and descend via the cable car. It’s also possible to do a return trip via the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. Once on top of Table Mountain, there are several flat and accessible paths and walks to explore, including a relatively easy stroll to Maclear’s Beacon, the highest point of the mountain.
After a hike up Table Mountain, it’s time to rest those weary legs. In summer there are few better ways to relax than a visit to one of the city’s beaches. Head down between Lion’s Head peak and Table Mountain towards the Atlantic Seaboard to find incredible beaches, like Bakoven Beach, Glen Beach, Camps Bay Beach, and the famous First Beach through Fourth Beach in Clifton.
If the weather has been good, venture to one of the restaurants in Camps Bay for dinner, which is within walking distance from the beaches. Although they primarily target tourists, and are priced accordingly, there are some establishments in the affluent suburb worth trying. For meat, the Hussar Grill is always an option, Codfather Seafood & Sushi is renowned for its fresh seafood or for a wallet-friendly pizza or pasta, the Col’cacchio chain ticks all the boxes.
Hop aboard one of the city’s popular red City Sightseeing buses and take a tour around this picturesque city. This is undoubtedly the best way to explore Cape Town as a first-time visitor. The audio tour includes information about key sights and attractions, and travellers can hop off at any of the attractions that pique their interest along the way.
The popular Cape Town route weaves through the central business district, to the foot of Table Mountain, and out across the Atlantic Seaboard. Some of the most popular stops include the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, Camps Bay and Sea Point.
Many people choose to ride the bus from start to finish, and some try to hop off at every attraction along the way. The best approach is somewhere in between. With seven days in the city, returning to some of the attractions is easy, so pick around three stops along the way to avoid the stress of trying to fit it all in on one day.
Take a walking tour of the city – some City Sightseeing tickets include a tour in the price – alternatively, join a free walking tour, or pay a guide to enjoy a smaller, more customised experience.
It’s also possible to explore the city on your own. Be aware of potential pickpockets, however Cape Town is generally safe during the day. For anyone new to the city, it’s useful to have a guide who’ll follow a route designed to showcase the best of Cape Town.
Cape Town’s southern peninsula is worthy of a full day’s exploration. There are several tour operators that will build an itinerary and provide transport for visitors without access to a car.
Start early and head towards the harbour town of Kalk Bay. Pick up a coffee and a quick breakfast at Olympia Cafe and Deli, which operates a bakery attached to its main restaurant; both are loved by locals. Take a walk around the harbour before continuing on to Simon’s Town, a naval suburb made famous by the colony of penguins on Boulders Beach. A raised walkway guarantees close-up sightings, or look out for stray penguins while exploring the beaches and boulders on either side of Boulders Beach without paying an admission fee.
Keep driving south towards Cape Point – it’s a spectacular natural park with towering cliffs, a famous peninsula jutting out into the ocean, pristine beaches and abundant wildlife. As one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions, it can get busy during peak periods, so arrive early.
Most tourists opt to drive to the end of the road and climb the stairs to the old lighthouse. It’s a walk worth doing for the views alone, but to escape the crowds there are some other attractions to consider. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Trail nearby offers equally incredible views, or head down to one of the quieter beaches on the western side of the park and spend a few hours there.
Continue the day trip along the road that skirts the city’s western peninsula, passing through charming seaside towns like Scarborough, Kommetjie and Noordhoek, where several restaurants such as the Foodbarn provide good options for a late lunch. Continue along the famous Champan’s Peak drive and, if timed correctly, bear witness to a dramatic sunset over the Atlantic.
Cape Town’s Winelands are like few others in the world. The grapes may be rivalled by other wine-producing countries, but the architecture, natural beauty and variety of options within an easy drive from the city are unsurpassed.
For those not planning to drink, and who are prepared to do some of the legwork researching the best estates to visit in the Cape, this can easily be a self-drive trip. Stellenbosch and Franschhoek can be reached in under two hours and, once there, estates are located minutes apart.
Alternatively, imbibe and leave the decision making to someone else by making use of any of the companies that offer day tours to the Winelands. Or, consider staying overnight in Franschhoek – there’s a popular wine tram that transports visitors to several of the top estates; there’s nothing quite like waking up in one of the most scenic wine valleys in the world.
The Victoria & Albert Waterfront is often a love it or hate it destination. Like many city waterfronts around the world, the V&A is undeniably touristy, but it’s still worthy of exploration – even more so given the recent addition of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, and it being the starting point for trips to Robben Island.
Departures to the island are weather-dependent, and tickets often sell out weeks in advance. Buy tickets online, and then explore the waterfront while waiting for departure.
Explore the canals and watch as the workers begin their days on the ships. For shoppers, anything can be purchased in the main centre but the true charm of the district lies in its working harbour.
There are endless lunch options at the V&A Waterfront, ranging from fast food to fine dining. The main restaurants in the area can be pricey and the quality does not always match the price, so instead opt for one of the outdoor dining areas to get an incredible seated view of the picturesque harbour.
After lunch, head to the newly opened Zeitz MOCAA, a stunning museum built into an old grain silo. The MOCAA features the very best of contemporary art from Africa and it’s the best place to spend an entire afternoon walking the labyrinthine building and soaking up the thought-provoking art and unbelievable architecture.
As the sun begins to set, head to The Silo Hotel. It’s a lavish hotel with rooms reserved only for the most upscale travellers, but on the sixth floor The Granary Cafe, Willaston Bar and The Silo Rooftop are open to the public – the Rooftop by reservation only. The food and drinks here are priced to match the location, but are well worth the premium given the incredible interiors and panoramic views over Table Mountain and the harbour.
For dinner, head to Cape Town’s popular Bree Street, which is considered the dining heart of the city with dozens of impressive restaurants lining both sides of this major thoroughfare. If budget allows, there are several remarkable restaurants to consider, but money-conscious travellers will easily find a good burger and a cold beer.
The joy of a seven-day stay means the trip will coincide with a weekend morning, when at least one of the city’s food markets will be open. The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock was one of the first Saturday markets, but these days the Oranjezicht City Farm Market, adjacent to the V&A Waterfront, is giving it a run for its money.
Start the day with a gentle walk or run along the beautiful Sea Point Promenade. It’s an 11-kilometre (6.8-mile) pedestrianised walkway that runs alongside the ocean. Pay a visit to the beautiful Green Point Urban Park as well – it’s free with waterways, indigenous plant life, playgrounds and various educational installations.
Afterwards, head to the Oranjezicht City Farm Market and pick up breakfast and other delicacies. It’s also a good place to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, meat and other ingredients.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is a beautiful place to explore on the weekend or a weekend morning. Take a picnic to enjoy on the sprawling lawns; stocking up at the market before heading out to the gardens is a great idea.
A few hours can easily be spent walking the pathways and marvelling at the biodiversity of South Africa in the gardens. This activity can also be combined with a visit to one of nearby Constantia’s many wine farms.
There’s no better way to end a trip to Cape Town than by getting an aerial perspective of the city. For those up for a hike, head up Lion’s Head early – making it to the top for sunrise is even better. The walk is moderate, and the 360-degree views from the top are well worth the energy exerted in getting there. Allow at least 90 minutes to get to the summit, including stops, around an hour enjoying the views and about one hour to descend.
Afterwards, head to one of the city’s beaches to cool off. For the all-important Table Mountain Instagram photo, venture north by car or MyCiTi bus to get a view from across the bay in the suburbs of Bloubergstrand, Big Bay, or Tableview. But the most idyllic beaches are located at the foot of the mountain. In summer, the most popular are the Clifton Beaches, where people go to see and be seen, and if the weather is favourable, the last day in the city should be spent revelling in one of the coastline’s famous sunsets.