Cape Town Travel Guide

Explore Cape Town

As one of the three capital cities of South Africa, Cape Town is a vibrant metropolis surprisingly surrounded by mountains, beaches, wine lands and forests. The Mother City truly has it all the trendiest cafes, most futuristic architecture, the biggest range of cultures in Africa, and of course mountains after mountains.

There are over 70 peaks above 300 m (980 ft) within Cape Town’s official city limits: of them all, the 1,000m-high Table Mountain is the star of the show.

Together with Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head on either side, they form a dramatic mountainous backdrop enclosing the central area of Cape Town, the so-called City Bowl.But drive 30 minutes away, and you’ll find yourself in the midst of winery estates, farms, historic townships, whale-watching hotspots and fishing villages.


TOP THINGS TO DO

Table Mountain

Overlooking the city like a mother figure, this flat-topped mountain is the prominent landmark of Cape Town. Voted as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, Table Mountain is known as the single richest floristic area in the world, with over 1460 species of plants. To get up to the top of the mountain, you can either hike up (which takes 2-3 hours) or take the aerial cableway (tickets cost 240 ZAR and each way takes five minutes).

Bo-Kaap

Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, this has been the traditional home of Cape Town’s Muslim population since the 18th century. The first settlers here came from the Malayan Archipelago in the 17th century, resulting in the construction of several mosques in the area — the oldest being the Auwal Mosque on Dorp Street. Today, it’s best known for its multi-coloured Cape Dutch houses and cobble stoned streets.

Robben Island

An island 6.9 km off the coast of Cape Town, this National Heritage Site was where former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years before the fall of apartheid. Three other former inmates of Robben Island have also become President of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe, and current President Jacob Zuma. To get there, catch a ferry from the V&A Waterfront (journey time is about 30 minutes).

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Founded in 1913, this world-famous botanical garden is tucked at the eastern foot of Table Mountain. The garden includes a large conservatory (The Botanical Society Conservatory) exhibiting plants from a number of different regions, including savanna, fynbos, karoo and others. From the outdoor gardens, several trails lead off along and up the mountain slopes — one of them is the Skeleton Gorge trail, an easy and popular route to the summit of Table Mountain.

Chapman’s Peak Drive

Dubbed one of the world’s most scenic drives, this day trip from Cape Town brings you along a spectacular road that hugs the near-vertical face of the mountain from Hout Bay to Noordhoek. Along the drive, you’ll be able to stop at quaint fishing villages such as Hout Bay, see penguins at Boulders Beach, and explore the Cape Point Nature Reserve.

Where to Eat and Drink

Easily the best culinary destination in Africa, Cape Town’s food scene is brewing with trendy bistros, top-of-the-end fine dining restaurants, sophisticated wineries, waterfront seafood diners and back-alley street food stands. Food here is an eclectic jumble of European flavors, African heritage and Asian influence. Those seeking halal food will be happy to know that Cape Malay cuisine is a local favourite and easily found in the Bo-Kaap Muslim district.


RECOMENDED PLACES TO EAT

Bokaap Kombuis

Known as the best Cape Malay restaurant in town, this halal diner has authentic, down-to-earth local fare to accompany 360-degree views of the Table Mountain and the bay. The specialty of the house is the tasting platter, which comes with South African favourite boboti, fish curry, prawn curry and roti (bread).

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Mezbaan

Another top-rated halal-certified restaurant, Mezbaan takes the best elements from India and Arabia and adds a contemporary twist to create one of Cape Town’s most original restaurants. Housed in the Hilton Cape Town Hotel, this plush restaurant is best known for its Thursday Curry Cup Buffet, which offers an impressive selection of curries, tandoori meat, kebabs and creamy yogurts.

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Reuben’s

Located in the One&Only Cape Town hotel, this upscale fine dining restaurant is the brainchild South Africa’s favorite celebrity chef Reuben Riffel. It showcases a menu that reflects a celebration of the Cape’s rich culinary heritage, embracing the ancient spice routes, the diversity of cultures that have influenced South African modern cuisine and the abundant fresh produce found along the shores.

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The Roundhouse

This former hunting lodge from 18th century is nestled in the glens of Table Mountain, revealing sweeping views of Camps Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. With a romantic atmosphere, the historical restaurant is famed for its contemporary European dishes that come with a distinct South African flair. The outside dining area,The Rumbullion, eases up on the fine dining and offers guests a tapas-style menu, while unwinding in the sun on the lush lawns.

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Kalky’s

Poised on the water’s edge at Kalk Bay, this cheap and casual diner is a local’s favorite for its reliable offering of cheap seafood and a classically Capetonian experience. As easy-going as they come, the canteen-like eatery serves up freshly caught fish and chips, calamari, crayfish and prawns for very reasonable prices.

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Recommended Places to Stay

Cape Grace Hotel

Staying at Cape Grace is an experience in itself. There is no better location in Cape Town than at the V&A Waterfront with a working harbour before you and the Table Mountain behind. Having been named one of the “Best City Hotels in Africa and the Middle East 2016”

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Ellerman House

Perched on the slopes of Lion’s Head in the upscale Bantry Bay district of Cape Town, this elegant boutique hotel is housed in a Cape Edwardian mansion, once the home of shipping magnates Sir John and Lady Ellerman.

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Steenberg Hotel

Located in the wine-growing region of Constantia (30 minutes from Cape Town city center), this hotel is perfect for those who love good food and nature. This Cape’s first farm, established in 1682, has been transformed into a five-star heritage hotel with 24 tastefully-designed rooms

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Chartfield Guesthouse

Overlooking the picturesque Kalk Bay, this budget guesthouse is a haven created to whisk you away from all the cares of the world. The 120-year-old grand old house has been lovingly restored into a cozy and welcoming hotel with unrivaled sea views.

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Best Time to Go

Being in the southern hemisphere, Cape Town experiences the four seasons reversed: summer from December to February, winter from June to August and so on. Summer is the most popular and expensive time to visit as weather is terrific at around 20 to 25°C with bright sunshine and clear skies throughout.

Hotel and tour prices are jacked up during this time, so it’s best to avoid the city towards the end and beginning of the year. Meanwhile, Cape Town is clear of tourists in the winter months when chilly weather (between 7 to 10°C) and frequent rainfall puts a damper on everyone’s holiday mood.

The best time to visit Cape Town is without a doubt in shoulder seasons — which fall in spring (September to November) and autumn (March to May). The weather is mild at 15 to 20°C, prices are lower, and crowds are fewer.


Getting There

Several airlines fly from Saudi Arabia to Cape Town, including Emirates, Ethiopian Airlines, and Turkish Airlines. Direct flights are not available at this time, and most flights to Cape Town include one or two connections. Riyadh offers the most flights, with a minimum journey time of 14 hours.

Getting from Airport to City
  • By Bus

    MyCiti local bus service runs a route (A01) between the Civic Centre in the city and Cape Town International Airport. Services run between 05:00 until midnight, from the Public Transport Plaza opposite the Central Terminal Building entrance. The journey to the city centre takes approximately 30 minutes and a single fare costs around 80ZAR.

  • By Taxi

    Metered taxis are readily available at the Public Transport Plaza. The journey to the centre takes around 15 minutes and costs between 180 to 280 ZAR each way.



Extra tips
  • In South Africa, there are 11 official languages: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tsonga, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu. In Cape Town, most people speak Afrikaans, Xhosa, and English. You’ll be able to get around in English.

  • The currency in Cape Town is the South African Rand (ZAR). The current exchange rate is 1 SAR to 3.85 ZAR.

  • South African electricity supplies 220/230 voltage at 50 hertz.

  • The plugs in South Africa are usually round pinned with 15 amp 3-prong or 5 amp 2-prong.