Guest Post by Alicia Chamaille
Cape Town has a lot to offer. Just ask anyone who’s visited or lived in the city and you’ll likely hear a variation of “it’s a pretty special place.”
That’s because there’s only a few cities in the world where you can drive 30 minutes in any direction from the city centre and hit either the ocean, a mountain range, or the winelands.
And buzzing at the centre is a hive of activity from museums and art galleries to high-end restaurants and quirky hole-in-the-wall eateries.
With so much to choose from, deciding on what to do and where to go can be a challenge.
And while us locals do enjoy many of the typical guidebook itineraries, this list will include things you won’t find on your typical tourist sites like a series of concerts at a botanical garden and brunching at a market.
I’ve also included my favourite activity too.
So without further ado, here are the best things to do in Cape Town!
Cape Town is hashtag blessed with an abundance of natural beauty. And the best way to take in all its beauty is from the dizzying heights of the mountainside.
There are a number of easy to difficult routes within the city and further out. Most locals will opt for a hike up Lions. It’s less touristy and just as busy as Table Mountain.
Lions Head’s 360 views include the city bowl, Table Mountain, and Cape Town’s popular Long Beach main strip. The hike starts at the Lions Head parking lot and spirals to the top.
Towards the end, you have to either climb up ladders or use chains to pull yourself up.
Other local favourites are Table Mountain with sweeping views of the city bowl, Newlands Forest which has views stretching towards the Cape Winelands mountain ranges and offers a shadier experience and a hike in the Winelands where, in winter, you might just catch some snow.
You can find more information such as duration, suggested fitness level, and what to bring on any of our local hiking routes on AllTrails.
No matter what route you decide to go for, remember to wear sturdy shoes and to pack a hat and plenty of water because even the winter sun can be harsh.
Watching the sunset from Signal Hill
Watching the sunset into the ocean from Signal Hill is a Cape Town tradition.
Any Capetonian worth their salt will have made the journey up the winding road along the hillside to the crowded parking lot, found a spot, and eagerly awaited for the magical hour.
You’ll often find the hillside crowded with friends, families, and couples enjoying a few snacks and, maybe, even a tipple.
Get there early or you’ll struggle to find parking and bring a camera. There are plenty of Instagram worthy pictures to snap from Lions Head and Table Mountain to the city bowl and the Atlantic seaboard.
While you’re waiting for the sun to set, keep an eye on the moon, it’ll likely start rising before the sun is completely down.
Surfing in Muizenberg
Locals love to surf and while we have a plethora of beaches to choose from, everyone seems to favour the small beach-side town of Muizenberg.
On any given day, you’ll find families tanning themselves on beach towels splayed out across the white sand and children frolicking in the water while others learn to surf.
The long beach is the ideal place to learn to surf or to catch a wave for those who already have the know-how. The beach is long, and there’s little in terms of rocks to interrupt the waves.
The only obstacles surfers have to look out for are other surfers and the occasional shark. But before you start worrying too much, there’s a stationed shark watch, warning flags, and sirens just in case.
Brunching at a market
Capetonians love to eat, especially craft food at a weekend market. Two of our favourite markets are the Oranjezicht City Farmers Market (OCFM) which moved from the Oranjezicht suburb to the Waterfront some years ago and Woodstock’s Neighbourgoods Market.
At both markets, you can find a number of delicious food stalls selling tasty treats and savoury dishes that’ll make you salivate.
The OCFM is your neighbourhood farmers produce market turned sea-side artisanal food market. It still sells fresh produce as well as a few handcrafted items that delight the hip-young families that frequent the market with their dogs in tow.
Whereas the Neighbourgoods market (also dog-friendly) is where you’ll find the city’s hipsters. On one side you’ll find a series of food stalls and on the other jewellery, clothing and Cape Town’s most lauded restaurant.
It also has live music which gives the market a youthful, funky beat.
Eating out at a main street
Speaking of lauded restaurants, the city is filled with note-worthy eateries and they all seem to huddle around the same main streets, namely Bree Street, Kloof Street and Sea Point’s Main Street.
Bree Street is home to some big name restaurants and some more unique ones too but don’t count on your favourite new spot being around for too long.
Kloof Street is where you’ll find people going for a night out and after work drinks while Sea Point’s Main Road is where you go for a comfortable evening.
Then there’s the topnotch restaurants you’ll find in the Cape Winelands. While we’ll mostly save the eating out in the winelands for special occasions, you can find some budget-friendly options and regular specials.
Take Drum restaurant in Stellenbosch for example. It mostly features insanely tasty fine dining dishes but it also has a reasonably priced and equally delicious pasta dish. You also can’t go wrong ordering a cheese platter at one of the many wine farm restaurants.
Fish and chips by the ocean
We love seafood and we do it well. The city has a smorgasbord of restaurants dedicated to the stuff but some of our favourites are the cheap and cheerful fish and chip shops you’ll find at our coastal corners of Hout Bay and Kalk Bay.
In the Hout Bay corner you’ll find Fish on the Rocks and in Kalk Bay’s corner, you’ll find Kalky’s. At both places, you’ll find greasy hake, snoek, and calamari with chips and you get what you pay for.
There’s nothing fancy or pretentious about these places and their no-frills approach attracts crowds of all backgrounds.
Cultural Activities for culture-fiends
Summer Sunset Concerts at Kirstenbosch
Kirstenbosch is popular. It always has been and it always will be what with its gorgeous floral and large open fields perfect for picnics and kid-friendly games.
Throughout summer on a Sunday evening, you’ll find Kirstenbosch teaming with people visiting the garden for their Summer Sunset Concert Series.
The highly anticipated open-air concert series usually features top performing local bands and some international artists too.
Cape Town is an easy drive away from roughly 300 wine farms. (There are around 800 in the Western Cape in total).
So when it comes to wine tasting, we’re spoilt for choice and although we don’t need one, we’ll take any excuse to drive to the winelands and get our tasting on.
Many of the wine farms offer interesting pairings too. This means that you can try something new each time like cupcakes and wine, ice cream and wine, wine ice cream and wine, tapas and wine, biltong and wine, and even pizza and wine.
Not to mention, the region’s oldest wine farm, Groot Constantia, is based right here in the city. It has a wonderful cheese platter and a chocolate and wine pairing.
You can often find us locals exploring our own backyards. We’ll take a drive and explore the myriad of small towns and nature reserves that surround the city.
We’ll go window shopping in boutiques, micro game drives, and chase the sun while we’re at it. We’ll stop in cute cafes and quaint farm stalls to top up on tasty treats and drinks for the drive.
Some of our favourite day trips include the charming seaside towns of Fish Hoek and Kalk Bay, each with an eclectic collection of boutique shops and cafes, and a mix of colourful characters.
And come August and September, you’ll find tons of locals flocking to the West Coast to see the spring wildflowers or the small village of Philadelphia in search of the perfect photo of the ever-glorious yellow canola fields.
My personal favourite
For a girl with quite the sweet tooth, nothing beats an afternoon of chocolate tasting at My Sugar chocolate bar.
It’s a stone’s throw from the Sea Point Promenade which means you can grab one of their over the top milkshakes or hot chocolates and a box of doughnuts, find a seat with a view of the ocean and enjoy.
They have a wide range of handcrafted chocolates in beautiful colourful designs. Among my favourite treats are the Rainbow Cookie, butter cookie batter in a milk chocolate dome, and the dark chocolate salted caramel pretzel bark which is every bit as delicious as it sounds.
Now that you know what us locals like to get up to, you can join us on our next adventures. Your only concern will be deciding on what to do first.
About the author
Alicia is a curly-haired, 20-something freelance writer and photographer. She’s also an avid horse rider, a bookworm who doesn’t read enough and a proud dog mum.
She comes from a tiny village in France, was raised in Cape Town and lived a few years in England. She enjoys travelling, loves food, enjoying eating out and finds cooking soothing.
In July 2020, she launched an online portfolio to showcase her writing and photography where she shares her journey with you.
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