Best Things to Do in Cape Town: 11 Must-See Places

Cape Town—the Mother City, breathtaking and brimming with things to do. You can’t beat South Africa’s cultural capital for natural beauty, from the impressive and ever-present Table Mountain to glorious stretches of golden beach. Here you’ll find world-class cuisine, a thriving fashion scene, inspired art and design, independent shops, coffee roasters, food markets, and so much more, all waiting to be explored.

Here are our top 11 things to do and places to visit in Cape Town:

1. Table Mountain

The most iconic landmark of South Africa, Table Mountain is an awe-inspiring land mass overlooking Cape Town. A hike to the top, while a bit of a challenge, will be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views of the city, Robben Island, and the ocean. You can also take the leisurely approach and ride the scenic Table Mountain Cableway to the top.

View from Table Mountain. Photo courtesy of Katie Marta

2. V&A Waterfront

Situated at the foot of Table Mountain and in the heart of Cape Town’s working harbor, the Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront is the perfect place to spend a free afternoon in Cape Town. Enjoy a leisurely stroll and soak up the vibrant, cosmopolitan atmosphere. The V&A Waterfront has over 80 restaurants on offer, ranging from rustic al fresco to fine dining. Make a visit to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre, where you can complete your visit with a walk through the craft and food markets or any of the high-end fashion boutiques.

V&A Waterfront in Cape Town. Image: South Africa Tourism

3. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

This local icon is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.

4. The Old Biscuit Mill

This vibrant, sky-lit market located in the industrial neighborhood of Woodstock is well loved by locals and tourists alike. Here you’ll find day and night markets, restaurants ranging from casual to gourmet, designer boutiques, artist workshops, and live entertainment. Every Saturday, the Neighbourgoods Market attracts flocks of visitors.

5. Robben Island

Robben Island, a World Heritage Site 5 miles offshore from Cape Town, is the setting of the infamous prison where Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, was held for 18 years. Robben Island tours depart daily from the V&A Waterfront and take approximately 3.5 hours round-trip.

Robben Island Museum. Image: Cape Town Tourism

6. District Six Museum

District Six is a former inner-city residential area of Cape Town, whose mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, and immigrants was dismantled under apartheid. The District Six Museum serves as a remembrance of the events of the apartheid era and has an impressive collection of historical materials, most of which were donated by its former residents.

7. Long Street

Long Street is one of Cape Town’s best spots for browsing antique shops, secondhand bookstores, or local fashion. It is famous as a bohemian hangout, and the street is lined with various ethnic restaurants and bars for a fun night out.

8. Clifton Beach

Clifton Beach is known as Cape Town’s St Tropez, featuring coves of white sand beaches separated by giant boulders on a turquoise blue ocean. Head to this palm-lined strip to people watch, play volleyball, or catch a tan while gazing up at the dramatic peaks of the Twelve Apostles mountain range.

Clifton Beaches and the Twelve Apostles. Image: Cape Town Tourism

9. Cape Winelands

With classic Cape Dutch architecture, mountainous surrounds, lavish restaurants, and award-winning wine, the Cape Winelands are bursting with breathtaking scenery and have rightly earned themselves the title of South Africa’s culinary capital. The Franschhoek Wine Tram is a convenient way to explore some of the best wineries in town.

10. Whale Watching

A scenic drive of just under 2 hours will bring you to Hermanus, one of the best places to see whales from land. Whale watching season is typically June to December, when Southern Right Whales gather in the shallow waters to give birth. You can also enjoy picturesque beaches and delicious seafood in town, or if you’re feeling adventurous, go cage diving with Great White Sharks!

Whale watching in Hermanus. Image: Grootbos Private Nature Reserve

11. Cape Peninsula

No visit to Cape Town would be complete without a coastal trip along the breathtaking Cape Peninsula, which showcases the region’s stunning beauty, including towering cliffs and heavenly beaches. Rent a car or join a day tour to see highlights including Cape Point, penguins on Boulders Beach, the magnificent Chapman’s Peak Drive, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, and all the quaint beach suburbs in between, like Hout Bay, Simon’s Town, and Fish Hoek.

Cape Point on the Cape Peninsula

Discover more inspiration for Cape Town vacations, or call our Africa travel specialists at (888) 367-0933 to start planning your handcrafted trip to South Africa!