If you’re debating whether Cape Town should be your next holiday destination, we give you the lowdown on why it should be on your travel bucket list, what time of year to visit, and what to do while you’re here.
Why choose Cape Town for your holidays?
Cape Town is continuously ranked as one of the most beautiful places in the world – this year alone, it was voted number three in the UK Telegraph’s top 50 greatest cities on earth and made the top 10 in Conde Nast Traveller’s 2022 Readers’ Choice Awards, as well as the top 25 list in the 2022 Travel + Leisure World’s Best Awards.
And no wonder – Cape Town’s extraordinary natural beauty alone makes it worth a visit. Dominated by Table Mountain and its fynbos-covered slopes, South Africa’s oldest city is a glorious melting pot of African and European influences, encompassing picture-perfect beaches, thrilling coastal drives, lush botanical gardens, thriving vineyards, and windswept nature reserves. Its outdoor charms, combined with a vibrant city centre and waterfront, thrilling food options, and an emerging contemporary art scene, prove to be an irresistible combination.
When to go to Cape Town?
While December and January may be the most popular months to visit Cape Town, I’d personally recommend booking a trip between late February and April. Why? First of all, it’s a lot less busy, which means that you’re more likely to bump into friendly locals than your next-door neighbour from home. At the same time, the days are still warm without being too hot, the infamous Cape Doctor (the city’s south-easterly summer wind) squeaks rather than howls, and the crisp autumn light bathes the city in the most flattering hues of gold, pink, and orange.
What to do in Cape Town?
With its breathtaking setting amongst mountains, vineyards and beaches, a holiday in Cape Town means a vast choice of outdoor activities, coupled with cultural experiences and gastronomic delights. Whether you want to hit the hiking trails, take in the sights, or just soak up the sun on the beach, it’s all right on your doorstep – and there’s something for everyone, whether you’re travelling as a couple, with family, or friends.
Below I list some of my favourites.
Conquer the mountains
Capetonians are an active bunch, and a sunrise or sunset hike up Lion’s Head is considered a rite of passage. It’s a bit of a workout but once you reach the summit (it will take you 45 minutes to an hour, depending on fitness level), and see the CBD and Table Mountain on one side and the Atlantic Seaboard spread out before you on the other, you’ll feel like you’re on top of the world.
And of course, no trip to Cape Town would be complete without scaling its most famous landmark, Table Mountain. Whizz up in the revolving cable car, or climb up – choose between the Platteklip Gorge trail from near the lower cable-car station, Kasteelspoort from Camps Bay, and Skeleton Gorge or Nursery Ravine from Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
Experience the V&A Waterfront
As popular among locals as it is among tourists, strolling around the V&A Waterfront, the pedestrianised dockside area of shops, restaurants, markets, and museums, is a classic Cape Town experience. Make sure to check out The Watershed, selling artisanal African items, Makers Landing, a South African food hub at the adjoining cruise terminal, and the contemporary Silo District (keep reading).
Explore Cape Town’s thriving art scene
Cape Town added another feather to its cap with the opening of the Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) in 2017, bringing one of the largest collections of contemporary African art
to a reimagined grain silo in the newly landscaped Silo District. Marvel at both the art and architecture, before taking the lift up to the rooftop of The Silo Hotel for brilliant views and cocktails (booking essential).
Other art spaces worth checking out include Everard Reed at the Waterfront, the Goodman Gallery in Green Point, WHATIFTHEWORLD and AVA (Association for Visual Arts) in the CBD, and the Norval Foundation in Constantia.
Visit one of the world’s most beautiful botanical gardens
Established in the early 20th century, few gardens today can match Kirstenbosch’s majestic setting against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s mighty Table Mountain. More than 7,000 of Southern Africa’s 22,000 plant species are grown here, including the Cape Floral Kingdom’s famous fynbos. Bring a picnic and don’t forget to explore the ‘boomslang’ tree canopy walkway, a curvaceous steel and timber bridge that soars through the trees and offers spectacular views of its surroundings.
Sip wine in Constantia
With its grand Cape Dutch estates, the leafy Constantia Wine Route is where the South African wine industry was born in 1685, creating the New World’s oldest winemaking heritage. Scenic wine farms such as Groot Constantia, Steenberg, Buitenverwachting, and Constantia Glen offer beautiful vineyard settings for lunch and a tasting. The best bit? You can reach them within a mere 20 minutes from central Cape Town.
Venture out to the Cape Winelands
For more outstanding wine offerings, head to the Winelands region of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl – hundreds of world-class wine estates offer historic or contemporary tasting rooms and restaurants with sweeping views. See our recommendations on where to sample the best wines and choose the most idyllic wine farm picnic spots.
Flop down on a sun-drenched beach
The Mother City is blessed with an extraordinary amount of the most gorgeous white stretches of sand dotted along its Atlantic and Indian Ocean coastlines, from Clifton and Camps Bay to Boulders Beach and beyond. For the best spots to drape your towel on, read our guide to Cape Town’s best beaches.
Follow the peninsula to Cape Point
A round-trip along the Cape Peninsula makes for a great day out. Start your loop down the Atlantic coast via Hout Bay and the dramatic Chapman’s Peak Drive (the setting for many a car commercial) to Cape Point Nature Reserve, returning along the peninsula’s False Bay side. Also known as the Cape of Good Hope, the nature reserve’s windswept beaches mark Africa’s southwestern-most point – climb to the 19th-century lighthouse for 360-degree views.
Stop at Cape Town’s bustling markets
Visiting a market is a popular weekend pastime for Capetonians – they are a great place to catch up with friends over coffee and artisanal food, and stock up on fresh produce and hand-crafted items. Cape Town’s most famous food hubs are the Oranjezicht City Farm Market at the V&A Waterfront, and the trendy Neighbourgoods Market at the atmospheric Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, with many more dotted throughout the city and the Winelands.
Where to eat in Cape Town
You’ll be amazed by Cape Town’s culinary prowess – from innovative fine-dining concepts such FYN, which entered the prestigious The World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2022 list at #37, to casual eateries, scenic rooftop spots, and buzzing street food stalls, the Mother City’s culinary scene is on fire. Find out more about my top restaurant recommendations, including my favourite breakfast spots and bars here.