Cape Town Travel Guide
Introduction to Cape Town
Seated below the iconic Table Mountain, Cape Town is not only South Africa’s most beautiful city, but it is also considered by many to be one of the world’s most beautiful places.
Given its outstanding natural surroundings, as well as a history that has brought people of European, Malay and African origin together here, it would be a shame if you missed out on seeing this place during your holiday in South Africa.
Cultural Attractions in Cape Town
Start your tour of Cape Town by taking a ferry across to Robben Island. Meaning Seal Island in Dutch, it was here where many leaders of the apartheid movement were held prisoner for much of the latter part of the 20th century.
Prior to this era though, Robben Island had a longer history of being a place where political prisoners and undesirables were separated from the rest of the population. Starting in the 17th century, the Dutch sent political prisoners from various parts of its global empire here.
Shortly after the end of Apartheid, Robben Island was refurbished and opened for tourists to see where resistance leaders such as Nelson Mandela were held. A UNESCO world heritage site, this is one sight that any visitor to Cape Town should make time in your schedule to see.
While the end of Apartheid was an important step towards the improvement of relations between the white minority and the African majority in South Africa, large gulfs in wealth inequality still exist.
This contrast in living conditions can best be seen by paying a visit to Langa Township. Consisting of homes that are considerably grittier than any other dwellings found in this city (it is not uncommon to find tin shacks here), the residents here are nonetheless proud of their neighborhood.
For the most culturally impactful tour possible, we recommend that you come here as part of a tour, as your guide will be able to pass along insights and give context to what you are seeing.
Another attractive place to visit in the Cape Town area is the neighborhood of Bo-Kaap. Originally known as the Malay quarter, the colorful homes of this culturally rich place are nothing short of a photographer’s dream.
Originally home to emancipated slaves imported by the Dutch from places such as Malaysia, Indonesia, India and Sri Lanka, they and their descendants took up residence in this part of Cape Town after they were freed by the British at the end of the 18th century.
If possible, be sure to drop by for Eid, the holiday that celebrates the end of Ramadan, as its celebration is a joyous time indeed.
Other Attractions in Cape Town
Cape Town’s awesome natural surroundings are also a big reason how it manages to attract considerable amounts of tourist visits each and every year. A trip up the tram into the heart of Table Mountain National Park will help you understand why this is the case.
As dramatic as the views on Table Mountain are from lower elevations, the views from on top of these flat peaks are even more incredible.
If you consider yourself to be an active traveler, you can hike up instead of taking the tram, but allow several hours for a leisurely climb up.
Another place that you will want to visit is the historically famous Cape of Good Hope. Mistaken for the southernmost tip of Africa by many (it’s not – those wishing to get to the bottom of the African continent will want to head 150 kilometers east to Cape Agulhas), it is here where the warm ocean currents of the Indian Ocean meet the cold ocean currents of the Atlantic.
As such, it has been viewed by sailors over the centuries as the point where one crossed over from one ocean to the other, making it a significant nautical landmark. Its beaches are also a great place to spot penguins, as there are two colonies that can be found here.
When the time comes to relax during your visit to Cape Town, grab a good book and head to the Clifton Beaches. Separated into four sections by granite boulders and backed by some of the most expensive real estate in all of South Africa, the Clifton beaches are definitely a place to see and be seen in Cape Town.
As beautiful as your surroundings can be, don’t be fooled. While the water looks like something that you would see in the Caribbean, it flows in straight from Antarctica (the water hovers around 12 degrees in summer – brr!). If you are looking for an experience that will wake you up, go ahead and jump in, but those looking for a relaxing swim will be disappointed.