Cape Town most popular attractions

Cape Town is a unique destination where natural beauty, a fascinating yet turbulent history and enchanting cultures meet.

With its iconic and majestic Table Mountain as the backdrop, Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The wide cultural spectrum found in the city can be experienced by travellers in the wide range of attractions that the city has to offer.

Definitely, with the mountains, the sea, and the beautiful people, all baked in a Mediterranean climate, there are plenty of things to do in Cape Town. But with so much to choose from, how do you decide?

We have come up with a selection of Cape Town’s best, to help you narrow things down a little. Here are the most popular attractions in the Mother City:

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is undoubtedly South Africa's most famous landmark. Located at 1067 metres above sea level, it offers outstanding views of the city of Cape Town.

Take a cable car ride and explore Table Mountain’s summit, learn about the unique flora and fauna, take a guided tour or explore the hiking trails or soak up the scenic views-there is plenty to do at Table Mountain.

A 5 minute ride in the rotating Cable Car will take visitors up to the top of Table Mountain where a 360 degree view of Cape Town awaits with its bustling city, azure waters and sandy white beaches.

Spend some time wandering around and taking pictures of the views below and the beautiful flora and fauna on the mountain itself. Rock hyrax (Dassies) are common on the top of the mountain and visitors may enjoy watching their family antics as they skip and jump along the rocks or bathe in the sunshine.

There are two organised guided tours of the mountain that are offered to visitors free of charge, one at 10h00 and one at 12h00 daily. There is also a restaurant where guests can enjoy some refreshments.

Robben Island

A short ferry ride from Cape Town's V&A Waterfront will take you to Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 12 kms from Cape Town. The ferry ride approaching Robben Island and returning to V&A Waterfront across Table Bay displays a spectacular view of the city, Table Mountain and its coastline.

A tour of Robben Island takes approximately 3 hours and will last a lifetime in your mind. Once a prison to political activists and leaders during the Apartheid years and most famously, the past president Nelson Mandela, today Robben Island is a living museum.

The island environment is home to a diverse wildlife and is, at the same time, a man-made reminder of South Africa's history. Some tour guides are ex-political prisoners whose first hand accounts serve as commentary on the 45 minute bus ride tour of the island.

The tour of the prison museum including the former prison cell of Nelson Mandela. The island bear testimony to Mandela's great legacy to the South African nation.

It is also a stark reminder of the dark past of the nation and represents hope.

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is set against the breath-taking backdrop of the iconic Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, Devil’s Peak and Signal Hill, which all loom over this shopping Mecca to create a perfect setting. This is a hub of boutiques, restaurants, entertainment, curios, markets and one-of-a-kind outlets.

Though it is widely recognised as a premier shopping destination, V&A Waterfront also offers a wide range of activities and attractions which appeal to a large number of persons. People can go on a shopping spree at Victoria's Wharf, Watershed, Red Shed and Waterfront Craft Market or even V & A Market on the Wharf.

Apart from that, V&A Waterfront also has an amphitheatre, several museums, the world-famous Two Oceans Aquarium with its multiple interesting exhibits and many restaurants for the food-lovers!

Even better, V&A Waterfront has a helipad, inviting the visitors to take a helicopter tour over the beautiful town of Cape Town. Also, a ferry ride from V&A Waterfront can take visitors to the nearby famous Robben Island.

Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope

At the very south-western tip of Africa is the magnificent Cape Point, where rugged rock faces meet with the icy blue of the Atlantic Ocean. There are trails leading to the very tip of the peninsula, which promise breath-taking views, as well as tourist attractions and facilities.

From the car park it is a short but fairly steep walk up to the lighthouse at Cape Point but then you can always take the funicular. The views are immense and you'll get great panoramas of the ocean, both peninsula coastlines, dramatic cliffs and the clean white sweep of Dias Beach far below.

After that, take a picnic down to Dias Beach where you are likely to have the whole place to yourself. Alternatively, you can enjoy a great lunch at the Two Oceans Restaurant and continue to admire the ocean views over the rim of a wineglass from the wooden deck of the Two Oceans Restaurant

For that classic Cape Point photo in front of the “Most South-Western Point of the African Continent” sign, either drive to the Cape of Good Hope or hike along the cliff-hugging footpath-it will take about 45 minutes each way.

The Cape of Good Hope is rich in cultural and natural heritage. It is also one of the top tourist destinations in South Africa. It is also the only section of the Table Mountain National Park which is fenced due to its variety of wildlife. Visitors should watch for eland, red hartebeest, bontebok and zebra.

At the Buffelsfontein Visitor Centre, plants and animals are showcased. At the point, visitors can feast their eyes with excellent viewing opportunities from both lighthouses that adorn the most south western point in Africa. The lighthouse is can be reached on foot or one can catch the Flying Dutchman funicular to the top.

Cape of Good Hope is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts and offers hiking, surfing, angling, picnicking, beaching and cycling opportunities against the spectacular backdrop of the mountains and coastline of the Cape Peninsula.

Chapman's Peak

The Chapman's Peak Drive on the Atlantic Coast in Cape Town is one of the most spectacular coastal drives in South Africa and in the world as well. The Chapman's Peak Drive offers breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and wonderful rock formations.

It can be reached from Cape Town driving towards Camps Bay and Hout Bay. This steep and winding road runs along a mountain range and ends in a town called Noordhoek where the street reaches sea level again.

Affectionately known as “Chappies”, this 9km route, with its endless curves is a must for anyone who is passionate about the majestic Cape Town scenery, with sheer drops to the sea below and towering mountains. The drive offers stunning 180 degree views and it is a photographers dream.

There are many areas along the route where you can stop and take in the scenery or sit down for a relaxing picnic. Also, it is a paradise for motorists, sightseers, picnickers, runners, hikers and bikers.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

Any visit to Cape Town will be incomplete without a stroll through the most beautiful garden in Africa – the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. It is one of the most highly acclaimed botanical gardens in the world on the slopes of Table Mountain.

The garden lies in the heart of the Cape Floristic Region, which was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004. Thus, Kirstenbosch became the first botanic garden in the world to be included within a natural World Heritage Site.

Indeed, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden lives up to its reputation as the most beautiful garden in Africa and 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 Cape Town’s Table Mountain

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden should be high on any visitor’s list of things to do in Cape Town. Here, you can have a picnic with the family, enjoy a summer musical concert on the lawn or simply sip some warm coffee at the Visitors' Centre and do some shopping! You can also catch a glimpse of the large bird population, the Egyptian geese and the resident meercats.

Boulders Penguin Colony

Boulders Beach, named after the big granite boulders that offer refuge from the wind, is not only one of the most sheltered beaches in Cape Town but it is also home to a breeding colony of over 2000 African Penguins.

Boulders beach is part of the Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area and an access fee is required to go to the beach. Strict control to the beach makes it that the beach is always clean and tidy.

Once you have enjoyed the pristine sand, feel free to explore the large 540 million year-old granite boulders, small rock pools and little bays quite close to the flightless little swimming birds. For a better view of the African Penguins and their nesting and breeding sites, a walkway has been built that visitors can take for an intimate tour of the area these endangered birds call home.

However, for a best penguin viewing experience, at a short distance away from from Boulders beach, Foxy Beach is the place to be! The board walks are all wheelchair-friendly and will take you to within metres of the birds

Cape Wine Routes

When one reflects on the numerous splendours of the Cape, then the Cape Wine Routes usually top the list. Visitors, from the all across the country as well as from different parts of the world flock to the Cape Wine Routes to relish all that it has to offer- lush green valleys, rugged mountains, beautiful vineyards and wonderful wine-tasting!

Proud mountain ranges surround the fertile green valleys of the Cape Winelands. The towns and villages have many historic homesteads and monuments. Fruit orchards are a common sight and their produce may be found in all corners of the world.

This setting against the dramatic backdrop of mountains and with the added favourable Mediterranean climate offer a unique experience to the visitors who pour to the area to experience the local viticulture.

From sunset wine tastings against a backdrop of mountains to renting a thatched cottage overlooking the vines, the Cape Wine Routes has everything to offer including wonderful places to eat and drink.

Cape Whale Coast

The Cape Whale Coast can be found close to the very tip of Africa, just outside Cape Town. The coming of the whales to the Cape Overberg coastline, also known as the Cape Whale Coast, every year between June and November, not only creates a stir, but brings the remarkable giants to the shores.

The Cape Whale Coast has a pristine stretch of the South African coastline that runs from the coastal hamlet of Rooiels in the west to Quoin Point in the East which is bordered by mesmerising mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.

The main towns of the area are Kleinmond, Hermanus, Stanford and Gansbaai but the Cape Whale Coast is in fact made up of a collection of villages, farms, rivers, bays, coves and valleys – each filled with its own special magic.

Explore the whales, sharks, wine routes, fynbos, birding, golf courses, penguins, mountain biking, hiking trails and adventure activities in the beautiful region-the Cape Whale Coast gives travellers a large number of options when it comes to exploring the Western Cape beyond Cape Town

Two Oceans Aquarium

The Two Oceans Aquarium is without doubt one of the most exciting attractions in the city which appeals to adults and children alike.

Called the Two Oceans Aquarium because the vast Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet almost here at the southern tip of the continent, the delightful underwater nature reserve is located at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, with over 3000 living sea animals, including sharks, fish, turtles and penguins on display.

The Two Oceans Aquarium offers a myriad of spectacular exhibits. The aquarium features different exhibitions, each of which showcases a fascinating aspect of the ocean. The 6 exhibits of marine life namely: I&J Predator Exhibit, Ocean Basket Kelp Forest Exhibit, Penguin Exhibit, Indian Ocean gallery, Atlantic Ocean gallery and Touch Pool and Microscope.

The children can enjoy themselves at the AfriSam Children's Play Centre where they not only have fun but also learn about the wonderful animals which inhabit the ocean.