One of the most iconic and attractive cities on the planet, Cape Town is a world-class destination in its own right. Between the city, the Cape Peninsula and the winelands, there is a huge amount to explore. Any trip to South Africa should therefore include at least 3 or 4 days in Cape Town, though a week would not be too long.
Cape Town city itself has much to see and do to suit all interests, including Table Mountain and its cable car, Robben Island, museums, galleries, fabulous bars and restaurants, great nightlife and shopping, and plenty for children too. The Cape Peninsula just to the south of the city offers astonishing scenery, charming fishing villages such as Kalk Bay, and the iconic Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point. In the other direction, the famous winelands of Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl offer vineyard tours, wine tastings and delightful gastronomic treats, all in a breathtakingly beautiful setting with a stunning mountain backdrop.
Where to stay
Depending on your interests and preferences, we generally recommend a few nights in the centre of Cape Town mixed up with a couple of nights in the winelands in Stellenbosch or Franschhoek, or at a beach hotel south of the city centre somewhere like Bantry Bay or Camps Bay. We use a range of accommodation based on our personal knowledge of the city, ranging from luxurious grand hotels on the waterfront to smaller boutique guesthouses in quieter residential areas, to various beach hotels. Generally there is a wide variety of good-value accommodation to choose from, and standards are high. This is an excellent city destination for every kind of traveller, including honeymooners and families with children of any ages.
A guide to Cape Town and surrounding areas:
If you want to be in the heart of the city, the choice is between the Waterfront hotels such as The Cape Grace, the One and Only or the very stylish and trend Silo, and those in the downtown area around Long Street such as the Mount Nelson and Cape Cadogan. The Waterfront is very touristy though packed with good restaurants and shopping; Long Street is less busy.
Options outside the main hustle and bustle include the super private and discreetly luxurious Ellerman House overlooking Bantry Bay, or one of the hotels in beautiful, quiet suburb of Constantia such as the Last Word. Constantia is a great choice for those wanting access north to Cape Town proper (about 20 mins) and also to the beaches around Fish Hoek to the south (about 30 mins).
About an hour to the east of Cape Town lie the winelands of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek, which offer vineyard tours, wine tastings and, often, gourmet food as well. The mountain backdrop is rugged and impressive and this is a wonderful area to walk and relax, away from the centre of town. The recently opened Babylonstoren is our favourite hotel in the winelands and has some of the most beautiful rustic and freshest food in the area. Other favourites of ours in Franschhoek include La Residence, the Leeu Collection and Sir Richard Branson's Mont Rochelle.
Even though this is Africa, the Western Cape faces the Atlantic, which is very COLD even in the height of summer, so most of the people actually in the water will be surfers in wetsuits. Camps Bay is the first beach town south of the city centre and is reminiscent of the south of France: busy, trendy, and expensive, but with lots of great bars and restaurants from which to enjoy the spectacular sunsets.
The Bay hotel is the famous hotel right in the heart of Camps Bay, or the 12 Apostles is a good choice if you want to be in a quieter location south of the main drag. A little further south still is Hout Bay which is much quieter than Camps Bay, but if you want to get away from it all then we would recommend Tintswalo Atlantic at the bottom of Chapman’s Peak Drive. Over Chapman's Peak awaits some other favourites of ours like the Last Word on Long Beach in Kommetjie. This is a great base from which to head further south to Cape Point or to the beaches around Fish Hoek.
The False Bay coast of the Eastern Cape is much warmer than the Atlantic coast of the West - though still cold! There are some wonderful beaches between Simons Town and Muizenberg and children will love the penguin colony at Boulders just to the south of Simons Town. Tintswalo Boulders is the perfect hotel if beautiful views of the colony and the ocean are what you are after from a hotel! You might even be lucky enough to spot some Southern Right whales who breed in the False Bay area between August and October.
As a radical new idea it is now possible to fly to Antartica for an amazing white desert safari - these come in 1, 4 and 8 day trips, though they are not cheap! For more information please see White Desert