When I speak to fellow tour operators they often chuckle at me when I suggest that Cape Town is a perfect single destination holiday! Typically when travelling over to South Africa, multi-centre and multi-activity tours are the norm. The flight time into South Africa is 11 hours, and the flights are notoriously more expensive than other worldwide destinations. Therefore when visiting this destination most travellers are looking to experience as much of the country as they can. I completely understand the excitement of this style of trip, and have done them many times myself. However, sometimes I want a holiday to be less busy, and more relaxing. Somewhere, where I can decide each day to either chill-out and relax, or perhaps try out a new activity. Variety, but without the need to pack-up and move destination every couple of days!
Cape Town is a destination where you simply can’t get bored; even on a two week trip! It is a totally unique destination as the city has a spectacular mountain, a vibrant waterfront, many beautiful beaches, wildlife experiences, fascinating history, world-class restaurants and bars, great shopping and a unique art scene. There are very few destinations in the world where you will get this combination of natural beauty and city life all rolled into one.
Cape Town itself is beautiful. No matter where you are in the city you are almost guaranteed views of the spectacular Table Mountain. Whether in all its dramatic beauty on a bright blue sky day, or flanked in dark moody clouds, you can not help but be in awe of this iconic flat top mountain. What I believe makes the city all the more striking is the combination of coast and mountain all in one destination. Is there anything better than lying on a golden beach, listening to the sound of the waves, all whilst looking up at lush green rocky mountains?
For those looking to explore a little further during their stay there are several great day trip destinations all within a couple hours of the city. The most popular day trip is out to the infamous wine region. Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl between them offer innumerable vineyards with great value wine tasting experiences. In terms of views and great restaurants Delaire Graff, Dieu Donne and Tokara are difficult to beat. However, if you are looking for something a little more unique then how about wine tasting and a duck parade at Vergenoegd, a cheese and wine paring at Fairview or a Wine & Fynbos Cupcake Pairing at Delheim. There are so many innovative varieties of wine tasting, I am almost certain you would find something for every taste!
Another hugely popular day trip is a Cape Peninsular tour. Your day is likely to consist of a drive along Chapmans Peak with a view to visiting Boulders Beach for the penguin colony, Cape Point at the extreme southwestern tip of the African continent, the Cape Hope Nature Reserve, where you may get to see zebra, eland, ostrich and baboons, and you could even do a short cruise at Hout Bay to see sea lions in their natural habitat.
If nature is your passion and you visit between July and November then a trip to see the whales at Hermanus is an absolute must, as it is known as one of the best whale watching destinations in the world. For those that still want to get their safari fix, it is possible to do a day or overnight tour to Aquila Big 5 Game Reserve right from the city. Whilst it doesn’t compare to the vast expanses of the national parks, it does allow you to go in search of your favourite safari animals, in traditional safari style. For those seeking unique thrills then a shark diving trip should be on your to-do list, albeit not for the faint-hearted. Finally if you are not adverse to a long car journey (with great views) then you really should take a trip out to Cape Agulhas which is the southernmost tip of the African continent where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet. You may even get a sighting of the national bird of South Arica – the blue crane on route.
If you like adventure holidays then again there is plenty to keep you occupied. You can go zip-lining in Constantia Nek, ride quad bikes or go sand-boarding in the Atlantis Dunes, head over to the outdoor toboggan track, abseil off Table Mountain, go paragliding off Signal Hill, sea kayak on the Atlantic Ocean with spectacular mountain backdrops, take in amazing views from the air with a helicopter flight, hike up lions head for sunrise, go snorkelling with sea lions or perhaps even go on a guided eBike tour around the city. You won’t regret a moment of these great adrenaline activities that allow you to get out into the fresh South African air.
Cape Town Eating
For foodies, every day in Cape Town will tickle your taste buds in a new and delightful way. Whenever I stay in Cape Town I always stay in a self-catering apartment as one of my favourite things to do is visit as many of the local eateries as I can during my stay. You can try cuisines from all across the world in venues displaying different styles, and expertise. Some of my recent favourites are Liquorice and Lime for its tasty food and great atmosphere, Thali for a delicious curry, Kloof Street House for a relaxed and tasty brunch and Africa cafe for traditional African food in a modern and colourful setting. For my all time favourite restaurant it is hands down the unfussy Nelson’s Eye, and I make sure I visit every trip. It advertises itself as the best steak in Cape Town, but for me it is one of the best steak houses in the world! I have a top 5 best steaks list ( I love steak!) that includes restaurants in Argentina, New York, London and Chile. However, Nelsons Eye has been top of this list for a number of years, and every time I visit I just love it more.
For those looking to do foodie tours then you can not go wrong with the Cape Town Eats City Walking Tour, the Cape Town Food and Drink Safari or the Eat Like a Local tour. If you are looking for a more immersive experience then a Bo Kaap Cooking Tour allows you to meet with a local and learn how to cook delicious local Cape Malay Cuisine. Or you could learn one of many different cuisines in a one-off cooking course at Stir Crazy Cooking.
History and Museums
If your idea of a relaxing holiday includes learning about something new then there are plenty of museums within the city to explore. Did you know that the worlds first successful heart transplant was done in 1967 in Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, by Christiaan Barnard? You can learn more at the Heart of Cape Town Museum. South Africa’s first Perfume Museum can be visited in Franschhoek, or you can learn all about the diamond industry in the heart of Cape Town at the Diamond Museum. You can also visit the most advanced digital Planetarium on the continent of Africa, for a unique look into the night sky. If it is contemporary art that you are looking for then the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art is of course a must. However, if you are looking to explore innovative contemporary work by emerging South African artists then the What if the World Gallery is a lesser known but impressive option.
In my opinion the most interesting museums though are those that explore the history of Cape Town, South Africa and its people. The Iziko museums of South Africa offer a variety of venues across the city covering a range of topics. The South African Museum is South Africa’s oldest museum, and is stocked with over a million-and-a-half natural history specimens that have been collected over the last 200 years. The Slave Lodge is situated in one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town and tells the history of slavery within South Africa; sharing the stories of the many different slaves brought into the country. The District Six Museum tells the story of the diversity and struggles of Cape Town’s District Six neighborhood and community and how it was affected by apartheid. Finally, the Khwa Ttu San Heritage Centre is the world’s only museum focused on the San people, one of the last living hunter-gatherer tribes on earth and the oldest in Southern Africa, and this is easily reached from Cape Town.
The one ‘museum’ that deserves its own paragraph is Robben Island Museum. It is the small island and prison where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27-year sentence as a political prisoner. It is also where Walter Sisulu, one of South Africa’s most important leaders in its decades-long struggle to end apartheid, the man who brought Nelson Mandela into the ANC, was also imprisoned from 1964-1982. A trip to this museum consists of 30 minute boat ride over to the island. On arrival you will go on a short bus tour around the island to visit the different sites, and learn about the historical importance. The most fascinating part of the tour is the visit to the prison. Here you will of course get to see Nelson Mandela’s cell. However, it is the guided tour led by former inmates, who provide their first hand experiences to visitors that makes this a truly unique and remarkable museum to visit.
Hopefully this short overview has given a good insight into the many many things that you could do on a holiday to Cape Town. However, below I have provided a quick suggested itinerary that will hopefully show how easy it is to enjoy the beauty of this city on your next 2 week holiday.
- Day 1 – Arrival
- Day 2 – Beach/Pool Day – Dinner at V&A Waterfront
- Day 3 – Cape Peninsula Tour
- Day 4 – Bo Kaap Walking Tour and Cape Malay Cooking Course
- Day 5 – Full Day Wine Tour
- Day 6 – Relax and Shopping – Afternoon Tea at Belmond Mount Nelson
- Day 7 – Hop-on/Hop-off Sightseeing
- Day 8 – Hop-on/Hop-off Sightseeing
- Day 9 – Beach Day and Sunset Drinks/Dinner in Camps Bay
- Day 10 – Table Mountain Cableway – Dinner at touristy but fun GOLD Restaurant
- Day 11 – Robben Island
- Day 12 – Museums Day
- Day 13 – Cape Agulhas or Whale Watching Tour
- Day 14 – Home