We recently visited Cape Town for the first time. I’d been there once or twice for business, but it was always a case of fly in, do the work, fly out again, and the husband and I had both been there once as children, so long ago that the detail got lost in the annals of time.
We decided to approach the trip the same way we have our travels to Europe, to see how it would compare.
To ensure the experience could be compared with our European travels, we decided to ditch our car and fly in. We also opted for not renting a vehicle, instead relying on public transport all the way.
The city has a fairly new rapid bus system, the MyCiti bus, which is a great and inexpensive way of getting around. You will need a MyCiti bus card, which you can pick up from any of the full platforms for R23, and a trip averages on R5.60. You need to ensure you load enough money on the card, however, to ensure you can travel without being fined. The bus route is fairly extensive though, and we managed to get all the way to Blouberg Strand and the V&A Waterfront without much effort.
The City Sightseeing bus (hop-on hop-off bus) is also now available in Cape Town, and, while a little more pricey than the MyCiti bus, it does take you places where the MyCiti bus doesn’t quite reach yet, like the wonderful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and Hout Bay. The City Sightseeing bus is R150 per person for a day ticket, but you can also buy a combo ticket that allows you to travel both the blue and the red route over two days, and this is only R250 per person. This is well worth it, as it also includes a canal cruise, and allows you to explore more of the city.
We’re big fans of these red busses, and have used them in a couple of different European cities, and it is always a very pleasant experience. The blue route is my favourite, as it extends to the outer city and goes past some of my favourite sights.
Things to do
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Even if you’re not a big outdoors kind of person, this beautiful garden is a must visit. Founded in 1913 to preserve our unique flora, the gardens typically only contain indigenous plants. The garden also hosts a concert every Sunday, and other events too, in the natural amphitheatre.
Remember to pack a picnic basket and spend the day at the foot of the majestic Table Mountain in the African sun.
A lovely suburb of Cape Town on the ‘other’ side of the mountain, this is a must visit, especially if you are a seafood lover. The rustic restaurants on the harbour sell fresh fish and other seafood, and it is to die for. If you’re vegetarian (as I am), the chips are also lovely. And if you’re not into food, simply sitting on the harbour side watching the world go by is fabulous.
No doubt the biggest touristy area of the City, the V&A Waterfront offer shopping and eating for all tastes and wallets. It is also built around a functional harbour, and there are many many cruise options available.
The City Sightseeing bus also departs from here, and there is also a bus stop for the MyCity bus.
The Aquarium is always a wonderful day out, especially if you have younglings. The Two Oceans Aquarium is no different, and is very much set up for a family day out. Highly recommended.
Built originally by the Dutch East India Trading Company, this is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa and the museum provides a lot of historical information. While not quite a castle by European standards – more a fort really – it remains a must visit, even if you’re not a history buff.
This is the playground of the rich and famous, so if you’re into celeb spotting, this is the place for you. This stretch of coast has the highest property values probably in all of Africa, but it is well worth a visit, even if you just grab some take-out and sit on the beach to enjoy the spectacular sunset.
Cape Town is a coastal city, and very much geared towards international tourists. For this reason, some of the prices may be a little inflated, and some attractions not always accessible to local visitors. As an example, to go up Table mountain via the cable carts is R220 per adult for a return ticket – which can be very pricey if you are a family of more than two people. Choose the attractions you would like to visit most, and allocate enough money for those attractions. If you try and take in all the sights in one visit, you may find yourself broke and disappointed.
As I said, it is a coastal city, and the weather can be very unpredictable. If the sun is shining in the morning, still remember to take a jersey or pullover with you. I would also suggest a hat, especially if you are going to take one of the cruises or open-top busses. And always remember your sunscreen. And a small umbrella may just save your day.
Cape Town is a wonderful city that works. It is not quite on par with our beloved German cities yet, but the views are spectacular enough to make you forget some of the things that don’t quite work so well yet. This is quite a sharp contrast from the other cities in South Africa, and gives us renewed hope for our country.
It is not a city without problems, but the city is aware of its issues and work hard at correcting them. This is no small feat, due to the severe inequalities left behind by Apartheid. As with all cities, there are areas that should not be visited after hours, but for the most part tourists can be safe in the city.
We will definitely visit again.
Wow, what a fabulous travel guide! I love that you can now travel in South Africa the way that we travel in Europe. If they got public transport right in Johannesburg, I'd be tempted to come home! (Well, I'm tempted anyway. You're there).
I'm like you - I've never properly been to Cape Town. I've always been near and even got as close as Table Mountain and surrounds in 2009, but I've never been in the city or in places such as the V&A Waterfront.
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