Breathtaking views, mouth-watering food, fine wine, a mélange of cultures and even some adorable penguins: Cape Town in South Africa truly does have it all. Cecilia Yee of Flight Centre fills us in on the essentials.
On one side of Cape Town lies the City Bowl, an amphitheatre-shaped area where Table Mountain spills down to the Atlantic Ocean – a majestic sight that will simply take your breath away. On the other side of Table Mountain are the Cape Flats, low-lying flatlands that are dominated by the city’s rural township communities. The glaringly obvious contrast between these two places will immediately hit you hard, strikingly demonstrating that there is far more to Cape Town beyond its stunning landscapes and delicious cuisine.
What to do
Learning more about Cape Town’s history really does give you a greater appreciation of the city. District 6 Museum chronicles one of the darker episodes in the city’s apartheid past; sign up for a tour here and listen to a former resident share their stories. Be warned – few visitors leave the museum without feeling deeply moved by this poignant experience.
Table Mountain is probably Cape Town’s most iconic landmark, and there are a number of routes you can take to hike to its summit. If you have the time (and energy), consider hiking from the back part of the mountain through either Nursery Ravine or Skeleton Gorge; begin your descent by walking to the other side, passing scenic spots at the mountaintop along the way, before coming back down through Kasteelspoort or the more touristy Platteklip Gorge route. Otherwise, ride the cable car up Table Mountain and enjoy amazing views from its flat top without breaking a sweat!
Watching the sun rise atop Lion’s Head Summit is another Cape Town must-do. If waking up early and hiking are not an option, drive up to Signal Hill to soak in the beautiful landscapes of the city. Or why not go all-out and book a helicopter ride for an incredible bird’s eye view of the City Bowl?
A more leisurely option is to spend a lazy day or two on the beaches of Camps Bay and Clifton. Here, you can watch the sun set across the horizon as it casts an orange glow over the towering Twelve Apostles mountain range.
Another scenic option is to hire a car and drive to the Cape of Good Hope, the most south-western point of the African continent, passing through Hout Bay and the magnificent vistas of Chapman’s Peak Drive. On your way back, pass by Boulders Beach to visit Cape Town’s famous colony of penguins – one of the only places in the world you can get up close to African penguins.
No trip to Cape Town is complete without a ferry trip to Robben Island, to visit the place where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for eighteen years before the fall of apartheid.
Where to eat
The vibrant suburb of Woodstock is to Cape Town what Brooklyn is to New York. Make sure to hit some of its chilled out cafés to get your java fix; Rosetta Roastery, Superette and Espresso Lab Microroasters are all great choices. The Old Biscuit Mill, a former warehouse converted into a buzzing food and fashion hub, houses a number of notable restaurants including ultra-hip, modern tapas joint The Pot Luck Club, and The Test Kitchen, an award-winning example of fine dining at its best.
Another option is to head south to Constantia, famed for its world-class wines. Check out the rustic-chic of La Colombe, which serves up a delicious fusion of Asian and French cuisine alongside some seriously awe-inspiring views of the Constantia Valley. Located in the heart of Cape Town’s city centre, Kloof Street is also packed with great restaurants. There’s something for everyone here; try the whimsical yet eclectic Kloof Street House, hip and happening Black Sheep Restaurant, or casual bistro Carne on Kloof.
Where to stay
Cape Town offers a wide spectrum of accommodation options, depending on your budget and preferred neighbourhood.
Known for its spacious rooms, lush gardens and restored colonial architecture, the luxurious Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel in the city centre is an oasis of tranquillity. Just off Kloof Street is Welgelegen, a Victorian-style boutique B&B that will make you feel right at home.
Located on Bantry Bay is the elegant yet modern Ellerman House, a chic boutique hotel offering fantastic ocean views, a flavour-packed farm-to-table dining experience and an impressive wine gallery.
The Bay Hotel in Camps Bay is one of the city’s most stunning beachfront hotels, boasting an unrivalled view of the lofty Twelve Apostles mountains. Its two bars are the perfect spots for lazy afternoons spent watching the sun go down.
The V&A Waterfront is also a major hub for tourists; a few favourites here include One&Only Cape Town and The Silo Hotel.
How to get there
While there are currently no direct flights from Hong Kong to Cape Town, you can fly there via Johannesburg with South African Airways. Also, if you wait a few months, Cathay Pacific will be launching a direct service from Hong Kong to Cape Town in November 2018.
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This article first appeared in the August/September 2018 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.