What to Do in Cape Town? The Best Sights + Tips

If you’re heading to Cape Town, you’re probably curious about what to do and which attractions are the most enjoyable. Cape Town is known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world. The city is surrounded by mountains, the Atlantic Ocean, and the Indian Ocean, allowing you to embrace the bustling atmosphere of places like Long Street or easily escape it by hiking in the surrounding areas. We’ve gathered information on what you shouldn’t miss, where to find delicious food, and the best places to stay. Additionally, we’ll share tips on safety and transportation, providing you with everything you need to know for a pleasant stay in Cape Town!

Cape Town Attractions, Tips, and Must-Dos

Cape Town offers an incredible array of activities, making it possible to spend two weeks there without ever feeling bored. The following attractions and activities are must-sees during your vacation in Cape Town.

Take a Helicopter Flight

Let’s start with one of the most thrilling things to do in Cape Town. If you’ve never been on a helicopter flight, this is a fantastic location for your first experience. For us, it was the first time, and flying above Cape Town and Table Mountain was an incredible experience. The pilot shares interesting information about the city while you enjoy the breathtaking views. There are various tours with different routes and durations. Prices start at $135 for a 20-minute flight. We booked this tour here, and everything was well-organized, including hotel pick-up.

helicopter flight cape town cape town aerial view

Climb Lion’s Head

Whether you’re in Cape Town for a day or two weeks, climbing Lion’s Head is a must-do activity. Lion’s Head reaches a height of 669 meters (2195 feet), offering a spectacular view of Cape Town, Table Mountain, and the ocean from its summit. The hike is not too difficult, and you can reach the top in about an hour. Most of the trail can be walked, but there are also sections where you need to do a bit of climbing, so wear appropriate footwear. Despite being a relatively easy climb, it feels adventurous due to the rugged nature and steep cliffs along the way. Check out our tips for climbing Lion’s Head before you go.

Surfing at Muizenberg

Located about a 35-minute drive from CapeTown, the surfers’ village of Muizenberg awaits. On the beach, you’ll find the iconic colorful houses, and for beginner surfers, Muizenberg Beach is the place to be. You can rent a surfboard or take surf lessons at one of the many surf schools in the area.

muizenberg beach in Kaapstad

Experience the Chapman’s Peak Drive

This breathtaking coastal route takes you through 114 bends from Hout Bay to Noordhoek. Although it’s only a 9-kilometer (6-mile) drive, it might just be the most beautiful route in all of South Africa. On one side, you’ll have a beautiful view of the ocean, and on the other side, steep cliffs with several scenic stops along the way. The best time to drive Chapman’s Peak is around sunset when it becomes even more spectacular.

Spot Penguins at Boulders Beach

Located in the nearby town of Simon’s Town, Boulders Beach is where penguins stroll along the shore and occasionally take a dip in the crystal-clear water. It’s a unique sight because you wouldn’t expect to find penguins in a place that looks as tropical as Boulders Beach. Unfortunately, this is no longer a hidden gem, and busloads of tourists come to see the penguins in Cape Town every day. It’s recommended to go as early as possible. There are well-maintained walking paths and observation decks, as well as a beach where you can take a dip yourself. The entrance fee is quite pricey, $11 per person.

boulders beach penguins

Witness the Sunset at Camps Bay and Clifton

In the mood for an afternoon of beach enjoyment? Camps Bay and Clifton are the most beautiful beaches around Cape Town and definitely worth a visit. They’re just a 15-minute drive from the city center. These pristine white beaches await you at the foot of Table Mountain. The light blue sea is often chilly, but that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Visit Camps Bay and Clifton Beach, especially on a clear day, as we consider it the most beautiful spot to watch the sunset in Cape Town. From the parking lot at Maiden’s Cove Braai Area, you can climb onto the large rocks and find a peaceful spot. Bring a bottle of wine and enjoy.

camps bay and clifton beach in Cape Towncape town beaches

Explore the Vibrant Bo-Kaap District

Bo-Kaap is an Islamic neighborhood whose residents are descendants of former slaves brought to Cape Town from Asia by the Dutch VOC in the 18th century, primarily from Malaysia and Indonesia. During the era of slavery, slaves were forbidden from wearing colorful clothing. After the abolition of slavery, the people of Bo-Kaap immediately painted their houses in vibrant colors, creating a neighborhood adorned with houses in every shade of the rainbow. Following each Ramadan, the houses receive a fresh coat of paint, ensuring thatthe neighborhood always maintains its vibrant appearance.

Climb Table Mountain or Take the Cableway

If you’re up for another challenge after conquering Lion’s Head, consider climbing Table Mountain near Cape Town, which boasts a peak height of 1085 meters (3560 feet). There are numerous routes to choose from, catering to hikers of all levels. The easiest route, Platteklip Gorge, takes approximately 2 hours. For a more adventurous experience, Skeleton Gorge offers a scenic path that includes climbing through a waterfall and offers more shade. If climbing the mountain is not feasible or preferable, you can opt to take the cableway up and down. It’s a convenient option, especially after completing the climb. Keep in mind that the view from Table Mountain is most magnificent at sunset.

Tip: Only attempt to climb Table Mountain in favorable weather conditions, as the cableway may not operate during inclement weather, leaving you with a long walk back. Additionally, always carry something warm, as the mountaintop can be windy.

climbing table mountain in Cape Town table mountain cableway in Cape Town

Visit Robben Island

Located a few miles off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island served as a prison for nearly 400 years. It’s most famous for being the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. While visiting Robben Island is an essential experience in Cape Town, our personal visit turned out to be quite disappointing. The overwhelming number of visitors in massive groups (40 people) and the lack of enthusiasm from our guide detracted from the experience. However, this might have been an isolated incident, so we still acknowledge Robben Island on this list. If you plan to visit, we recommend obtaining your tickets a few days in advance at the Clock Tower in the V&A Waterfront (Victoria & Alfred Waterfront), as they often sell out on the day of visitation.

Explore the Boomslang at Kirstenbosch

Kirstenbosch Gardens is a botanical garden where you can enjoy a leisurely stroll amidst South Africa’s most beautiful plants and trees. On weekends, there are regular concerts, making it a unique spot for a picnic. The highlight of a walk through the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is undoubtedly the Boomslang Walkway, a 130-meter-long (427-feet-long) elevated walkway through the treetops.

Tip: Free two-hour guided tours of the gardens are organized every Monday to Saturday at 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. There are limited spots available, so make sure to arrive early if you want to learn about South Africa’s flora and fauna.

kirstenbosch national botanical garden

Paragliding above Cape Town

Besides taking a helicopter flight, there’s another way to admire Cape Town from the sky: paragliding. We believe paragliding above Cape Town should be high on your bucket list. You start by running down Signal Hill or Lion’s Head until the thermal uplifts you, allowing you to peacefully glide above the city. Of course, you won’t be doing this alone but rather joining an experienced paraglider for a thrilling 25-minute tandem flight. It’s guaranteed to give you an adrenaline rush! You can book this tour for $90 here.

paragliding cape town

Is Cape Town safe?

Cape Town is much safer than most people think. However, there is a clear contrast between the wealthy and the poor, and there are quite a few beggars on the streets. To avoid encouraging them, we recommend not giving them anything and politely indicating that you’re not interested in their company. If you plan to dine out or return to your hotel after sunset, it’s safer to use Uber. It works exceptionally well and is very affordable. Alternatively, you can use your own car, but parking is rarely free, so it often ends up being more expensive. All in all, you’ll generally feel safe in Cape Town.

tips cape town

Best restaurants in Cape Town

When it comes to excellent restaurants and charming places to eat, Cape Town has no shortage. We’re big fans of the Food Lover’s Eatery Newspaper House. It houses various establishments offering both hot and cold dishes. They have an enormous buffet with salads and hot dishes, where you pay by weight, as well as a supermarket and a bakery with fresh sandwiches. It’s affordable and convenient for a quick lunch. About 300 meters (985 feet) away, you’ll find the Eastern Food Bazaar, a similar concept where you can sample the flavors of the Eastern cuisine, including popular dishes from Turkey and India. It’s also very affordable, and the portions are generous. If you prefer dining in a restaurant, we recommend Maria’s Greek. Be sure to make a reservation in advance. For breakfast, we went to Kauai almost every day. They serve incredibly delicious and healthy breakfast options like smoothie bowls, avocado toast, breakfast wraps, and oatmeal.

restaurants cape town

Where to stay in Cape Town?

There are several great neighborhoods to stay in Cape Town, including the Gardens district. It’s a highly popular area known for its safety and central location. It sits at the foot of Table Mountain, offering many hotels with breathtaking views. Another charming neighborhood is Sea Point. Nestled between the ocean and Signal Hill (an extension of Lion’s Head), it boasts an amazing location. Being bordered by the ocean gives you a true vacation feeling, and you won’t feel like you’re in a bustling metropolis. The heart of downtown Cape Town is the City Bowl district. This vibrant area is always bustling with activity and represents a melting pot of cultures. It’s filled with restaurants, trendy coffee shops, food markets, and street vendors. Notable streets in the City Bowl include Long Street and Bree Street. If you’d like to read more about these neighborhoods, check out our article on the best neighborhoods in Cape Town + hotel recommendations.

hotels in kaapstad - mama africa

Our favorite places to stay in Cape Town

If you’re looking for affordable luxury, then Urban Oasis Aparthotel is the place to be. This hotel is located just a few streets away from Long Street. You can stay in a modern loft, studio, or apartment, all equipped with a washing machine, excellent air conditioning, a kitchen, and a comfortable bed. For a cozy atmosphere, Villa Viva in the Gardens district is a great choice. This lovely guesthouse is run by incredibly friendly people who do everything to make your stay enjoyable. There’s a swimming pool, and you’ll be treated to a delicious breakfast in the morning. Villa Viva is part of an organization that strives to make clean drinking water accessible to everyone. By staying here, you also support this cause! In the Sea Point district, we highly recommend the cheerful boutique hotel Pineapple House. The interior of this hotel is fantastic, with charming corners, patterns, and accessories throughout. Each room is unique, with its own style, and some rooms even offer breathtaking views!