Today’s post is brought to you by Emma Neely, a recent Michigan State grad and previously an STA Travel Student Ambassador. Earlier this summer, Emma won the GoAbroad.com “Win the World” contest and spent her summer in several travel programs in South Africa. Today she shares some tips about her experience, and how you can make the most of a week in Cape Town!
From beaches to braai’s (South African barbecue, FYI) here’s a list of Cape Town’s top tourist and local attractions that are must-sees for a one-week trip to the Mother City.
Say Molo or Sawubona to your new home, Cape Town, for the week. Get on the hop on hop off peninsula bus tour and get to know this city. Stop off at the World of Birds Park and interact with monkeys. Kirstenbosch gardens is also awesome to walk around with free guided tours happening a few times a day. Help yourself to a glass of vino at Groot Constantia.
Head out in the morning to check out the mighty Table Mountain. If you are up for it, Skeleton Gorge is a 4-5 hour scenic hike, but it’s actually the easiest despite climbing up all those waterfalls. Platteklip Gorge is the shortest at around 2 and a half hours, which involves a lot of hoisting yourself up boulders and is in direct sunlight. Last is India Venster, which is definitely for the more seasoned rock climber. If hiking Table Mountain looks too daunting, many people climb Lions Head or Devils Peak instead and you still get an epic view. After the hike take the cable car down; it is a really cool experience, and a much quicker way to get down then hiking! After a day spent exploring Table Mountain, head to nearby Camps Bay to Café Caprice for a Flat White while enjoying the beautiful sunset on the beach.
Make Tuesday your activity day, head to Stellenbosch for a day and get on the vino. Wine tastings are anywhere from 5 to 7 glasses with generous portions at each stop for around 20-50 rand each.
Wake up and head over to trendy Bree Street or Loop Street for a delish breakfast. Some of the hot spots are: Folk Coffee, Hard Pressed, Smak, and House of the Machine – that all serve up yum food and fresh coffee. Want to try a local drink? Try rooibos tea or a red cappuccino. Afterwards, head to Green Market Square for some souvenir shopping at an African crafts market – be prepared to haggle!
From Green Market Square, check out the District 6 Museum and learn about the history of apartheid South Africa. Afterwards, head to Bo Kaap to see the vibrant Malay community. Here you will find Cape Town’s first mosque. In Bo Kaap, you can take pictures with beautifully colored buildings, try the delicious donut-like pastry Koeksisters, as well as nibbling on authentic Cape Malay cuisine such as Nelson Mandela’s Nobel Peace Prize ceremony dinner Bobotie.
After a day learning about Cape Town’s history and heritage, head over to Honest Chocolate where not only can you try delicious chocolate, you can also go to the secret gin bar where all the cocktails are listed as medical remedies. This is because gin used to be prescribed as a medicine. For dinner, go to local favourite Bombay Bicycle Club. Make sure to call ahead and ask for the swing table, which seats up to 5.
Make friends with the penguins at Boulders Beach. You can quite literally sit on the beach and take a selfie with your new best friends!
Head on farther south to Cape of Good Hope, the most south western point on the African continent. Here you will find lots of hiking, and if you are lucky some wildlife! It’s common for baboons to be sighted near the road to Cape of Good Hope, if you see one make sure to keep your window closed as they might jump in to take your food.
If you are lucky enough to get to Cape Town on the first week of the month, downtown is a festival of massive art, food, and shopping. Boogie and raise a glass amongst works of art. The bars and shops stay open late, and you will find vintage markets and street vendors in parking lots. This fun celebration of culture is called “First Thursdays,” which is located mostly on Loop and Bree Streets. Afterwards, check out Cape Town’s notorious bar scene on Long Street to find the younger crowds and DJ playing until dawn.
If you are not already staying in the V&A Waterfront, you should take time to check out this place where you’ll find great shopping, great restaurants, a Ferris Wheel, and scenic views. From the V&A Waterfront take the ferry over to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela was prisoned. It’s important to book in advance as it does sell out.
Afterwards, head south to Hout Bay to attend the weekly Harbor Bay Market for some Friday night shopping for hand made goods, boutiques, music, drinks, and most importantly – amazing food. You will not be disappointed. Cape Town is a city that takes its food seriously.
If you liked Harbor Bay Market, you are going to LOVE Old Biscuit Mill. You are going to want to spend your whole morning here sampling even more good food, drinks, and more shopping! While you are here, be sure to try biltong – South Africa’s version of Beef Jerky.
Next up, you’re heading to Muizenberg to go surfing! Surfboard and wet suit rentals are cheap, and the shopping and food scene here and in nearby Kalk Bay is great. No worries if surfing is not your thing, there’s a couple areas of near Old Biscuit Mill that are worth checking out too. Woodstock and Salt River the arts districts, and Observatory the student area also known as Obz.
After a fun filled day, head over north of the city to Bloubergstrand (we recommend Dolphin Beach, which is next to a great seafood place) for scenic views. This is one of the most iconic pictures you can get in Cape Town.
If you have a later flight leaving Cape Town, head to Mzoli’s or go on a guided township tour. It’s a must see with amazing meats to try. Mzoli’s is safest to go to on Sundays, but it is well worth the trip and recommended by many! Sadly, it is time to say totsiens to this beautiful country, but you must come back soon!
If you have more than one week in Cape Town, I recommend going on the Garden Route Trip. I had a great experience with Hotspots 2c. There are many tour companies that offer essentially the same thing with variations depending on the number of days: caving, elephant experience, safari, bungee jumping at world’s tallest bridge bungee, kayaking, wine tasting, and more.