Wherever you are in Cape Town the iconic Table Mountain adds one of the world’s most impressive backdrops to your view. No trip to this South African port city is complete without a hike or leisurely cable car ride to the top, where the breathtaking vistas are known as some of the best in Africa.
Cape Town, known as “Kaapstad” in Afrikaans, is the seat of the National Parliament and the second most-populated city after Johannesburg. More tourists visit Cape Town than anywhere else in South Africa.
The story of the city’s past is written in its architecture. The colonizing Dutch left their mark with their unique “Cape Dutch” style. Look for houses with decorative front gables. See Malaysian influences in the colorful houses and periodic minarets of the Bo-Kaap district.
The mix of nationalities makes for a rich cultural scene and some of the best food in the country. Eat local dishes from the street carts in the Bo-Kaap district, including Babotie, a spicy-meat dish. Try freshly caught seafood in fine-dining restaurants at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront.
Low humidity makes the summer heat bearable, while winters can be quite wet. Escape the rain and learn about the city’s history at the Jewish Museum, Slave Lodge and the South African Maritime Museum. Hear stories from former prisoners at nearby Robben Island, where former president Nelson Mandela was held before the abolishment of apartheid.
A wild coastline surrounds the city and peninsula. Unwind at picturesque St. James, admire the Twelve Apostles mountain range from Camps Bay Beach and enjoy scenic drives around Hout Bay. Table Mountain National Park covers 75 percent of the peninsula. Get face-to-face with African penguins at Boulders Beach or spot baboons, antelopes and whales as you hike the trails at the Cape of Good Hope.
Cape Town lies on the southwest coast of South Africa. The city and surrounding countryside is best explored by car. Note that due to extreme poverty in some townships, safety is a concern. The city is relatively safe by South African standards but take necessary precautions: don’t carry valuables, lock your doors while driving and stick to tourist areas that are generally well guarded.