Cape Towns Top 10. Natural attractions and historical highlights

View of Cape Town from Robben Island.View of Cape Town from Robben Island.
Visitors to Cape Town are spoilt for choice. With a wealth of natural attractions and historical highlights, it's often difficult to choose what to leave out. Here's a list of Top 10's to help you decide.

10 best day trips

Cape Point
Take the scenic route along the False Bay coast, passing the quaint fishing village of Kalk Bay where you can buy fresh snoek straight from the boats. Stop at the naval harbour of Simonstown and visit the penguin colony at Boulders Beach before continuing on to Cape Point. Don't feed the baboons!

V & A Waterfront
The shopping malls, restaurants and places of interest at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront are Cape Town's top tourist attraction.

Robben Island
A visit to Robben Island to see where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned is a must.The Wine Route

Make sure you've got a designated driver who doesn't drink because after a day spent sampling fine wines near Stellenbosch or Franschhoek, their help will be very much needed.Table Mountain

Take the revolving cable car to the top and spend some time admiring the panoramic views.† Better still, make a day of it and hike up one of the established routes, then watch the sunset before catching the cableway down.Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Don't rush a visit to these beautiful gardens, famous around the world for its floral displays, proteas and rare species of plant that have been saved from extinction. Time your visit right and catch a summer sunset concert.Hout Bay
Visit the World of Birds, the largest bird park in Africa. Take a boat trip to Seal Island. Have fish and chips for lunch at Mariners Wharf.Aquila Private Game Reserve

See lions and wildlife on a 4 x 4 game drive scenic setting just 90 minutes drive from the city. You may even want to stay at the game lodgeTownship tour

Discover the multicultural side to Cape Town life by visiting Langa, Khayelitsha, Gugulethu, Nyanga and Crossroads.The West Coast

Drive to Saldanha Bay and the azure waters of Langebaan Lagoon before visiting the West Coast National Park.Gordons Bay to KoeŽl Bay

Twist and turn along the scenic coastal road before taking a hike to the clear mountain waters of Crystal Pools.

10 best beaches

Clifton

Choose any of the four white sand beaches, famous for bronzed bodies and bikini-clad girls. This is where the beautiful people can be found.Camps Bay

The beachfront road is lined by stylish restaurants and cocktail bars, this is home to the ultra cool and super chic.Llandudno

A good escape from the Clifton crowds, this beach is also very popular with surfers.Sandy Bay

Throw away your costumes at Cape Town's famous nudist beach.Noordhoek

An endless expanse of white sand overlooked by Chapmans Peak Drive. If it's not windy, this is probably the best beach in Cape Town.Boulders Beach

Relax in this sheltered cove and visit the African penguin colony.Fish Hoek

Sail on a hobie cat along the scenic False Bay coast.Muizenberg

Pack a picnic and enjoy the warm water of this family beach. There's also plenty of entertainment for the kids.Blouberg

A breezy paradise perfect for windsurfers and kiteboarders. Visit Eden on the Bay - the only shopping and restaurant complex right on the beach. Blouberg boasts the best views of Cape Town and Table Mountain.Oudekraal

For the ultimate in seclusion, try this small rocky strip. Or visit Bakoven's Beta Beach.

10 cultural classics and historical excursions

Castle of Good Hope

Built in 1666, the Castle is the oldest occupied building in South Africa and gives a glimpse into the Cape's colonial past. It houses the Military Museum and the William Fehr Collection of furniture and paintings. Phone: 787-1249.Gold of Africa Museum

Learn about the history of gold in southern Africa. It also contains an exhibition of West African gold artefacts. Phone: 405-1540.Bo-Kaap Museum

Situated in historic and colourful Bo-Kaap, this museum displays aspects of Muslim cultural heritage. Bo-Kaap became home to many Muslims after the abolition of slavery. Phone: 481-3939.South African Museum

Don't miss the whale well or the fine collection of San rock paintings in southern Africa's oldest museum. Phone: 481-3800.Groote Schuur Hospital Transplant Museum

As a tribute to the historic event that occurred on 3 December 1967, this museum has been created on the site of the theatre where Professor Christiaan Barnard performed the world's first heart transplant. Phone: 404-5232.District Six Museum

This is an essential stop for tourists as it poignantly tells the history of apartheid and the devastating effect it had on the 66 000 people who lived here. They were forcibly removed to outlying areas and their homes destroyed. Phone: 461-8745.Footsteps to Freedom

A guided walk through the historical streets of Cape Town that includes visits to the Groote Kerk building, Greenmarket Square, Grand Parade and the Company Gardens. Phone: 426-4260.Cape Town Holocaust Centre The only Holocaust Centre in Africa, this must-see museum is a place of remembrance for the six million Jews who died at the hands of the Nazi's. Phone: 462-5553.South African Jewish Museum

With the aid of touch screens and interactive computers, the visitor explores the world of Jewish pioneers and learns about those who have made their mark on the modern world. Phone: 465-1546.The Planetarium

Visitors are introduced to astronomy and the wonders of the universe through a series of inspiring shows suitable for both children and adults. Phone: 481-3900.

10 fun ways to watch a sunset

  • Buy an ice cream and take a leisurely stroll along the Sea Point promenade.
  • Catch the cable car to watch the sunset from the top of Table Mountain.
  • Drive up to the viewpoint at Chapmans Peak.
  • If the sea is calm, kayak out from Three Anchor Bay and admire the golden glow on Lions Head.
  • Pack a picnic basket and a bottle of wine for sundowners on Signal Hill.
  • Ride a bicycle to the end of the breakwater at the harbour.
  • Sit with seagulls on the rocks at Glen Beach as the sea turns to liquid gold.
  • Slip into the saddle for a mountain bike ride beneath the Twelve Apostles as the sun sinks over the Atlantic.
  • Take a champagne sunset cruise along the Atlantic seaboard.
  • Watch the sun slip behind Camps Bay's palm trees as you join the jetset crowd for cocktails at Caprice.

10 best hikes

Kasteelspoort

Start your climb at the top of Camps Bay and hike through the Valley of Red Gods to the top of Table Mountain.Panorama Path

Park your vehicle at Silvermine Reserve and walk the circular route with spectacular views of the whole peninsula. Don't miss out on Elephants Eye Cave.Chapmans Peak

If the road is open, park at the top and hike to the upper peak for unbeatable views of Hout Bay and Noordhoek Beach.Vlakkenberg

Starting at Constantia Nek Restaurant, the path winds up the back of Constantiaberg and curls around the mountain to finish in Hout Bay.Kalk Bay Caves

This trail starts in the fishing village of Kalk Bay and ascends through fields of fynbos, passing several caves well worth exploring.Judas Peak

Start your walk at Suikerbossie Restaurant above Hout Bay and climb up Myburgh's Waterfall (often dry) before the steep ascent to the top of the last Apostle. The route down through Llandudno Ravine is fairly tricky.The Saddle

This beautiful hike winds through the valley between Devils Peak and Table Mountain before descending into an enchanted forest in Newlands ravine. The circular path takes you back to your car parked on the lower cableway road.Skeleton Gorge

Park your car at Kirstenbosch and hike up Table Mountain to Maclears Beacon, the highest point of the city.Karbonkelberg

Climb Captains Peak and look down on the splendour of Hout Bay harbour. The route continues through a magical valley before reaching Suther Peak with views all the way along the Atlantic seaboard.Lions Head

This is one of the easiest and most enjoyable hikes in Cape Town. It offers 360į views of the city as the route does a full circle around the mountain before a series of chain ladders to the top. Try it in the evening under a full moon.

10 reasons why Cape Town is the Mother of all cities

  • December in Cape Town is fancy dress time when the gay community hosts the Mother City Queer Project, South Africa's biggest and most outrageous party. Heterosexuals are most welcome too.
  • The Argus Cycle Tour that takes place around the peninsula every March attracts over 35 000 cyclists and is the largest timed event in the southern hemisphere.
  • The Cape fynbos is one of six floral kingdoms in the world. But while the other five span whole countries or continents, ours is contained in just the western Cape.
  • Cape Town, and Long Street in particular, is legendary for its hectic nightlife. Jol at Joburg Bar, smoke a cigar at Kennedy's or listen to a marimba band at Mama Afrika. Whatever happens, you're in for a late night.
  • The seats for the now defunct Concorde were manufactured at a factory in Montague Gardens.
  • The Coon Carnival (minstrels carnival) that parades around the city streets over New Year is one of the most colourful and festive events of the year.
  • Cape Town is the home of Mark Shuttleworth, the first African in space and one of the youngest billionaires in the world.
  • Our notoriously strong south-easter wind that often covers Table Mountain with a white 'table cloth' of cloud is guaranteed to blow you away.
  • The Mother City is so laid back that it takes nine months for anything to get done.
  • With Table Mountain overlooking the city, and white sand beaches lining the coast, Cape Town is undoubtedly the most beautiful city in the world.
Copyright © 2004 Jeremy Jowell. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without the permission of the author is prohibited.
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