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December 18, 2012

48 hours in Cape Town: 5 things to do

Cape Town is not only a great value-for-money destination, it also offers good value for time. You can see and do so much in a relatively short time, if that's all you have. Here are five things to do if you have as little as 48 hours in Cape Town. (I really did all these things in 48 hours last week, in between some meetings, so I know they can be done!)

If there's one thing you do in Cape Town, get to the top of Table Mountain

1. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

Table Mountain is the most iconic of Cape Town's multiple attractions, particularly after its official declaration in December 2012 as one of the New7Wonders of Nature, following an extensive global voting process. If the weather is good, you can zip up the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, have a quick walk at the top, breathe in the mountain air, have a glass of wine overlooking the Twelve Apostles (a series of spectacular mountain outcrops along the Cape Peninsula's Atlantic Seaboard), and be back down, all within two to three hours.

Hot tips: Buy your tickets online and save 10% and join a much shorter queue. In summer months, the cableway runs a sunset special, which is half price after 6pm. This is often the nicest time of day, with the sun setting only at around 8pm. You can catch the last cable car down at 9pm.

The 'Wheel of Excellence' at the V&A Waterfront

2. V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront is reputedly South Africa's top tourist destination, with millions of people visiting each year. It's a good place to shop (during the festive season, shops are open into the evening), see a movie, eat at a restaurant with a spectacular view, or just hang out.

Hot tips: There are often buskers playing in the amphitheatre. Early evening is a lovely time to watch them and take photos of the waterfront, when the light is often beautiful.

The cowfish is just one of more than 3 000 specimens from both the Indian and Atlantic oceans that you can see at the Two Oceans Aquarium

3. Two Oceans Aquarium

The Two Oceans Aquarium in the V&A Waterfront is a hit with kids and adults alike, and has achieved an excellent balance of being both entertaining and educational. The kelp forest and predator exhibits are among the most popular exhibits – you can book a dive in the predator exhibit if you're feeling brave, and swim with giant ragged-tooth sharks.

Hot tips: Buy your tickets online at 10% off and avoid long queues during busy times. If you're likely to visit more than twice, become a member. You'll not only make a good saving, you'll also be supporting the aquarium in its important work.

Cape Town is famous for its clean and beautiful beaches. Llandudno is a good place to take sunset shots

4. The beach

Cape Town's beaches are breathtakingly beautiful. The beaches along the Atlantic Seaboard (Camps Bay, Clifton, Llandudno and others) are colder to swim at, but are arguably even lovelier than beaches like Muizenberg and Fish Hoek on the other side of the Cape Peninsula. But those are warmer, more kid-friendly and it's easier to find parking at them, so there's something for everyone.

Hot tips: Get to the beach as early as you can, especially over the busy summer months. The later you go, the harder it is to find parking. Alternatively, catch a taxi there and back and avoid the parking conundrum all together.

Cape Town's City Hall, built in 1905

5. City Hall

Built in 1905 from sandstone, the Cape Town City Hall must be Cape Town's most beautiful building, and is one of many historic buildings in the Mother City, South Africa's oldest city. Located in the city centre not far from the country's oldest building, the Castle of Good Hope, it's worth driving past to take a photograph, or if you have time, stop and stroll along the Grand Parade in front of it. This is where Nelson Mandela was welcomed by a massive crowd in 1990, after spending 27 years in prison, much of it on Robben Island – another great place to visit in Cape Town.

Hot tips: City Hall is home to the world-renowned Cape Philharmonic Orchestra, which regularly performs concerts here. Visit the orchestra's website for details on performances: www.cpo.org.za.

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