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January 16, 2012

Cape Town summers on a budget

Penguin spotting at Boulders Beach is a fascinating and inexpensive way to spend a summer\'s day in Cape Town. Image © Cape Town Tourism

The Mother City is such a gem in summer not only because of her abundant natural assets, but also because many outdoor activities are absolutely free. If you’re more of an indoors kind of person, there’s more than enough to keep you entertained too.


Table Mountain National Park stretches along the length of the Peninsula with many access points and exciting trails for walkers from the casual stroller to the super fit. Whether you walk the mild contour paths or hike uphill, spectacular views of Cape Town, rugged mountains and blue seas are waiting for you. Most of these walks are easy and free with only a small number charging a minimal entrance fee, but please do note that some of the more strenuous walks require certified mountain guides.

Nature reserves are another great way to experience the Cape. Walk, picnic and do some birdwatching at the Silvermine Nature Reserve, Durbanville Nature Reserve, Silwerboomkloof or the Helderberg Nature Reserve.

The Atlantic Seaboard’s beaches are protected from the wind and sport Miami-style boardwalks, while the warmer False Bay coastline is perfect for swimming. When travelling along the coastal road past the historic Simon’s Town towards Cape Point, a stop at Boulders Beach for penguin spotting is a must. There are also lookout points for spotting the Cape’s infamous Chacma baboon troops.


The Cape Winelands are less than an hour’s drive from Cape Town and offer daily wine tastings and cellar tours, as well as peaceful, scenic picnics spots.


Walk through the city or down the Museum Meander route. For most of the year, many of Cape Town’s Iziko Museums ask for a minimal entry fee or donation, and on select days entry may be free.


The Company’s Garden in the city centre was established in 1652 and is a large public park full of history and a place where locals enjoy sitting under the shade of enormous old trees and feeding the squirrels.

Nobel Square at the V&A Waterfront honours South Africa's four Nobel Peace Prize laureates: the late Chief Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk. The V&A Waterfront also hosts free music concerts and live sport screenings in the amphitheatre, and is home to the Maritime Centre, which features an overview of shipping in Cape Town from its earliest beginnings.

The Centre for the Book is situated just opposite the Company’s Garden and provides a quiet space where you can browse through collections of contemporary South African works.

The South African Astronomical Observatory offers free night tours and stargazing every second Saturday of the month.

There are many art galleries in the city centre and on the urban edge that are free. The Association for Visual Arts in the city centre, the Rust en Vreugd Gallery in Durbanville and Art.b in Bellville are prime examples. Another good idea is to walk through Woodstock and visit art galleries like Whatiftheworld, as well as quirky designer shops featuring locally made and handcrafted products.

Other popular activities include frequenting Cape Town’s many coffee shops, shopping at markets such as Greenmarket Square or Neighbourgoods, or browsing in the malls at the V&A Waterfront and Canal Walk

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