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March 02, 2012

Off the Beaten Track: The Unexpected Cape Town

Discover and fall in love with your unexpected Cape Town. Photo courtesy Skye Grove/Cape Town Tourism

The most popular of Cape Town’s tourism attractions are easy to find in the guidebooks – and let’s face it, there are many! But while these attractions are recognised globally, the Mother City’s lesser known marvels are loved by locals just the same. Here are a few things you may not know about Cape Town:

Accommodation comes at a price, but that price depends solely on you. Cape Town offers world-class luxurious hotels with five-star rooms that are the domain of supermodels and rockstars. However, the city also has a range of price-friendly range of B&B’s, guesthouses and self-catering apartments if you’re up to making your own muesli in the morning. You could have a look at backpacking options, such as Cat & Moose Backpackers in the city centre, 33 South Boutique in Observatory, guesthouse and B&B options, such as the Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel, as well as Self Catering Apartments in the city centre, including District Six Guesthouse in District Six or Braeside B&B in Green Point.

From fine-dining establishments to take-aways, Cape Town offers a multitude of cuisines in varying establishments to suit your palate at meal times. However, it you'd rather eat the way the locals do, try Cape Malay inspired dishes at Miriam’s Kitchen or the Eastern Food Bazaar, and a real chisa nyama (braai/ barbeque) at Mzoli’s Place in Gugulethu, or Amadoda in Woodstock.

Cape Town’s bone-white beaches and crystal seas are the jewels of the Atlantic Seaboard (Clifton, Camps Bay, Llandudno), but Noordhoek, situated on the far side of Ou Kaapse Weg, is renowned by locals for Long Beach, horse-riding, arty inhabitants and lazy winter days spent at the fireplaces of one of the many pub-type restaurants dotted around the area.

While Cape Point is a well-known tourist attraction, Diaz Beach, situated in the reserve, is not. It's not the easiest beach to get to, but it certainly is worth the effort as is secluded, extremely beautiful and has spectacular views. Once you reach the Cape Point parking lot, take the path to the right all the way down to the beach. With no mapped out paths to the beach, it could be a bit of a scramble but if you keep at it you won't be disappointed.

If a hike up Table Mountain or Lion’s Head seems like a bit of a chore, explore the mountain on walking trails and contour paths. Table Mountain National Park stretches from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south, with numerous access points for walks at Tokai, Cecilia Forest, Constantia Nek, Rhodes Memorial and Silvermine. Be sure to bring along a guide, friends, good walking shoes, a good map and water.

Experience unexpected tastes and cuisine at Mzoli\'s Place in Gugulethu. Photo © Cape Town Tourism

Cape Town's cultural heritage is important to both locals and tourists. Robben Island and township tours are enlightening, but there's so much more to see. Historically, Cape Town was the meeting place of South Africa’s original inhabitants (the Khoisan), the colonising Europeans and their Indo-Asian slaves. Today, the city is a melting pot of culture, thanks to the descendants of our forbearers and Cape Town-loving expats from across the globe. While in the city, take the time to visit the SA Jewish Museum and Holocaust Centre, as well as the many museums, such as the Slave Lodge and the Bo-Kaap Museum. Cape Town also offers three labyrinths, which are open to the public for prayer, meditation, and contemplation. The Oude Molen classical labyrinth can be found in the Oude Molen Village in Pinelands. The St George’s Cathedral labyrinth is situated in the city centre, at the top end of St George’s Mall, and the Kalk Bay medieval labyrinth on the Main Road is located at the junction of Kalk Bay, Clovelly and Fish Hoek - although on private property.

Tell us what your best-kept Cape Town secret is, below, or share it with us on facebook.

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