Cape Town has plenty to offer both locals and tourists, and it’s hard to find a way to balance out the quirky hole-in-the-wall joints that locals love with the tourist hot-spots. Don’t fret! In this guide, we’ll show you how to get the best of both worlds. You can live like a local and still see some of the major attractions, without having to spend all your precious holiday time standing in queues and battling crowds. And all of that in a three-day whirlwind visit! Hang on to your hats, folks. (No really, Cape Town can get pretty windy).
Day 1: City Slicker
The city centre is the perfect place to start your Cape Town adventure. Day 1 is about taking in as much of the city as you can, so get an early start and wear good walking shoes.
Head for the V&A Waterfront to board Cape Town’s famous City Sightseeing Red Bus Tour. You can hop on and off as you like, and they’ll also stop right at the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway station. You can buy tickets for the Cableway on board the bus to skip the queues. The views from the top of Table Mountain are mind-blowing—even locals are floored every time they visit.
From Table Mountain, the bus will carry on to the stunning Atlantic Seaboard. You’ll pass beaches that won’t quit, and fantastic lunch spots overlooking the ocean. Remember to check your bus ticket for coupons and discounts!
If you get back to the Waterfront in time, you can take a ferry out to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela and his comrades were imprisoned under the apartheid regime.
After a day rubbing shoulders with folks from all over the world, you’ll be ready to kick back with the locals. Check out the hive of activity that is the Cape Town City Bowl at night. There are live music spots, clubs, and restaurants. You could take in an intimate theatre show at Alexander Bar, or go for a burger at Royale Eatery (they don’t take bookings, so make sure you get there relatively early).
Day 2: Heading South
Rise and shine! Today we’re going to explore Cape Town like a local. There are many ways to get around. You could head for the nearest train station and get on board the Southern Line to Simon’s Town. It’s an unbelievably affordable way to get around, and what better way to see the city than doing like the commuters do each morning? You could also drive, if you prefer.
You’re aiming for the charming seaside village of Kalk Bay first. There, you’ll find a harbour where fishermen haul in loads of fresh seafood, which you can sample at the restaurants nearby. Kalky’s is a Cape Town institution, with the most eclectic patronage you’ll find in town, from local fishermen to wealthy international tourists. From there you can watch Cape Fur Seals dart through the water seeking out scraps, while lively crafters punt their wares on the dock.
Then head further south to Simon’s Town, where you’ll find fascinating museums and the famous Boulder’s Beach, which is home to a colony of African penguins. Once you’re at Boulder’s, it’s only another half hour to Cape Point, which is one of the most spectacular peninsulas in the world and forms part of the Table Mountain National Park. There are many ways to get there.
Evenings in False Bay are almost entirely devoid of tourists, and there are some gorgeous places to dine. It’s not big on nightlife, but if you want to watch the sunset with a bottle of wine and a great seafood dinner, this is the right place.
Day 3: Wine(d) Down
The Cape wines are world-renowned, and it’s worth taking a day to explore the various wine routes and sample the wares. You can book tours, or rent a car for the day—just remember that you’ll need a designated driver. Choose between the many unique wine routes in Cape Town and spend the day surrounded by spectacular scenery, beautiful Cape Dutch architecture, and some of the best restaurants in the country.
If you choose to go towards the Helderberg area, you’ll pass Gugulethu on the way. This township is home to Mzoli’s Place. It’s legendary for giving visitors an authentic African eating experience, and serves delicious Shisa Nyama (fire-cooked meat). Eat, drink, and have fun with the locals!
If wine isn’t your cup of tea, check out the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. The grounds are stunning, with wild-flowers and indigenous flora growing in abundance. It’s best in the spring time, when the beds are kaleidoscopic. There is a great restaurant here too, and a picnic on the lawns is one of the greatest pleasures of life in Cape Town.
The restaurants in the Winelands and in Constantia are a gastronomic treat, with some of the finest gourmet food you’ll find in the country. Or, if you’re up for something a little more laid back, there are countless dining options in Constantia to suit most budgets.