20 places to take first-timers to Cape Town
Cape Town is the kind of city you can visit a thousand times and discover something new every time. Nothing will ever come close to your initial visit though, so we’ve made a bucket list of things to see on your first visit to get a taste of the different faces of the Mother City.
This magnificent stretch of road connecting Noordhoek and Hout Bay is not only a great engineering feat but also one of the most scenic drives in Cape Town. Your jaw will drop as you drive between the mountains and ocean with a view you’ll definitely need to stop and photograph. There’s a R45 toll fee and the road is closed during adverse weather conditions, so be sure to check if it’s open before heading out.
The iconic Table Mountain has to be number one on any Cape Town to-do list. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway cable car rotates 360 degrees, so you’ll be treated to the best views imaginable as you travel 3,500ft up to the summit. Once at the top you can send a postcard, do some gift shopping, enjoy a coffee and a slice of milk tart, and walk about to enjoy as much of the Tabletop as you can. Here you are most likely to meet one of Cape Town’s most famous animals – the dassie. Head over to their Wi-fi Lounge for tasty snacks and free wifi. It’s not every day you get to enjoy Wifi on one of the seven natural wonders of the world!
Hipsters, visitors, and city slickers all meet at this communal watering hole on Kloof Street. Their craft beer and pizza has great appeal, but it’s the vibe that will give you a taste of Cape Town life. It also helps that they’re located right next door to Once in Cape Town, one of the top backpackers in town. The surrounding area also has other great places you could bar hop to, like Jerry’s Burger Bar, the Fat Cactus or Tiger’s Milk. If you need a sweet end to your evening the nearby Myog frozen yoghurt joint as well as Unframed artisan ice creamery are both open until late.
This wonderful seaside neighbourhood is a great place to visit for fish and chips, a walk along the beach, and gift shopping. Stroll down the main road and you’ll find many great eateries to grab a bite (the Brass Bell, Kalkies, and Cape to Cuba have fantastic views and drinks). The views are fantastic and you’ll really get that small town feeling as you take in the surrounds.
The V&A Waterfront
With live entertainment, a working harbour, tons of great restaurants, and a great selection of shops, the V&A Waterfront is a destination in itself. Take a ride on the Cape Wheel to get a bird’s eye view of the city and try a Red Anchor Harbour Cruise for a seal’s perspective. At the Watershed you’ll find incredible gifts and local crafts, fashion, and decor and you’ll want to go to the V&A Waterfront food market hungry as they have a huge variety of tasty food, drinks, and snacks. If you have time a visit to the Two Oceans Aquarium right next door will be a wonderful way to spend an afternoon getting to know the local marine life.
Camps Bay is the best place for a sundowner with a view of one of the most beautiful beaches in Cape Town. It’s also a great for a Sunday jol (local slang for party), especially at Chinchilla or Café Caprice. Keep the party going by stopping by nearby Shimmy Beach Club or The Grand for drinks with a view.
4Roomed Ekhasi Culture
Enjoy unforgettable township cuisine and a visit to Khayelitsha when you head to 4Roomed Ekhasi Culture. The restaurant’s founder and former Master Chef SA contender Abigail Mbalo has updated the township food she grew up with for the modern palette, combining old favourites like Umngqusho (samp and beans) with trendy new ingredients like coconut cream and tarragon.
Home to the iconic colourful beach huts and the most surfer-friendly waves in Cape Town, Muizenberg is a great place for the whole family. Grab a coffee, craft beer or falafel while you’re in the hood. In the mood for browsing and shopping? Take a stroll down Palmer Road into the Village to visit Made in Muizenberg, a co-op of local creatives. There’s also an audio walking tour you can do while you’re in this bohemian neighbourhood.
Franschhoek Wine Tram
Any visit to Cape Town would not be complete without a wine tour. The Franschhoek Wine Valley is one of the most beautiful areas surrounding Cape Town and you’ll get the most spectacular view of the region from the double-decker Franschhoek Wine Tram. With stops at various glorious wine farms, you’ll get to see and taste the best of the best. After you’ve enjoyed the scenery and wine stop over at La Petite Ferme or Marigold Restaurant for a bite to eat. The Huguenot Museum is also a highlight for those interested in the history of the area.
Visit Cape Town’s favourite monochromatic friends (sorry zebras and quaggas) at Boulders Beach where you’re bound to fall in love with the waddling African Penguin colony. Formerly known as jackass penguins because of their braying, African Penguins are the only penguins found on the continent and they are currently on the endangered species list. The Boulders Beach area is picturesque and Simon’s Town nearby is a great place to grab a bite to eat and stroll through the historic streets of this neighbourhood that’s also home to our naval base.
Wembley Road House
On your first visit to Cape Town, you definitely want to tick the big bucket-list items off the list, but we’re thinking you’d also love to see the real Cape Town, the Cape Town locals love and enjoy every day. Having a Whopper Burger, Gatsby (oversized local sandwich stuffed with fries, juicy meat or polony, and sauce) or Salomi (a large roti filled with curry) at Athlone‘s famous Wembley Road House will definitely give you some insight into the spirit of Cape Town. If you go for lunch the pastry shop right next door also has some great local treats on offer.
Past Simon’s Town on the South Peninsula you’ll find out-of-this-world views from the cliffs of Cape Point. With beautiful fynbos, baboons, and ostriches, you’ll be surrounded by nature as you visit this historic area. Listen to their audio tour for the history of the lighthouse and coast and be sure to take a trip on the Flying Dutchman Funicular while you’re there. For exquisite food with a view, there is the Two Oceans Restaurant, while the gift shop will meet all your souvenir needs.
Zeitz Mocca and the Silo District
The hottest ticket in town is one to the Zeitz Mocca, the biggest contemporary art museum on the continent, opened in September last year. The museum hosts an incredible selection of contemporary African art housed in an old silo, which in itself is a marvel to admire. The view from the rooftop is also something worthy to write home about. The bustling surrounding area of the Silo District has some great restaurants, cafes, and gift shops to explore. Be sure to check out the trendy and pet-friendly Radisson Red where you can chill on the rooftop with drinks and enjoy the great view of the city and Table Mountain.
The brilliantly colourful houses of the Bo-Kaap are walk distance from the Cape Town CBD and definitely a must for a first-timer. If you love food (who doesn’t?) try a Bo-Kaap Cooking Tour and learn how to make roti, Cape Malay curry, and samosas. You’ll also find fresh and tasty sweet koestisters (similar to a doughnut, but infused with spiced and covered in syrup and desiccated coconut) at Rose Corner Cafe. Browse local designer wear at Bo-Op and pop by Bo-Kaap Bazaar for great gifts and keepsakes.
Nature lovers will find heaven on earth at Kirstenbosch, the overwhelmingly green garden on the slopes of the back of Table Mountain. Walk the Boomslang Canopy walkway for a brilliant view of the surrounds and stroll through the gardens to get to know the local flora. In summer the Kirstenbosch Concerts and Galileo Outdoor Cinema shows are a great way to spend an evening outdoors.
The view of Table Mountain from Blouberg beach is the most postcard-perfect view in the Mother City. A favourite for families, kitesurfers, and surfers, this beach is wonderful for a walk along the coast and fish and chips or ice cream with a view.
Party in the CBD
Long Street has long been the favourite of visitors to Cape Town, but it has some serious competition in Bree, Loop, and Kloof Street. We’d recommend curios shopping and late night bar hopping on Long Street, with Beerhouse being a must for beer-lovers. Get something to eat on trendy Loop Street and end off the night at Arcade on Bree Street.
The Sea Point Promenade
The Sea Point Promenade is a pedestrian paradise with a walkway that has a view of the Atlantic Ocean as well as Lion’s Head. The people-watching potential is endless as you’ll see many local families. skaters, cyclists, and dog walkers doing their thing. There’s also an outdoor gym on the route from Mouille Point to Sea Point, with great playgrounds for kids too. Walk one block up to reach Sea Point’s main road where you’ll find hole-in-the-wall Asian diners, ice cream parlours, and bars between hardware stores and petrol stations.
The Oranjezicht City Farm Market
Every Saturday the Oranjezicht City Farm sells its organic local produce right next door to the V&A Waterfront. The market also hosts a range of amazing eateries where you can buy some of the most amazing snacks, meals, and treats. They also sell plants, crafts, and coffee so be sure to go hungry and take a shopper bag. If you like markets it’s also worth stopping by the Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock on Saturdays. On Friday nights there’s also the Lourensford Twilight Market to check out in Somerset West (from 5-9pm) or the Earth Fair market in the CBD on Thursdays during the lunch rush.
The beautiful Groot Constantia encompasses a lot of Cape Town in one spot: There’s wine, marvellous scenery, great food, and that laid-back atmosphere that makes you feel like everyone is somehow always on holiday. It’s one of the Mother City’s oldest and most loved wine estates, offering you the opportunity to gain insight into the history of Cape Town, but also to enjoy a chocolate and wine tasting while you’re there. They’ve just recently launched a series of fascinating audio tours to listen to while you explore the area. The City Sightseeing Bus conveniently has a tour to Groot Constantia so you can get the most of your ride there.
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