Top 31 Things to Do in Cape Town

A Comprehensive Guide to the Top Cape Town Attractions and Activities

Cape Town at a Glance

Famous for its mountainous landscape, mass wine production and ocean waves so high you might momentarily forget about the sharks, this South African city is an all round escape for friends and families alike. Affectionately known as the ‘Mother City,' Cape Town is a port city on the Southwest coast of South Africa. Once packed in by Table Mountain, Cape Point, and Lion’s Head, the city has sprawled further afield and now occupies the affluent areas of Camps Bay and Clifton Bay.

Whether you’re here on a romantic road trip up the Garden Route, a family holiday all about outdoor activities or you find yourself on an epic friend’s adventure; there’s something to do here for everyone. Culture vultures can take in the street art of District Six. History buffs can brush up on Robben Island's past. The outdoor types can hike Table Mountain, and the adrenaline fueled few can take surf lessons, cage dive with sharks or even propel themselves out of a plane on a scenic skydive; each to their own.

How Much Time Do You Need to See Cape Town?

When it comes to how many days to spend in Cape Town, you should adopt a ‘the more, the merrier’ stance. This vast city is spread out over a large area packed with beaches, burbs, and bars. To really cover said areas you’re going to need a minimum of three days here but our perfect number of days in the city would be five. This is enough time to explore the best of the beaches, mountains and historical sites, not to mention you get to dine on South African cuisine five nights in a row and trust us when we say you’re going to want to. If you’re lucky enough to have bagged an extra day or two, then you simply must head out of the city to the surrounding Winelands for a real gastronomy treat.

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Free Things to Do in Cape Town

Though there’s ample opportunity in Cape Town to spend money, it doesn’t always have to be spent to have a good time. Below we’ve listed some activities to enjoy in and around the city for absolutely free.

Full Moon Hike up Lion’s Head
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A hike anywhere in Cape Town isn’t going to be easy thanks to its steep, mountainous, inclines but a Full Moon Hike up Lion’s Head is a great work out and an exhilarating adventure. If you’re not here when there’s a full moon, its more than worth heading up during the day for beautiful expansive views over the city.

Sea Point Promenade
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This family friendly promenade runs from Mouille Point to Bantry Bay and boasts a children's playground, public swimming pool and numerous art sculptures. Enjoy this ocean breeze walk first thing in the morning to help blow off the cobwebs.

Cecillia Forest
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On the lower slopes of Table Mountain sits the Cecilia Forest; a vastly green area packed with flora and fauna. The forest is home to many hiking roots of varying difficulty and we recommend following the signs to Rooikatkloof and taking the waterfall walk.

District Six
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As a former working class residential area, District Six now sits as a somewhat abandoned area of town. Though not everyone’s cup of tea, the district is enticing to both historians and contemporary artists. Take a stroll around the area to observe the archaic buildings and contrasting 21st-century graffiti.

Green Point Urban Park
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This green oasis in the city center is the perfect place for a family picnic, outdoor games or a romantic walk. With a winding lake, an adventure play park and outdoor labyrinth the park will keep kids entertained for hours. Afterward, head out of the park towards the coastline to take a picture in front of the Green Point lighthouse.

V & A Waterfront
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Located in South Africa’s oldest working harbor, the V&A Waterfront boasts an array of shops, restaurants, and activities suitable for couples and families alike. Expect to enjoy anything and everything from morning yoga classes to free stargazing classes to food tasting at the waterfront market.

Pan African Market

The Pan African Market is located on Cape Town’s historic Long Street and stall holders sell native fare ranging from African works of art to colorful rugs. Spend an hour here exploring the stalls to appreciate the local craftsmanship and artisan work.

Map of Free Things to Do in Cape Town
Map of free things to do in Cape Town

Ready to go? Read about the best neighborhoods to stay in Cape Town.

1-Day Itinerary in Cape Town

If you’ve somehow only managed to secure one day in the city, well done for trying, there’s still plenty of things to do to ensure you leave having had a true Cape Town experience. Fasten your shoe laces tight, fuel up on a big breakfast, and get ready for a non-stop, exhilarating, day. Below we’ve listed a bunch of things to see and do on a one-day city itinerary.

Hike Table Mountain
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Cape Town’s prominent landmark and biggest tourist attraction is Table Mountain. With spectacular views of the city it really is a must do on any Cape Town itinerary. There are over 900 routes up to the top all ranging in difficulty, and a cable car runs up for those less able, or for families with little ones.

Boulders Beach
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An hours drive south of Cape Town sits Boulders Beach; a sheltered beach made up of granite boulders. This protected area is well maintained which means there’s a small conservation fee to visit, but as it’s home to the protected species of African Penguins it’s more than worth it.

District Six Museum
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After an apartheid government destroyed District Six, a now absent neighborhood, the District Six museum strives to preserve history through the exhibition of maps, photographs, and artifacts. A real glimpse into Cape Town of yesteryear, the museum will be of interest to history buffs and families alike

Clifton 4th beach
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Clifton 4th beach sits in the affluent suburb of Clifton. Pack your sun cream and don your best swimsuit in preparation for a morning of soft white sand, turquoise waters and extreme people watching.

Afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel
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Set free your inner aristocrat over afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel. Don your crispest cream linens and take to the hotels drawing room for a traditional serving of bite size sandwiches and freshly baked scones; a tradition dating back to Cape Town’s colonial days.

Kloof Street
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Kloof Street sits in the heart of downtown Cape Town and is packed with gastronomic delights. With an array of eateries serving cuisine from all around the world, you can’t go wrong. Head to Bardelli’s for Italian, Chalk & Cork for Tapas or Saigon for tasty Asian fare.

Surfing Lessons
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Where better to learn to surf than the home of surf itself? There are plenty of surf schools located around the bays to choose from, and this activity is suitable for couples wanting to learn a new skill or families wanting to make memories.

Map Things to Do in Cape Town With 1 Day
Map of things to do for a one-day itinerary in Cape Town

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2-Day Itinerary in Cape Town

Two days in Cape Town can be spent seeing the primary sights before venturing off the beaten track slightly. Below we’ve listed where to go, what to do and who to see on your two-day city itinerary.

Long Street
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When it comes to nightlife, Long Street is the hub of all evening entertainment. Lined with quirky bars, cool nightclubs and late night cafes the street has a party atmosphere that can’t be missed. Enjoy drinks late into the evening as revelers fill the streets making their way to the next bar.

Cape Town Stadium
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Cape Town Stadium is an iconic building noticeable on any picture of city; this bowl dome is home to many sporting games and music concerts. Be sure to check the stadium's website before any visit to see what exciting events are on the calendar.

Gansbaai Shark Diving
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Calling all aforementioned adrenaline junkies; it’s your time to shine. The shores of South Africa are somewhat infamous for their shark inhabitation, and the small fishing town of Gansbaai, in particular, is the perfect location for a spot of shark diving. Take the two-hour drive south of Cape Town to get up close and personal with one of the planet’s greatest predators.

Camps Bay
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Cape Town’s second affluent suburb comes in the form of Camps Bay; a beautiful beach town set against a backdrop of the Twelve Apostle mountain range. Head here for a beach picnic or enjoy lunch at one of the many restaurants dotted around the area.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
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Fun for all the family, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens sit at the eastern foot of Table Mountain. Whether you’re taking a romantic couples stroll or letting the kids run wild and free, a trip to one of the greatest botanical gardens in the world should be high on your to-do list.

The Test Kitchen
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Voted the world’s best restaurant in 2016 by San Pellegrino, The Test Kitchen, situated just off Mill Street, serves an eclectic mix of South African cuisines. Make sure you pre-book a table in advance to enjoy smoked sea bass, slow cooked pork belly, and wood roasted sweet potatoes.

Helicopter Ride

For a different view of the city take an exhilarating helicopter ride departing from V&A Waterfront. Whether you opt for a Two Oceans Scenic flight or take a Full Peninsula tour, the aerial views are something you certainly won't be forgetting in a hurry.

Muizenberg Beach
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Just a 30-minute drive south of Cape Town sits the family friendly Muizenberg Beach. Dotted with colorful, English, bathing sheds this-eco friendly beach is the perfect day out. Spend the morning on the sands watching pro-surfers tackle the waves.

Map Things to Do in Cape Town With 2 Day
Map of things to do for a two-day itinerary in Cape Town

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3+ Day Itinerary in Cape Town

Three or more days in Cape Town is highly advisable, trust us when we say you won't want to leave. Once you’ve explored the main sights it’s time to head further afield to find delights such as Robben Island or the Winelands to the north. Below we’ve provided a list of activities and attractions for a three or more-day itinerary.

Robben Island
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Accessible by ferry only, Robben Island is a protected conservation area that was once home to hundreds of political prisoners. Take a tour of the island to learn about its dark history before immersing yourself in the budding geology, marine, and wildlife that takes over the island.

Visit the Winelands
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Two hours north of the city sits the famous Winelands, an area packed with rolling vineyards, endless sunshine and unsurprisingly friendly locals. The closer towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are also well known for their wine production, and tasting tours run regularly from each.

Two Oceans Aquarium
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Should the weather take a turn, or you’re simply searching for ways to tire out the kids, then a trip to Two Oceans Aquarium should be on the cards. Exploring the marine diversity of both the Indian and Atlantic Ocean, the aquarium provides an exhilarating day out for all.

Woodstock

Once a rundown suburb, Woodstock is now a hipster neighborhood and recognized art district. Cape Town’s oldest suburb boasts fruitful markets, craft fairs, and vintage clothes stores. Head down Roodebloem Road for a cheap bite to eat before your search for shabby chic souvenirs commences.

Jazz Festival
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Jazz music has always been a thing in Cape Town, so much so the city created its own branch of music called ‘Cape Jazz’. If you’re not in town for the annual International Jazz Festival in March, then head to one of the cities many Jazz bars, like the Mahogany Room Jazz Club, for an evening of slow tunes and good vibes.

Bo-Kaap
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Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap is an area of Cape Town that sits above the city center and is dotted with colorful, quirky, houses. With a history influenced by Malaysian, African, Indian and Sri Lankan culture it really is a culture vulture’s paradise.

Castle of Good Hope
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This 17th-century bastion fort sits miraculously in the city center. The castle hosts many exhibitions, talks, and workshops but a simple walk around the grounds alone is enough to suffice those interested in colonial South Africa.

South African Brewery in Newlands

Just a ten-minute drive south of the city sits Newlands Brewery, the oldest operating brewery in South Africa. With nine world famous beers produced here, an array of tasting tours are available, and all make a great day out for friend groups after some beer-centric fun.

Cape Point Nature Reserve

The famous Cape Point sits at the tip of the peninsula just an hour south of the city. This nature reserve is home to 250 species of birds, Cape mountain zebra, and baboons. Take a trip to these rugged cliffs for exceptional views out over the Atlantic Ocean, the perfect way to end any trip to Cape Town.

Map Things to Do in Cape Town With 3+ Day
Map of things to do for a 3+ day itinerary in Cape Town

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Parting Words

Cape Town is a mesmerizing place of natural beauty, and whether you’re inside dining on fresh seafood or halfway up a mountain in the sweltering heat, you’ll appreciate it. From soft sand beaches where the rich and famous hang out, to the run down artsy districts in the city’s downtown area; there’s a little bit of everything on offer. And, once you hit the open road and head to the Winelands, it quickly becomes apparent why the local’s faces are permanently set to smiling and why so many expats have upped their lives and settled in this beautiful city.

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