If you’re planning a trip to Cape Town and want to get the most out of staying here this city guide is what you need, written by locals for tourists contains best recommendations, itineraries, insider tips, place to visit and things to do – the best of Cape Town for you!
If you ask what makes Cape Town so special? We’ll say the mountain and the sea, the perfect combination of these two will convert any city in an awesome place for living and traveling. We’re not saying it because we live here but because it’s 100% truth! If you still have some doubts they will be gone by the time you finish reading this post.
Best time to visit Cape Town
- For sightseeing – any time is good, though winter months; June – August can be quite chilly and rainy.
- For beach holiday – January – April, hot and sunny. November – December are quite hot months as well, but it can get extremely windy.
- For diving – the water around Cape Town is always cold, but can be dived all year round, inside False Bay in winter and The Atlantic side in summer.
- For surfing – winter months May – August are the best for surfing around Cape Town, summer can be ok e.g. though the wind is an issue.
- For hiking – September – November and March – May, winter is rainy and cold, summer is too hot.
In last years water has become a major concern for Capetonians due to the worst drought ever registered in the area. Please, help us to save water and use it wisely!
Cape Town city map
Cape Town travel budget break down
- Backpacking – ZAR300/US$25 per person.
- Middle budget – from ZAR600/US$50 per person.
- Luxury – from ZAR2000/US$160 per person.
The most budget option is Couchsurfing there are many hosts in Cape Town important to check the location of your future couch and how easy it’s to get there by public transport, since you’re on a budget and probably not planning to rent a car or uber around a lot.
Hostels (budget) – there are many, some are really awesome, some not that great but cheaper. Avg price for bed in a hostel ZAR180/US$15.
Budget hotels, B&Bs and Air B&B, there are many starting from ZAR500/US$40 for a twin/double room.
Fancy hotels – these are the easiest you just go for one of the big names, as you probably already stayed in a couple of them in different cities. from ZAR1200/US$100 for a double room.
Cooking vs Dining out
The cheapest option is to cook for yourself, but you need a kitchen, most hostels and B&B have it. Depending on your preferences you can get away with as little as ZAR70/US$6 per meal for two. Tip! The best places to do food shopping are big supermarkets, there are a couple of them in the city center; Pick and Pay, Checkers, Super SPAR.
Street food and fast food – fish & chips kind of meal will cost you about ZAR40-50/US$4. For cheap fast food breakfast option check popular local franchise, Wimpy, they serve breakfast all day, Streaky breakfast (bacon, eggs, toasts) costs ZAR30/USD2,5 without coffee.
Restaurants – there are plenty in the city; steak houses, sea food and vegetarian restaurants, Italian pizzerias, Thai and Indian cuisine etc. An average price for a meal without drinks will be ZAR150/US$10 and up.
Moving around the city
Walking will be the most budget option, but we don’t recommend doing it at night.
Renting a car – Having a car in South Africa makes things a lot easier! There is not really good public transport to surrounding towns, beaches and other sights. There are different options starting with budget old VW Golfs to luxury cars and fully kitted safari vehicles. If your dream is to cruise along the coast on a Harley Davidson it’s possible to rent one as well.
Public buses – one busride in the city starts at ZAR12/US$1 if you use Myconnect card.
Uber – not as budget as buses but cheaper than taxis, to uber around Cape Town city centre (5km) will cost you from ZAR30/US$2,5.
Taxis – if you willing to pay for it than rather get a reliable taxi from your hostel/hostel, for an average taxi ride (5km) within the city you pay ZAR40/US$3.
How to stay safe in Cape Town?
- Don’t walk at night in the city if you go out take a taxi back to your hotel and try to stick to a crowd of 4 or more.
- If you rent a car don’t leave anything inside when parking, not even a book or an old jacket, otherwise you risk finding your car with broken windows.
- When driving make sure your doors a locked and windows are not wide-opened.
- Keep your valuable stuff with you all the time, don’t put it on a seat next to you, it’ll disappear before you notice it.
- If you venture to hike up Table Mountain do it in a right time of the day when there are other people walking it, not late evening on your own carrying an expensive camera with.
- Don’t take your passport and all the valuable stuff with rather lock it in a hotel safe or locker.
- Use reliable taxi service not any random guy that stop on the street.
- To draw money rather use ATM in a bank office, mall or supermarket. You can pay by card in most hotels, restaurants, ticket offices.
It may sound too much and a bit scary it’s not meant to discourage you from enjoying Cape Town more to prevent an unpleasant experience in our city. By the way we live here and have never had any bad experience.
Where to stay in Cape Town? A neighborhood guide
Many tourists wonder what areas are the best and the safest to stay in Cape Town, here is the answer;
Camps Bay is beautiful but the most expensive area in the city with stunning landscape, fancy restaurants and designer shops. The upper-class restaurants and coffee shops are great for a cocktail or a coffee, but very expensive for lunch! The beaches here are stunning, but the water is freezing. Camps Bay and Clifton are perfect beaches for walking around in your bikini, sunbathing and playing beach bats, very cold for swimming. Would like to stay here? Prepare to pay from ZAR1200/US$100 per night.
V&A Waterfront, Green Point. Getting better though still quite expensive. Might be a nice area to stay if you have some money and want to spend a week or so in the city. Safe, close to the restaurants and the mall, beautiful. The area is good for a romantic stay within the city.
Sea Point as you can guess from its name it’s at the sea next to V&A Waterfront and Cape Town stadium like Waterfront Sea Point boasts some great restaurants and shops, fancy accommodation options and beautiful sea view.
Tamboerskloof, my favorite neighborhood in Cape Town has some cozy guest houses and hostels to stay, walking distance to Lion’s Head and Table Mountain.
Main hostel and bar areas of Cape Town are along Bree Street, Long Street and Kloof Street any of them are great to stay if you’re planning to go out and want some movement and cool crowd. There are quite a few budget accommodation options along the Kloof Street.
Woodstock, a couple of years ago quite a dodgy neighborhood it’s busy turning into a hipster one with handy craft weekend markets, lofts, cool coffee shops and local designer shops. Note! It’s still not the safest area in Cape Town it’s better not to wander on the streets at night.
If you’re planning to stay in Cape Town for quite a while and like doing water activities, being close to the beach we’d recommend staying in Big Bay area. There are many holiday apartments rental places here. It’s quite far from the city center but at the Bloubergstrand beach which is great for kite surfing (November – March) and surfing (April – October). There are surfing and kite-surfing schools and rental places around. We love that area, very nice long beach, great for long walks or running, many bars and restaurants around, easy to move by My City Bus including getting all the way to Cape Town. It’s not the best area to stay if you come for a couple of days but a great place if you’re staying for weeks or months. It has more of a holiday place feeling than the city. By the way from Big Bay you get the most beautiful view on Table Mountain. If you decide to stay in Big Bay don’t miss sunset at Blue Peter restaurant/bar, you can sit at one of the outside tables or on the load seeping cocktail or beer and enjoying stunning sunset (the sun disappears in the sea) and incredible view on Table Mountain.
Accommodation in Cape Town
If you’re on a backpacker budget and don’t mind staying in a shared room and sleeping on a bunk bed Urban Hive Backpackers is a great option. Budget though very nice, clean, social, safe, friendly staff with great central location, on Long Street, good for going out and exploring the city. Good wi-fi, balcony with city/mountain view where you can enjoy your drink or morning coffee, fully equipped kitchen, TV room, inside bar and BBQ facilities. All you need for a budget and pleasant stay in the city center. Dorm bed ZAR180/US$15, single room ZAR350/US$30, twin room ZAR450/US$38, double room ZAR550/US$46.
Another great budget option is 91 Loop, located in the same area close to Long Street and Red Square market this sparkling clean modern place won’t disappoint you. Minimalist modern design, comfortable beds each has own light and outlets. For those who want more privacy there are dormitories with pod beds with AC. The hostel boats excellent wi-fi, good breakfast included, nice restaurant on the ground floor, tour desk where you can book all sort of activities, shuttles etc. Dorm beds from ZAR198/US$17, pods from ZAR234/US$20, private doubles from ZAR855/US$72.
Middle price range
If you’re looking for a room or studio in a quite place not far from the city center and beaches look at Midtown Rentals at Windburg Suites. They offer one or two bedroom rooms and studios at the foot of Table Mountain in a nice and quite safe area of the city. All rooms have AC, wi-fi, BBQ facilities, satellite TV, private entrance, double bed, small kitchenette. Outside pool and lovely garden are for guests use. Room prices start at ZAR565/US$48 for a double room.
If you’d like stay close to the city center and have a place exclusively for yourself check out Midtown Rentals at Perspectives apartments. One or two bedroom apartments in a new building with kitchen (oven, microwave, kettle, washing machine, fridge etc.), satellite TV, wi-fi, private parking, all you need to make yourself feel like at home. Make sure to make a booking these apartments sold out quick! One bedroom apartments (fit two people) from ZAR755/US$64, two bedroom apartments (four people) ZAR1200/US$100.
Luxury accommodation in Cape Town
Would like to spoil yourself and stay at a place that most visitors rate as exceptional? Constantia Garden Suites is a perfect place for you! Located in a beautiful and peaceful Constantia neighborhood this hotel will satisfy most guests. Spacious beautiful rooms with separate kitchen and dining area, king size beds, impeccable clean, each room has access to a garden and an outside pool. Needless to say the hotel features everything you’d expect from a 5-star place. Rooms from ZAR1600/US$150 per night, minimum stay 2 nights.
For an exquisite stay in the most prestigious area of Cape Town we’d suggest South Beach Camps Bay hotel. It’s difficult to find better located place if you seek for chilling on a beautiful beach, which is only 50m away! The Promenade with main restaurants and bars is as well right here. The rooms are big and spacious with separate kitchen, flat-screen satellite TV, AC, a blu-ray player, a bluetooth sound bar. Every day a kitchen fridge is stocked with a range of food for breakfast. A well equipped gym and swimming pool for guests’ use. Sparkling clean, modern with attention to the details this is a stay to remember! Rooms from ZAR3200/US$300 per night.
Top places to visit in Cape Town
Table Mountain, an iconic site of Cape Town and the most visited place in the city, you can’t miss it! Come here in the morning to skip crowds, take a cable car, drink a cup of coffee in Table Mountain cafe enjoying the stunning view over the city.
V&A Waterfront, a busy touristy area in the heart of the operating harbor, one of the most visited places in South Africa. Best hotels, restaurants as well as fancy shops can be found here. The highlights; the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Clock Tower, the Time Ball Tower and the Maritime museum.
Robben island is 7km off shore small island, 5km2, for the last 400 years been used as a prison, mostly for political prisoners, as well as leper colony and animal quarantine station. The most famous political prisoner of Robben island was Nelson Mandela who spent 18 years on here. To get here take a ferry from V&A Waterfront.
Cape of Good Hope, many think it’s the southernmost point of Africa which is not true but it’s a truly beautiful place with rocky cliffs facing the ocean, white-sand beaches and breath-taking lookouts. The Cape is located inside the National park and is great for a scenic drive from Cape Town or a hike, there are several short hiking trails as well as multi day once.
Bo-Kaap neighbourhood former Malay Quarter, the most colorful neighborhood in Cape Town and one of the favorite Instagram spots in the city. 90% of the Bo-Kaap residents are Muslim mostly descendants from Sri Lanka, India, Malaysia and Indonesia. Local restaurants and food markets are famous for the delicious fusion cuisine, mix of Asian, Indian and European cooking traditions.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, a beautiful peace of paradise within the city. The Garden is big with lush green vegetation and flowers. You can spend here all day, as we do sometimes, come here in the morning walk around or maybe even do the Suicide Gorge hike before it gets too hot. Have lunch in one of the restaurants inside or bring food with and have a picnic on the grass and slowly move to the amphitheater to enjoy one of the Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts.
Cape Town 1-day itinerary
If you have only one day in the city no worries you’ll be able to see the main city attractions. The best and the easiest way to see as much is possible in one day is to do an open-top bus tour. There are four different routes through the city; City Tour to Table Mountain, Downtown tour, Peninsula tour (Kirstenbosch and Hout Bay) and Constantia Valley Wine bus. A ticket you buy is valid for the day for all routes, price – ZAR180/US$ adults, ZAR100/US$ children. If you start early morning you’ll be able to complete all four loops in one day and even have some time for taking photos, lunch and coffee break and buying souvenirs. Buses operate daily between 8am and 7pm, different routes have different times.
If you don’t mind spending more and prefer to do a Cape Town tour there are many companies offering this service. The best option is to ask in your hotel for a tour to get a reliable operator and good service. There are standard mini bus tours, from ZAR500/US$ , where you’ll join a group of 4+ people or exclusive private tours, might cost anything between US$200 and US$300 for a car (up to 5-6 people) for a half day tour.
3 days in Cape Town
If you have three days to spend in Cape Town here is our great and well balanced itinerary for you. If you’re lucky enough to stay in or close to the center for the first two days of exploring the city rather use Uber/buses/taxis than drive yourself, finding a parking and paying for it quite a bit every time you move to a new place can get exhausting. For a two day stay city tour bus can be a good option as well, you can buy a ticket valid for 2 days and use these buses like public transport to move between different sights, the ticket is valid for all four loops, plus Sunset bus, no rides limit.
Day one of 3-day Cape Town itinerary
First day we’d suggest to spend exploring Cape Town’s downtown, V&A Waterfront, Bo Kaap, Table Mountain and Lion’s Head.
Morning. Try to start your day early to have more time to explore Cape Town. Begin your day at V&A Waterfront and the Promenade, great place for a morning run or walk whichever you prefer. Morning is a good time for this area, not too crowded (no need to queue to take a photo with the yellow frame and Table Mountain on the background), fresh sea breeze, many breakfast options. Tip! Mar e Sol restaurant right at the sea offers special breakfast menu for ZAR30/US$2,5 (eggs, bacon and toast). We like the Waterfront it has a great holiday vibe any time of the year. If your budget allows sparkle your day with a helicopter flight over the Mother City. Tour offices are at the Waterfront, helicopters waiting for you around the corner. I must say the view of the city, the sea and the mountain from up there is stunning. We didn’t do a helicopter flight we flew over on a small plain with our friend. Prices from US$152 pp depending on a flight duration. While at the Waterfront don’t forget about a boat tour to Robben island, to see the place where Mandela spent 18 years in prison. It takes 3h30min including a boat ride there and back and a prison tour. Price ZAR340/US$28 – adults, ZAR190/US$15 – children.
Midday. Head to Bo Kaap the most colorful neighborhood of Cape Town and one of the most instagrammed as well. Photo tip for girls; colorful dresses look awesome for photos against green, red, yellow, blue etc. walls. There are walking and even cycling tours in the neighborhood and around you can join one of them if you wish. If you like cycling you will enjoy Cape Town city cycling tour that starts at W&A Information center at 10am and 3pm (in summer). You cycle through Bo Kaap, the Company Garden, Green Point Stadium etc., duration 3 hours. Price ZAR600/US$50 pp.
Lunch time. Go to the downtown e.g. Long Street, Bree Street there are many nice restaurants there. It’s just a short walk from Bo Kaap, 10 min.
Afternoon. Time to explore Table Mountain. There is a open top bus stop at Long Street (tour office), check for the one that goes to Table Mountain. Once at the Cable Car you can walk up the Platteklip Gorge (the trail starts about 1km away from the cable car), the walk is quite tough, it takes between 1h3min to 2h. Another easier option is to take a cable car. Price for return trip from ZAR277/US$23 – adults, ZAR136/US$11 – children. Spend some time on the top, walk around, enjoy the view. There is a coffee shop/restaurant at the top.
Evening. Lion’s Head is one of the best places for watching sunset in Cape Town, don’t miss it! Check sunset time HERE. There is a special daily sunset bus if you buy a 2-day bus ticket sunset bus is included in the price. Otherwise you can drive yourself or take a taxi to Lion’s Head. Tip for drivers! First parking spots are usually very full drive a bit further towards the Signal Hill. You can watch the sunset from there as well if you don’t feel like walking up Lion’s Head.
Day two of three days in Cape Town
Time to explore different areas of the city; Constantia, Kirstenbosch, Camps Bay and do some wine tasting. For this day we’d suggest to use Tour Buses as well especially if you’re planning to spend some time wine tasting. Buses run between all these places and have fixed schedule.
Morning. Head to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden to find yourself in a lush green jungle in the arid Cape Town. You can drive yourself or take a Mini Peninsula open top bus that goes all the way. The Garden is magnificent, beautiful and green with several walking trails. The green shaded loans are great for a picnic. Otherwise you can have branch or drink coffee in one of the restaurants inside the Garden.
Midday/afternoon. Wine tasting in Constantia where you can find one of the finest wine estate in the country. Hop on a Wine Bus, the drive won’t take long, it’s close to Kirstenbosch. There are several estates here, the bus goes to four of them. You can combine tasting with lunch at one of the farms, they have good restaurants. For more info on Constantia wines go to the Wine section of this post.
Evening. Head to Camps Bay, the fanciest area of Cape Town with beautiful beaches (no swimming here the water is freezing) and some great places to drink a cocktail. If you move around by tour bus just hop on back to one that does Mini Peninsula route it’ll deliver you right to Camps Bay beach. For drivers it’s a minute drive.
Third day of 3-day itinerary
After exploring Cape Town it’s time to go out of the city and visit some National parks; Cape of Good Hope, Boulders Beach and enjoy beautiful Chapman’s Peak drive. For this day to rent a smallish car especially if you’re 2+ people is a good option, you’ll be more flexible and independent. You can do it with a tour bus as well, price ZAR530/US$ pp.
Morning. Drive through Camps Bay along the coast past Hout Bay to Chapman’s Peak. Here starts the most scenic drive in Cape Town, Chapman’s Peak drive with some breathtaking views. It’s a toll drive, price ZAR45/US$4 per car. If you’d like to stop for coffee or breakfast at Jakes on the Common in Noordhoek, nice place, good coffee.
After head to Cape Point Nature Reserve, if there is a queue in front of the gate no worries it goes fast. It’s the best and safest place for hiking/walking around Cape Town. There are many hiking trails, most of them offer fantastic views over the peninsula and the ocean. The park is very big you can easily spend here 3-4 hours, walking and driving around. Inside the park there are restaurants and shops in case you get hungry. Entrance fee ZAR145 /US$12 – adults, ZAR75/US$6 – children.
Afternoon. Head to Boulders Beach in Simons Town to see African penguins, the cutest penguins in the world. The beach is beautiful; white soft sand, surrounded by big boulders, crystal blue water and little penguins walking and swimming around. You can go for a swim as well just remember no touching or feeding animals is allowed here. Entrance fee ZAR75/US$6 – adults; ZAR40/US$3 – children. For lunch stop at Boulders Beach restaurant it has nice terrace with great sea view.
Continue driving along the coast to Muizenberg, here don’t miss colorful beach cabins, one more popular Instagram spot in the city.
Evening. After getting back to Cape Town go for dinner. If you’re a burger fan we’d recommend Dog’s Bullock a great place to eat a big juicy burger. For more dining options check the restaurant section of this post.