Cape Town is a wonderful city. I love living in it, people love visiting it, and it’s set to see more than its usual share of visitors.
Here is a list of insider tips for travelling Cape Town, to beat the queues, spend less, and make your trip here more memorable …
Crowds head for Table Mountain on any given clear, summer’s day (the same holds for any other season too, but summer tends to be particularly busy in Cape Town). Voted one of the new seven natural wonders of the world, Table Mountain is the city’s icon. It is also inundated and even on a good day there are queues for the cable car.
Get there first thing in the day to avoid queues, but also avoid late afternoon as the wind tends to come up and deck the mountain with its ubiquitous table cloth.
Stay in the City Bowl
Stay in the city bowl if you want to explore the inner city, its history and many attractions – places like Tamboerskloof, Green Point and Oranjezicht are particularly trendy neighbourhoods. (Start your search here: City Bowl accommodation).
Whilst each of Cape Town’s outlying suburbs have something to recommend them, you can’t beat the Cape Town city bowl for access (or its historical value as the oldest part of the city) – you can walk to many of the highlights, and your taxi fares, when you take one, will not break the bank.
If you want to view the city from an alternative high point to Table Mountain, take the sunset bus route to Signal Hill (only during summer), which leaves the V&A Waterfront outside the Two Oceans Aquarium at 18h00.
Head to the Eastern Food Bazaar on Darling Street if you’re after a quick, and cheap, alternative to eating in restaurants. You’ll find it on the town side of City Hall – something of a food hall that resembles an alley-way and gives you plenty to choose from – Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern in particular.
Get the Visitors’ Guide
Get yourself a copy of Cape Town Tourism’s Official Visitors’ Guide 2014 (you should easily find them in any of the visitor centres).
At the back is the official visitors’ guide to World Design Capital Cape Town 2014. Explore: Albert and Sir Lowry Roads in Woodstock – for a feast of design, art, furniture designers, and art happenings close to the city’s fringe – and the east and central city – the Fringe, Greenmarket Square and the Bo-Kaap – each with an accompanying map to make exploring easier.
The Company’s Gardens, a park and heritage site in the city centre where you will also find the Houses of Parliament, is a good space in which to enjoy a take-out lunch or cool off on the lawns or benches in the shade. If the people don’t keep you entertained, then the squirrels certainly will. And there is a tea garden.
Everyone does the Atlantic Seaboard beaches, and you really do need to experience the beauty of either Clifton or Camps Bay at least once. But if you take the train to Simon’s Town (Southern Line) from the Adderley Street station, and head to one of the False Bay seaside villages – like St James, Muizenberg or Fish Hoek – you’ll be able to enjoy a more sedate, less frenetic swim in amongst locals, rather than holiday makers. Again, head out early to beat the crowds.
Head to the Labia Theatre on Orange Street for independent, art house and foreign-language movies without the mall. It’s hip, if a little bit grungy (but nobody minds for it’s part of the charm of the place). Tickets and popcorn are reasonably priced.
Every visitor heads to the V&A Waterfront. And, whilst I’m not knocking it as an attraction, it can get super busy and is rather touristy. For a more contemporary alternative head to Woodstock (between the city bowl and Observatory) for the Old Biscuit Mill’s trendy Saturday market and a growing collection of quirky restaurants and coffee spots, in amongst the design studios, bicycle shops and bohemian boutiques.
Despite the touristy angle, the hop-on-hop-off double decker red bus is so worth it. The two-day, two-route ticket includes a free night tour (in season), and canal cruise, and it means you can explore Cape Town in your own time. Buy your ticket online and save.
Do Long Street
And one more insider tip for when you’re travel weary: walk up to the top of Long Street to the Turkish Baths. The building is over 100 years old and the baths include a sauna, steam room, warm room and cold pool as well as showers and bathroom facilities. For a fee you get a towel, some soap and a day bed. You’ll walk out of there clean, relaxed and able to take on another day of sightseeing. There are alternative days for men and women.