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Why Cape Town should be at the top of your bucket list

If this is your first visit to South Africa then this First-Timer’s Ultimate Travel Guide to South Africa is a must read to prepare for your trip. To learn how to get around the city please read our 10 ways to get around Cape Town South Africa

With so many options any visitor to Cape Town would be spoilt for choice about how to spend their days. One thing to note… 48 hours or 72 hours is not nearly enough to see and experience the bounties of this city. We have beaches, mountains, nature reserves, wildlife and game parks, botanical gardens, hot springs, marine life and friendly hospitable local people.

The cuisine of Cape Town is as varied as the origins of our forebears and includes influences from the Dutch East Indies colonies as well as from later waves of European and African immigrants and refugees. The same is true of the architectural styles found in the older neighbourhoods with Georgian, Victorian and Cape Dutch design being prevalent.

Cape Malay cuisine is unique to Cape Town and is the original fusion of Indonesian, Indian and European influences. The Cape Malay slaves combined their food memories with the available produce and the dietary requirements of their slave masters to develop an entirely new culinary tradition.

When is the best time to visit Cape Town

The timing of your visit should depend on what your interests are. 

For the West Coast Wildflower spectacle the best time to visit is the last week of August through September. 

For whale watching on the Cape Whale Coast the best time is between end of June through November. 

For beach lovers November through April is sunny with occasional showers. 

How to get to Cape Town

The Cape Town International Airport is the hub for travellers into the Western Cape province.

This is also the departure point for domestic air travel with flights to all parts of the country departing daily.

Cape Town city center is a 25 km drive from the airport and there are public busses, taxis and private transfers available to the city center. 

Read more about the best ways to get around Cape Town.

Where to stay in Cape Town

The most scenic places to stay in Cape Town are on the Atlantic Seaboard.

The suburbs of De Waterkant, Green Point, Mouille Point, Three Anchor Bay and Sea Point are relatively affordable year round with prices increasing over the festive season.

The more exclusive suburbs of Camps Bay, Fresnaye, Bantry Bay and Llandudno are quite pricey throughout the year but more so during peak season. One of our favorite places for a staycation was at self-catering apartments at South Beach, Camp Bay.

Good seaside alternatives may be Noordhoek and Hout Bay further down the Atlantic Seaboard or Simon’s Town, Fish Hoek and St James on the False Bay coast. 

Bed & Breakfast / Guesthouse / Self-catering apartments

 There are quite a variety of options in Bo-Kaap, the City Bowl and the Atlantic seaboard, although most will not be Muslim owned or operated. 

In the city center check out Cape Town City Living apartments for self catering options. 

For Muslim owned properties the best areas are Walmer Estate, Rondebosch East, Crawford, Gatesville / Rylands, Surrey Estate and these are available on AirBnb. One thing to note is that there may be reduced access to some forms of public transport in these areas although Uber and Taxify services are available.

There are mosques or Islamic centres in the above-mentioned areas and sizable Muslim communities and easy access to halaal cafes, restaurants and butcheries.

Budget hotels - under €50 / US$ 57 per night

There are numerous apartments, lodges, Inns and backpackers lodges in this price range to be found in the city center, Bo Kaap, Green Point, Sea Point and Observatory.

The ones located in the city are usually within walking distance to The Company Gardens, Iziko Museums, Long Street food options, Cape Town Central Station and Taxi deck.

The stop for the Open Bus Tours is also walkable distance. The Table Mountain Cableway is accessible with a short tuk-tuk ride from Long Street.

Mid-priced hotels: from €50 - €150 / US$ 57 - 170 per night

The Holiday Inn Express is located in St. George’s Mall and has very basic rooms and amenities. They do serve breakfast but it is not halaal, although we were informed on the last day that we could have requested halaal friendly hot meals.

The Holiday Inn is located in Strand Street and has a few more amenities than the Holiday Inn Express. There are numerous halaal cafes and restaurants in the city center and other local brand hotels in the same area with similar prices.

There are boutique hotels like Mojo Hotel and chain hotels like Radisson Blue Le Vendome in Sea Point that fall in this price range.

Luxury hotels - above €150 / US$ 170 per night

The Taj Hotel is located on Wale Street a few blocks down and in the same area as the Holiday Inn Express.

The Hilton Cape Town City Centre is located on the corner of Buitengracht and Wale streets in Bo-Kaap. Their on-site restaurant 126 Kitchen and Café is certified Halaal.

On the Waterfront there is the Table Bay Hotel, Victoria and Alfred Hotel, One and Only and many others. All these hotels have shuttle services to the city center and can arrange sightseeing tours.

Where to eat halaal in Cape Town city center

Many eateries located in and around the city center or V&A Waterfront are Muslim owned and / or halaal certified. Most any of the chains like McDonalds, KFC, Nandos and Steers have halaal branches in the city center or suburbs.

Mariam’s Kitchen has branches all over the city center and they specialize in local take-away specialties like Gatsby’s, Salomies and Bunny chow.

Rosa’s Bakery is located in Upper Longmarket street and they serve freshly baked pastries, breads and sandwiches every day.

Batavia Cafe in Rose Street, Bo Kaap serves modern fusion cooking in a relaxed contemporary environment. 

126 Cape Kitchen and Café at the Hilton Hotel, Bo Kaap is ideal for a special meal.

Saray Restaurant is located in De Waterkant at the Harbour Edge Building and serves delicious Turkish fare.

There are food hall style food bazaars like Eastern Food Bazaar that is located in Longmarket street; while Food Inn and The Village Buffet are located in Long Street. These are all halaal and serve different types of cuisines.

At the V&A Waterfront there is Myatt Cafe & Chocolatier and Col’Cacchio in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre and numerous fast food outlets in the food court that are halal. 

Popular foods in Cape Town

  • Gatsby – footlong sub sandwich filled with potato fries, chicken, steak or viennas
  • Salomie – Roti filled with curry
  • Boerewors roll – sub sandwich with spicy sausage and onion and tomato relish
  • Bunny chow – half or quarter bread filled with curry
  • Koesisters – Cape Malay Spiced doughnuts
  • Milk tart – Cape Malay custard tart

How to get around Cape Town

Visitors to Cape Town have access to Golden Arrow and MyCiti bus services, metro rail services, private taxi services, Uber and Taxify. There are also numerous car rental agents operating from the Cape Town International airport and branches in the city. 

Must see attractions in Cape Town

Activities and organised tours may be arranged via the hotels or if you are staying independently tours can be booked online through Get Your Guide.
Our private organized tour company of choice is Cool Running Travels and you can read about our  Cape Peninsula Tour from Cape Town with them. The owner is Muslim and can make provision for prayer stops and facilities on the private tours, if requested.

Popular Attractions

  • Table Mountain
  • Victoria and Alfred Waterfront & Food Market
  • Robben Island
  • Chapman’s Peak Drive
  • Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and Cape Point 
  • Boulder’s Beach
  • Seal Island
  • Groot Constantia
  • Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Local’s recommendation

  • Watch the sunset from Lion’s Head or Signal Hill
  • The Company’s Gardens
  • The Good Company Market in the Company’s Gardens – Sundays 10am-3pm
  • The Slave Lodge
  • The Bo-Kaap Museum
  • The District 6 Museum
  • Zeitz Mocaa Museum of Contemporary Art – Free entry on the First Friday of every month; Free entry to African citizens on Wednesdays between 10am-1pm (on presentation of ID/Driver’s Licence/Passport)
  • On the First Thursdays of every month a number of the galleries and exhibition spaces in the City Bowl and East City have extended opening hours past 9pm or later. It’s a cool itinerary for a self-guided tour.
  • The Old Biscuit Mill’s Neighbourgood’s Market -Saturday 8am-2pm
  • The Earth Fair Food Market in St George’s Mall – Thursdays 11am-3pm
  • My Gourmet Market (halaal) Paarden Eiland – Sundays 9am-6pm
  • The Mojo Market Sea Point – Every day 8am-11pm

Have you or your family visited Cape Town? Would you return and why?

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38 Comments

  1. Corina

    Cape Town id my dream destination, hope to get there some day! Would have loved to see more pics from there in your post though!

  2. Bindu Thomas

    I am going to add this cape town in my wish list. Thanks for the information. Saving your blog for someday when I travel there to cape town.

    • Razena Schroeder

      You are most welcome Bindu. We try to be as thorough as possible to enable potential travelers to get an idea of what they can expect on a visit to our city.

  3. Ernest Onwus

    Very fun read….sharing now

  4. Sudip Saha

    Thanks for a detailed travel diary about cape town. Would love to visit it someday.

  5. Natasha

    I will need to add this to my bucket list! 2019 is already full, but maybe 2020?

  6. Liz

    Great guide! I really I appreciate it, I never been to South Africa and I heard a lot of good stories about places, so these tips are just perfect for our planning.

  7. madelain Garcia

    Cape Town is for sure on my list. I’d love to hike the mountain there with the ocean views. Also, I hear a lot of people swim with Great Whites there

    • Razena Schroeder

      The views from any hiking trail are spectacular but care is advised as some trails are longer and more strenuous than others. The shark cage diving is mostly done off the Gansbaai coast a few hours away. I have heard from relatives who have done it that it is an amazing experience.

  8. Renata Feyen

    That sounds really great – but too far for me sorry 😮

    • Razena Schroeder

      It is quite a long flight but thankfully for tourists from Europe there is very little time difference and jet lag. For others traveling from the Americas or Asia it can be quite an adjustment.

  9. Helen Neale

    Wow, such a detailed post that would be so helpful to plan a great trip to Cape Town. Loving the pictures so much.

    • Razena Schroeder

      Thanks Helen. Regrettably we had an external hardware disaster a couple of months ago and have been unable to recover most of our photos. These are some that we had saved elsewhere.

  10. Preet

    Such a wonderful place to take a wonderful vacation. It’s so really nice ambiance to spend with family and loved ones.

    • Razena Schroeder

      Even though we are local to the city we still make an effort for a staycation either in the city or on the coast during summer and winter. Each season has it’s own benefits.

  11. Tosha

    Sounds like an amazing place to travel and experience. Great places to stay on a budget and things to do I would love whale watching.

    • Razena Schroeder

      The whales come so close to shore that you can actually see them from the seafront overlooking the ocean in Hermanus. It is quite something to behold.

  12. Alisa Infanti

    Thanks for this article! A fantastic breakdown of where to stay and what to see. My husband and I are planning a trip for our 50th so I am saving this article for a reference.

  13. Jennifer

    This is so interesting. I have never really thought about going to South Africa, but have never really heard this information about it. It sounds like there is so much to see and do!

  14. Geraline Batarra

    I have never been there to Cape Town and it looks like a nice place to visit with your friends and I can say that these are best guide for a traveler who are going to visit this place.

  15. jen

    Sounds like a great place to visit!

  16. Jenn

    South Africa is definitely on my bucket list of places to visit! Thank you for this wonderful first timers guide!

  17. Gervin Khan

    To be honest, I haven’t been to Cape Town but from the post you’ve given us a very good glimpse of what this place has to offer. This is such a great review for us that is traveling to places.

    • Razena Schroeder

      We are so happy that you find this article useful and hopefully it will be a great help to yourself or your friends and family who decide to visit our wonderful city.

  18. Annie

    I’ll definitely keep this post pinned to my travel board. When I visit Cape town someday, I’ll be sure to visit some of the restaurants you mentioned.

  19. Adriana

    Cape Town is on my bucklist of places to travel. I’ve heard so many beautiful things about South Africa

    • Razena Schroeder

      It’s amazing and once you are there you will wonder how you will ever leave. Most tourists plan on 3-4 days then realize that firstly the exchange rate is so affordable, and secondly that it’s such a great place they should actually stay for a month 🙂

  20. Chad

    Cape Town just got to the top of my bucket list! I’ve never been and would love to visit one day, seems very very interesting. Thanks a lot for sharing.

    Chad

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