Cape Town: A Mini Guide

Cape Town - Travel GuideCape Town - Travel Guide
Cape Town - Travel GuideCape Town - Travel Guide

Cape Town: A Mini Guide

Cape Town is one of Africa's most popular destinations, and understandably so. Its 300-year-old history is evident in the mix of cultures and the fusion of old and new architecture scattered throughout the city. Most recently, the so-called "jet set" is discovering Cape Town's stunning beaches and vibrant culture, giving it increasing sophistication.

The "city bowl" plays host to a mix of modern high rise office buildings and skyscrapers and classic Edwardian and Victorian architecture with a slathering of unique Cape Dutch structures as far as the eye could see. Remains of the old town are apparent around Greenmarket Square with its charming cobbled lanes, and a stroll down Long Street is always a prolific treat. For a trip down your history books, the District Six and Bo Kaap Museums are always ideal, as well as the Good Hope Castle Fort strategically situated in front of the city's neo-classic city hall, one of the oldest remains of the early Dutch and British occupation still standing. Some other notable attractions that contribute to the city's cosmopolitan quality and worthy of a photo-op include the President's residence or Tuin huis, Parliament buildings, and the distinctive Islamic suburb of Bo-kaap.

Shoppers, diners, and party-seekers aplenty are drawn to the recently restored Victoria and Albert Waterfront. Apart from its fantastic aquarium, sailing charters, and rich historical significance, it is also the launching point for trips to Robben Island, once home to the infamous Nelson Mandela when he was incarcerated. Regular 10-minute shuttles run frequently to the site every day.

A lovely drive can take you around the area for glimpses of Table Mountain and Camps Bay. The Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Chapman's Peak Drive, and Cape Point Reserve are also within driving distance. Of course, you can't miss the vineyards around the Franschoek Valley and Stellenbosch.

Exploring Cape Town by Car

A drive through Cape Town's suburbs and hinterland is a drive through paradise and certainly worth the road trip. You'll be treated to spectacular mountains, beautiful bays and secluded beaches, quaint historical towns, and lust vineyards aplenty.

See the "fairest cape of them all" in all its glory from the top of the majestic Table Mountain. It is easily accessible by cable car, or the many marked hiking trails for the lover of the great outdoors. Yet another excellent climb is the conical Lion's Head beside it, and at the base of the mountain, lose yourself in superbly diverse fauna in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.

Begin your one-of-a-kind road trip 'behind' the mountain in Camps Bay and Clifton Beach, beaches reminiscent of the Riviera. Drive through the exhilarating Chapman's Peak and find yourself in the sleepy towns of Llandudno and Hout Bay. Keep going onwards to the "end of Africa", the Cape Point Reserve, where two gargantuan ocean currents are known to meet. On the way back, get a glimpse of the endless Muizenberg Beaches and the stately Simonstown naval base.

Stop for a quick bite and a drink at the vineyards surrounding Stellenbosch. Less than an hour from Cape Town, the wine routes are spectacularly beautiful and are definitely worth the visit, though you may want to hold off on the wine if you're driving, or at least, find a driver who can stay sober. Revel in the best examples of Cape Dutch architecture, such as the Groot Constantia vineyard and estate that's still standing after 3 centuries.

Consider a day trip to the lovely Franschoek Valley, a curious former Huguenot settlement. And if you're lucky enough to be in Cape Town in October, a must visit is the former fishing town of Hermanus where you can relax and whale watch.

Getting To and From Cape Town

A trip to Cape Town means entering South Africa via the very busy Johannesburg International Airport and catching a two-hour connecting flight to the city. More and more airlines, however, are flying directly to Cape Town's international airport. Though it's still a long way from becoming world class, there are several regional flights bound for many cities in South Africa. There are regular shuttle buses and taxis aplenty that go to the city from the airport. It is about a 20-minute drive and some go directly to various hotels within the city.

Still immensely popular, the overnight train from Johannesburg to Cape Town is a trip you're unlikely to forget. Its sleeper cars are safe and relatively comfortable, and though it's a long journey, passing through the legendary Karoo desert makes it worth it. A glimpse of the winelands will greet you as you enter the city.

South Africa has a relatively reliable bus network, and there are frequent buses that ply the Johannesburg - Cape Town route every day, day and night. It's a 14-hour journey and a little uncomfortable at times, but it's considerably cheaper.

If you're traveling by car, the N1 is due north to Johannesburg. The journey is a minimum of 12 hours and very busy from December to April, considerably increasing the accident rate of these months. For a quieter route, the route via Kimberley is worth the trip and the town, famous for its diamond legacy is worth seeing. If you take the N2 route, you'll find yourself in the south coast, going eastward to the Garden Route, subsequently Port Elizabeth, and eventually Durban. The N2 route will take about 16 hours, minimum. You may also go northwards and travel along the west coast of Namibia, not a very popular route.

There are no boat services to Cape Town.

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Cape Town - Travel Guide