Cape Town Mini Guide
About the City
The second largest city in South Africa, Cape Town is the administrative capital of the country. Over 3.5 million people live in what’s acknowledged to be one of the most multicultural cities in Africa. It’s the southernmost city on the continent and has the iconic and stunning backdrop of Table Mountain.
History of Cape Town
Cape Town was established in 1652 by the Dutch but the area had been visited over 150 years beforehand by the Portuguese explorer, Vasco da Gama. Before the gold and diamond rush it was the biggest city in South Africa. It was captured by the British in 1795 but changed hands between them and the Dutch several times before becoming an official part of the Empire in 1814. Its recent history has been dominated by the change from apartheid to African rule and more recently still, the fight against AIDS and tuberculosis.
How do I get There?
Cape Town International Airport is only twelve miles from the city centre and is the second highest amount of traffic in the country. The route between there and Johannesburg
is one of the busiest domestic routes in the world.
What's There to See in the City
For a relatively young city there’s a lot to see. Visit Bo-Kaap to see the pretty pastel coloured houses of the Muslim population. Then check out the historical displays at South Africa’s oldest building, the Castle of Good Hope.
Anything Worth Visiting Outside the City
There’s a lot to see outside Cape Town. For a start there’s Table Mountain which you can drive nearly to the top of. Take a leisurely stroll around one of the world’s best botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch or take a boat trip out to South Africa’s Alcatraz; Robben Island where the country’s greatest leader was imprisoned. Finally, drive out to the vineyards of Stellenbosch
and Constantia for wine tasting.
Take the cable car to the top of Table Mountain for spectacular views there and on the way. Perhaps even climb up the easy-ish path to the top and take the cable car down! Whilst there try a bit of ‘Dassie Spotting’, looking for the rock rabbits that frequent the mountainside. Finally, head south to the end of the Cape Peninsula to see the penguin colony there.
What's the Shopping like?
Most people shop on the V & A waterfront but souvenirs and crafts are expensively priced for the tourists. Instead try the Green Point market where prices can be haggled. A must buy is a chicken made from whatever materials the craftsman has including plastic bags or tins.
Lamb from the Karoo is particularly tender and tasty. For seafood try the crayfish and oyster or go for a Cape salmon fillet. Be careful when ordering that you know the price beforehand, it’s not just the lambs that have been fleeced!
Festivals and Celebrations
Cape Town holds an annual flower and garden festival in October with all the things you might expect to see at Chelsea. Gardening and produce comes to the fore in April too with the Harvest Festival, celebrated widely across the Western Cape with the focus on the first wine of the year. On New Year’s Day, don’t miss the city’s Minstrel Carnival with street parades and music together with brightly dressed minstrels and clowns.
Cape Town is a vibrant city in an amazing setting. Nestling at the foot of the iconic Table Mountain you won’t know whether to stay in the city or pre-book a hire car and head out into the countryside that surrounds the Cape.
In town you should book a boat trip over to Robben Island to see the prison home of the greatest African, Nelson Mandela. Then, back ashore, spend some time at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, a modern quayside development of shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities. Finally, drive through Bo-Kaap, the Malay Quarter to see the colourful houses.