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Cape Town’s post-apartheid influx of tourism has spread an energetic and cosmopolitan atmosphere into the once-off-limits destination. While Cape Town and all of South Africa are still adjusting to the new democracy and social changes that follow, the explosion of tourism has helped to show the world the progress that has been made.
Things To Do In Cape Town
With uncrowded beaches, vineyards, and Table Mountain serving as a backdrop, Cape Town is regularly mentioned among the world’s most beautiful cities. The following is only a short list of the sights and activities that Cape Town has to offer:
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
This lively shopping area is one of Cape Town’s biggest attractions with an estimated 20 million visitors each year. Shops, bars, theatres and more than 70 restaurants line the old wharf along with street performers and live musicians providing entertainment. It is also the main hub for booking tours and other activities throughout Cape Town. Only five minutes from downtown, it is a fun and relaxing place to spend an afternoon.
Also known as the Cape Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap is a brightly coloured neighbourhood made up mostly of descendants of East Indian slaves brought over by the Dutch. Their influence on Cape Town is seen throughout the city’s architecture, food and language. Walk along the narrow cobblestone streets and be sure to try some of the fabulous Cape Malay cuisines.
Cape Town ranks among the most popular destinations in the world for extreme sports such as skydiving, sandboarding, paragliding, abseiling and kloofing. Tandem skydives can be arranged at several places on the Victoria & Alfred waterfront as soon as that same day. The thrilling 30-second freefall provides a spectacular view of Table Mountain and the rest of the city. Sandboarding is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure similar to snowboarding. If neither of these interests you, abseiling off Table Mountain (similar to rappelling), or kloofing (a combination of cliff diving, hiking and abseiling) are two other unique options.
Cape Town has a beach for every type of visitor. The most popular and one of the largest is Camp Bay. Clifton beach is also quite large and much quieter. Long Beach is perfect for surfers and young people. There is even a nudist beach at Sandy Bay. The white sands, big waves and magnificent backgrounds provide a perfect setting for a relaxing day at the beach no matter which one you choose.
Declared a U.N. World Heritage Sight in 1999, Robben Island is home to one of the most famous prisons in the world. The highlight of the tour is Nelson Mandela’s tiny cell where he was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years on the island. You may also visit museums and a lime mine where prisoners were forced to work. Each tour lasts about two and a half hours and is led by a former prison inmate.
Adventure seekers and marine enthusiasts alike will enjoy this exciting opportunity to dive in a steel cage surrounded by Great White sharks. May through September promises the most shark sightings. Trips can be arranged at several locations on the Victoria & Alfred waterfront.
Penguins at Boulders Beach
If swimming with sharks sounds too dangerous for you, the penguin sanctuary at Boulders beach may be more suitable. Here you can observe the African penguins from the boardwalks or go down to the beach where you can sunbathe right alongside them. Only a short drive south of Cape Town, Boulders Beach is a great stop on your way to Cape Point.
Another great side trip from Cape Town is Stellenbosch, home to one of South Africa’s most famous wine regions. Its cool climate and fertile soils have yielded fine wines since 1679. Most of the 106 wine cellars are open to the public and allow wine tasting. Bike tours are a wonderful way to see the picturesque Winelands as well as the rest of the town.
Visit A Township
Surrounded by beautiful landscapes and wonderful tourist spots, it is easy to overlook the segregation and poverty still rampant in Cape Town today. The drastic disparity can be seen in various tours through the townships of Langa and Gugulethu. It is a humbling experience that should not be missed.
Sunset On Table Mountain
No visit to Cape Town is complete without a trip up Table Mountain, the city’s most famous landmark. A cable car journey to the top takes about 4 minutes and offers a great view as the floor of the car rotates 360 degrees. While waiting for the sun to go down, enjoy dinner or a bottle of South African wine (all available atop the mountain). Whether it is your first day in Cape Town or your last, the view and the experience will be just as special.