Sights and highlights of Cape Town, South Africa

Sights and highlights of Cape Town, South Africa

Enjoy this travel tip about sights and highlights of Cape Town, South Africa:

- Cable Car to the top of Table Mountain, Lower Cable Station, Tafelberg Road, Tel: +27 (0)21 424 8181. Open 8AM to 10PM, last car down is at 9PM. Both the cable car and the pathways on top of the mountain are wheelchair accessible. Always take something warm to wear when going up the mountain, even if it is a nice toasty 30C at the bottom of the mountain. Weather conditions at the top of the mountain are not the same as at the bottom. If you're feeling fit, try climbing the shortest route to the top Platteklip Gorge. It's a steep 2 hours but well worth the effort and you can jump in the cable car back down to spare your knees. Table Mountain is the home of a small animal, the rock rabbit (known locally as the 'Dassie') whose closest relative, DNA-wise, is the elephant. Take water, sun block, hat and jacket. The cloud comes down unannounced and the temperature could plummet. Poorly equipped hikers often have to be rescued. R150 return ticket.
ww.tablemountain.net

- Cape Peninsula — Go to the Cape of Good Hope via Simon's Town and the African penguin colony at Boulders. Visit Cape Point in the Table Mountain National Park, maybe have lunch there before taking a hike in a quieter part of the reserve to immerse yourself in the essence of the landscape. Then take Chapman's Peak Drive through Hout Bay and along the trendy Atlantic seaboard via Llandudno and Camps Bay, stopping off at one of Clifton's famous four beaches.

- Ratanga Junction, Tel: +27 (0)21 550-8504 (info@ratanga.co.za). Open 10AM to 5PM, but not open all year round. Usually open during summer, Easter and winter holiday periods. Enjoy a day with your kids at this theme park. R25 to R100 depending on what rides you want to do.
www.ratanga.co.za

- Swimming. Beaches on the warmer False Bay side of the peninsula are the most popular with swimmers for obvious picture perfect reasons. St James has the most picturesque tidal pool on the stretch between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay, while Clovelly and Fish Hoek beaches wrap around a sheltered bay with soft, white sands. Fishing boats, hobie cats and kayaks launch from here too. Brave hearts can sun-worship and swim naked in the freezing water of this isolated and breathtaking nudist beach Sandy Bay near Llandudno. Major spot for gay tourists as well. There's a 1.5 km walk down from the parking lot. Camps Bay and Clifton have great beaches to visit if you want to try the chillier waters of the west coast.

- Surfing — Cape Town is one of the best places to surf. Muizenberg is a good place for beginners to learn to surf, Gary offers reasonably priced lessons from a shop facing the beach. If you're an experienced surfer, try the reef break at Kalk Bay, Outer Kom near Kommetjie or Misty Cliffs on the coast road near Scarborough. You could head up the west coast and sample Milnerton, Table View or Big Bay, although Big Bay is often crowded with people kitesurfing due to the windy conditions.

- Winelands — Tour the Constantia Valley wine estates Groot Constantia, Buitenverwagting, Klein Constantia and Constantia Uitsig before checking out the Cape Winelands around Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. Stellenbosch has the added attraction of being an historical university town and Franschhoek, well established as the food capital of the Cape, is home to three of the country's top ten restaurants. The views are extraordinary. Have a drink and a snack at Dieu Donne estate for an unsurpassable vista of the entire valley, or take your own picnic to the top of a little hill they have by the parking area. Most wineries charge for a tasting session, but usually refund it on a purchase.
ww.grootconstantia.co.za

- Bo-Kaap. This neighbourhood, located on a hill south-west of downtown is the area historically inhabited by mainly Muslim descendants of slaves from South-East Asia (hence an older term for the area - 'Malay Quarter'. It's a common location for film shoots, as there are some very colourful buildings, quaint streets, mosques, views over Cape Town and some great food sold on the side of the street. It's well worth wandering around for an hour or so, as well as visiting the Bo-Kaap Museum (a view of a prosperous Muslim family from the 19th Century).

- The Castle of Good Hope, Buitenkant Street, Tel: +27 (0)21 464-1260. Popularly called 'The Castle' by locals, it has extensive displays of historical military paraphernalia, a history of the castle, an art collection and the William Fehr Collection (including old Cape Dutch furniture). You can eat inside the Castle at the restaurant or café, as well as buy wine. R20 entrance fee. 

- Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Rhodes Drive, Newlands, Tel: +27 (0)21 799-8899. Open daily 8AM to 6PM (7PM September to March). View the hugely diverse and beautiful plants and flowers of the Cape flora in one of the most stunning botanical gardens in the world. Plants from all of the regions of South Africa are on display, including rare succulents from the Richtersveld, a giant baobab tree, and interesting medicinal plants. Numerous paths wander through the grounds situated on the back side of Table Mountain. Several restaurants, a gift shop and indigenous nursery are also available. At various times of the year concerts are performed in the open air amphitheatre. Art is frequently on display, including large Shona stone sculptures from Zimbabwe. The gardens are also home to the National Biodiversity Institute. R27.

- Robben Island, Tel: +27 (0)21 413-4200. Robben Island is located just off the coast from Cape Town, this was the location used during the apartheid days to hold political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela and the late Walter Sisulu. Some of the tour guides were themselves political prisoners so they have plenty of insight about what went on there. Tours run several times per day, seven days a week from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront. As of December 2008, tickets can be purchased for a tour the next day, although it is advisable to make a booking as soon as you arrive in Cape Town. Tickets can be purchased online. R180.
ww.robben-island.org.za

- Rhodes Memorial, Tel: +27 21 689 9151 (roy@rhodesmemorial.co.za). Built in recognition of the contributions of Cecil John Rhodes to the Southern African region.

- South African Parliament. Cape Town is the legislative seat of South Africa (the Presidential seat is in Pretoria and the Supreme Court is at Bloemfontein). A tour of this compound will acquaint you with South Africa's recent history and its political system. The tour includes visits to the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces and the old apartheid-era assembly which is now only used for caucus and committee meetings. Tours are offered a few times per day in various languages. Free entrance and tours.
www.parliament.gov.za

- Two Oceans Aquarium, V&A Waterfront, Tel: +27 (0)21 418-3823 (aquarium@aquarium.co.za). Open 9:30AM to 6PM. An excellent modern aquarium. R80 entrance fee.
www.aquarium.co.za

- Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Tel: +27 (0)21 408-7600. A huge shopping and entertainment area at the slopes of Table Mountain, next to the harbour. It is very popular with tourists, because of the high density of shops, restaurants and amusement possibilities, like the Aquarium or the Marine Museum. Harbour tours and trips to Robben Island start from here, as well as helicopter flights to the Cape Peninsula. The V&A Waterfront has more or less full wheelchair access.
www.waterfront.co.za
ww.aquarium.co.za