12 Reasons Why You Need to Visit Cape Town, South Africa:
How would I describe Cape Town? Picture this: Miami Beach vibes with the diversity of New York City added into this eclectic rainbow nation mix. Interested yet?
Before the World Cup in 2010, most people in the western hemisphere knew very little of Cape Town. Leave it to a globally beloved sport like soccer to put it on the map for everyone to take notice. And I’m so glad I did take notice. Cape Town actually made me reminisce about Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; with its mountain flanked beaches and it also reminded me of Miami and New York for its wonderful diversity and mixture of cultures.
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Here are 12 Reasons to visit Cape Town in the next year:
1. Amazing Beaches: The great thing about a coastal city in the Southern most tip of Africa? Amazing beaches at every turn. Camp’s Bay immediately brought back memories of my home country of Brazil. Beautiful bay flanked by mountains from both sides is very similar to Rio de Janeiro and Salvador. The energy in Cape Town was very much Brazil meets Miami Beach even in the winter! Be sure to catch the sunset from Camp’s Bay, it was spectacular!
2. Table Mountain & The Twelve Apostles: From just about every angle you get beautiful mountain views in Cape Town. Be sure to take the aerial cable car to the top of Table Mountain and spend a couple of hours watching the clouds roll in and take over the landscape as you walk around. If you are up for it you can actually hike up the mountain instead of taking the aerial cable car. Beware of the hungry baboons though, they are sneaky and will not hesitate to steal your soda bottle or chips! The Twelve Apostles is a beautiful mountain range and we got a fantastic view from Camp’s Bay Beach. (Also a stop with the HopOn HopOff Red Bus)
3. V&A Waterfront: A hip, cool AND still working harbor. Cool artisans shops, fantastic food from fine dining to a lively food market with various global cuisine options, an indoor mall, a ferris wheel, an aquarium and Cape seals sun bathing on the edges of the harbor; the V&A Waterfront is a great spot to spend your day. You can take a helicopter tour and if visiting Robben Island, the ferry departs from the harbor. Beware, since it is a working harbor you will get the smells of a harbor as well; pungent fish and seal scents will hit your nose at some point.
4. Robben Island: History lessons to ground us, Robben Island is a must to learn more in depth about the Apartheid Regime that was only dissolved in 1994 and to see where Nelson Mandela was prisoner for 18 years of his 27 year sentence, before becoming the first black South African president that changed the country’s history forever. What an incredible story of resilience, hope and tenacity. TIP: The tour to Robben Island will take a good 4 hours including ferry round trip travel time, so plan accordingly. And you’ll need to book your ticket a few days in advance as tickets sell out quickly. Cool fact: Most tour guides are ex-prisoners.
5. Bo-Kaap Neighborhood: The cutest and most colorful neighborhood in all of Cape Town! Super Instagram photo material, but more importantly, it’s a historic neighborhood where most residents are decedents of Malai slaves and the community is predominantly Muslim still today (so be respectful with your attire). The Nurul Islam Mosque in the neighborhood was established in 1844 and if you happen to stay in a near by hotel like we did; you’ll hear the daily prayers resonating in the air. At some point the neighbors of Bo-Kaap got together and coordinated with each other to brighten up the area by painting all the houses in vivid, contrasting hues. It’s a rainbow row of houses and I think a lovely way to personify the ‘Rainbow Nation” title of South Africa.
6. Shopping: Green Market Square is one of the oldest public squares in the country, dating back to the 1600’s and currently it is an open air market with various vendors selling anything from jewelry, clothes, fabric, wooden carvings and more. Good if you’re looking to buy some souvenirs but definitely bring those haggling skills and be prepared to be approached by every vendor if you even look at the merchandise. Kloof Street & Long Street had some great boutique shops. I did some damaged at Ashanti Designs (77 Kloof St). Obviously the indoor mall at the V & A Waterfront and the Watershed Market (highly recommend), which has fantastic artists work from sculptors, to painters, weavers, fashion designers and beautiful home decor items as well.
7. Museums: Among many others, District 6 Museum and the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa should be at the top of your list. Sadly the Zeitz wasn’t open yet when we visited in late August 2017 but it is said to hold the largest collection of African art in the world. Like the Robben Island tour, District 6 Museum is another way to learn about the dark past of the Apartheid system and the aftermath of such a racist and discriminatory regime in South Africa. The District 6 area used to be a ‘mixed community’ of artisans, freed slaves, and immigrants, but in the 1960’s the area was declared Whites-Only by the government and by the 1980’s 60, 000 of its non-white residents were forcibly removed. Their houses completely destroyed by bulldozers. Could you imagine, having to leave everything behind and have NOTHING to go back to, to have to start over with nothing? That was the harsh reality. The museum houses many photographs and articrafts of the District 6 experience. I think it’s always important to learn about the dark side of history so we can reflect on the atrocities of human kind and hopefully learn from it.
8. Same Day Safari Tours: Though we did a 3 night Safari around Kruger National Park before heading to Cape Town; game drives near the city are available and can fit into any tight itinerary. Book a day trip to various Private Reserves just right outside Cape Town.
9. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: Even in the winter these gardens were breathtaking! I could only imagine in the spring, with flowers in full bloom. There’s a restaurant and various walking trails through out the gardens. We were a little pressed for time and only spent about 30 minutes here. I would have easily spent a few hours strolling the gardens, but our day was full as we visited some wineries and Table Mountain that same day.
10. Wineries: So wine is kind of my thing…I love it. And I’m happy to report that wineries can be found everywhere here in South Africa! You can do a full day tour and head to the Stellenbosh region, an area dotted with wineries and only an hour from Cape Town. It’s like the Napa Valley of South Africa. But if you don’t have a whole day to spare in your itinerary, fear not, there are also wineries within Cape Town, right by the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens actually. The Hop Off -Hop On Red Bus route will take you there. We visited Groot Constancia, the oldest winery in all of South Africa established in 1685 and needless to say, it was an afternoon well spent.
11. Food Scene: There’s an incredible variety in the food scene here in Cape Town, influenced by its diverse cultures, this rainbow nation has it all. We ate ALL types of cuisine, Portuguese, Italian, Mexican, Japanese, and obviously South African. There are so many delectable options everywhere. And compared to the US, we thought food and drinks were fairly cheaper. We ordered a bottle of south African bubbly for about just 20 bucks at a restaurant in the V&A mall! Jameson & ginger? Just 3 bucks, and not during happy hour.
12. Nightlife: Just walk up and down Long Street at night at you’ll realize it comes alive with music, as bars and night clubs are scattered everywhere. Mama Africa was the one spot we wanted to check out. It’s a bar/lounge with live traditional African music and percussion. Many of the local bands are from the near by Townships. Unfortunately it was closed due to a kitchen fire when we visited. I hope you get a chance to go.
Cape Town really has it all. From amazing beaches, mountain hiking, to wineries and game drives? Let me know when you’re going to Cape Town, I’ll meet you there.
GOOD TO KNOW:
Uber is very popular and a safe and cheaper way to get around than a taxi. If you have 1 or 2 days in the city, I highly recommend the Hop on Hop Off Red bus. It pretty much takes you to every major point of interest in the city. After talking to other travelers, many people recommended renting a car so you can do day trips to Stellenbosh, the Cape Peninsula and other spots outside of Cape Town.
Where to stay:
We booked a lovely Airb&B with AMAZING views. The host and studio were ABSOLUTELY wonderful and always available. If Veronika’s place is available during your dates, book it asap! From the studio, we had a 10 minute walk down to various restaurants and bars and a 15-20 minute walk to Kloof St and Long Street nightlife. If you’re not up for the walk uphill back, uber and taxis are always available. Since her studio was not available for our last night in the city, we also booked one night at the Cape Town Lodge Hotel, which was literally a 2 minute walk from Bo-Kaap neighborhood.
Where to eat: Just a few suggestions
The Power and The Glory (Breakfast sandwiches and fresh pressed juices. Cool and lively bar at night time)
El Burro Taqueria (tacos)
Beleza (Italian & Portuguese cuisine)
Mama Africa – Live Traditional African Music, cocktails and food.
Dalliance – Inside the V& A Waterfront Shopping Center. Great appetizers, service and a view of the water. It was the perfect spot to end the rainy afternoon., with a view, but indoors sipping bubbly. Cheers!
The V&A Food Market – various vendors and bars serving up anything from simple rice and chicken to Thai, Italian and everything in between at reasonable prices. Bar upstairs. Did you know that besides wine, South Africa has a great selection of Ciders? Pleasantly surprised.
Hudson The Burger Joint – hip cool, and popping at night!
Till Next time South Africa…