Activities in Cape Town

Discover 25 Unmissable Activities in Cape Town for Tourists and Visitors

A holiday in South Africa’s Mother City is exciting and diverse. But, visitors often feel there’s too much to do and see. That’s why a little local knowledge can turn an ordinary vacation into a remarkable experience. From family-friendly to thrill-seeking, we’ve curated a list of unmissable activities in Cape Town for you to consider.

Table Mountain & the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town
Table Mountain & the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town

These are the best activities in and around Cape Town for holidaymakers with a few days or more to tour our city, South Africa’s premier tourist attraction.

Cape Town, our Mother City, is both the oldest and most attractive of South Africa’s cities. The many things to do here is one of the reasons why British travellers selected Cape Town as the Best City in the World again in the 2019 Telegraph Travel Awards – for the seventh time in a row!

Regardless of where in Cape Town you are staying, you will find nice things to do, fun places to visit and cool places to go – all between 15 or 50 minutes by car – depending on the area in which you are staying.

Our list of top things to do include fun activities for families, must-do experiences for couples or friends interested in culture, gourmet, wine or history and also contains a few thrill-seeking ideas that will get your adrenaline up and the blood pumping through your veins

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If you have any questions about these activities or would like some assistance in picking your ultimate holiday villa for rent in Cape Town, please contact us as we are only too happy to help you plan your holiday to Cape Town.

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Top 25 things to do around Cape Town

Our top 25 things to do list can be broadly divided into three categories – relating to nature-based, culture-based and vibey city-based activities.

There are many more activities around Cape Town but these are our top 25. Picked not only because of their popularity with visitors, but because they combine well and are generally fun ways to experience and enjoy the captivating city of Cape Town.

Dias Point Lighthouse at Cape Point
Dias Point Lighthouse at Cape Point

a. Nature-based activities

1. Table Mountain: visit a wonder of nature

Iconic Table Mountain is the postcard image of the Mother City and one of the most visually appealing and striking aspects of the city. Recently voted onto the 7 Wonders of Nature list, the flat mountaintop with its tablecloth of cloud is probably the most photographed subject in the city and home to unique fauna and flora. It is on the slopes of this mountain that the original Dutch settlers began building what would later become a major global trading post and Africa’s top tourist attraction. There are two ways to get to the top – either by cable car – or by hiking to the top. The views are splendid, right across Table Bay towards Robben Island.

2. Cape Point: where two oceans meet

While it is about 60km from the city centre, the drive out to Cape Point is definitely worth the effort. This is the southwestern point of the African continent and those willing to walk (or take the funicular up) to the viewpoint will be rewarded with breathtaking views. There is also the old lighthouse for a touch of romance. A shop, restaurant – and some rather feisty baboons – add more drama to one of the most dramatic attractions in Cape Town.

3. Go for a hike: see more of Table Mountain

Whether you are a hard-core hiker with all the gear and the enthusiasm to scale mountains, or a mellow ambler looking to follow a path through the forest – Cape Town will not disappoint. There are many different hiking trails of various distances all over the city. The Table Mountain National Park has various trails, contour paths, ways to the top as well as overnight routes. There is a light walk up Lion’s Head, which makes for great views and photographs and requires no great fitness ability. More trails to explore are at Silvermine as well as the Tranquility Cracks.

4. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens: smell the flowers

The flowers of Cape Town are part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Known locally as fynbos (fine bush), the flowers may not appear impressive at first glance but are really very special and globally revered. Great examples can be found at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Newlands, Cape Town, which features extensive landscaped gardens against a stunning backdrop of Table Mountain. It is a great picnic and play area too!

5. Take a road trip: drive with the top down

Cape Town has some of the finest natural beauty in the world. The combination of mountain and sea, rock and beach, sun and surf produces some breathtaking vistas all along the coastline, which can really only be appreciated when driving leisurely along them. Chapman’s Peak drive – the scenic route of the annual Cape Argus Cycle Race – is a bucket-list must-do. The drive from Camps Bay to Llandudno to Hout Bay is gorgeous and driving to Kalk Bay and Simon’s Town via Ou Kaapse Weg is also very scenic.

6. Blue flag beaches: soak up some sun

Perhaps the main reason why tourists come to Cape Town in the first place is because of the glorious beaches, white sand and sparkling waves. The city boasts 10 Blue Flag beaches: Camps Bay, Clifton 4th, Llandudno, Bikini, Strandfontein, Muizenberg, Fish Hoek, Mnandi, Melkbosstrand and Silwerstroomstrand. Other beaches are popular too, with the endless sand of Noordhoek, the penguins at Boulders Beach and the stunning scenery at Bakoven being favourites as well. The water is warmest on the southern side of the mountain, with beaches at Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek, Muizenberg, Gordon’s Bay and Strand boasting water that is a few degrees warmer than on the Atlantic Seaboard side.

7. Shark cage diving: meet a Great White

If you would like to try something different, then shark cage diving is just the ticket. Not for the faint of heart, shark cage diving is completely safe and offers you an up-close view of one of the ocean’s most feared predators – the great white shark. It involves going out by boat from the coast near Gansbaai, which is outside of Cape Town, about two hours by car. But for adrenaline junkies, this will be totally worth it.

8. Boat trips and cruises: sail into the sunset

Going for a boat trip in Cape Town harbour or out onto the ocean is an easy and relatively inexpensive but totally unforgettable way to see the city – from the other side. Children are also allowed on board and will be captivated by the breaking waves and the speed of the boat. Sunset cruises with champagne are also available. Longer cruises may be booked and these and other kinds of yacht hire and cruises can be explored at the harbour.

9. Scuba diving: reefs and ancient wrecks

For those interested in scuba diving, there are various spots around Cape Town where guides can show you the beautiful marine life under the water. Plus, the Cape’s coastline is littered with numerous accessible shipwrecks. Common wreck dives are the Maori, Astor, Katzu Maru, and the SAS Pietermaritzburg. Experienced dive instructors can also take novices and beginners for training and scuba gear is available for rental as well.

10. Wale watching: see how the southern rights play

Once a year, usually between July and December, the southern right whales come to the warmer South African waters to mate and breed. Seeing them from charter boats is quite something to behold as these large mammals breach and play in the water. Most whale watching operations are based in Simon’s Town and boats go out into False Bay. For landbased whale watching, you may consider driving out to Hermanus, which is only one-and-a-half hours by car from Cape Town.

11. Picnic: chilled family fun in the sun

Families, especially with small children, will find Cape Town a child-friendly spot with plenty of play areas and parks. Picnics are always popular and good spots are at Kirstenbosch where the rolling lawns are great for kicking around a ball and playing. The Green Point Urban Park is a fabulous place for children with outdoor play areas for babies, toddlers and bigger children. Many restaurants have indoor and outdoor play areas.

12. SUP: learn stand-up paddle boarding

One of the fastest-growing sports around the world is stand-up paddle boarding – or SUP – and Cape Town is a terrific place to enjoy this activity, or learn all about it. It is easy to learn (easier than surfing anyway) and an alternative way to enjoy the ocean and get away from land for a bit. There are various outfits where you may rent a board and even get a few lessons.

13. Aquarium: see the ancient hagfish

The Two Oceans Aquarium is based at the V&A Waterfront and is pretty impressive – regardless of your age, although the child’s play area and many interactive displays make this a favourite outing for families with children of various ages. There are over 3,000 creatures and 88 species with interesting features like jellyfish exhibits and shark tunnels that are an absolute delight to watch. There are also species here like the ancient hagfish, which is not found in any other aquarium on the planet.

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Guided tour of Robben Island
Guided tour of Robben Island

b. Culture-based activities

14. Museums and galleries: appreciate art

South Africa has a wonderfully diverse and interesting heritage, which has been captured and is reflected in the art, sculpture, pottery and textiles of the many artists based in and around the city. You may see their work at a number of museums and galleries in and around Cape Town.

The recently opened Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa has a spectacular exhibition with installations and intriguing works of art while the La Motte Museum and Iziko Museum feature more traditional artwork.

15. Top local restaurants: have a culinary feast

Foodies and gourmands will be pleased to know that they will be able to pick and choose from many restaurants. Nine of the country’s 10 top restaurants, as voted by local guide, are situated in and around Cape Town and include such treats as the Test Kitchen in Woodstock, La Colombe in Constantia and Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia. But there are many restaurants in the city boasting culinary feasts that include traditional African food, authentic Malay curries and fusion and contemporary eateries that will not disappoint even the choosiest palate.

16. Wine farms: wine tasting and lunch

South African wine is becoming known around the globe for its fine flavour, interesting terroir and unique varietals – like the pinotage, a unique South African red wine that is a cross between pinot noir and cinsaut. There are famous wine estates in Cape Town, like the city’s oldest at Steenberg as well as Beau Constantia and Buitenverwachting as well as Groot and Klein Constantia. Morgenster, Vergelegen, Bloemendal and De Grendel also have restaurants on the premises. With old homesteads and cool wine cellars, visits to Cape Town wine farms can quickly stretch into several hours.

17. Castle of Good Hope: hop back into history

Cape Town’s fascinating origin as a halfway stop for ships travelling from Europe to India can be seen and explored in various places. The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in the country with construction starting in 1666. This old fort is well-preserved and gives an idea of what life was like in the colony hundreds of years ago. The Company Gardens in the city centre is a leafy park with a fountain and squirrels that will delight children of all ages.

18. Robben Island: visit Mandela’s cell

The country’s more recent history and the legacy left by apartheid can be seen clearly in the former island prison colony, nowadays a museum. Its most famous inmate, Nelson Mandela, spent 28 years here while the ANC campaigned for political freedom on the mainland. Visitors access Robben Island by boat ride and are able to visit Mandela’s cell and prison for a sobering insight and lesson in humanity.

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View of Cape Town from Table Mountain
View of Cape Town from Table Mountain

c. City-based activities

19. Hop-On Hop-Off: catch the red bus

For those without a car or loath to perhaps drive around a foreign city, the open-top red bus is a good way to explore Cape Town and see city sights. The bus makes over 30 stops where passengers may get on and off to grab a bite or walk around before getting the next one again. It is especially cool considering that one can see all of the city’s great attractions – like Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch, Groot Constantia etc. on a single trip.

20. Explore the city: take a sightseeing tour

There are both half-day and full-day tours in the city of Cape Town, tailored to suit the tastes and interests of tourists who come to Cape Town. There are city tours, which show visitors the history, culture and architectural appeal of the city as well as scenic drives to nearby destinations. Speciality tours are possible, for instance, to craft and design spots, to underground caves as well as ghost tours can be booked for creepy night time excursions.

21. Shop till you drop: give yourself gifts

Naturally, shopping has to be on the list. One of the best places to visit for shopping is the V&A Waterfront with boutiques as well as craft and curios available. For those looking for jewellery and diamonds in particular, the V&A will be a good choice.

If you love shopping, consider booking your holiday apartment at the Cape Town Waterfront.

Other shopping ideas are markets like Greenmarket Square where wares from all over Africa compete with local woodwork, jewellery, clothes as well as other interesting finds.

22. Go vintage: visit the villages

For those who like a touch of retro or vintage artefacts, it will be worth popping into quaint villages like Kalk Bay, St. James and Simon’s Town. Situated on the eastern side of Table Mountain, these sleepy Cape Town villages have a bit of a bohemian flavour that will delight creative folk who enjoy browsing antiques and second-hand shops looking for treasure.

23. Go further afield: visit the Wineland towns

The picturesque towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek are between 1-2 hours outside of Cape Town and really worth a visit. Situated in lush vineyards, you will see wine farms and old buildings, as well as cute shops with magnificent mountains towering behind them. There are many wine farms where wine tastings and lunches can turn a quick lunch into magical afternoon lounging under oak trees.

24. Experience the markets: Old Biscuit Mill awaits

Cape Town is well known for its markets as well. At the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock you will find organic food, delectable wines and beverages as well as nifty clothes, ceramics and almost anything you can think. Other markets to see are the Hout Bay Harbour Market as well as Greenmarket Square for especially curios and crafts.

25. Change your perspective: do a helicopter tour

This is a delightful way to take in all of Cape Town in one exciting go, flying high over the city and the ocean and swooping past Table Mountain and Lion’s Head for a bird’s eye view of this cosmopolitan city. Helicopter trips can be booked in advance and especially for those with not a lot of time at their disposal, this can be a quick way to see a lot of the city – fast!

We guarantee you the lowest rates on villa accommodation. And all our rentals offer space, privacy, hotel conveniences, and 24/7 local guest support.

La Grande Vue - Garden & pool
La Grande Vue villa in Bantry Bay

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Not sure what to do in the amount of time you have in Cape Town? Give us a call or email us for free advice and support when planning your holiday to Cape Town.

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We guarantee you the lowest rates on villa accommodation. And all our rentals offer space, privacy, hotel conveniences, and 24/7 local guest support.