Every year thousands of visitors head to the beautiful country of South Africa, and we can’t blame them. If you’re one of the lucky ones who bags a flight to this fascinating country, you’ll probably find yourself spending some time in the Mother City.
But what exactly can you do in Cape Town?
In a city with an incredibly rich historical past, perched between a beautiful setting of steep mountain slopes and the shores of Table Bay, Cape Town is a place like no other. Here are our top recommendations for how to spend 24 hours in Cape Town.
Learn about history on Robben Island
If you are particularly interested in learning about the history of the places you visit, we definitely recommend checking out Robben Island. Cape Town was founded back in the 17th century, and the island stands as a reminder of South Africa’s troubled history.
Robben Island has served multiple purposes in South African history. It’s been a military base, a home for a leper colony, a mental institution, and most notably, a prison. It was where Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid activist and former South African president, was held captive.
Today, the island houses a museum that is rich with historical details about the island’s history, offering tours of the island led by former inmates of the prison, giving firsthand accounts of their own experiences.
Definitely an attraction for the history-lover, Robben Island is the perfect place to go to if you’ve got a few hours to spare.
Get a bird’s eye view of the city
If you’ve only got one day in Cape Town, there’s no better way to start it than heading to the city’s most iconic attraction. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway allows for insane 360 degree views of the harbour, city, Robben Island, and the surrounding mountains.
The views at the top are absolutely incredible, so after you’ve taken enough photos for your Instagram story, make sure to take it all in and really soak in the experience. Trips up the mountain start at 8:30, so it’s the perfect opportunity to start the day off with incredible vibes.
If you’re hungry, head to the Table Mountain Cafe for a quick bite at one of their outside tables overlooking Clifton and Camp’s Bay. They offer options like continental breakfasts and cooked buffets to keep you fueled during the day.
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Hike to the Top of Table Mountain
If you are more adventurous and love being one with nature, we suggest skipping the cableway ride and opting for a hiking route up Table Mountain. Most hikes up the mountain can be done in about four hours, so you can get in a hike with a gorgeous view while also exploring a few other of the city’s main attractions.
Some of the most popular trails include Platteklip Gorge, India Venster, Skeleton Gorge, and Diagonal/Kasteelspoort. Once you reach the top of Table Mountain, there are multiple free guided walks that anyone is able to join.
These walks depart daily every hour until 3pm and are usually not too long. They are ideal for learning some interesting facts about the mountain and where the best scenic spots are.
Sample South African wines
Cape Town is filled with activities for nearly everyone: the traveller, the nature lover, the fitness guru, and especially the wine enthusiasts. Home to some of the most stunning wine estates, we highly suggest stopping at one of them for a quick wine tasting, full of incredible views and lots of delicious drinks.
Constantia Valley, 10.5 miles south of central Cape Town, is the region where it all began. With oak-lined streets, historical mansions, and miles and miles of vineyards, this area is home to Groot Constantia, the oldest vineyard.
Explore the beautiful property and enjoy the history of the vineyard while sipping on crisp, flavourful wine. If you are simply interested in sightseeing, you can explore the valley for free.
Just outside Cape Town, there are numerous other wine regions to explore, just a short drive away.
Enjoy a robust range of reds at Rust en Vrede, a Stellenbosch estate ranked among the best in the country. Or if you’re feeling more low key, visit Mullineux Family Wines, a small winery that produces award-winning Syrahs, which are available at their Riebeek Kasteel tasting room.
Visit Kirstenbosch Gardens
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is acclaimed as one of the best botanic gardens in the world. Founded in 1913 with the original purpose of preserving the country’s indigenous flora, it now contains over 7,000 species of plants from southern Africa.
It’s a favourite among locals and visitors for a reason, with plenty of activities to enjoy. Take in the panoramic views from the canopy walkway, explore the shady trails, enjoy a picnic on the lawn, or hike up Skeleton Gorge.
In addition to the Botanical Society Conservatory, Kirstenbosch includes a medicinal garden, a Protea garden, a cycad amphitheatre, a fragrance garden, a braille trail, and over 2,500 species of plants from the Cape Peninsula.
One thing is for certain, you won’t regret visiting Kirstenbosch and experiencing the array of nature and beauty home to South Africa.
Visit a local favourite spot for a bite to eat
If you are one who appreciates a good drink to go with a delicious meal, you are sure to have a great time experiencing South African BBQ, known locally as a braai. To experience a true braai you need to be invited to a local’s house, but if you can’t snag an invitation, don’t worry, Cape Town has a vibrant restaurant scene.
There is an abundance of restaurants offering delicious food, including both local and international specialities. For a fun vibe and delicious meat dishes, head over to the Bombay Bicycle Club. Belly of the Beast is another place serving up great food.
If you are not a meat lover, there are plenty of vegetarian and vegan restaurants to enjoy. One notable restaurant is Spirit Cafe, an inviting spot with vegan/vegetarian options made with mainly fresh local farm products.
Even though Cape Town is right on the water, it can be difficult to find a great seafood place that isn’t super touristy or overpriced. Seabreeze is rated one of the best choices for high-quality seafood in an equally great location. It’s located on Bree Street, one of the main areas for bars and restaurants in the centre of the city.
The next time you find yourself planning a trip to Cape Town, don’t forget these great ideas for exploring the Mother City.