Cape Town is the most popular international tourist destination in South Africa due to its good climate, natural setting, and relatively well-developed infrastructure.
The city has several well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table Mountain, which forms a large part of the Table Mountain National Park and is the back end of the City Bowl. Reaching the top of the mountain can be achieved either by hiking up, or by taking the Table Mountain Cableway. Cape Point is recognised as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula. Many tourists also drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive, a narrow road that links Noordhoek with Hout Bay, for the views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby mountains. It is possible to either drive or hike up Signal Hill for closer views of the City Bowl and Table Mountain.
Cape Town is noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, which combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany and France, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street. The Arts cape Theater Center is the main performing arts venue in Cape Town.
Capetown is located on the extreme south west tip of South Africa, (it is 875 miles SW of Johannesburg, 1,050 miles SW of Durban and 475 miles W of Port Elizabeth. International airport is 12 miles E). It is to the north coast of the “hook” of the Cape of Good Hope, with the Atlantic to the west and False Bay, almost the start of the Indian Ocean, to the East.
Cape Town offers a dozen or so beaches which are popular with local residents. Due to the city’s unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very cold water from the Benguela current which originates from the Southern Ocean. The water at False Bay beaches is often warmer by up to 10 °C (18 °F). Both coasts are equally popular, although the beaches in affluent Clifton and elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast are better developed with restaurants and cafés, with a particularly vibrant strip of restaurants and bars accessible to the beach at Camps Bay. Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town is known for its colony of African penguins. Surfing is popular and the city hosts the Red Bull Big Wave Africa surfing competition every year.
The city has several notable tourist attractions. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is one of the city’s most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Part of the charm of the V&A, as it is locally known, is that the Port continues to operate and visitors can watch ships enter and leave. The V&A also hosts the Nelson Mandela Gateway, through which ferries depart for Robben Island. It is possible to take a ferry from the V&A to Hout Bay, Simon’s Town and the Cape Fur Seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands. Several companies offer tours of the Cape Flats, a mostly Coloured township, and Khayelitsha, a mostly black township. An option is to sleep overnight in Cape Town’s townships. There are several B&Bs where you can spend a safe and real African night. Other popular tourist spots include the Table Bay harbor, museums and galleries, castle, Parliament building, Tuynhuis (State President’s mansion) and Groote Kerk church (oldest in SA); Table Mountain cable car; brewery tours; Robben Island, the maximum-security prison where Nelson Mandela was held; cricket and rugby at Newlands Stadium.
The nightlife offers bars, discos and nightclubs which congregate around the Sea Point area.
For food there is plenty of choice, from local cuisine to European and Malay, and of universally good quality; many restaurants are in hotels. Prices are generally reasonable. Fish and shellfish are specialties.