Since moving down to the coast in 2014, I’ve fallen hard for Cape Town. So much so, that I think the Mother City is one of the most unique cities in all of South Africa.
Cape Town is where you’ll find pristine beaches with shipwrecks, penguins and lazy seals. It’s a city where hiking trails up a world wonder are a 10-minute drive away.
It’s home to restaurants from cultures all over the world and is where you’ll find an innovative cocktail scene with some of the best craft beer in the country.
The best part? Cape Town is a “choose your own adventure” type of place. Whether you’re a foodie, adrenaline junkie or sports nerd – there are possibilities for every kind of traveller!
Whether you want to take in the romance of the city or see the top sights – here are some of the best things to do in Cape Town!
Table of Contents
- Romantic Things to Do in Cape Town
- Cheap Things to do in Cape Town
- Adventurous Things to do in Cape Town
- Go on a Scenic Helicopter Flight Over Cape Town
- Book an Ocean Kayaking Tour
- Try Tandem Paragliding
- Tackle an Overnight Trail at Cape Point
- Go on a Canopy Tour
- Dive with Sharks at the Two Oceans Aquarium
- Take a Kite Surfing Lesson
- Go on a Sandboarding Tour
- Dive Past Cape Town’s Shipwrecks
- Rock Climb or Abseil Off Table Mountain
- Free Things to do in Cape Town
- Unusual Things to do in Cape Town
- Things to do in Cape Town at Night
Romantic Things to Do in Cape Town
Visiting the Mother City with your special person? You’re in luck! There’s no shortage of romantic things to do in Cape Town. Here are a few ideas for a romantic rendezvous:
Go to the Pink Flamingo Rooftop Cinema
In the heart of Cape Town’s CBD, you’ll find the Pink Flamingo Rooftop Cinema. Located on top of the Grand Daddy Hotel, you can watch a flick underneath the stars, set among seven vintage Airstream trailers.
It’s one of the best things to do in Cape Town for couples!
If you want to up the romance factor, you can order a delicious picnic basket or spend a night in one of the themed trailers.
Choose from three seating options: General Seating, the Love Seat and the Couch. Each ticket includes a welcome drink, a bag of sweets and popcorn.
Take the Cable Car Up Table Mountain for Sunset
Splurge on two return cable tickets up Table Mountain and set the tone for a romantic evening in the city. Bring a warm jacket, a bottle of bubbly and enjoy an incredible sunset with breathtaking views of Cape Town below.
Buy your tickets here and check the weather conditions.
Book a Romantic Picnic at Boschendal
Escape the hustle of Cape Town’s CBD and head for the hills – literally. Nestled in the breathtaking Franschhoek Valley is a 300-year old wine farm that serves up a romantic experience for two.
Instead of eating your lunch inside a restaurant (yet again), choose from one of the two Boschendal picnic areas. All the food is grown on the estate, and you’ll have sweeping views of the Cape Winelands.
When you’re done, explore one of the hiking trails, go on a guided horseback ride or spend a few hours unwinding at the on-site spa.
Spend a Night at Tintswalo
Get away from it all with a romantic getaway to Cape Town’s hidden gem, Tintswalo Atlantic. It’s a five-star award-winning boutique lodge located inside Table Mountain National Park.
From your island-themed suite, you’ll have a private pebbled beach and panoramic views of the Atlantic Ocean and the dramatic Sentinel peak.
Besides its perfect location and dreamy decor (they have hanging chairs, people), the hotel also boasts a variety of on-site amenities that make it ideal for a romantic weekend in Cape Town.
Without leaving the property, you can indulge your taste buds at the picturesque restaurant, enjoy a couples massage at the spa or sip on cocktails and watch the sunset over the Atlantic from your room.
Go on a Sunset Champagne Cruise
There’s nothing more synonymous with Cape Town than sunsets. But instead of climbing a mountain or sitting on the beach, watch the day go out in style onboard a luxury boat.
Waterfront Charters offers a romantic sunset cruise that departs from the V & A Waterfront. You’ll get a bottle of bubbly on arrival to toast the day and endless views of the ocean and the majestic Table Mountain.
Go for a Couples Massage
If there’s one thing Cape Town knows how to do well, it’s luxury. The city is full of high-end hotels, bougie restaurants and world-class spas.
At the top of that list, sits The Twelve Apostles Hotel. A visit here will dent your wallet quite a bit – but it’s worth it if you’re after a romantic experience for the books.
The onsite spa treatments are tailored to suit the needs of you and your partner, plus you can add in cocktails or a romantic dinner for two.
Go Horseback Riding on the Beach
Picture this: the sun is setting, the waves of the ocean are crashing at your feet, and your lover is riding towards you on a horse.
It may sound like the start of a 1990’s music video or the end of a Disney movie, but it can be your reality.
End of your day in Cape Town with a romantic horseback ride on Noordhoek Beach. You’ll trot past a shipwreck as you explore one of the longest (and most beautiful) beaches on the coastline.
A cheesy, dramatic theme song is optional.
Have Dinner at The Crypt
Call off the search, history buffs and music lovers. Instead of prowling the streets for unique things to do in Cape Town, go underneath the city – into a 100-year-old crypt.
Okay, hear me out. It’s technically not the most romantic place for a date in Cape Town, but The Crypt Restaurant flips that notion and reverses it.
It’s located beneath the dramatic St George’s Cathedral, the oldest of its kind in Southern Africa. The close quarters, gothic windows and vaulted ceiling create an intimate setting for an evening of fine dining and live jazz performances.
Bookings are essential.
Read More: 16 Most Instagrammable Places in Cape Town
Cheap Things to do in Cape Town
I’ll be the first to admit that Cape Town is not a cheap city. I cry on the inside every time I have to pay rent, but that doesn’t mean you need fists full of money to see the city.
There are plenty of cheap things to do in Cape Town (which is one of the reasons why the city is my spirit animal). Here are a few ideas that cost less than R 200.00 and won’t leave your wallet empty:
Swim with Penguins at Boulders Beach
For R 39.00 you can spend the entire day numbing yourself to the icy temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean while hanging out with the world-famous penguin colony.
Is it worth it? Absolutely!
These little guys will steal your heart within a matter of seconds. But don’t follow the boardwalk to see the colony, instead head to the secret beach.
Find a shady spot by the boulders, bring along a good book and work on your tan as the penguin colony swims in the distance and waddle onto the beach to chill out in the sun.
For animal lovers, like me, it’s one of the best things to do in Cape Town on a budget!
Go Wine Tasting at Neetherlingshof
For my first couple of years in Cape Town, I didn’t have a favourite wine farm. I drank my chardonnay indiscriminately and jumped at any opportunity to pretend I was a pretentious wine connoisseur.
That all changed when I discovered Neetherlingshof in Stellenbosch. The wine farm makes the only red wine I’ll happily drink – The Caracal.
Even better, you can sample their Short Story Collection for only R 80 per person for five wines. It’s one of the best things to do in Cape Town for under R 200.
But you might want to leave your credit card at home though. I always end up buying at least three bottles of something.
Grab a Coffee at Truth
Decked out in steampunk furnishings, with vintage coffee machines and waiters wearing stylish vintage threads, Truth is not your ordinary coffee shop.
It’s won best coffee shop in the world – TWICE and a cup of their award-winning brew will only cost less than R 40.00!
Truth also serves up the quintessentially British tradition of high tea. Expect a steampunk twist while enjoying the best of teas, coffees and none of those sad cucumber sandwiches.
Have Brunch at the Old Biscuit Mill
The Old Biscuit Mill is one of the top things to do in Cape Town on a budget. For less than R100.00, you can indulge in some of the best food the city has to offer.
Whether you’re a die-hard avo on toast fan or you want to try something out of your palate comfort zone – there’s something for everyone.
Before arriving, make sure you download Snapscan on your phone. You won’t need to worry about withdrawing cash, and it will save you a ton of time at the vendors.
But if you’re after something less touristy, go to the Oranjezicht Market near the Waterfront. Prices are about the same, and the different vendors give the market it’s own unique vibe.
OR you can be extra and hit up both in one day, I’ve done that and didn’t regret the food coma at all.
Visit the Babylonstoren Gardens
“Build a cute garden and the Instagrammers will come.”
Pretty sure that is the basis of Babylonstoren’s marketing strategy. The wine farm’s picturesque (and massive) gardens attract dozens of stylish ‘grammers throughout the year.
The prickly pear maze is a firm favourite, but there are loads of hidden spots to discover around the gardens. All you need to pay is the R 20 entrance fee at the gate.
Attend a Kirstenbosch Summer Concert
The Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts are a Cape Town institution. Throughout the warm summer months, every Sunday evening you can catch some of South Africa’s top artists performing at the Botanical Gardens.
Pack a picnic, a bottle of wine and groove to the tunes while the sun sets behind the spectacular backdrop of Table Mountain National Park.
Tickets are usually under R 200.00, making it one of the best things to do in Cape Town on a budget. Be sure to book your tickets in advance – some acts like man bun god, Jeremy Loops, sell out super fast.
Visit Cape Town’s Museums
As a history buff, you can’t go wrong with a visit to Cape Town. From Nelson Mandela’s cell on Robben Island to District Six and the Bo Kaap, there’s more than enough to satisfy your curiosity about South Africa’s turbulent past and everything in between.
Here are some of the best museums in Cape Town to add to your itinerary:
The Bo-Kaap Museum
Spend a few hours wandering past the colourful homes of the Cape Malay people in the Bo-Kaap. I highly recommend going on a walking tour if you want to learn more about the history of the houses, but you can walk around by yourself. Entrance is mahala (free).
The District Six Museum
During Apartheid, the government forcibly removed the inhabitants of District Six to the outskirts of the city. Today, you can visit the museum and go on a guided tour of the area conducted by an ex-resident.
Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa
Located inside old grain silos, the Zeitz Museums of Contemporary Art is an incredible gallery. It features over 80 separate spaces with a rooftop sculpture garden, a bookshop, and a cafe. Expect to find some of the top installations by leading local and international artists.
Other notable museums to visit:
- Cape Town Diamond Museum
- Irma Stern Museum
- The Slave Lodge
- Dream Museum | Khwa ttu San Museum
Eat a Cupcake at Charly’s Bakery
Charly’s Bakery is home to Cape Town’s best cupcakes. Located in the historic neighbourhood of District Six, you can expect to indulge your sweet tooth in an array of Mucking Amazing cakes.
Chow down on a chocolate Sorting Hat cupcake, a blue monster or a classic carrot cake and cream cheese icing. What’s more, their delectable cupcakes start at R 27.00 each.
Adventurous Things to do in Cape Town
Want to get your blood pumping? You’ve come to the right place. Cape Town is full of adrenaline-inducing activities that will have you screaming your lungs out or wetting your pants in no time.
Here are some of the best adventurous things to do in Cape Town:
Go on a Scenic Helicopter Flight Over Cape Town
Not sure what to do in Cape Town? Take in the Mother City from a different angle.
Head to the skies and go on a scenic helicopter flight over Cape Town.
You’ll get to fly over Sea Point, Green Point, the Twelve Apostles, the City Bowl, Camps Bay and Clifton. Your Instagram will thank you.
Book an Ocean Kayaking Tour
“But I’m an uncoordinated human – I could never kayak in the ocean”.
That was me when I booked my kayaking tour with Atlantic Outlook, but I decided to push my fears because of the dolphins.
My love for those creatures gave me some courage, and I managed to not fall into the ocean or paddle around in circles for two hours.
If you want to see as much sea life as possible (I’m talking seals, whales, sunfish and dolphins) I recommend setting your alarm clocks and waking up for the 7:00 am tour. But if you’re after some incredible photos and scenery, the sunset tour at 5:45 pm is a winner.
Try Tandem Paragliding
I have yet to work up the courage to try tandem paragliding, but it’s on my 2019 bucket list, and I’m going to dig deep to find the courage to throw myself off a mountain.
While safely attached to another human being, of course.
Plus, there are flights at sunset – which is a major motivator for me. What’s better than gliding above Cape Town’s top sights as the day comes to an end in a glorious fashion?
Tackle an Overnight Trail at Cape Point
While there are tons of epic day hikes in Cape Town, Cape Point’s two overnight trail offer hikers a unique experience.
You’ll get to trek past the rugged coastline (without the crowds you’ll find on top of Lion’s Head or Table Mountain), zebra and other antelope and stay in beautiful rustic huts.
The two trails are not for rookies. You need to be comfortable walking 15 km a day and have the right equipment.
If you’re into photography, don’t forget to pack your tripod! It’s one of the best spots in Cape Town for astrophotography!
Go on a Canopy Tour
Located an hour outside of Cape Town is the Cape Canopy Tour. It’s situated inside the protected Hottentots Holland mountain range and was named one of the hottest new tourism experiences by Lonely Planet.
If you can, sign up for their full moon canopy tour. As the sun sets over the mountains, you’ll glide past fireflies and watch the full moon rise.
Plus, you get free hot chocolate. #Winning
Dive with Sharks at the Two Oceans Aquarium
If you aren’t ready to jump into the Atlantic Ocean with one of the world’s top predators, you can dip your toes in at the Two Oceans Aquarium.
Divers with an Open Water qualification can dive with the aquarium’s ambassador ragged-tooth sharks in the predator exhibit. While you’re trying not to pee yourself, you can swim among the schools of yellowtail and giant kob fish.
It’s one of the best places to go in Cape Town if you’re after a thrill!
Take a Kite Surfing Lesson
As one of the windiest cities in South Africa, it’s no wonder that Cape Town is a mecca for kite surfers.
Blouberg’s Big Bay attracts extreme sports lovers from all over the world who are looking for the perfect combo of waves, wind and epic scenery.
You can rent all the equipment you need from one of the kitesurfing schools, or you can sign up for lessons. In three days, you can complete a beginner’s course and master basic board riding techniques.
Go on a Sandboarding Tour
The Atlantis Sandunes are probably Cape Town’s best-kept secret. Only a short drive from the city, the landscape looks like something you’d expect to find in the Middle East.
Join a sandboarding tour and explore one of the city’s unique attractions. You’ll get all the safety equipment you need, an introductory lesson and plenty of time to practice your technique on the dunes.
Dive Past Cape Town’s Shipwrecks
With over 800 shipwrecks, the Cape Penisula is one of the best places in the world for shipwreck dives. The “Cape of Storms” has claimed wrecks from 37 different nations including the Portuguese, the Dutch, 19th-century passenger liners and ships from WW1 and WW2.
Whether you’re an Open Water or Advanced diver, there are tons of dives to choose from! But if you’re short on time, I’d recommend the Smitswinkel Bay wrecks.
There are five sunken ships to explore and the dive covers over 400 meters!
Rock Climb or Abseil Off Table Mountain
Out of all the sports I’ve ever done, rock climbing has my heart. Every single time I don’t think I have the finger strength to finish a route, I somehow make it to the top.
Table Mountain has a range of routes for beginners to pros. Your tour price will include a guide and all the equipment you need.
But if you’re after an adventurous activity that isn’t a hectic full-body workout, sign up for an abseiling tour. You don’t need any experience, and you’ll get to enjoy panoramic views from the top of Table Mountain as you descend a sheer cliff face.
Read More: 6 Incredible Weekend Getaways From Cape Town
Free Things to do in Cape Town
Visiting Cape Town on a budget? I got ya.
When I first moved to the Mother City in 2014, I only had enough money to pay my monthly expenses, so I didn’t have a lot to work with.
The plus side? I got to experience all the amazing free things to do in Cape Town. Here are a few of my favourites:
Go on a Sunrise Hike Up Lion’s Head
For some of the best views of Cape Town, make your up to the summit of Lion’s Head. It’s an easy hike for all levels, and you’ll even get to climb up chain ladders!
Hiking Lion’s Head at sunrise is one of the best things to do in Cape Town during winter. You don’t have to wake up poes early (I’m looking at you 4:00 am summer wake up calls) and you’ll have the summit to yourself.
Sunset is a more popular time to summit the mountain. If you’re visiting the city in the summertime, expect long lines as people wait their turn to go up the ladders.
Hike Up Kloof Corner for Sunset
Want to escape the crowds on Lion’s Head? Head to the quieter Kloof Corner on the slopes of Table Mountain.
It’s a lesser-known spot that’s a firm favourite with locals and boasts incredible views over Camps Bay and the CBD. Make sure you bring a flashlight if you’re staying here for sunset.
Kloof Corner only takes 20-minutes to climb!
Go on a Grafitti Tour in Woodstock
Besides the Old Biscuit Mill, one of my favourite things about Woodstock is the neighbourhood’s street art. Walk along the streets, and you’ll find many walls and buildings adorned with impressive murals.
If you want to learn more about the artists and the history build the artworks, sign up for a street art tour.
Have a Beach Day at Muizenberg
Located on the east coast, Muizenberg is famous for its picture-perfect colourful beach houses. Spend the day here working on your tan, taking cute Insta-worthy pictures or braving the icy Atlantic waters.
You can also visit St. James Beach further down the road, it’s less busy and has its own collection of beach houses.
If you’re a photographer, come here for sunrise! You’ll get beautiful photos over the tidal pools, and there’s plenty of nearby cafes to wake you up after dawn has broken.
Go to First Thursdays
I LOVE First Thursdays.
It’s an event that happens on the first Thursday of each month, where all of Cape Town’s art galleries stay open late, and the inner city turns into a massive walking street.
Oh, and there’s FREE wine!
A lot of the bars in the city also have specials, and other cultural events take place at different locations. You can download a map from the official website or pick one up once you arrive.
Top Tip: Uber into the city for First Thursdays. Parking is a real struggle, and you’ll end up having to leave your car blocks away.
Feed Squirrels in The Company Gardens
In the heart of Cape Town’s CBD lies the beautiful Company Gardens. It’s home to dozens of adorable squirrels that will run up to you in search of food.
If you want to feed them, you can buy a pack of peanuts for R 20 from a vendor. However, you won’t need to lure them out of the trees with food.
They are constantly running across the paths, jumping between the trees and sitting on the benches.
Hike to the Oudeschip Shipwreck
Over the years, Cape Town’s shores have claimed hundreds of ships. While most beneath the waves, there are a few that you can see scattered across the coastline.
The Oudeschip shipwreck is my favourite. You’ll have to hike through Cape Town’s unofficial nudist beach to get there, but it’s worth it!
I wouldn’t recommend this hike to beginner hikers. The route was severely damaged during Cape Town’s wildfires and isn’t as clear as it used to be.
Also, there used to be a ladder that you could climb down at low tide to get to the shipwreck, but that’s no longer there. As far as I know, it hasn’t been replaced, but you can still admire the wreck from afar!
Watch the Sunset on Clifton 2nd
Clifton is famous around the world for its incredible beaches. Expect fine white sand, beautiful boulders and an epic view of the sunset.
While there are three different Clifton beaches to choose from, I’d recommend 2nd above the rest. You’ll be safe from the wind (mostly), and during the summer there are tons of free events that take place on the beach.
From yoga classes to fire poi – it’s a great spot to end off your day in Cape Town.
Drive-Up to Chapman’s Peak
End off your day in Cape Town with one of the country’s top scenic drives. Chapman’s Peak connects Hout Bay to Noordhoek with a dramatic coastal route that hugs the Atlantic Seaboard for nine kilometres.
Come here for sunset (especially if there is low cloud cover), hike up one of the trails to get away from the crowds or see if you can find the secret lookout cave.
The cave is one of those hidden things to do in Cape Town that’s best done with a local. If you don’t know the way there, it can be unsafe.
Top Tip: If you don’t want to pay the road toll, drive up from the Noordhoek side. All the best viewpoints are that side before the toll gate.
Unusual Things to do in Cape Town
Are you a Cape Town regular? Bored of all the #basicbitch CPT itineraries out there?
Throw in a few of these unusual things to do in Cape Town and explore a different side of the city.
Go on a Hint Hunt With Your Friends
Okay, so you’re probably thinking: “Lauren, why would I come to Cape Town and pay someone to lock up in a room for an hour?”
Well, my friend, because instead of a room – you’ll be locked inside a REAL submarine or pirate ship.
Hint Hunt is an unusual thing to do in Cape Town that will test your teamwork abilities, and you might learn who needs to work on their temper along the way.
Book a Ride on the Franschhoek Wine Tram
Calling all winos! You can’t leave Cape Town without drinking your weight in Franschhoek wine.
One of the best ways to achieve this goal is by booking a spot on the Franschhoek Wine Tram. Nobody needs to drive, and you can choose from multiple routes, each offering something unique.
If you don’t want to spend the night in Franschhoek, you can also get a transfer to and from Cape Town. Yay to no one being the designated driver for once!
You get wine, and you get wine, everybody gets wine!
Sleep on Table Mountain
Looking for unusual accommodation in Cape Town? Spend the night in the Overseers Cottage on top of Table Mountain.
It’s a renovated stone cottage that comes with a big ‘ol fireplace, hot showers and comfy beds. The best part is that it can accommodate up to 16 people, making it super affordable.
It costs R 2280 per night for six people with an additional charge of R 380 for extra adults or R 190 for children.
Go to Poetry night at A Touch of Madness
If you’re a fan of Alice in Wonderland, you’ll love A Touch of Madness. It’s a restaurant/bar located in an old Victorian House in Observatory.
On Saturday nights, you can find DJs spinning the decks into the early hours of the morning or Chess nights on Wednesdays.
But if you’re looking for something unusual to do in Cape Town, attend the Off the Wall Poetry sessions on Thursday evenings. It’s the city’s longest-running poetry event, and there are open mic spots for anyone who wants to spit some bars to the crowd.
You’ll get a pair of wireless headphones (so you won’t disturb the neighbours), and you’ll get to groove your heart out on some of Cape Town’s most beautiful beaches.
Things to do in Cape Town at Night
From hitting up the various bars to watching live music or exercising your own vocal cords – there’s no shortage of things to do in Cape Town in the evening.
Here are some of the top places to visit:
Have a Drink at the Secret Gin Bar
I like secrets. It’s why my hair is so big.
One of my favourite secret things to do in Cape Town is the gin bar behind Honest Chocolate. The Gin Bar has a cute little courtyard and is a perfect place to start your evening in the CBD.
Party on Long Street
Getting dronk vir driet on Long Street is almost a rite of passage in Cape Town. There are plenty of bars and nightclubs to choose from, each catering to a unique vibe or crowd.
Some of my favourites include:
- Beerhouse – for beer connoisseurs.
- Aces n Spades – for bougie rock ‘n roll vibes.
- Carnival Court – for trance beats.
- The Manila Bar – for karaoke and cheap shooters.
- The Waiting Room – for intimate live music performances.
Watch Live Music at House of Machines
Tucked away on Shortmarket Street is one of my favourite live music venues in Cape Town, The House of Machines.
It’s a great spot to visit during First Thursdays, and the bar hosts a range of musicians from varying genres. Whether you’re looking for rock ‘n roll vibes or some chilled house, you’ll find it here.
The drinks here are excellent! Mostly because their bartenders have competed to represent South Africa at the World Class bartender awards.
Watch a Movie at Labia Theatre
The Labia Theatre is the oldest independent cinema in South Africa. Originally an Italian Embassy ballroom, it’s now the place to go if you want to watch a movie with old-charm charm.
Tickets only cost R 50 per person.
You’ll find art house films as well as some of the bigger blockbuster films on the circuit. There are also a few restaurants nearby that you can grab dinner at before or after your movie.
Have a Drink at the Orphanage Cocktail Emporium
One of the things that I love about Cape Town is the bar scene. The city is full of bartenders that have represented South Africa in the World Class Bartender of the Year competition – and making your way through their award-winning drinks is a favourite sport of mine.
For a unique cocktail experience, you can’t go wrong with Orphanage Cocktail Emporium. Their cocktail elixirs are incredible, and it’s a great place to kick off an evening on the town or for a sundowner.
Whew. If you made it to the end of this guide – you deserve a Bells! I’m surprised my fingers are still attached to my hands.
What are some of your favourite things to do in Cape Town? Which shipwreck hikes do you love? Let me know in the comments below!
Psst…Want more Cape Town travel inspiration? Check out my other posts:
- 18 Most Instagrammable Places in Cape Town
- The Best Hotels in Cape Town: Where to Stay for Every Budget
- Where to Stay in Cape Town: A Guide to the Best Neighbourhoods
- 16 of the Best Things to Do in Cape Town in the Winter
- 6 Incredible Weekend Getaways From Cape Town
- The Best Vegan Restaurants in Cape Town You Need To Try
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