Everyone told me that I would fall in love with Cape Town… the sun, the beaches, the wine, the food. It was love at first sight. It’s the perfect destination for any age, any gender and any group of people. I urge you to visit so you can fall in love too.
There are a few good things to know before you go, so I’m attempting to pass on my wisdom and sharing my top ten tips…
1. Grab yourself a 2 day pass for the City Sightseeing Bus Tour
I’ve never been a fan of the touristy open top bus approach, but arriving in Cape Town it was recommended that the City Sightseeing double decker was a cheap and easy way to get around the city. A 2 day pass cost R270 (just over £15) and not only got us around for free but also included a complimentary canal cruise by the waterfront and discounts on various attractions and restaurants, whilst enjoying spectacular views we might not otherwise have seen.
2. For a quick taste of Cape Town’s wine, ride the Purple Wine Tour
If you are limited on time for exploring Cape Town’s wine region, the three vineyards on the City Sightseeing Purple Wine Tour are an excellent alternative. Groot Constantia Wine Estate is a fabulous winery that offers cheap cellar tours and tastings in stunning grounds. I fell in love with their Gouverneurs Reserve Red 2012, a rich bold bottle which I’ll be uncorking in 5-10 years!
A more secluded site is Eagle’s Nest Wine Farm which offers a more casual approach to wine tasting. with a gorgeous outdoor area to enjoy samples of their wines with a picnic or platter. We opted for the Eagle’s Nest Antipasto Platter, a delicious selection of cheeses, meats, fruits and nuts. After much contemplation I decided to purchase a bottle of their crisp Sauvignon Blanc 2013 for my parents and the Merlot 2010 for my collection, a vibrant red that will benefit from maturation up to 2022.
3. Planning a trip to Boulders Beach
Everyone wants to see the famous beach of Cape Town, home to a group of uncanny creatures. When money is no object, a private car or tour will take you to the destination, however if you’re backpacking like I was, a cheap train ride is preferable.
Its no Orient Express, but if you’re up for an adventure with some picturesque views, its perfectly safe. The train to Simon’s Town leaves Cape Town’s main rail station almost every hour – you can check the timetable here. It costs about R28 for a return (under £2) for the 1hr 10m journey – the exact same fee as my daily overground to go a mere few miles.
Once you get to Simon’s Town (which is worth exploring in itself), its a 30-40 minute stroll to the home of the famous penguins. You could probably get a taxi but if you like a sunny walk than I encourage it.
4. Watching the sunset at Signal Hill
One of my favourite memories from my trip was watching the sunset over the ocean at the peak of Signal Hill. Looking out across the waves, we even saw two whales flip their tails in the air, a truly magical moment. Unfortunately I’m not the only one who loved this experience and the place gets pretty packed very quickly.
If you want to make the most of this incredible sunset, get yourself up there early and secure your spot. We took a selection of cheeses, bread and snacks for an evening picnic, making it an even more special occasion.
Also, if you drive/take a tour bus up, don’t expect to get back down anytime soon. The narrow winding road up to the hill can get chockablock with cars trying to squeeze their way past each other. If you don’t mind a walk, its recommended to park further down.
Also – the skies over Table Mountain with its foggy sheet are phenomenal. This particularly view was one of my favourite to date.
5. Plan plan plan your visit to Table Mountain
I’m guessing you want to ride the cable car to the top of Table Mountain? Yeah so did I *insert crying emoji*. First important thing to note – Cape Town can get real windy, meaning that the cable will randomly close. Check if its running here before you make your way up.
Secondly, the queues can be insane. On our last day we thought we’d give the mountain another shot. However on arrival we found that the queue was 4 hours long, and with a plane to catch in 6, we weren’t taking the risk. Instead I made the best of the situation and took some happy selfies with the view!
6. Eat all the fillet steak you can (unless you’re a vegetarian… then skip ahead)
Cape Town is stupidly cheap. Which means you can order all the posh food to your hearts content. I ate a huge amount of fillet steak and fresh seafood. You can read my review of The Bungalow here, a beautiful seafront exclusive lounge where I had calamari, beef fillet with a side and a Johnnie Walker cocktail for less than £30 – I know right (although take directions/the telephone number because our taxi driver just could not bloody find the place).
7. Seeing Robben Island
Similarly to Table Mountain, the ferries that take you to the famous Robben Island can also be cancelled due to a patch of wind. I again highly recommend booking in advance, you’ll be able to reuse your ticket if it closes for the day and it can be booked up for weeks at a time. We luckily got a one off slot before we had to head home!
If you’re thinking of going but aren’t sure, I would say it depends on how bothered you are about crossing it off your list. I’ve heard mixed reviews of people having amazing experiences and some thinking it was a bit of a waste of their trip, and from my own experience, I think it depends on the individual ex-prisoner who shows you around. I’m not saying it wasn’t interesting, but our guide really droned on between talking on his phone and many of the rooms we saw genuinely looked like conference facilities! If you get a good guide, it could be an incredibly interesting experience, and seeing Nelson Mandela’s cell is equally haunting and monumental.
The views however of Cape Town from afar are most definitely worth it. We saw seals, penguins and what we were sure was a dolphin and were overwhelmed by the panoramic scenery.
8. Explore the less glamorous side of the city
Along the blue route of the City Sightseeing tour is the Imizamo Yethu Township. This shantytown is being constantly developed and funded to provide good quality homes for the residents, the majority of whom live in small corrugated iron shacks. For a small R70 (£4) you are invited to walk around the town with a local guide who kindly showed us their schools, homes and local businesses. It was lovely to meet some of the friendly residents and lovely children, including a local church who held our hands and invited us in to sing with them to celebrate Easter Sunday.
I really recommend this tour to those who want to get a grasp of Cape Town’s culture outside of the tourist filled attractions.
9. Get a taste for local produce at the V&A Waterfront Food Market
Along the pier of the V&A Waterfront is an incredible Food Market filled with every kind of cuisine made from local produce. I was addicted to the little stands within the two storey structure, eating everything from individually flavoured samosas to homemade Indian curry.
Its also worth popping into the Watershed next door, an amazing space filled with a vast selection of crafts, fashion, jewellery and more.
10. Don’t forget to relax and take it all in!
There’s so much to do in Cape Town that sometimes you can forget to have a relaxed afternoon on the beach and take in the beautiful surroundings. Camps Bay is perfect for a day of soaking up the sun, with top seafood restaurants, a stunning rock pool and large shopping promenade to entertain. I wish I’d had more time to chill on this lovely part of the city.
You can now enjoy the latest long haul flight to Cape Town from London Gatwick with Thomas Cook Airlines. As one of the few direct flight options from a UK airport, other than London Heathrow, Thomas Cook Airlines offers in-flight meals created by top chef James Martin, new ergonomic and individually adjustable seats, in-flight entertainment and more – all at very affordable rates.
Have you been to Cape Town? If so what made you fall in love with it?
This post was sponsored by Thomas Cook Airlines