Cape Town is one of South Africa’s most popular tourist destinations. It is the country’s second most populous city and people often mistake it as the capital city. Nestled under the majestic Table mountain and the Victoria waterfront, it makes an exciting destination to visit. Other nearby places include Cape Point which is touted as the southernmost point of the African continent, but technically in geographical terms, it is actually not. I was lucky to make my first trip to the African continent and Cape Town was my first point of contact. I had went to South Africa as part of a volunteer teaching programme between NUS and Warwick University. Here are 8 places to see in and around Cape Town.
1. The Waterfront
It boasts bars, restaurants and shops. Quay 4 (West Quay Road, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, 8001), an iconic sundowner bar with a deck jutting out over the harbour, is the place to catch a game of rugby or cricket (yup South Africa being a Commonwealth country) to the soundtrack of jeering seagulls and barking seals. The seafood here is very fresh and you can find a bottle of wine on the menu to accompany your fish for under $20.
Also, take a ferry to Robben Island, where former president Nelson Mandela was jailed in Cell 5, Secion B. The tour guides are former inmates of the jail and you will get to hear untold stories. Do remember to book the ferry ticket at least a day in advance or online (https://www.webtickets.co.za/events/big-6/robben-island-museum-tour/76219), as they sell out really quickly and there are only limited departures everyday.
2. Greenmarket Square & Long Street
In this old, cobbled square, colourful stalls hawk a kaleidoscopic array of curios, fabrics, beadwork and paintings all over Africa. To the east of this large square is Long Street, apparently the longest street in Cape Town. It is full of bookshops, funky cafes and cool bars. Me and my friends dined at an Ethiopian restaurant – Addis in Cape (41 Church St, Corner Long & Church Street, Cape Town City Centre) along this street, giving us exposure to Ethiopian cuisine for the first time.
3. De Waterkant
This is Cape Town’s hippest quarter. Check into a guesthouse called Bluegum Hill located on a hill near De Waterkant (13 Merriman Road, Green Point) which offers an amazing view of the bay area and Robben Island.
4. Chapman’s Peak & Long Beach
The drive from Hout Bay over Chapman’s Peak to Kalk Bay and Simon’s Town takes you to stunning landscapes. The beaches here are unspoilt and you can find a quiet spot to yourself for the whole day. Llandudno is an intimate beach for a sundowner. On the other hand, Long Beach is windswept and hazardous.
5. Kalk Bay
Once a whaling harbour, this is where fishermen moor their colourful trawlers. Check out Olympia Cafe (134 Main St, Kalk Bay, Cape Town) in Kalk Bay for their kabiljou fish and lemon tart. Simple delicious.
6. Penguin spotting
Head to Boulders beach near Simon’s Town to spot the cute, little Africain pengiuns waddling to humans in close proximity. A cool deli cafe called The Meeting Place (98 Saint Georges Street, Simon’s Town) is located on the main road. A cheap and tranquil place to stay is Topsail House (St Georges St, Simon’s Town, 7445, Cape Town, WC Peninsula), a former convent where you can get a room for about $50 a night.
7. The Winelands
Stellenbosch is a beautiful old university town. Cape Dutch and Victorian houses stand alongside each other on Dorp Street. Yes, this was where I stayed for three weeks in a university hostel and enjoyed the great university party life here. It is a well-contained town and every morning, we would be ferried to the nearby township to teach at the schools.
Boschendal, on the road between Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, is an old winery set against the thetrical backdrop of the Simonsberg mountain. There are many picturesque but touristy cafes and restaurants in Franschhoek. At Fairview (Suid-Agter Paarl Road Suider-Paarl, 7646), a goat and wine farm, just outside Paarl, you can taste different kinds of cheeses with wine.
8. Hermanus and beyond
Hermanus is the place to see the Southern Right whales, the best land-based whale watching destination if you do not have the budget to go on boat tours. Otherwise, there are several boat trips departing on a regular basis to see these majestic whales up close. Quayside Cabin (Lower Slipway, New Harbour, Hermanus) is a kitchen in a shipping container in the new harbour. Another magical place to eat lunch is Bientang se Grot (in a Cave at the oceans edge, below Marine Drive,100m from old harbour, Hermanus) which is located right on the rocks. If you happen to be there between May and September, you may see whales breaching from the deck. A hidden treasure here is called Heaven (Newton Johnson Wine Estate, Hemel en Aarde Road R320), a restaurant in a vineyard on the Hemel-en-Aarde road which offers a surreal view of the distant sea.