On my first trip to the continent of Africa, I was lucky enough to spend about a week exploring the wonders of Cape Town. I ended up moving to Cape Town the following year, and called it my home for over three years! The coastal city has stunning natural landscapes, delicious and diverse cuisines, and so many activities for all ages. It's also a cosmopolitan city with a wealth of historical sites, café culture, and lively nightlife. Check out my Cape Town travel tips, including favorite places to eat, stay, and see!
What to Expect in Cape Town
Language: South Africa claims a whopping eleven official languages but the most common you’ll hear in and around Cape Town is English—the lingo of business and media—followed by Afrikaans and Xhosa on the streets.
Currency: The currency in South Africa is called a Rand.
Credit Cards and Banks: The majority of retailers and restaurants accept debit cards as payment.
Climate: Humidity is quite low in Cape Town, so while the summers are hot, they aren’t too muggy. Wintertime, however, is chilly with the ocean winds blowing in from the southeast. The best times to visit are the cusp months, October and November, springtime in South Africa, or from December to February when the days are at their longest and warmest. Winter from June to August tends to be rainy and cold.
Plugs: Most plugs in South Africa are 2-prong or 3-prong so be sure to bring both power adapters so you’re prepared wherever you go.
Safety: Cape Town is one of the safer cities in South Africa, but there are still some petty crimes. Be sure to lock up your valuables and keep important belongings on your person.
My Experience as a LGBTQ+ Traveler in South Africa
My wife and I visited Cape Town and the surrounding region for our honeymoon! South Africa is the perfect introduction to the African continent for LGBTQ+ travelers because unlike the rest of Africa, same-sex marriage is legal and there are legal protections against discrimination. We loved feeling safe and welcomed as queer travelers while also venturing out into a new part of the world!
Getting Around in Cape Town
Uber: Uber is one of the best ways to get around Cape Town. The distances between most of the top attractions are short, making it a cost-effective option for your trip. You can also request a ride from Cape Town International Airport by using the free WiFi.
My CitiBus: Another affordable way to get around the city is with the My CitiBus service. You can buy a transport code from one of the stations and top it up as you go. There is a free app that you can download that lists the timetables for each stop, fares and a route planner.
Rent a Car: Cape Town is rather spread out and with many things to do around the Cape and beyond, I recommend renting a car. Remember that you drive on the left side of the road here! The street signage can be a bit confusing, but you’ll find that the city is auto-friendly with ample parking and not a lot of traffic.
Gas stations accept both cash and credit, but not all. There will be a sign outside telling you if they accept credit or not, but it’s a good idea to always have some cash on you just in case. You will also need small change for tolls on major roads.
Rent a Scooter: Scooters and Vespas are very popular in Cape Town. They’re a very fast and convenient way to get around, just remember to wear your helmet!
Where to Stay in Cape Town
Cape Town is a bustling city, full of life! Because of that, there are so many different neighborhoods to explore. You’ll find that most of the hotels and accommodation offerings are centered near the beaches or the V&A Waterfront area. My favorite Cape Town neighborhoods are Sea Point, Green Point, and Camps Bay—and that’s where I’d recommend you stay, especially on your first visit to Cape Town!
However, there are some magical boutique hotels (and ultra-romantic hotels!) around Cape Town that are worth a little extra drive for a stunning, relaxing, and serene atmosphere. Here are the best hotels in Cape Town!
POD Camps Bay is a stunning boutique hotel, situated right on Camps Bay beach! It’s walkable to a choice of restaurants and bars, plus their breakfast is top-notch. I couldn’t recommend the location more, so if you’re looking for a 5-Start stay, this is it.
MannaBay is a sophisticated hotel with eclectic decor, a beautiful swimming pool, a fire pit, and stunning views of Cape Town. The rooms are huge and have spacious bathrooms, walk-in showers, and under-floor heating—ingredients for a heavenly stay! Check out my hotel review here.
VRBO rentals are abundant in Cape Town and offer some beautiful properties at affordable prices! If you’re looking for more privacy, or want to explore more local areas of the city, consider rending a beautiful apartment or villa by the beach.
The stylish and flawless Cape View Clifton is the perfect place to relax. The rooms are spacious with stunning panoramic views, a modern aesthetic, and a made-to-order breakfast.
ONCE is my favorite budget stay in Cape Town! It’s in a great location near lots of shops, restaurants, clubs, and cafes. The staff is always friendly, plus they have 3 of their own restaurants on the property. There are lots of room choices and they have a great outdoor fire-pit and meditation garden to relax in.
Known as Cape Town’s hidden gem, Tintswalo is a 5-star award-winning lodge that offers views, unlike any other. It’s located a little out of town in Hout Bay, but all the rooms offer an incredible view of the Atlantic Ocean and make you feel like you are at home. You can whale watch out of the comfort of your own room! Check out my hotel review here.
Old-Hollywood glamour and colonial grandeur come together to create the magnetic atmosphere at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. Nestled at the foot of the iconic Table Mountain, this hotel is a luxury escape in the heart of Cape Town. Check out my hotel review here!
Interested in sipping tea by the sea in an outdoor gazebo? Twelves Apostles can make that happen. The award-winning luxury resort offers stunning rooms and exquisite dining. You’ll find an eclectic yet contemporary African style throughout the rooms and hotel.
The Silo Hotel is an old grain silo that was open from 1924 to 2001. It was then turned into a luxurious hotel consisting of 28 rooms including a one-bedroom penthouse. The room categories range from the silos rooms, including harbor views and a balcony, to the royal suites which featured 2 bedrooms and a balcony. Dreamy!
With only 13 rooms, the Ellerman House focuses heavily on customer service and paying attention to detail. Rates include breakfast, drinks, wine tasting, a minibar, and a private chef. This beautiful hotel is conveniently located near some of Cape Town’s greatest sites including Clifton Beach, Table Mountain National Park, and the city center.
South Beach is a gorgeous collection of waterfront apartments in Camps Bay. As you can imagine, they are fairly luxurious and have modern amenities, flat-screen TVs, free WI-FI, oceanfront views, and continental breakfast served in-room. Ask for the upgrades if you can—these come with direct pool access and whirlpool tubs!
Where to Eat in Cape Town
One of my favorite things about Cape Town is that the city has an almost endless list of places to eat. Not only does the region champion farm-to-table AND sea-to-table, but there are also so many global cuisines represented; and for such affordable prices, compared to large US or European cities.
And don’t get me started on the Cape Town markets! Not only will you find some of the best food the city has to offer, but you can pick up fresh fruits and vegetables as well as beautiful hand-made clothes and accessories.
Cape Town also has an incredible coffee culture. There are loads of cute cafes all around the CBD and the city is even home to one of the best coffee shops in the world! I’ve rounded up my favorite Cape Town cafes for freelancers, brewpubs, and rooftop bars too.
Truth Coffee: Grab your daily cup of joe at Truth Coffee! It boasts a relaxed yet trendy steampunk vibe.
Tribe Coffee: Tribe is an exceptional café in the heart of Cape Town. It is an unassuming café just a brief walk from the Woodstock train station.
Bootlegger Coffee: A small chain across Cape Town, Bootlegger coffee shops have quickly become my favorite. Great coffee, food, and atmosphere!
Check out more in my local guide to Cape Town for coffee lovers!
Clark’s: Perfect for breakfast or brunch! Clark’s has really good food and sits right in the middle of downtown.
Jason’s Bakery: I highly recommend The Bomb breakfast. It’s served all day and will have you coming back for more.
Bootlegger: It’s not just a coffee joint. Bootlegger also serves up some delicious breakfast and lunch options.
Loading Bay: Located on the Waterfront, the Loading Bay is a beautiful place to grab a quick morning meal. Their menu is full of healthy options like granola and spiced buckwheat pancakes.
The Pot Luck Club: Situated on the top floor of the Silo of The Old Biscuit Mill, it has been dubbed the coolest place to be in Cape Town, and its success is based on innovative cuisine, served in a relaxed yet edgy environment.
Bobo’s Brasserie: Bobo’s Brasserie is a good beachfront spot in Sea Point that’s perfect for brunch or lunch. It also has a cocktail lounge so be sure to come back here for a drink or two in the evening!
Mojo Market: Open seven days a week, hit up Mojo Market for a snack, a meal, and some shopping!
The Old Biscuit Mill: The Old Biscuit Mill is a heartfelt collaboration between chefs, designers, photographers, and other artists in and around town. Once a biscuit factory, it now hosts a market featuring more than 100 specialty traders every Saturday.
Oranjezicht City Farm Market: The Oranjezicht Market is open every Saturday and Sunday and has quickly become my favorite market in the city. Get here early if you want to avoid the crowds and grab some photos in front of the beautifully decorated stalls.
Test Kitchen: Located in The Old Biscuit Mill, The Test Kitchen is a blend of South African and Latin cuisine with inventive dishes. Reservations are usually booked up 3 months in advance.
Shortmarket Club: With the same owners as The Pot Luck Club and The Test Kitchen, this restaurant is another big hit. Enjoy a delectable meal in a luxurious setting.
Bombay Bicycle Club: If you’re after a unique dining experience, book a table at The Bombay Bicycle Club. It’s a bohemian vibe, delicious menu and colorful history make it one of the best dinner spots in Cape Town.
The Stack: Named one of the top restaurants in Cape Town, you can’t wrong with a visit to The Stack. The decor is amazing and the bar area adds to its charm.
Kloof Street House: Located at the foot of the city’s vibrant Kloof Street, is a beautiful Victorian house. Come to Kloof Street House for candlelit dinners before spending the night on the town or enjoy their live jazz sessions over Sunday lunch.
Find more of my favorite Cape Town restaurants here!
Tjing Tjing: A 200-year-old house in the heart of Cape Town is where you’ll find some of the best Japanese food in the city. Tjing Tjing boasts four unique dining experiences as well as a stunning rooftop bar.
Three Wise Monkeys: The perfect stop if you’re craving some Japanese ramen noodles, sushi, and other Japanese dishes.
Hesheng: For authentic Chinese food on a budget, visit Hesheng in Sea Point. It’s a no-frills restaurant where you can even bring your own alcohol.
Kyoto: An award-winning Japanese restaurant in the trendy suburb of Gardens. It sources unusual ingredients around the world to deliver an exceptional dining experience.
Obi: Located on Cape Town’s vibrant Long Street, Obi serves up some of the city’s best ramen and sushi. Reservations are essential and deposits are required for bookings larger than five customers.
Hokey Poke: From the shores of Hawaii to Cape Town is the latest trend to hit the city: poke balls. Hokey Poke is South Africa’s first poke bar and has a mouth-watering menu.
Cod Father: Codfather Seafood & Sushi is a lively restaurant that’s always full of hungry patrons. Your taste buds will thank you after the heaps of deliciously prepared fish, prawns, langoustines, crayfish, and more.
Sevruga: With incredible views of Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront, Sevruga is a delicious fine dining experience. The sushi here is out of the world and worth every penny.
There are tons of things to do in Cape Town during the day, and the city doesn’t slow down after sunset. Whether you’re after a casual sundowner or you’re looking to experience the best of the city’s nightlife, here are some of the top bars in Cape Town.
Village Idiot: If you want to grab a drink with the locals, head to The Village Idiot. It’s a vintage bar and restaurant in the heart of Cape Town’s CBD.
Secret Gin Bar: Tucked away behind Honest Chocolate is the city’s Secret Gin Bar. Decorated with fairy lights and eccentric decor it’s on my favorite places to grab a drink with my friends.
Botanical Bar: Looking for a twist to your usual bar? Visit the Botanical Bar on Longmarket Street. The drinks are inspired by Cape Town’s local fynbos and the venue itself is worth a visit.
The Stack: Located in the center of Gardens, The Stack is one of Cape Town’s most Instagrammable bars. Get here between 3 pm – 6 pm every day for their buy one get one free happy hour.
The Silo Hotel Bar: The Silo Hotel has one of the best rooftop bars in Cape Town to watch the sunset. Be sure to plan your visit in advance as the venue requires a reservation.
Check out my Best Rooftop Bars in Cape Town for more inspiration!
What to Do in Cape Town
You can’t run out of things to do in Cape Town. With its wealth of historical sites, natural wonders, cafes, hikes, beaches, diverse cuisines, lively nightlife, and little surf suburbs, plan to pack your itinerary!
If you’re an adventure lover, it’s especially a great place for you—from water sports to hiking, windsurfing, paragliding, and helicopter tours, you can get your adrenaline fix. Depending on the time of year you’ll be visiting, I’ve also rounded up my favorite things to do in Cape Town in the summer and in the winter months. Here are my favorite places to see in Cape Town!
Take a drive along the beautiful coastal road to scenic Cape Point. The highway will take you through stunning coastal views—Muizenberg’s colorful beach huts, Kalk Bay, Simon’s Town, Boulders Beach (penguins!), Sentinel Peak and to the winding Chapman’s Peak Road. Cape Point is located in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve with dramatic views of the ocean and a charming historical lighthouse.
Read my full guide to driving the Cape in a day!
Need to escape the city? The options are endless around the mountains and national parks.
Lion’s Head: One of the more popular hikes in Cape Town is Lion’s Head. It’s a challenging but rewarding climb and is an excellent sunset spot!
Skelton Gorge: For a longer hike, make your way up Skelton Gorge. It’s a 4.5-hour trek that will take you through an indigenous forest before ending at the top of Table Mountain.
Newlands Forest: There are multiple hikes that you can take inside Newlands Forest. The routes are moderate and will take you through some of the most beautiful parts of Cape Town.
Kloof Corner: Only a 20-minute hike up the slopes of Table Mountain is one of the best short hikes in the city. Pack some drinks and enjoy a sundowner while overlooking Camps Bay.
You can hop on the cable car to scale nearby Table Mountain and see its panoramic views. This is a great place to watch the sunset in Cape Town, but be aware that it will be very crowded at that time and you may have to wait in line to get back down!
Cape Town is home to quite a few beautiful beaches. The most famous beach is Clifton 2nd located on the western coast. Other beaches not to be missed are Long Beach in Noordhoek, Bakhoven Beach, and Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town (the penguins’ beach!).
Several companies offer scenic helicopter flights of Cape Town with stunning views of the city and the Cape! It’s one of my favorite experiences to recommend to first-time visitors.
Take a drive up to the Stellenbosch or Franschhoek (only 1-2 hours outside of Cape Town) and have a delicious lunch and wine tasting at any of the beautiful farms or wine estates. I’ve spent so much time in the Cape Winelands, it’s seriously one of my favorite places in the world—nature, farm-to-table food, local wine, and sustainable and stunning amenities. Some of my favorite wine estates around Cape Town would have to be Boschendal, Babylonstoren, Lanzerac Wine Estate, and Delaire Graff.
There are even more in my roundup of the Best Wineries in South Africa’s Cape Winelands!
The Watershed is an indoor market on the waterfront that offers a variety of treats, including artist exhibitions, workshops, and products for your mind and body.
Since 2010, Woodstock has been the epicenter for street art, and these days you can hire a guide to take you around to see more than 40 pieces of artwork from local and international artists. Truly a place to get inspired!
The Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden is home to a large collection of African plants and offers trails carved out for trekkers and stone sculptures set in the gardens for artists. In the summertime, you’ll often find live concerts held on the grass on Sundays. The garden is one of nine National Botanical Gardens covering five of South Africa’s six different biomes and administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). This is one of the top things to do in Cape Town in the summer!
Take a trip a few hours out of the city and get your chance to see the Big 5 on a real African game drive! Gondwana Game Reserve is committed to conservation and has a really stunning property with amazing and knowledgeable guides.
Located an hour outside of Cape Town, the Atlantis Sand Dunes are the city’s best-kept secret. It’s an excellent place to go sand boarding, quad biking or on a 4×4 tour.
Meet like-minded female travelers and experience the brightest South African highlights on a luxurious and action-packed tour. TBA Escapes South Africa Tour is for all women with all levels of travel experience. With a team of professional guides, you will visit all of my favorite places in the Western Cape!
Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, Bo Kaap is situated at the foot of Signal Hill. The colorful houses date back to the 1760s when rental houses were leased to slaves. While there, visit the Bo-Kaap Museum, located in the oldest building of the town.
Another great experience is a traditional Cape Malay meal at one of the many restaurants. These usually consist of fruit, spices, veggies, and meat. After you’ve filled up, walk around, shop, and take 100 Instagram pics.
Visiting with your significant other? Though Cape Town is not marketed as a top romantic destination, there are so many different things to do to get those sparks flying with your loved one.