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Things You Have to Do in Cape Town Before You Die
Things you have to do at least once (or every once in a while) as a visitor and local
Last Update: 14 May 2018
This is our essential checklist of 56 things to do in Cape Town, for locals and tourists, adults and kids.
THINGS YOU HAVE TO DO IN CAPE TOWN BEFORE YOU DIE
1. Take a helicopter ride with the city’s TripAdvisor-rated number-one operator, Cape Town Helicopters, and see the Mother City like never before (ranked in the top three must-do tours in Cape Town). Using state-of-the-art, quieter and more eco-friendly (not to mention wider 270-degree window view) Airbus craft, you easily get the most Instagrammable views in Cape Town on the Cape Point flight or sweep that special someone off their feet and into the air on the VIP Winelands flight. Forget the ferry and see the historic Robben Island from a perspective-smashing new vantage point. And, get the full experience for a lot less than you think: the Hopper flight keeps you within budget with an extraordinary helicopter adventure for around the cost of two dinners at a city restaurant.
What's more, CapeTownMagazine.com readers get the Hopper flight for only R988/p (that's a 24% discount) when using booking code 'CapeTownMagazineHopper' on this secret link. Or get a 10% discount on ALL other flights with Cape Town Helicopters. Claim yours by using our unique booking code: FlyAirbus.
2. Go wine tasting, of course. But there are over 2000 vineyards and wine estates in the Western Cape, so where to start? Book a wine tour with Wine Flies, the boutique touring company invites you to explore the province through wine. You can visit up to five wine estates a day – and even more if you choose to go on a weekend away.
3. Visit the Zeitz MOCAA Museum, which houses the largest collection of contemporary African art. Marvel at the architecture, get lost in the art or just explore the Silo District at the V&A Waterfront where the museum building is located.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: It’s a one-of-a-kind museum in Khayelitsha, which gives a fascinating insight into gang culture.
4. Soak up Cape Cape Malay culture and history through the sensational food by taking a Malay cooking course.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: Get out of town, for a change, and cook in one of the most interesting Karoo towns.
5. Be a beach bum. We have gorgeous stretches of sea and sand at every turn. Or opt for a thrill of a different kind and take a dip in one of our natural rock pools, dotted around the city and surrounds.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: Have you visited this often-overlooked, sheltered beach that sports impressive views of the False Bay coastline?
6. Take a Hop On Hop Off City Sightseeing Bus – this service is a tried, tested and very fun way of seeing the city’s main attractions. Or take an urban tour with Kiff Kombie.
7. Langebaan is a popular weekend destination for relaxing and unwinding. Rather than the usual holiday home accommodation, why not spend the weekend (or longer) living on a house boat in the West Coast National Park.
8. Join the Mother City’s favourite weekday past-time, First Thursdays when, on the first thursday of every month, city sights, particularly art galleries, restaurants and shops, stay open late into the night for all to enjoy the urban vibe after dark.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: Join in on this walking art tour of a bohemian suburb every second Thursday of the month.
9. Sundays are about long lazy brunches and driving along our 9km stretch of paradise, namely Chapman’s Peak – it’s a must-do with breathtaking views.
10. Wile away the day at a tshisanyama, there’s a spot in any one of our townships. It’s where locals go to eat good meat, listen to music and chill with friends.
11. Collect a few of your friends to visit some of the very interesting caves we have around the city. To get you started here are 12 Caves To Discover This Summer in Cape Town and Surrounds.
12. Soak up the urban creativity on a street art tour in Woodstock. This trendy neighbourhood boasts a number of walls adorned with art in an array of colours and designs.
13. Spend a day at one of the best nature reserves in South Africa, Cape Point.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: Discover a hidden waterfall, colourful fynbos and a lush indigenous forest at this lesser-known nature reserve near Cape Town.
14. There is a little walk that winds its way between Muizenberg and St. James, which is perfect for a gentle stroll with family and friends. Interestingly, this coastal stretch used to be known as Cape Town’s Golden Mile.
15. Give the Mystery Ghost Bus a go. This ride takes you to the Mother City’s oldest, spookiest venues, including the Kimberley Hotel and the Castle of Good Hope.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: This walking ghost tour takes place in the second oldest town in South Africa.
16. See the Garden Route on the Blue Train. This classic form of travelling is the epitome of elegance and luxury.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: Jump on board this steam train that traverses its way through an idyllic valley near Cape Town.
17. Try a Gatsby – Cape Town’s signature super loaf, which is usually stuffed with slap chips and a range of other fillings like polony, steak, atchar, and much more. It’s delicious.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: You have to try this traditional Cape fish snack.
18. This is a no brainer: You have to go up Table Mountain – it’s one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature.
19. Take an ever-awesome hike up Lion’s Head.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: Also named after a feline, this vantage point overlooks Cape Town’s northern and southern suburbs.
20. Spend a day exploring Simon’s Town (and be sure to travel there by train). It is home to the South African Navy’s largest naval base, and an authentic wartime submarine can be seen there.
21. Check out the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – The stunning garden was named “International Garden of the Year” by the International Garden Tourism Awards Body in 2015. There’s also a great treetop canopy walkway called the “Boomslang” that was declared the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa at the 2015 Design Indaba.
22. Getting a haircut might seem too vanilla for a bucket list but when you know that Swordfern occasionally does blindfolded haircuts your inner thrill-seeker might get excited. This edgy, environmentally-conscious health and beauty salon also has a weekly ‘bring a bro’ special and offers gender neutral cuts so ladies and lads pay the same price for a wash or chop.
23. Take advantage of the wonderful Signal Hill. You could paraglide off the famous mound with Parataxi, or soak in the views of the cool and calm Atlantic Ocean below, or just take a moment to watch the sunrise or sunset.
24. Check out the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. This hotspot is home to the Neighbourgoods Market, the weekly Saturday market with artisanal food and drink, as well as a number of great clothing stands.
25. If you’re keen to check out “Cape Town’s most loved group activity”, challenge yourself and a group of your friends with Hint Hunt; the most exciting live escape game to hit the city.
26. Visit Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. It is here where you will find a colony of penguins that settled there in 1982.
27. Take a trip to the historic Robben Island, home to the prison that housed many political prisoners under apartheid, the most famous being Nelson Mandela.
28. It is imperative that you check out Cape Town’s famous Long Street. The CBD roadway is known for its endless offering of clubs, pubs, bars, restaurants and more.
29. Head to the quaint seaside town of Kalk Bay for its beautiful views of the False Bay coastline, its charming little shops and the much more. It is also a top spot for getting tasty fish and chips at the well-known fishery, Kalky’s.
30. Get inked. Tattoos are like potato chips; you can’t just have one. Consider the hand poke technique for your next piece. Palm Black Tattoo Co. is one of the only tattoo studios in the city that offer this interesting alternative to the conventional tattooing technique.
31. Make sure you visit Muizenberg beach. The popular sandy shoreline is a prime spot for surfing and features those well-known colourful changing booths that appear in many Cape Town tourist photos.
32. Check out Rhodes Memorial, which is located on the slopes of Devil’s Peak Mountain (at the University of Cape Town). This location offers great views of the city, and is also a chilled spot for selfies and relaxing with friends.
33. Go shark diving in Gansbaai. Just two hours away from Cape Town, this location is known as the Great White Shark capital of the world.
Or try out our alternative bucket list item: Try cage diving with another ferocious predator.
34. Take a personal pilgrimage through the the peninsula by walking the Cape Camino – the sacred walk of approximately 200km takes between seven and nine days on foot. It’s a wonderful opportunity for reflection as you explore beautiful Cape Town.
35. Check out the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay. This weekend shindig has over 80 trader stalls filled with delightful goods and also features live music and much more.
37. Watch the sunset from the back of an electric bicycle with GONOW. This is perfect if you want to culture-up your Instagram account, as the two-hour trip includes four to five photo opportunity stops at the Lionel Smit artwork in Sea Point.
38. Take a stroll through the Company’s Garden – you can picnic in the garden or read a book in the sun while the playful squirrels scurry around you. The delightful restaurant in the garden is worth visiting too when you get peckish.
39. Cycle through parts of the CBD with Moonlight Mass. The popular event takes place every full moon and invites both Capetonians and tourists to see Cape Town streets in a different, er, light.
40. Watch the Mother City wake up at a secret sunrise. We could say more, but it’s a secret.
41. Visit the Pan African Market on Long Street. You'll find beautifully crafted artwork here, from the eclectic to the historical. It’s the ideal place to shops for gifts and souvenirs.
42. View over 3000 creatures at the Two Oceans Aquarium. Perfect for kids and curious adults alike, this spot is home to thousands of aquatic species and even hosts children's birthday parties.
43. Explore the Cape of Good Hope. This rocky headland is on the coast of the Cape Peninsula and is known as one of the great capes of the South Atlantic Ocean.
44. Enjoy morning or afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel. This activity has been a firm favourite among Capetonians and travellers alike for years and is really worth a try (if you’re not already a regular). Tea at the 12 Apostles Hotel is as delightful. Here the view alone will keep you entranced for hours.
45. Take a walk on the Sea Point Promenade. This stretch of path on the Atlantic Seaboard is a great spot for casual cycling, a workout (there's an outdoor gym) and is ideal for taking your pet out for a walk.
46. Visit the V&A Waterfront. Tourists and Capetonians alike love it for its restaurants, local and international shops, and endless variety of entertainment. The Silo District has become one of the most popular spots at the V&A. Wander there too.
47. Go for a swim at Long Street Baths. This facility has been a favourite spot for Capetonians to cool off for more than over 100 years. It features a large indoor pool and Turkish steam baths.
48. Go glamping. The company to use for your luxury lodgings is AfriCamps. The outdoor living experts, who brought the concept of glamping to South Africa, have five camps, placed at some of the most beautiful farms and estates in the Cape: in Oudtshoorn, Swellendam, Robertson, Stanford and Plettenberg Bay.
Stanford Hills Estate | Weltevreden Farm | Stanford | +27 (0) 63 170 4222 | [email protected]
49. Check out St George’s Cathedral (which was designed by Sir Herbert Baker). It is the oldest cathedral in Southern Africa and is the mother church of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town.
50. Visit the Iziko Slave Lodge, one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town. This museum has been renamed multiple times over the years, and now explores the history of slaves in South Africa.
51. Discover the Lookout Hill in Khayelitsha. Situated just 30kms from Cape Town, this attraction is built on the largest sand dune on the Cape Flats and boasts stunning views of the surrounding area.
52. Revel at South African art at the Irma Stern Museum. The former home of the famous South African Expressionist painter Irma Stern (1894 - 1966), the space features a permanent exhibition of the artist's paintings, drawings, ceramics and sculptures, as well as her private collection of early European furniture, African and Oriental art.
53. Take a step back in history at the District Six Museum. Located in the former inner-city residential area of District Six, where more than 60 000 residents were forcibly removed under the controversial Group Areas Act in 1966.
54. Sip and swirl top-class wine in Constantia, where some of South Africa’s oldest wine producing estates can be found, including the popular Groot Constantia. But there’s more, in the CBD you can enjoy Open Wine in a wine bar.
55. Check out the World of Birds. This is Africa’s largest bird park with over 3 000 birds and 400 different species spread over four hectares of land.
56. While visiting the Mother City dare to try “the world’s strongest coffee” by Black Insomnia Coffee Company. Available online and at a number of coffee shops in Cape Town, including Shift Espresso Bar and Hard Pressed Café, the local java brand has just over 6% more caffeine than its closest competitor’s product in the USA.
57. There’s only one way to see Cape Town: from a bird’s eye view. Book a tandem paraglide, microlight or gyrocopter trip with Celestial Gift Experiences and take in the beauty of the city from a vantage point few ever have the opportunity to see. No experience necessary; just dress for the weather and prepare for a good time.
Once you've worked your way through this bucket list, begin the alternative Cape Town bucket list.
Besides this list, Cape Town has a plethora of unique things to do leaving you open to explore the parts unknown. We did not forget about you foodies, there are awesome experiences to choose from, trust us, you’ll like it. But sometimes you have to treat your kids too by entertaining their adventurous side.
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