Cape Town - Sightseeing
Cape Town has all the shopping opportunities you’d expect to find in any international city. For tourists, the best fun can be had browsing the al fresco aisles of the V&A Waterfront shopping streets, selling crafts, art, jewellery and the like. For a great rummage, head to the Green Point Market every Sunday, where you’ll find bead work, wood carvings, batik, fabrics and bronze and metal work - by highly skilled local craftspeople. Church Street, too, houses a number of well respected artist studios, antique and craft shops, while the Montebello Craft and Design Centre and the Hout Bay craft market is the place to find great gifts - if you’re prepared to engage in a touch of bartering.
Cavendish Square, in Claremont, is the city’s upscale mall, replete with over 200 stores selling fashion, electronics, cosmetics, accessories and luxury items, as well as a cinema complex, restaurants and fast food outlets. A little prettier, perhaps, is the Consantia open air shopping village, with cobbled streets, tree lined boulevards and a buzzing atmosphere. Within, you’ll find fashion outlets, book stores, cafes and speciality gift shops and boutiques. It’s a great place to find excellent South African wine, too.
For high end fashion, the smart new Willowbridge Mall, to the north of the city, is the place to head. With its “slowmarket” on Saturdays, selling home grown produce, complete with tasting sessions, this is a leisurely alternative to the piped music and air-con of the city’s indoor malls. From international designer boutiques to elegant antiques, Willowbridge offers a laid-back, open-air shopping experience.
South Africa, of course, is renowned for its gold and diamonds. Try Bo Kapps Jewel Africa, Buitengracht Street, where you can watch a master diamond cutter at work, and browse a range of top-quality loose diamonds, tanzanite and gemstones, or The Diamond Works, offering a fascinating tour, and which has on-site designers and goldsmiths to create a bespoke piece of jewellery for you.
The epicentre of South African beach life, Camps Bay is a seductive stretch of sands, with its own ‘muscle beach’, warm, turquoise waters and beach sports, backed by bars, shops and restaurants, backed by the awe-inspiring sight of the Twelve Apostles mountains.
Boulders Penguin Colony
Out at Boulders, near Simon’s Town, is another great beach, between Fish Hoek and Cape Point, which is also home to 3000 or so African penguins! Take the boardwalk to Foxy Beach, but don’t get too close - they’re generally friendly, but can bite!
A spectacular headland, and perfect vantage point, the Cape is home to wild and lonely clifftop walks, hidden coves, picnic spots and acres of richly carpeted wild meadow. Near here is the Cape Garden Centre, with a great children’s play area, wonderful African blooms and family-friendly restaurant.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
One of the world’s most spectacular scenic drives, Chapman’s Peak offers stunning 180-degree views over the Atlantic Ocean, with plenty of parking places for you to get out and take a photo (or have a picnic!) and a succession of stunning beaches, easily accessible from the roadside.
South Africa’s world-leading botanic gardens, in the foothills of Table Mountain, is home to over 22,000 indigenous plants and is a UNESCO preserved World Heritage Site. Paved paths take you past most of the specimens, while the glass-topped conservatory is home to numerous more. The Cycad Garden shows off a family of plants that dates back some 200-million years, while the Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine head up Table Mountain itself. A fabulous day out.
Two Oceans Aquarium
An excellent, state-of-the-art marine attraction, featuring sharks, turtles, penguins and rays in a series of super-sized tanks and pools highlighting the rich underwater life in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The underwater forest exhibit is, justifiably, the most popular.
City Hall and Grand Parade
Built in fine Italian Renaissance style, Cape Town’s iconic City Hall is one of downtown’s best-loved photo opportunities, with its clock tower, mosaic floors and stained glass - all looking a little worse for wear these days, or should that be ‘faded grandeur’?
The colourful Muslim neighbourhood of Bo Kaap, south-west of downtown, is a delight to wander around, with its rainbow-hued houses, mosques, white-washed cafes, tiny, shaded streets and neighbourhood museums.
Just off the coast from Cape Town, this was the location used during the apartheid days to hold political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela. Tours run seven days a week from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront.
However you witness it, you must get up close to Table Mountain. Cable Cars and pathways are two options - and both are wheelchair accessible. But don’t forget, this is a mountain, so if you’re planning on walking up, you have to be reasonably fit: and take something warm. It may be toasty in the foothills, but it’s chilly at the top.
Cape Town is a great place to surf. Head to Muizenberg if you want to learn, or False Bay’s other great surf spots, Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek. Alternatively, Big Bay is the place to try an exhilarating couple of hours kite-surfing.