Cape Town, South Africa: A Complete Travel Guide

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Known as the legislative capital of South Africa, Cape Town is the second most populated city in the country after Johannesburg. The city is famous for its blend of urbanization complemented by a rich historical heritage. One can experience the stunning beauty of nature, landscapes, varied cuisines and innumerable activities catering to all age groups.

The city is situated between a teeming harbor and the exemplary Table Mountain. Table Mountain appears in the background of wherever you go in the city. 

There are a lot more things that you should know about this city before going there. You will definitely be going to enjoy your tour of Cape Town. In this post, we will discuss the history of this city, best food in Cape Town, things to do in Cape Town, the best places to visit in Cape Town and more. Let’s start with the history of Cape Town in South Africa.

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History of Cape Town

Cape Town South Africa: Complete Guide

The first-ever written record of the discovery of Cape Town is of Portuguese sailor Bartholomeus Dias in 1487. He set sail along the west coast of Africa but due to a detour because a ferocious storm ended up landing in the mouth of Gouritz River on the east coast on the 3rd of February, 1488. Although unwillingly, Dias and his crew were the first Europeans on record to round the Cape. It is in tales that it was Dias who named it (the present Cape Town) Cabo Tormentoso (Cape of Storms). Upon its discovery, there was a hope that a sea route to the East is possible and thus later it was named Cabo da Boa Esperanca (Cape of Good Hope). It was 10 years later when Vasco Da Gama completed his sail from Portuguese to India, which finally opened up the trade route between Europe and the East.

In 1503, Antonio de Saldanha climbed Table Bay and named it ‘Table Mountain’. He carved a great cross in the rock of Lion’s Head which is still traceable. 

Culture in Cape Town

Cape Town has a rich culture. The indigenous people include the San, Khoi, and Xhosa. They were among the first people to inhabit the city followed by the Europeans. There are 11 official languages in South Africa but around Cape Town, the majority are found to be speaking English followed by Afrikaans and Xhosa. Cape Town is famous for its architectural heritage. It is where the concentration of Cape Dutch style buildings is highest. The people celebrate Kaapse Klopse, the annual Cape Town Minstrel Carnival on 2nd January or ‘Tweede Nuwe Jaar’ ( known as the Second New Year). The display of parades plays Cape Jazz by playing a range of musical instruments or carrying colourful umbrellas.

Food in Capetown

Cape Town food

There are a variety of dishes that one needs to try in Cape Town. This include-

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Gatsby- It makes an ideal budget meal. It is a long sub, stuffed with french fries, meat, eggs, salad, and different sauce. 

Bobotie- It is a meat curry with raisins and creamy eggs on the top. It is a Cape Malay dish and is served with banana slices and yellow rice. 

Fish and Chips- A variety of fresh fishes are found on the long coastline of Cape Town. Most famous among them are yellowtail and snoek are battered and fried and served with chips.

Malva Pudding- It is a sponge cake served with a scoop of custard or ice cream and is made of apricot jam. As soon as it’s taken out of the oven, it is smothered with creamy sauce giving it a sticky sweet perfection. 

Rooibos tea- This tea, made of leaves of Rooibos shrub is perfect antioxidants and are helpful in case of headaches, insomnia, and hypertension. It is a caffeine-free drink.

Best Places to Visit in Cape Town

Cape Town South Africa: Complete Guide

Cape town has a lot to offer to its visitors. Natural landscapes, mountains, beaches to cafes, museums and historical sites this city is a blend of all. Some of the most famous attractions are listed below

1. Table Mountain 

The way to the peak of Table Mountain is thrilling with a bird-eye view of the Cape Town city, Robben Island and Atlantic seaboard. It is situated within a national park and at a height of 1086 meters. The peak can be reached by a cableway. 

2. Robben Island 

Robben Island is an oval-shaped island which can be reached by ferry from V&A Waterfront. This island is fortified and was once used as a prison. Nelson Mandela was an imprisoner here for 18 years. It is one of the most famous tourist attractions in Cape Town. 

3. Boulders Beach Penguin Colony

The home to more than 2000 penguins now, was found when two Penguins settled in Boulders Beach in 1982. People can swim with the penguins here although they have to be careful to not touch them to avoid getting bitten. 

Also, Read Famous African animals and where to see them in South Africa

4. Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Named after Queen Victoria of Britain and her son Alfred, the V&A waterfront is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Cape Town. It gives a mesmerizing view of the Atlantic Ocean, Table Mountain, and Table Bay. It is famous for innumerable art galleries, an aquarium, a ship museum, shops, restaurants, and nightlife. 

5. Bo-Kaap

Also known as Malay Quarter, Bo-Kaap is a colorful neighborhood with multicultural people, houses of unique design which dates back to the 18th century, Muslim mosques and shrines. Bo-Kaap museum is one of the attractions in the area which showcases furnishings from the 19th century. The best way to explore Bo-Kaap is on foot. 

6. Clifton Beach

Clifton Beach is situated on the west side of the Atlantic and is one of the most happening beaches in Cape Town. Clifton Beach constitutes of four beaches separated by granite boulders. The beaches are of white sand with beautiful scenery and sunsets. 

7. Cape Point 

Cape Point is a photographer’s paradise. Its picturesque view of the oceans and boulders gives spectacular scenery. It is the abode for a variety of flora and fauna. More than 250 species of birds, baboons, and zebras are found here.  

8. Kirstenbosch

The Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens features native plants from Cape Town as well as all over the country of South Africa. It was established in 1913 and is set with a background of Table Mountain. Visitors may enjoy a hike starting from the garden to the top of Table Mountain. 

9. The Castle of Good Hope

The Castle of Good Hope was started by Dutch East India Company in 1666 and is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. The castle is shaped like a pentagon. There is a Military Museum in the castle that portrays the history of the ape. It is also home to the Iziko Museums of Cape Town which displays historical paintings and antique furniture, known as the William Fehr collection. 

10. Muizenberg Beach

The water at Muizenberg Beach is warm and perfect for swimming. It is a short bridge in the coastal suburban area of Cape Town. But what’s most famous is the waves which make it popular among the surfers. Aparte from the water and water activities, the house which was built by Cecil Rhodes is popular among the visitors. It is also the house where he died in 1902.   

Read More, Best things to do in Madagascar

Best Time to Visit Cape Town

Cape Town is most popular during the summers i.e. December to February for visiting, thus making it costly during that period. So, if you have a few extra bucks to spend than Summers are the most preferable time. But for a budget-friendly trip, it is advisable to visit the place from March to May and from September to November. These seasons are characterized by desirable weather, fewer crowds, and lower prices. Although these are the most preferred times to visit Cape Town, people may also take a tour of the city during different months for some specific purposes. For hiking, it is perfect for people to visit from Late April to early June. If one is looking for a food and wine holiday and go wine tasting, it is best to visit from late June to August. July to September is the best time to go whale watching as people get a mesmerizing view of the migratory whales that appear along the coastline. 

How to Reach Cape Town

Cape Town South Africa: Complete Guide

Cape Town tourism is booming and thus it has established very efficient air transport connectivity to the rest of the world including India. It is the fastest means to arrive at Cape Town. Cape Town International Airport is the second largest airport in South Africa. It caters to both domestic as well as international flights and works as a major gateway to Cape Town for people all over the world. The MyCiTi A01 bus departs the Airport every 30 minutes (on the hour and at 30 minutes past the hour) and costs R100 for a one-way ticket. One can also book an Uber or other metered taxi service from the airport.

Getting Around in Cape Town

Cape Town South Africa: Complete Guide
flickr: Excite Taxis

There are various options to get around the city of Cape Town-

My CitiBus: it is an affordable way to get around the city. A transport code can be bought from one of the stations. An app to get the timetables for each stop, fares and a route planned can also be downloaded. 

Uber: the distances between top tourist attractions are short thus making it cost-effective to use Uber services to go from one spot to the other. 

Rent a bike or car: one can rent a car or bike to move around the city. It is necessary to follow the traffic rules if one does so and should be careful about it. 

Passport and Visa Requirements for Cape Town

Passport– A passport valid up to 30 days from the intended date of departure is required to enter South Africa. It must have a minimum of two blank pages for entry stamps. Also, if the journey starts or is via a country with yellow fever, a yellow fever certificate is required.

Visa– Visa requirements vary from country to country. It is advisable to check the list of countries which are exempted from visa to enter South Africa. U.S passport holders do not need a visa if their visit is for 90 days or less for the purpose of tourism or business. There are also certain countries which are exempted from visa requirements if the person is traveling to South Africa for not more than 30 days, Likewise, certain countries need to apply for a visa but are exempted from visa fees, e.g. India, Colombia, Mexico, etc. Thus, it is advisable to check for the list of countries that need visas for their tour to South Africa. 

Read More, Best and Adventurous safari in South Africa

Cape Town in South Africa is the perfect blend of modernization and historic structures. It has a lot in store for the people who visit the city starting from the scenic beauty, adventures to cafes and nightlife. A person, irrespective of his/her age can have a good time here. Do share your experiences in the comment section with us after enjoying your trip to South Africa and please share your reviews about this Cape Town guide.

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