Cape Town is the start and/or end point on five of our African tours (see below). We encourage our guests to extend their stay if possible either before or after the organized trip they’ve booked with us. Members of our World Wide Crew are based here and know the area well. We’re happy to work with you to make the most of those extra days! Contact us to learn more.
Start with these highlights, then contact us for insider tips!
About Cape Town
Cape Town, also known as the Mother City, is the second largest city in South Africa, after Johannesburg. It’s South Africa’s legislative capital and oldest urban area, established in 1652 as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India, and the Far East.
Several theories explain how the nickname was derived. The most accepted is that someone wrote to the local newspaper in 1930s claiming Cape Town was the only South African city that could be called a metropolis. Metropolis is derived from the Greek metros, meaning mother, and polis, meaning city. Hence, Mother City.
10 Popular Things to See and Do
- Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. This revitalized area was built on top of part of the docks of the old Port and is the city’s most visited tourist attraction. Once a shabby area of town, the waterfront district buzzes with shops, jazz venues, restaurants, hotels, theatres, and museums. Many of the old buildings have been preserved and restored.
- Robben Island in Table Bay, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was a brutal prison for nearly 400 years. Nelson Mandela spent eighteen years here in a tiny cell during the apartheid era. While here visit this cell and the lime quarry where prisoners endured back-breaking labour. Many guides are former prisoners who share their experiences and insights in person and on the website.
- Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. Before the Cable car was built in 1929, the only way up Table Mountain was by foot. The highest point is 1 086m (3 563 feet), that’s after erosion has reduced it to one-third of its original height. The trip up takes four to five minutes in a car with spectacular 360 degree views. Or, you can hike up one of the more than 350 trails now in existence.
- Signal Hill. Drive west of the city center for stunning views over Cape Town, Table Bay, and the Atlantic Ocean. Many locals and visitors drive up to watch the sunset. The “noon gun”, fired daily at …noon…once served to give the exact time to ships anchored in the bay. Signal flags flew here, sending messages to approaching ships.
- District Six Museum. This museum honours 70,000 residents of a multi-ethnic district, displaced when the government decided the community was to be a white one. Former residents have labeled their old homes and features of their neighbourhood on a large scale map.
- Penguins at Boulder Bay. Drive an hour to Simon’s Town to see a breeding colony of more than 2,000 endangered African Penguins on this beautiful sheltered white-sand beach. It’s part of Table Mountain National Park Marine Protected Area, and there is an entrance fee, but it’s worth it!
- Winery Tour. Explore the province through wine for a day at some of the more than 2,000 vineyards and wine estates in the Western Cape. Groot Contstantia is one of our favourites.
- Diving with Great White Sharks. Come face to face with a Great White! An enclosed cage of heavy iron bars protects you but that doesn’t lessen the adrenalin surge. The more timid can watch from the boat. Part of the funds go to shark research and conservation.
- Bo-Kaap. This vibrant and historic neighbourhood of brightly coloured houses sits at the base of Signal Hill. It’s home to a community of people descended from the “Cape Malays”, slaves brought by Dutch settlers from Indonesia, Malaysia, and other African countries. They’re passionate about preserving their history and buildings.
- Long Street. A legendary part of the city’s street culture, this major roadway cuts through the heart of the business district. Known for its bohemian atmosphere, bookstores, ethnic restaurants, and bars, it’s a must see.
Arrive or depart from Cape Town on these tours:
- The Grand Tour
- Two Oceans
- Victoria Falls to Cape Town (Original)
- Cape Town to Victoria Falls (All Paved)
- Spectacular South West Africa