Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThe city of Cape Town, “Kaapstad” in Afrikaans and “Ikapa” in Xhosa, is the second most populous city in South Africa, after Johannesburg. It also serves as the seat of the South African Parliament and its legislative capital city.
HistoryAlthough believed to have had early settlers 12,000 to 15,000 years ago, little is known about these early residents due to the lack of written evidence. However, all written accounts of the region starts with the accounts of Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias , in 1486. Later on in the 16th century, the area served as a supply point for European explorers on their way to the Indies, where they would constantly exchange copper and iron for fresh meat and fresh water with the local Khoikhoi people.
In the 17th century, it held a different interest for Europeans, especially from the Netherlands. In 1652, Jan Van Riebeeck and other workers of the Dutch East India company arrived in the Cape to establish a way station for ships travelling to the Dutch East India. Consequently, the settlement of Fort of Goede Hoop (later replaced by Castle of Good Hope) grew slowly during that period, mainly because of a shortage in labor force.
Later on, this would lead to the importation of workers from Indonesia and Madagascar. These new comers from Asia, are the ancestors of the Cape's first “colored communities” (the word colored referring to someone with a mixed race heritage).
Under Van Riebeeck, and later his successors as governors of the Cape Colony, an impressive variety of useful plants and trees were introduced. This would change the Cape’s environment and the region’s economy forever. They later on introduced the harvesting of grapes, cereals, groundnuts, potatoes, apple and citrus.
In 1795, Britain captured Cape Town, but returned it to the Netherlands by treaty in 1803. Three years later (1806), the British forces occupied the Cape again after winning the battle of Bloubergstrand . In the Anglo-Dutch treaty of 1814, Cape Town was permanently ceded to Britain to become the capital of the newly-formed Cape Colony. The 1800s saw the territory expand substantially, installing a feeling of independence from Britain among the Dutch community. It resulted in the creation of the Cape’s own parliament in 1854 and later in 1872, a locally accountable Prime Minister. The voting system, however was established with no racial distinction criteria but a sexist Cape qualified franchise.
The discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West in 1867 and the Gold Witwatersrand gold rush in 1886, attracted more Europeans to the region. After winning the Second Boer War (1899-1902), Great Britain unified the Cape Colony with the defeated Boer Republics and the British colony of Natal in 1910.
During the Apartheid era, in 1948, the National Party won the national election. Its propaganda was based on the promotion of racial segregation, leading to the abolition of the Cape’s multiracial franchise and the group area act (classifying all areas according to race). It later led to some social inequalities where colored labor was favored compared to the blacks. Racial segregation rules have also favored a strong anti-apartheid movement in Cape Town.
Robben Island, a former penitentiary situated 6 miles away from the city, has seen many famous political prisoners, such as Nelson Mandela, held there for many years. In one of the most memorable moments marking the end of the Apartheid reign of injustice, Nelson made his first public speech after coming out of prison, from the balcony of the Cape Town City Hall on the 11th of February 1990.
What to See in Cape TownThe city of Cape Town is the most visited city in Africa. And it is not difficult to understand why. Its landscape reminds you of some European cities, but at the same time, it has a unique touch. The city is blessed with a magnificent view, and surrounded by a range of mountains, which gives it its unique appearance.
Visiting Cape town has never been disappointing, the city has a lot of unique sites and the appropriate logistics to suit tourists’ needs. Tourists’ attractions are based around the sea; the history of the city, and its beautiful natural heritage. We've listed some of them below.
Table Mountain National ParkTable Mountain National Park or ‘Tafelberg’ in Afrikaans, is a flat–topped mountain forming a remarkable landmark, dominating the city of Cape Town. It is one of the most visited tourist attractions.
Its visitors use an aerial cableway to view the mountain, or one can chose to hike to the top.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical GardensSituated at the foot of Table Mountain on its eastern slope, the site was founded in 1913 to conserve the country’s unique flora. You’ll find a great selection of indigenous plants like the Karoo, Proteas, Fynbos and Savannas.
Victoria and Alfred WaterfrontOr V&A Waterfront, its location gives you a view of the Atlantic Ocean, Table Bay harbor, Cape Town City, and Table Mountain.
It’s one of the favorite destinations for tourists. Every year, it attracts 23 million visitors. It is also the ideal place to eat and provides a range of entertaining activities which includes helicopter flips, boat rides, museums, and some child-friendly activities.
Robben IslandLocated on Table Bay, the island is internationally known for having kept, for 27 years, Nobel Laureate, Nelson Mandela. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is reached by ferries from the V&A Waterfront, working from 9:00 AM every 60 minutes till 3:00 PM.
Tours on the island are given by former prisoners.
Two Oceans AquariumAlso located in the V&A Waterfront, you can either dive with sharks, within the shark tank, or dine at the shoreline café. The aquarium opened its doors in 1995 and comprises of seven exhibition galleries. What makes it special is its location, exactly where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet.
Cape of Good HopeFirst sighted by the Portuguese navigator, Bartolomeu Dias, in 1488, the Cape of Good Hope is well-known for its stormy weather and rough seas. Situated at the convergence of the warm Mozambique-Agulhas currents from the Indian Ocean and the cool Benguela current from Antarctic waters. You can also have the opportunity to visit the Cape’s lighthouse, which is 1.2 miles east.
Lion’s HeadThis mountain forms part of the Table Mountain's range. Its particularity lies in the scenic view of the city of Cape Town which is provided to the visitors. Over 2,195 feet high above sea level, this is the ideal place to take pictures.
Other activities on this site, involves paragliding, hang-gliding and microlighting.
District Six MuseumEstablished in 1994, it is in the former inner city situated in the residential area of District 6 and serves as a memorial to all the 60,000 residents (of various races) who were forced to vacate the place during apartheid. The floor of the museum has a big map of the district, and handwritten notes of former residents (it’s a very emotional scene). Other exhibits are old traffic signs, presentation of moments in history, lives of many families' historical declaration and demolition.
Boulders BeachIt’s a sheltered beach made up of inlets between granite boulders. Located in the Cape peninsula, near Simon’s Town, it serves as the home to African penguins, which can be seen in their natural habitat via wooden walkways (a very interesting site, be aware of the smell (rather nauseous) of the penguins on site.
AccommodationWith over 23 million visitors a year, investment in the hospitality sector is taken very seriously. No wonder why international students from other African countries, who are interested in tourism training, are oriented to Cape Town’s universities. It has some of the best and modernized hotels in the country, like:
The Bay HotelFrom $ 170 USD a night, located in Camp's Bay and 2.5 miles from Table Mountain Cableway, it features four outdoor pools with views of the Atlantic Ocean and Twelve Apostles' mountain range, fully equipped rooms with satellite TV, a DVD player and an iPod docking station.
Breakfast is served every morning, and the bar offers some of the most delicious cocktails. Let’s not forget its 24 hours' front desk service.
Lagoon Hotel Sea PointAlso very close to the Table Mountain and Robben Island, it has a direct beach access, a roof-deck pool, free WiFi service, three restaurants and a shuttle bus service.
Cape Town Lodge HotelAt the center of the city, apart from its rooftop swimming pool, it also has a bar and a fitness center within its facilities. It’s conveniently 3 miles away from the V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain. You can enjoy a great steak at its restaurant, if you are a meat lover, while also enjoying some live music performances, the whole accompanied by South Africa’s great variety of wines.
African Pride Crystal TowersThis very popular 5 star hotel guarantees its guests with high standards in terms of services and amenities in a great location with its attentive staff, a life day spa; pools, individual treatment rooms and beauty therapies, you will not regret your stay, and the rooms are among the most affordable, starting at $ 200 USD a night.
Protea Hotel Sea PointFrom $ 115 USD a night, it is styled almost like a tranquil beach house.
Close to the finest beaches in town, it provides you with an unforgettable view of Table Mountain and the sea, all from the comfort of your room. With its diverse range of amenities (swimming pool, in-house gym, WiFi etc.), you’ll feel so comfortable it's like being in your own home.
Vineyard HotelThe Vineyard, guarantees you an excellent service and spacious rooms, with prices starting at $ 131 USD a night. The inconvenience that the bathrooms are not comfortable at all, they’re just too small. Apart from that, it is quite far from the city center but provides you with a shuttle bus service, which also gives you the opportunity to chat with the locals. Plus, breakfast is free.
Waterfront VillageOne of the sumptuous V&A Waterfront hotels, this hotel will award you with the privilege of a private balcony, leading to the many canals or harbor of the location. With its five outdoor swimming pools, DVD players in your room, satellite TV, your own kitchen and microwave, and even a washing machine and dryer. Other amenities comprise of a gym, car rental and a 24 hours front desk, and a tour desk. Prices start from $ 170 USD a night.
The Table Bay HotelAlso in the V&A Waterfront, its neo-Victorian architectural style is a giveaway to the great services it has to offer. The hotel allows helicopter transfers, personal shopping and has a spa facility. You can also enjoy cocktails in one of the bars, or opt for an afternoon cup of tea. A shuttle bus service is also provided, not to mention the swimming pools, the fitness center and free WiFI. It’s one of the most expensive hotels on our list, with room prices starting at $ 320 USD a night.
RestaurantsAmong its diverse cultural influences, the European influence is the most palpable. Most of restaurants found in the center of the city showcase a remarkable mixture of cultures.
This is another South African city confirming the country’s labeling as “the rainbow nation”.
We recommend the following restaurants.
BelugaA well-known gourmet eatery, which gives its visitors a New York loft feel. They are famous for their sushi variety, seafood and their design bar.
Aubergine RestaurantA local and international award winner, it specialties are European and Asian dishes, all prepared with a great selection of local ingredients. It also has a vegetarian menu.
Savoy Cabbage RestaurantWith tables made from stones, sourced from Table Mountain, and bricks dating from the 18th century, this restaurant has an impeccable service with seasonal dishes. Its particularity lies in the ability of customers to email a dish request. Their wines are carefully selected at affordable prices.
La ColombeFor French cuisine lovers, this winner of Travelers Choice Award 2013, serves food in reasonable quantity (not too much, not too little), the atmosphere is between sophisticated and casual. Its friendly waiters are impressive with their knowledge of the menu and their professionalism. The place is always fully booked so we would advise you to book a table in advance.
Café ParadisoA relaxing farm stall, eating with a touch of family atmosphere, Café Paradiso serves fresh pasta and fresh bread, all hand-made. The menu is simple but also tasty.
Mama AfricaIf you are curious about African cuisine, this is the right place to visit. You’ll have the opportunity to try their crocodile peanut satay sauce and their Mozambique chicken liver, all enjoyed at the rhythm of a live band. The portions of food are reasonable (the place’s policy is to have its guests leave with a full belly).
Addis in CapeSpecializing in Ethiopian dishes, you’ll have the privilege to witness an authentic Ethiopian coffee ceremony. The establishment succeeds in recreating Ethiopian traditions to the letter. You can also enjoy a vegan and vegetarian menu there.
Where to shop in Cape TownShopping Malls
Being the most visited city on the African continent and one of the top 10 destinations for tourists in the world, the city has an up-to-date list of renowned international and national brands, world class standard jewelry, and local art.
Victoria and Alfred WaterfrontWith 450 world class retailers for the convenience of shoppers, this safe environment is the top destination for foreigners and locals. You’ll find anything from local brands to international brands, exclusively available in Cape Town.
Bayside MallA mall suitable for fashionistas, entertainment seekers, and reputed most of all for its servicing. Hosting some major South African retailers, specialty stores, eateries, coffee shops, restaurants, jewelry stores, and a cinema complex.
Blue RouteHas over 120 stores and eateries and gives you a splendid view of the Constantiaberg Mountains, let’s not forget its beautiful cinema complex with 3D effects. It is situated 20 minutes away from the Cape Town city center.
Canal walkKnown as Africa’s leading super-regional retail mall, it has the world’s most desirable brands, with shopping conveniences and entertainment, this mall has over 400 shops (almost as much as the V&A Waterfront), forming the widest selection of shops in the Southern hemisphere.
Cavendish SquareAn award-winning shopping destination, built in the Southern suburbs of Cape Town. With 200 stores offering local and international fashion, a cinema, a wide range of premium restaurants, and coffee shops.
Greenmarket SquareIn Cape Town's Central Business District, it’s the ideal place to find clothing, glassware, hand–painted fabrics, footwork, music, sunglasses, and curios from all over the continent. It’s one of the most popular flea markets, with entertainment in forms of buskers, mime artists and jugglers, it is opened Monday till Saturday from 9:00 AM till 16:00 PM.
Waterfront Craft MarketOffering a diversity of handcrafted products, boasting a high standard of quality and attention to detail, the Waterfront Craft and its 120 stalls is also where the traditional Ndebele beadwork is promoted. You can shop for recycled paper jewelry, African detailed skirts, robes and throws, and any other art objects made out of wood.
NightlifeNightlife in Cape Town, is just as exciting as spending the day shopping, or a drive around the city during the day. You’ll find just enough venues to complete your leisure time and also meet new people under the African sun.
Crew BarA male-only bar, specializing in the adult entertainment industry. The musical choices are very diverse (they play mostly contemporary music). The venue is gorgeous with front and back verandas, several dance floors, a VIP bar, and they even give discounts to early birds.
AsokaWith prices between $ 20 USD and $ 25 USD , the place serves mainly Moroccan and Asian dishes. Open even late at night, the decor showcases a contemporary touch with a New York edginess. Inside, you’ll find a full bar with trained cocktail bartenders (cocktails are delicious), an abnormal range of whiskeys, vodkas, rums, tequilas, and a wine and champagne list.
Marvel BarLocated on Long Street, it’s the melting pot of the city. Its music is more popular among young people between ages of 18 and 25.
Café ManhattanAnother male-only bar where you can eat or chill at the bar. A venue that is very popular with locals and foreigners.
Shimmy Beach ClubThey specialize in contemporary cuisine with late-night reservations, a gorgeous set up, comfortable beach beds and good music to go with the cocktails.
Springbok Pub NewlandsEquipped with five bars and four entertainment areas, its Tequilas Tuesdays and Jug specials on Thursdays, are what makes the spot so attractive to fun lovers. Next to the Newlands stadium, the pub is constantly crowded with sport lovers. You can enjoy a good drink with the sound of hip hop, rock or pop played by the DJ.
O’Driscoll’s Irish PubA nice, authentic Irish pub (owned by a young Irish woman), the setting is in the traditional Irish pub genre, it is reliable with a consistency to be expected of any Irish pub in the world.
FictionTucked away on the very famous Long Street, it’s ideal for techno music lovers (and other alternative musical genre). For safety purposes, the owners of the bar have installed CCTV cameras on street corners.
Grand West CasinoThe largest and most successful entertainment destination in South Africa. It has a casino, restaurants, bars, a theater, a cinema complex, and a nightclub. It is the ideal destination for food and family entertainment.
How to get Around the CityCape Town has the second international airport of South Africa, where millions of visitors land every year. When arriving to Cape Town, you’ll have the option to take the bus, a taxi, a “Rikki”, commuter trains or minibuses.
TrainsMetro trains during the day because they travel to all the suburban areas so you have the opportunity to discover the city with its contrasts. But the tickets must be bought in advance at Adderley Street Station, we‘d advise to buy the first class tickets. These trains leave every 10 minutes for the Southern suburbs, and every 20 minutes to Fish Hoek , with the last one running at 10:30 PM. The timetables are normally available for sale at newsagents or stations.
BusesWhether it’s a topless bus or the express bus, it is the most expensive way to get around, but also the most convenient. The topless bus offers a 2 hours trip around the city and stops at all major sights of Cape Town, you can get on and off as you please throughout the day. Most of the time, the driver sells tickets on board the bus. The principal terminus are around Adderley Street and Golden Acre Shopping Center. Tourists should buy a Cape Town card to make it easy for them, which will cost them $ 4.00 USD for a day tour, or $ 6.00 USD for a 7 days package. The card should allow you to have unlimited travel on all Golden Arrow buses, and Metro rail trains.
Metered TaxisFor your late-night trips. They have to be summoned or you can find them parked in taxi ranks outside shopping malls. Make sure the taxi has the driver’s name, and its ID and meter is clearly displayed.
The RikkisThese are a safer, friendlier version of a minibus. They can be hailed or called. The only inconvenience is that they don’t go to the suburbs (prices from $ 0.50 USD to $ 1.50 USD ).
Lastly, you can simply rent a car at any Avis or Hertz agency.
We don’t recommend that you take the train or bus at night, or book second or third class train tickets.
SafetyCape Town, being a huge tourist attraction, unfortunately is not safe. You can be robbed at anytime as tourists are targeted for their gadgets or credit cards.
If you chose to seek entertainment at night on Long Street, make sure you are not alone.
Be discreet, try to blend in with the crowd. Plan your day in advance so you know where you have to go or simply rent a car. Cape Town is also reputed for violent crime. Avoid going to remote suburbs, stick to Cape Town Central.
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Author: Comasco. Last updated: Feb 28, 2015