Cape Town travel guide
When Nelson Mandela was elected President of South Africa he observed that it was ‘history that ordained that it be here, at this Cape, over three centuries ago, that began the fateful convergence of the peoples of Africa, Europe and Asia.’ The cape mentioned is the Cape of Good Hope. The name might be fanciful, but does not reveal enough of the country’s fate, given that South Africa’s apartheid past is neither painless nor distant enough to be forgotten.
However, convergence is all too evident in the case of Cape Town, the biggest city of the Cape of Good Hope. The Mother City, as locals call it, is a modern metropolis oscillating, much like the rest of the country, between the first and the third worlds.
Indeed, here is a place of mixed perspectives, a multi-coloured landscape combining all manner of contrasts within its architecture, nature and people. Sublime skylines stand proud alongside ghettos while the downtown area’s splendour is set against a backdrop of poorer areas. But the main fabric that weaves Cape Town’s citizens amongst each other is an ever-present hedonism that can only be found in places like Latin America and Africa.
Another common link is football, reminiscent of the country’s British colonial past. South Africans love their national football team, the flashy Bafana Bafana, expressing their love during the game using the notorious Vuvuzelas, specialty local horns. Their intimidatingly strident was all around in Cape Town in the summer of 2010 when the city hosted various games for the 2010 World Cup. Among them were six first round matches, one second round, one quarter final and a semi final.
Cape Town’s climate brings to mind the Mediterranean featuring mild winters from June-August, and warm, dry summers from December-March. However, winds are much stronger here, and there are tremendous climate extremes within just a few kilometers due to Cape Town’s geographical position.
For the latest weather info use the Pampo weather forecast tool.
From Cape Town International Airport take a metered taxi or a shuttle bus to get into Cape Town. There is currently no rail connection into the city.
Robben Island, only a few miles from Cape Town’s coast, is the place where Nelson Mandela had been incarcerated for almost two decades. A tour in the island’s prison with former inmates as guides provides good insight into South Africa’s past and present.
The Castle of Good Hope presents, in a snapshot, the city’s tumultuous military history, from the Boer wars to the late British colonization.
South Africa has a popular ‘eating out’ culture and there are numerous restaurants offering foreign and varied cuisine, including Japanese, Moroccan, West African and Chinese, in addition to traditional South African restaurants.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is a draw for nature-lovers with the size and variety of plants and flowers, testifying South Africa’s amazing bio-diversity.
District Six Museum will usher you into the complex history of Cape Town. District Six was one of the few multi-racial neighborhoods in town, violently evacuated by the government in the tumultuous 1960s. The museum hosts all relevant exhibits including photos and documentary films.
Exotic beaches are the gem in Cape Town’s crown. Muizenberg, Simon’s Town, Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek are the most popular among locals and tourists.
Walking is the best option for exploring downtown Cape Town. Cycling is also popular even if somehow difficult due to the city’s annoying traffic jams, whereas for longer distances, the metro network and the public buses are quite convenient.
If you want to make trips to the beautiful Cape Peninsula, hiring a car or using a bicycle would be advisable, but be aware that distances are quite long and full of slopes. You can also hire a helicopter for long distances.
Downtown Cape Town is generally safe, but during the evenings it would be better to take a non-shared taxi to move around or go back to your hotel. For an overview of the city there is the City Sightseeing Cape Town bus.
Africa Café serves all kinds of local specialties in a jungle-inspired environment combined with live African music.
Aubergine is a gourmet restaurant serving various dishes of international and local cuisine, such as the delicious warthog confit.
Savoy Cabbage is the place to be for those craving unique tastes such as zebra and wildebeest available only in Africa
Neo Café serves up romantic seaside scenery accompanied by cheap, tasty food