Cape Town ‘The Mother City’ is a city of cultural diversity, natural wonders and sophisticated amenities. Cape Town is the second largest and oldest city in South Africa with a Mediterranean climate. The splendor of Cape Town is in her natural beauty, historical landmarks and sophisticated amenities, offers something for everyone, every moment of every day. Cape Town is a happy hunting ground for the outdoor enthusiast, serious shopper, party animal, historian or botanist. If you're lucky enough to visit, here are some fun things to do in Cape Town.
This memorial is on the slopes of Devils Peak which is part of the Table Mountain National Park. It was built in memory of Cecil John Rhodes whose dream was to build a railroad from Cape to Cairo. Rhodes would climb Devils Peak and ponder the possibilities of what lay beyond the Hottentots Holland Mountains. It’s the perfect location to view the sun rise.
Situated on the edge of Cape Town CBD is the Bo Kaap, the heritage suburb of Cape Town. Characterized by its brightly painted houses and mosques, you hear the call of the muezzin throughout day. On the slopes of Signal Hill in the Bo Kaap is the domed tomb (Kramat) of Sheik Joseph who established the Muslim community in 1694. There are six sacred Kramats that encircle Cape Town; Muslim families still make frequent pilgrimages to the tombs.
One of the oldest living traditions is the firing of the Noon Gun, each day at precisely twelve o’clock. Originally the gun was fired as a time signal for ships anchored in the bay; today Capetonians rely on the noon gun for accurate time. The noon gun is maintained and fired by the South African Navy. Traditionally one should pause for two minutes after the gun has sounded. The first minute is a time for thanksgiving and the second minute to remember those who have passed.
Cape Town is a city with rich heritage and traditions. To really get a feel for the diversity of Cape Town take a stroll through the city. Visit the flower sellers in Adderley Street, or sample local arts and crafts in Green Market Square. Meander through St Georges Mall to the cathedral and view the architecture of the preserved buildings juxtaposed with the modern. Walk up the tree lined avenue of the Company Gardens and see the Parliament buildings.
Not feeling energetic? Hop on the Red Bus, an open double decker bus which stops at all the main attractions in Cape Town. There are numerous museums and galleries to visit: The South African National Museum and Planetarium, the National Gallery, and the District Six Museum which tells the story of the people who were forcibly removed in the 1960’s and the buildings bulldozed. To this day the area known as District Six remains undeveloped and uninhabited. Other museums include the Slave Lodge, South African Jewish Museum, and South African Maritime Museum. You can hop on or off the Red Bus whenever you find something of interest. Short on time? Then book a Helicopter Tour and view this magnificent city from the air.
Table Mountain is unquestionably one of the world’s most famous landmarks. Recently voted as one of the new 7 Natural Wonders of the World, the old grey father of Cape Town is a vast sandstone block 350 million years old. On a clear day, Table Mountain is visible 200 kilometres out to sea. There are more than 350 routes to the summit, from easy walks to dangerous climbs.
Gliding up to the summit on the aerial cableway, one has a breathtaking 3600 view of the city, the ocean, Robben Island and neighbouring peaks.
Table Mountain is a World Heritage site with over 1500 different species of plants. The animal life of Table Mountain includes baboons, dassies, porcupines, mongooses, girdles lizards, snakes and butterflies. There’s a dazzling variety of wild flowers blooms and is the natural home of the famous shimmering Silver Trees. For the ornithologist there are several indigenous bird species, including Red-winged Starlings, Cape Eagles, Rock Kestrels and Sunbirds.
There are excellent refreshment facilities at the top of the mountain. If you choose to walk up and take the cable car down, be sure to check the weather forecast as the cable car does not run in high winds. Remember to carry your own water, wear a hat and sunscreen and tell someone else your route and timings. Each year there are tourists that get lost, stuck or die on the mountain.
No one who has seen Table Mountain with its famous tablecloth of cloud neatly laid and spilling over its towering cliffs and crags can doubt that he has witnessed one of the most awesome splendours on earth.
The oldest surviving structure in South Africa is The Castle of Good Hope known by the locals simply as ‘the castle’. This pentagonal fortress is built from local stone with the five bastions named after William III of Orange-Nassau. Leerdam, Buuren, Katzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje. It was built by soldiers, sailors and slaves between 1666 - 1679 as a victual station for passing ships en route to India and Cape Town was known as ‘The Tavern of the Seas’.
During the Second Boer War (1899-1902) the castle was used as a prison. The cells remain today and are believed to be haunted. The castle is a national heritage site and is still used for military parades and ceremonies.
Cape Town is a paradise for the outdoor enthusiast: Abseil off Table Mountain which is the world’s highest commercial abseil of 112 meters, mountain bike along one of the many trails on the mountain or paraglide off Lions Head and view the spectacular scenery of the mother city.
Water sport fanatics aren’t forgotten: Jet-Ski from Mouille Point, dive for crayfish, or wind surf at Bloubergstrand. Clifton, Camps Bay and Llandudno on the Atlantic Seaboard are some of the finest beaches in the world. Clifton beaches are well sheltered coves; Camps Bay is a long sandy stretch of beach with trendy restaurants, street cafes and bars across the road. Llandudno is a favorite with locals for sunset picnics and great surf.
The breakwater for Cape Town’s harbor was constructed by HRH Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son and is still a working harbor with one of the oldest operating docks of its kind in the world dating back to 1882.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront boasts designer shopping, fine dining and wine tasting, high end residential properties and luxury hotels. Exploring the Waterfront, you will discover preserved historical sites, local musicians and mimes, shows at the Amphitheatre and The Two Ocean Aquarium. Watch the sharks being fed and for the brave you can scuba dive in the tank.
The Waterfront is the gateway to Robben Island and pleasure cruises on yachts, catamarans or the Spirit of Victoria masted vessel.
City Shopping - Adderley Street, Long Street, Loop Street
Shopping in the city centre is a journey of discovery, from major retail chain stores to specialist stores selling African curios, fine jewelry and quirky fashions. Meander through the pedestrian walkways and arcades for Antiques and local art.
Lying 9 kilometers off the shore of Table Bay, Robben Island is a tiny island measuring 3 x 1.5 kilometers with its highest point only 35 meters above sea level. It got its name from the vast amount of seals inhabiting the island. Robben is Dutch for seals. The Dutch settlers used the island initially as a reserve for their livestock and later as a Leper hospital and colony then as a prison. Today Robben Island is known worldwide as the prison in which Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid activists were incarcerated.
Since 1997 Robben Island is a living museum and a heritage site. The Robben Island Ferry leaves from the clock tower precinct in the V&A Waterfront. It is advisable to book ahead and be prepared for the weather. The ferry does not run with high seas.
No visit to Cape Town would be complete without a tour to the townships of Kayalitsha, Langa and Guguletho. Townships are areas where during the apartheid era people were forced to live. Today the townships pulse with a vibrancy and reflects the people of South Africa. Do not visit a township on your own; always go with a tour group which keep to safe areas. Sit and eat at one of the restaurants serving unique food. Try a ‘walkie-talkie’. This is a chicken dish made with the head and feet of the chicken or a ‘Smiley face’ which is the head of a lamb or goat slow roasted over an open fire. Enjoy local musicians, playing township music or jazz with instruments made from oil cans and drums. Try your hand at African cooking or sample traditional beer in a Shebeen.
The rhythm and energy of Cape Town changes after sundown. Sidewalk cafes come to life, showcasing local talent. There are interesting pubs, clubs and restaurants to suit every mood and taste.
More structured entertainment is the Artscape Theatre complex with an Opera House and smaller theatres. See international standard productions and South African plays and musicals. Smaller independent theatres within the city offer local productions and musical theatre. Cinema complexes are found in shopping malls. The Cape Town City Hall is home to the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and regularly plays host to visiting international musicians and singers.
Cape Town ‘The Mother City’ is one of the most multicultural cities in the world, reflecting its role as a major destination for tourists to South Africa.
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