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Cape Town maps & Attractions - Things to do in Cape Town

 

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Cape Town Attractions - Things to do

1. Table Mountain
Tafelberg Road
www.tablemountain.net
What is it? Cape Town's most popular tourist attraction is also its most famous physical feature, the flat-topped mountain that stands sentinel over the city. Table Mountain has been proclaimed a nature reserve, protecting its diverse floral species, some unique to its slopes. The views from the top of the mountain are quite spectacular. A Swiss-built rotating cable car carries visitors smoothly up the mountain and back. The mountain-top is equipped with a restaurant and small gift shop, as well as numerous pathways and vantage points. It is possible to climb the mountain via different routes, but care should be taken by inexperienced hikers because Cape Town is prone to sudden weather changes. The walk up can take anything between one and four hours depending on the route and level of fitness. Route maps can be bought at the cable-car station. It is always best to check the website or call the weatherline to see if the cable car is in operation. Hours of Operation: Cable car operates daily (weather permitting) every 10-15 minutes from 8.30am to 8pm (November); 8am to 10pm (December to January); 8.30am to 8.30pm (February); 8.30am to 7.30pm (March); 8.30am to 6.30pm (April); 8.30am to 6pm (May to mid-September); 8.30am to 7pm (16 September to October). Closed for annual maintenance in July and August. Phone:021 424 8181 (weatherline) or 021 424 0015
2. Castle of Good Hope
Buitenkant Street, opposite the Grand Parade
www.castleofgoodhope.co.za
What is it? South Africa's oldest building, the Castle was completed in 1679 (replacing an earlier mud and timber fort built by the first Dutch Governor, Jan van Riebeeck). Situated adjacent to a parking lot and bus station in Buitenkant Street, its walls mark the original boundary of the seashore where the waves washed up against the fortifications. Its outside aspect is somewhat foreboding, but inside are some interesting features and collections that have been restored, offering a good insight into the early days of the Cape when it was the centre of social and economic life. The castle is a pentagonal fortification with a moat and five bastions, each named for one of the titles of the Prince of Orange. The entrance is a good example of 17th century Dutch Classicism, and a bell, cast in 1679 by Claude Fremy in Amsterdam, still hangs from the original wood beams in the tower above the entrance. The castle contains a Military Museum depicting the conflicts that arose during the Cape's early settlement, and also houses the William Fehr Collection of decorative arts, including paintings, furniture and porcelain. Of interest are the dungeons, which bear the graffiti carved by prisoners incarcerated here centuries ago. Hours of Operation: Daily 9am to 4pm, with tours at 11am, 12pm and 2pm from Monday to Saturday. Self guided tours are possible with the aid of a map, provided by the Castle Phone:021 787 1249
3. Houses of Parliament
90 Plein Street, city centre (Visitor's entrance)
www.parliament.gov.za
What is it? East of the tree-lined pedestrian Government Avenue, which runs through the Company Gardens at the top of Adderley Street, lies the complex of Parliamentary buildings, containing numerous chambers, offices and corridors. It was here that the racial segregation policy of Apartheid rose and fell along with the ascendancy of the National Party which made South Africa the political pariah of the world. Visitors can now book a tour of the legislative complex, the original section of which dates back to 1885, a magnificent Victorian Neoclassical building. Worth exploring, too, are the neighbouring Company Gardens that house a range of plants and trees from around the world. Hours of Operation: Tours Monday to Friday 9am to 12pm Phone:021 403 2911, or 021 403 2266 (tours), 021 403 2460 (debates)
4. South African Museum and Planetarium
25 Queen Victoria Street, Gardens
www.museums.org.za/sam
What is it? The imposing South African Museum, dedicated to natural history and the human sciences, contains a huge variety of fascinating exhibits from entire chunks of caves bearing rock art, to traditional arts and crafts from several African tribes. The natural history galleries are full of mounted mammals, dioramas of prehistoric reptiles and a collection of whale skeletons, which can be viewed with the eerie sound of whalesong echoing in the background. Alongside the museum is the Planetarium, which has a changing programme of thematic shows involving the southern constellations. Hours of Operation: Daily 10am to 5pm. Planetarium shows Monday to Friday at 2pm and at 8pm on Tuesdays; Saturday and Sunday 12pm, 1pm and 2.30pm Phone:021 481 3800 (museum), 021 481 3900 (planetarium)
5. Greenmarket Square

What is it? Situated in the Central Business District, near the main station, is Greenmarket Square, the perfect spot to observe South Africa's 'rainbow nation' in all its hues. Once the scene of slave markets, this is the site of one of the city's most vibrant flea markets, where clothing, jewellery, knick-knacks and souvenirs are on sale every day, and tourists and business people rub shoulders in the many sidewalk cafes that surround this busy cobbled square. Be prepared to haggle at the market to get the best prices and be warned, touts are prevalent. On the west side of the square is the Old Town House, dating from the mid-18th century, which is a wonderful example of Cape Dutch architecture and houses the Michaelis collection of Dutch and Flemish landscape paintings. Evening classical concerts are held regularly on the veranda. Hours of Operation: Square open daily, except Sundays. Art exhibition daily 10am to 5pm (February to December) Phone:
6. St George's Cathedral
Wale Street
www.stgeorgescathedral.com
What is it? Cape Town's Victorian Gothic style Anglican Cathedral, founded in 1901, is situated in Wale Street and is historically significant for it is where the enthronement of South Africa's first black archbishop, Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, took place. The Cathedral is unique in that it became a political powerhouse in the struggle against Apartheid, known as 'the people's cathedral', stating openly from the 1950s onwards that it was open to all people of all races at all times. This was a brave stand in the racially segregated society of the time. In subsequent years the cathedral became the venue for many protest gatherings and vigils and on occasions the building was surrounded by police, water cannons and barbed wire. Victims of forced removals were even accommodated in the cathedral at times. As far as architectural merit goes, the cathedral does feature some fine Gabriel Loire windows, including a magnificent Rose Window above the south transept. Hours of Operation: Phone:021 424 7360 (Cathedral office)
7. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Rhodes Drive, Newlands
www.kirstenbosch.co.za
What is it? Five miles (eight km) south of the city centre lies the magnificent Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, covering a huge expanse of the rugged south-western slopes of the Table Mountain range. Kirstenbosch was bequeathed to the nation by mining magnate Cecil Rhodes in 1895, and today contains more than 22,000 plants, a research unit, botanical library and nursery. Numerous paths meander through the gardens, including a Braille route for the blind, which are full of lush shrubs and 'fynbos', the Cape's indigenous floral heritage. A tearoom, restaurant and coffee bar are on site. In summertime the delightful setting becomes the venue for Sunday evening open-air concerts, when picnickers relax on the lawns, sipping Cape wine, and enjoying the sunset entertainment. Hours of Operation: Daily 8am to 6pm (April to August); 8am to 7pm (September to March) Phone:021 799 8783/8620 weekdays, 021 761 4916 weekends
8. Beaches

What is it? Cape Town has some great beaches, but the most easily accessible are on the Atlantic Ocean where the water is unbelievably cold; the locals rarely venture in beyond knee-high depths. The most popular is Camps Bay beach, a long, wide stretch of golden sand packed with locals and tourists alike and backed by a strip of fashionable bars and restaurants. Just towards town is Clifton, whose four beaches, imaginatively called First, Second, Third and Fourth, are situated beneath exclusive houses and apartments set into the cliff that protects sunbathers from the harsh southwesterly wind. First Beach is the largest and most popular with families (the steps are shorter), Second Beach is preferred by the 'camp' and 'hip' crowd, and Third and Fourth are usually frequented by well-toned locals and, when the waves are up, surfers. The small suburb of Llandudno, 15 minutes south of Camps Bay, is home to another excellent beach and is popular with locals from the Southern Suburbs or those keen to avoid the crowds. There are no bars or restaurants here, the nearest being at Hout Bay, another 10 minutes south. Hout Bay's long beach is popular with families and walkers but is not as stunning as its neighbours. Hours of Operation: Phone:
9. Robben Island

www.robben-island.org.za
What is it? South Africa's most widely known tourist attraction is probably Robben Island, seven miles (11km) from Cape Town in the centre of Table Bay. For nearly 400 years this tiny rocky island outcrop was utilised as a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment for numerous categories of people ostracised by society, ranging from political protestors to lepers. During the years of Apartheid, Robben Island became synonymous with institutional brutality as numerous freedom fighters, including the island's most famous resident Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned here for more than a quarter of a century. The island is now a museum, symbolising liberation and the triumph of the human spirit. Regular island tours are conducted, lasting three and a half hours. The tours, which are guided by former prisoners, include a visit to the maximum-security prison on the island where an estimated 3,000 freedom fighters were incarcerated between 1962 and 1991. Hours of Operation: Boats leave at 9am, 10am, 12pm, 1pm, 2pm and 3pm (weather dependent) Phone:021 409 5100 or 021 413 4200
10. Groot Constantia

www.museums.org.za/grootcon
What is it? The historic Cape Dutch homestead of Groot Constantia, about half an hour's drive to the south from the city centre, is the oldest house in the Cape and the main stopping point on the well-signposted Constantia Wine Route. The manor house, originally home to Dutch Governor Simon van der Stel in 1685, is the centre of a museum complex. The house itself is furnished with items from the period while an adjacent wine museum exhibits drinking and storage vessels in glass, silver, copper and stoneware dating from 500BC to the 19th century. There are two excellent restaurants on the site, and cellar tours and wine tastings are offered. Other estates on the Constantia Wine Route are Klein Constantia, Buitenverwachting, Constantia Uitsig and Steenberg. Hours of Operation: Groot Constantia opens daily, museum open 10am to 5pm; other estates closed on Saturday afternoons and Sundays Phone:021 795 5140
11. Chapman's Peak

www.chapmanspeakdrive.co.za
What is it? Chapman's Peak Drive is one of the most spectacular coastal roads in South Africa, linking the seaside community of Hout Bay to the Noordhoek Valley along the Atlantic Coast, with breathtaking views from along the narrow, winding road blasted into the cliffs. Constructed in 1915, the six-mile (9km) route took about seven years to complete and was built as a shorter, alternative route between Cape Town central and the South Peninsula. Many visitors use this scenic route to reach Cape Point Nature Reserve situated at the tip of the Peninsula. Hours of Operation: Open 24 hours; the road closes occasionally due to heavy rainfall, or rockfalls Phone:021 791 8222
12. Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront

www.waterfront.co.za
What is it? This working harbour, historical site and shopping and entertainment development has become one of Cape Town's most visited tourist attractions. The waterfront offers everything from shopping malls, and arts and crafts markets, to live music, cinemas, buskers and a variety of festivals throughout the year. There are also more than 70 eateries ranging from pubs and fast food outlets to five star restaurants, luxury hotels, and a variety of boat trips, harbour cruises and helicopter charters. The Two Oceans Aquarium is the largest of its kind in Africa and is an impressive display of life in the oceans surrounding the Cape Coast (www.aquarium.co.za). Hours of Operation: Aquarium: daily 9.30am to 6pm Phone:021 408 7600, or 021 418 3823 (aquarium)
13. Simonstown and Boulders Beach

What is it? A recommended day excursion from the city includes a trip through the southern suburbs and along the scenically beautiful False Bay coastline via Muizenberg to Simonstown, South Africa's principal naval base. Simonstown lies about 25 miles (40km) from the city and is a quaint town built around a naval dockyard, with well-preserved Victorian buildings, museums, sidewalk cafes and local legends to learn about. One such legend is about a dog called 'Just Nuisance' who 'joined' the British navy, becoming their mascot, when Simonstown was a British base. A short distance from the town is Boulder's beach, famous for its protected colony of African Penguins (formerly Jackass Penguin) that can be viewed from the boardwalks. Hours of Operation: Phone:
14. Cape Point

www.capepoint.co.za
What is it? Most visitors to Cape Town are keen to make a day trip 40 miles (65km) from the city to the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, not only to take in its floral diversity in what at first sight appears to be a bleak landscape, but to stand at the top of the towering promontory at the most southerly point of the Cape Peninsula (not of Africa, visitors must go further afield to Cape Agulhus for this). From the viewpoint and lighthouse at Cape Point, reached via a funicular, it is awesome to watch the thundering waves crashing at the base of the cliffs 686ft (209m) below. The reserve itself is worth exploring, particularly on foot, for those interested in birds and botany. The restaurant at Cape Point has a terrace offering spectacular views. Resident baboons here enjoy the spoils from tourists' snacks - particularly their ice-cream; they can be quite aggressive. Because feeding of the baboons carries a stiff penalty, it is worth ensuring there are no free lunches for these hirsute scavengers! Hours of Operation: Daily 6am to 6pm (September to April), 7am to 5pm (May to August). Funicular: 9am to 6pm (summer), 9am to 5.30pm (winter) Phone:021 780 9010/11
15. Bo-Kaap

www.bokaap.co.za
What is it? Bo-Kaap, or the old Malay Quarter, was declared an exclusive residential area for the Muslim Cape Malays under the Group Areas Act of 1950 during the Apartheid years, forcing people of other religions and ethnicity to leave, and today is still closely associated with the Muslim community. The houses have been restored and colourfully painted, and the steep cobbled streets, mosques and minarets, and blend of Cape Dutch and Edwardian architecture makes it one of the most interesting historical and cultural areas of the city. The Bo-Kaap Museum on Wale Street documents the history of the Cape Malays (Tel: (021) 424 3846). Hours of Operation: Phone:
16. Township Tours

What is it? The N2 highway that connects Cape Town International Airport to the city is lined with townships, consisting of a mixture of shacks and solid buildings. During the days of apartheid, people of colour were not allowed to live in the white suburbs and were banished to areas away from the city. Township tours allow visitors to experience how the majority of Capetonians live in the townships that surround the city. Guides, often residents, take visitors around to meet the people, see community projects, have a drink in a 'shebeen' (township pub) and shop for local crafts. Each township has its own colourful character, and despite their difficult living conditions, residents are generally hospitable and delighted to receive visitors. Townships were once no-go areas for many people, but today a visit is becoming a popular experience for tourists to Cape Town. Visit Langa, the oldest of South Africa's black townships, established in 1923, or the newest and second largest in the country, Khayelitsha, which dates from the 1980s. Guguletu and Nyanga were set up in the 1950s. Visitors are advised not to visit the townships alone; there are many tour companies that offer tours, including transport to and from the township areas. Contact the Cape Town Tourism Visitor Information Centre or its satellite, the Sivuyile Tourism Centre in Guguletu for information about tours, accommodation and entertainment in the townships. Hours of Operation: Phone:Cape Town Tourism Visitor Information Centre: 021 426 4260, or Sivuyile Tourism Centre: 021 637 8449

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Transport -Cape Town and its suburbs sprawl for miles, but with the ocean and the dramatic landmarks of Table Mountain and Lions Head the city is fairly easy to navigate.

 

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