Travel Guide

Cape Town Travel Guide

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Cape Town is a coastal city of stunning contrasts. It owes its eclectic charm and sheer diversity in art and culture to its multiethnic past, shaped by the diverse phases of torturous slavery, spiteful apartheid system, and strong influences left behind by the colonial powers including British and Dutch. Today, Cape Town is a pleasingly open-minded destination with so much to explore and experience.

Get a slice of the region’s multicultural heritage with a visit to Bo-Kaap or Malay Quarter on Signal Hills. Interestingly, majority of its residents are the descendants of the slaves who came here from Malaysia, India, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka during the 16th and 17th centuries. Explore its extraordinarily colorful structures, and further don’t miss attractions like Auwal Mosque – the country’s oldest mosque and Bo-Kaap Museum, featuring exhibits that reflect the local Islamic culture. Besides its lively neighborhoods and townships, you can check out its many museums which provide an insightful glance into the region’s tumultuous history and cultural legacy.

To marvel at the 17th century Dutch art by way of Michaelis Collection, visit the Old House Town – the city’s first art museum. Alternatively, the Cape Town Holocaust throws light on the ghastly effects of racial segregation that once prevailed here. The Maritime Centre at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is also worth a visit for its interesting exhibits depicting the region’s maritime history.

As the capital of the Western Cape Province, Cape Town is one of the most prominent economic hubs in Africa, incredibly contributing to the country’s GDP. Tourism, along with agriculture, business services and hospitality sectors, exert a major influence on its economy. The construction and real estate industries are also thriving, thanks to its massive urban renewal projects focused to seamlessly upgrade the city’s infrastructure.

From Woolworths, Foschini, and Shoprite to Naspers, most of the renowned retail establishments, media group, and financial companies have their headquarters in the city. Moreover, the port of Cape Town composes a significant role in the city’s economic development. It is the second busiest container port in the country after Durban, dealing with the greatest amount of fruit and fish exports.

As with the other parts of South Africa, Rand is the currency of Cape Town. It has ZAR as its ISO code and R as its currency symbol. One South African Rand is equivalent to USD 0.082.

With millions of year old fossil remains and mountains, Cape Town has an out-sized impact on South Africa’s historic past. Much before the settlement of Europeans in the mid-17th century, the region was mainly inhabited by a semi-nomadic group, known as Khois.

Al though the Portuguese were the first European to discover Cape Town in the 15th century, it was Dutch who established the first European settlement in 1652, with the main intention to grow as well as supply fruits and vegetables to the company trade ships which pass through the region. It was during the Dutch rule most Asians mainly from Indonesia and Malay regions flocked to the region. Later, Huguenots – the first non-Dutch immigrants made their way to this land, and they are credited to strengthen the region’s wine producing industry.

Following a series of events and battles, the British completely took over the control of Cape from Dutch in 1806, and they ruled the region for over 100 years. From 1948 to 1991, the region as with the rest of the country, struggled through the unpleasant apartheid system which segregated the people into four racial groups. Among many of its significant consequences were the limitation of voting rights based on color and race, the demolition of multi-racial suburbs and the declaration of White-only areas.

Cape Town’s history is not complete without a mention of Robben Island. Being a leprosy colony and a prison for more than 300 years (starting from the Dutch regime to 1990s), it had remained a silent witness of the worst of the worst. Many prominent political figures were imprisoned in this island prison, such as Autshumato, Patrick Chamusso, Ahmed Kathrada, and mostly Nelson Mandela. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is now a museum.

After the abolition of apartheid system, Nelson Mandela became the first black president in 1994. Today, Cape Town is now the legislative capital of South Africa and also one of the most visited destinations, with an incredible array of attractions to cater to every interest.

  • Cape Town, dubbed as the Mother City, is the oldest as well as the second largest city in South Africa. 
  • New York Times named it as the world’s best place in 2014, while Condé Nast Traveler magazine ranked it among the list of the world’s friendliest city.
  • Cape Town’s most iconic and breathtaking natural landmark is the 1086-meter high Table Mountain, which is one of the world’s oldest mountains, being formed several millions of years ago. 
  • It is home to the country’s oldest colonial building, Castle of Good Hope; it was built in 1679. 
  • From August to November, the Cape Coastline turns into a breeding ground for thousands of Southern Right Whale. 
  • See Jackass Penguin - the exclusive Penguin species of Africa, at Simon’s Town. 
  • With its exceptional water quality and superb facilities, Cape Town holds the unique distinction of being the first city outside Europe to receive the Blue Flag Status. 
  • Cape wines are immensely popular and considered one of the world’s best wines. 
  • Most of all, the Cape Floral Kingdom is one of the world’s six floral kingdoms. It is exceptional for its extraordinarily rich biodiversity, mainly its distinctive fynbos-covered landscape. 
Cape Town has a relatively cool salubrious climate throughout the year. Featuring wet windy winters and dry warm summers, the region has a Mediterranean climate. The summer or dry periods are from November to March, and January is the warmest month when temperature reaches up to 25 degrees. The climate becomes pleasant in autumn, between March and May. Alternatively, winter is from June to September, with August being the coolest month. The best thing is that winter is not harsh here, making it perfect for people who love outdoors. Finally, the nature is at its best in spring (September and October), with its astonishing landscape blanked with vibrant flowers and air filled with refreshing floral fragrance.
Cape Town is well accessible via all transport modes: air, rail, road, and water. By Air: Cape Town International Airport operates both domestic and international flights, with the plus point that the most airlines provide direct flights to the city.

By Rail: Shosholoza Meyl Line which comes under the PRASA (Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa) makes it easy to access Cape Town from diverse locations within South Africa, such as Johannesburg, Durban, Kimberley, and East London. Moreover, there are Metrorail commuter trains which offer an efficient link between Cape Town and its surrounding towns including Somerset, Worcester, and Stellenbosch etc. If you’re planning to reach the city from Pretoria, you can take Blue Train which is counted among the world’s most luxurious train rides.

By Road: Major companies like Greyhound, Translux, and SA Roadlink offer bus services to enter Cape Town from other South African cities. You can further rely on bus services to approach the city from other destinations like Kenya and Tanzania.

By Water: Some of the major names in the cruise industry, such as Princess Cruise, have included Cape Town in their destination portfolio.

For your Cape Town visit, you’ll have to first obtain a visa. But this is not applicable to citizens of certain countries. For instance, the national passport holders of 45 plus countries like Andorra, Argentina, Germany, and Portugal can enter the country without a visa, especially if their stay in the country does not exceed 90 days.

Likewise, a visa is not required for nationalities of 28 countries for their 30-day South African visit. This includes Antigua and Barbuda, Cape Verde, Hong Kong, Macau, Seychelles, and Turkey. Diplomatic or official passport holders of over 30 countries are also exempted from obtaining a visa for their stay in the country up to a specified period (varies based on the nationality).

In fact, a visa is mandatory for all others who do not fall under the above categories. And if you need one, you can always count on Rayna Tours for reliable and high-end visa services; we assure to make your South African journey a totally smooth and stress-free experience!

Cape Town serves as the perfect gateway to discover the beyond-compare natural treasures and environs of the Western Cape Province, as most of these are just an hour or two from the city. This includes:

Cape Peninsula: A full day tour of Cape Peninsula gives you ultimate chance to experience the region’s majestic landscape. This mostly covers attractions like Hout Bay – famed for its stunning beaches and nearby island sheltering a colony of Cape Fur Seals; Cape of Good Hope with the opportunity to enjoy a funicular ride; and the exceptionally beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens – a part of the Cape Floristic Region.

Cape West Coast: Boasting a wealth of pristine beaches, charming fishing villages and towns, and towering mountain ranges, the West Coast is an absolute treat for outdoor enthusiasts, water sport buffs, and nature lovers alike. Some of its must-sees are Langebaan Lagoon, St Helena Bay, West Coast Fossil Park, Darling, and Witzand Aquifer Nature Reserve. The region is also known for its marvelous wildflowers which blanket the entire region during spring season.

Cape Winelands: Cape wines are famous all over the world. Apparently, for connoisseurs of wines, a Cape Town vacation remains unfinished without exploring the Winelands endowed with enormously marvelous landscape. It encompasses a treasure trove of wine-producing hamlets and towns, from Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Durbanville to Helderberg and Constantia Valley.

Distinguished for its unparalleled cultural diversity and eventful past, Cape Town’s gastronomy is a fusion of different flavors and traditions, with significant European, Malay, and Indian influences. In fact, it’s a culinary haven offering a myriad of scrumptious delights and marvelous dining venues, which is definite to please every palate.

Must-try local specialties, among many others, are the spicy Boerewors – the grilled sausage prepared using different kinds of meat; Bunny Chow which has almost half loaf of hollowed bread full of flavorsome curry; local Snoek fish foods available in barbequed and grilled versions; and most of all, the Love Sandwich, which of course is not your usual sandwich, thanks to its sumptuous combination of salads, pestos, and dressings, together with your favorite meat.

When it comes to ‘where to eat’, there is no dearth of choices, no matter you go for incredibly pocket-friendly street foods or top-notch restaurants, such as La Colombe, La Mouette, Chefs Warehouse, and The Test Kitchen.

The events calendar of Cape Town is packed to brim with several distinct and exciting activities all through the year. These range from sporting events and exclusive culinary fairs to exuberant festivals, carnivals, and concerts.

Some of the events to watch out during your summer trip are Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, Spier Arts Festivals, and Franschhoek Cap Classique & Champagne Festival, featuring the finest culinary specialties. Enrich your autumn visit with the amazing Good Food and Wine Show, V&A Waterfront Wine Affair, and Cape Town International Jazz Festival.

If you plan for a vacation in winter, activities and events like Wacky Wine Weekend, Cape Town Fashion Week, and Vodacom Funny Festival are not to be missed. There are also some great events to look forward to in spring season, such as Cape Town International Kite Festival and FNB Whisky Live Festival.

Cape Town is fascinating both by day and night. If you’re a night owl or party animal, you needn’t have to worry about what to do in Cape Town after the sun sinks down. From exuberant pubs, bars, and nightclubs to plush hotel lounges and pulsating live music venues, the city has plenty of cool choices to suit every appetite and budget.

For the most incredible club and party experience, head over to Long Street. Known for its buzzing nightlife, it has some of Cape Town’s most vibrant bars and clubs, such as Beer House, Purple Turtle, Stones, and Zula Bar and Café. If you want to dance away your night accompanied by great drinks, check out these coolest spots - Surfa Rosa, District, Jade Lounge and Champagne Bar.

Shimmer Beach Club and Café Caprice make a great choice for those looking to indulge in something extraordinary during their night out. Now if you’re in for a nightlife experience with an old-world vibe, the city has its fair share of venues by way of Alexander Bar, Café and Theatre.

Whether you’re in search of the finest in jewelry, designer apparel, or even statement art pieces, Cape Town covers all your shopping demands and that too in limitless varieties. Being home to the greatest concentration of jewelry designers and gold boutiques, you can look forward to shop the most inimitable creations. That’s not all; the relatively low manufacturing costs and favorable exchange rate allows for unbelievably cost-effective shopping.

Cape Quarter, Cavendish Square, Tyger Valley Shopping Centre, and Willowbridge Shopping Centre are among the top choices to grab the trendy and contemporary stuffs. The iconic Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre at V&A Waterfront and Long Beach Mall, too have some amazing specialty stores to add to your retail pleasure. You can further step into Constantia Village which covers everything from high-end lifestyle, jewelry, and fashion outlets to quirky art galleries and antique shops.

For a distinct experience, take a tour of Diamond Works where you’ll not only be able to shop one-of-a-kind diamond jewelry but also get some fascinating information on diamonds with an opportunity to relish a glass of sparkling wine.

  • Castle of Good Hope: Built during the early Dutch regime, it’s the country’s oldest colonial structure. 
  • Bo-Kaap: Situated along the slopes of Signal Hill, it’s one of the city’s most vibrant neighborhoods, especially noteworthy for its colorful buildings and multicultural heritage. 
  • Greenmarket Square: Once a slave market, it’s now a thriving market filled with numerous shopping and dining choices. 
  • District Museum: One of the best places in Cape Town to glance into the region’s turbulent past. 
  • South African National Gallery: A not-to-miss attraction for art and culture buffs, with its impressive collection of exhibits. 
  • Company Gardens: It’s extraordinary for its serene ambience and historic structures. 
  • Victoria & Alfred Waterfront: Generously dotted with dining, shopping, and leisure options, this is probably the city’s most significant landmark. 
  • Robben Island: A boat cruise from Nelson Mandela Gateway at Victoria & Alfred Waterfront will lead you to this former island prison; this lets you experience a slice of the region’s harrowing past. 

Regardless of you are planning for an active vacation, a tranquil escape or even a totally bespoke experience during your Cape Town visit, we offer a variety of well-guided tours to suit every appetite and preference. So don’t delay anymore to experience one of the world’s most marvelous destinations; simply come along with us and explore everything from Cape Town’s iconic natural landmarks and celebrated cultural attractions to hidden gems and culinary specialties.

Our full day city tour covering Table Mountain and Robben Island introduces you to the city’s most prominent attractions while enlightening you with the most authentic facts and information on each sight covered in the travel program. If you wish to venture beyond the city sights, we’ve some amazing options by way of Cape Peninsula Tour and Oudtshoorn Tour. For a sightseeing experience wrapped in with a dose of fun and thrill, look no further than our exhilarating choices like Cape Canopy Tour, Hermanus Forest Adventure, and Helicopter Tour.

For an adventurous sea escapade, consider our Whale Watching Tour and Shark Cage Diving Tours. We also have some great tours to excite wildlife enthusiasts, such as Aquila Game Reserve Safari. Most of all, take in the legendary sunset views of Cape Town with our exclusive sunset cruise.

This depends on your unique holiday preferences. To experience the region’s world-class beaches, the most ideal time is from January to March. If activities like hiking interests you the most, you should plan your trip between April and June. For your whale watching vacation, the best time is from July to September. These months are also perfect to plan a culinary vacation with wine tasting tours. To see the nature in full bloom, come here during spring season in September and October.
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