Cape Town is South Africa's crown jewel and the most European city you'll find on the continent.
6 min read
11 July, 2022
Cape Town is South Africa's crown jewel and the most European city you'll find on the continent. Founded by the Dutch East India Company in 1652, it was South Africa's first attempt at a modern metropolis, earning it the nickname "The Mother City." Because of its strategic location at the southwestern tip of Africa, for centuries it played an important role in global trade. Today it's one of South Africa's three capital cities.
Why Go To Cape Town
Sporty, stylish, stunning, sociable… If Cape Town was a person, it would be that Hollywood starlet we all secretly envy. The Mother City is unlike any other destination in Africa: Separated from the rest of the continent by a ring of mountains, Cape Town stands as a glittering, metropolis juxtaposed with one of the world's most breathtaking natural landscapes. But good looks aren't the only thing Cape Town has going for it. You'll fall in love with this city's khaki-colored beaches, rolling vineyards, sizzling cuisine, thriving nightlife, and, of course, the spectacular Table Mountain. It may have taken an international soccer tournament to catch the world's attention, but since Cape Town took the global stage, no amount of buzzing vuvuzelas can drown out its magnificence.
Cape Town is by far the most cosmopolitan city in South Africa, as it hosts a hodgepodge of cultures that contributes to the city's eclectic music, food, and festival scenes. But to better appreciate Cape Town as it is now, it's important to understand what the city has experienced. Decades of racial and economic oppression invoked by apartheid has left a festering wound. Although many tourists only experience Cape Town's gorgeous beaches and vibrant restaurant scene, those who visit Nelson Mandela's jail cell on Robben Island or peruse the exhibits in The District Six Museum will see that there's a somber undertone to this otherwise vibrant city.
How to Get Around
Trains: Cape Town's trains exist as the Metrorail, but they're not particularly reliable. If you ask locals, they can also be unsafe. It's not recommended to ride them alone, especially at night. If you do want to take one, the most popular line is the South line running to Simon's Town. Tickets can be purchased at stations or from Metrorail officials with portable ticket machines.
Buses: While there are several local buses and minibuses, basically vans shuttling commuters, the best buses for visitors are the MyCiTi buses. They connect with the airport and serve scheduled stops in high traffic tourist areas. Fares are loaded onto myconnect cards which can be purchased at station kiosks and select retailers and ATMs. Another option is the City Sightseeing Bus. These Hop-On-Hop-Off buses also make scheduled stops at popular tourist destinations and include commentary in 15 languages. The Red Line covers the northern part of Cape Town, and the Blue Line goes all the way to Hout Bay in the south. Tickets can be purchased online.
Taxis/Rideshare: Ubers are everywhere in Cape Town. They're reliable, safe and extremely affordable. A 45-minute Uber from downtown Cape Town to a Muizenberg can cost as little as $12. They also service the airport. If you don't have Uber and want to use a traditional taxi, try to use a call ahead car service that is verified.
Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Return ticket (anytime of the day)
Sunset Bus Tour to Signal Hill (Summer season only)
South Africa gives me a perspective of what’s real and what’s not real. So I go back to South Africa to both lose myself and gain awareness of myself. Every time I go back, it doesn’t take long for me to get caught into a very different thing. A very different sense of myself.
- Dave Matthews
Best Time to Go
Cape Town is worth visiting year-round. That said, it looks different each season. Late December through March is South Africa's summer. It's when Cape Town is alive with tourists escaping their own winters back home and locals enjoying the gorgeous weather. It's sunny, dry, and warm enough to warrant a dip in the ocean.
The city's social calendar is packed with events, and while prices might be higher during this peak season, at least everything is open. If you're looking for lower prices and fewer people, visit during the winter, late June through late September. Pack a raincoat because winter means wet. If your goal is to see whales, check out the Hermanus Whale Festival usually held in late September.
However, July and August are also considered great months for whale watching. Finally, the shoulder seasons can be just as unforgettable. Spring, September through early December, is when the wildflowers are in full bloom. Autumn, late March through early June, is thought to be the best time to go cage diving with great white sharks.