Cape Town, the Mother City on the Cape of Good Hope and the southern gateway to South Africa, is a unique and fascinating city. The city is located in the Western Cape province and is hugged by the iconic Table Mountain and its surrounding craggy peaks, all the while overlooking the expanse of Table Bay.
The city of Cape Town came to the attention of the world when it hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is also more infamously known as the location where the late former South African president Nelson Mandela spent his years of incarceration.
As reported by the South African Tourism Board, the view of Table Mountain from the sea is always an amazing sight, and the area now occupied by the city has a varied history. It was first mentioned by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias back in 1486. Another Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gama, also recorded a sighting of what is known as the Cape of Good Hope in 1497.
View from Table Mountain [Image via Flickr by Wendy / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]A natural harbor, Table Bay then became a regular stopover for Danish, Dutch, English, French, and Portuguese ships in the late 16th century as they headed to the Indies. They reportedly traded copper, iron, and tobacco with the local Khoikhoi people in exchange for fresh meat to nourish them on their voyages.
Today, Cape Town is a modern and cosmopolitan city with plenty to offer the tourist. Obvious sites to visit are the infamous Robben Island, prison home to Nelson Mandela from 1964 to 1982.
Robben Island [Image via Flickr by South African Tourism / CC BY 2.0]Mandela then moved to first Pollsmoor and then Victor Verster prison in the city until his release in 1990. The island can be accessed by boat from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, allowing visitors to view the cell where Mandela spent so much of his life.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (or V&A Waterfront as it is popularly known) is a fairly recent addition to the existing shipping and fishing harbor of Cape Town. World-class shopping is available along with many restaurants offering all types of cuisine, along with sailing, fishing, and other boat trips out into Table Bay.
V&A Waterfront [Image via Flickr by slack12 / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]Table Mountain itself, bracketed by Devil’s Peak and the iconic Lions Head and Signal Hill, is a fascinating visit and can be accessed by cable car from the city below. A stroll around the top of the mountain offers incredible views from all sides, of the city itself, out into the Atlantic Sea, and of the surrounding beaches and mountains.
It is, however, best to avoid a trip up the mountain when the famous “table cloth” of cloud shrouds the summit, as you won’t get to enjoy the view from the top.
Table Mountain table cloth [Image via Flickr by Johannes Zielcke / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0]The city itself offers a varied shopping and dining experience, with local delicacies and fresh fish available along with all types of international cuisine. To see a little of Cape Town’s past, a trip to Bo-Kaap is fascinating, with its multi-colored houses serving as a living museum of the Cape Malay culture.
The residential area dates back to the time when slaves were brought in from Maritime Southeast Asia.
Bo-Kaap [Image via Flickr by South African Tourism / CC BY 2.0]The people were mostly Javanese from what is Indonesia today and spoke Malayu, hence the name Cape Malay was born. The Bo-Kaap is now a multi-cultural area where visitors can sample the delicious Cape Malay cuisine and purchase the various spices used in the culinary delights.
And then there are the endless beaches, with the coastline on both sides of Table Mountain offering endless sandy vistas, rock pools to explore, and great sunsets over the Atlantic Sea.
Heading one way along the West Coast, a visitor can experience Bloubergstrand and Milnerton, both offering the popular postcard view of Table Mountain and the best in surfing conditions.
Camps Bay & the 12 Apostles Mountains [Image via Flickr by Michael Coghlan / CC BY-SA 2.0]Heading the other way, the beaches of the Atlantic Seaboard, including Clifton, Camps Bay, Llandudno, and Hout Bay, are a definite must on a Cape Town vacation in the beautiful Western Cape.
False Bay offers a long sandy beach running from Gordon’s Bay through to Muizenberg, with its quaint and colorful beach huts lining the beach.
Muizenberg Beach [Image via Flickr by Clint Mason / CC BY 2.0]The Winelands of the Western Cape are located not far from the city of Cape Town and offer spectacular scenery, coated with the red and white grapevines and with many wine farms available for a wine tasting, delicious meal, or even an overnight stay.
Stellenbosch vineyard [Image via Flickr by Dave Bezaire / CC BY-SA 2.0]The historic towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are well worth a mention, with their attractive Cape Dutch buildings and restaurants serving the delicious Cape cuisine along with a touch of the French, all washed down with an excellent South African wine.
Further afield, there is always the adventure of shark cage diving with the great white sharks in Gansbaai, or a tamer and enjoyable visit can be made to the penguins at Boulder’s Beach in historic Simon’s Town.
Penguins at Boulders Beach [Image via Flickr by 一元 马 / CC BY 2.0]As reported by the official Cape Town Tourism website, anyone keen on the game of golf, deep sea fishing, water sports of any kind, or just a relaxing day on the beach is spoiled for choice in Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape. The endless adventure, excitement, and fun on offer in the area make it an ideal destination on a South African vacation.
To experience the beauty of Cape Town and its surroundings, enjoy a time-lapse view of Cape Town, put together by photographer Brendon Wainwright below, along with a brief video tour of the top 10 things to do in Cape Town where the Vaga Brothers can be heard to use various South Africanisms, like “It’s lekker, my China.”