Cape Town, South Africa
Created | Updated Jan 28, 2002
Cape Town (Kaapstaad in Afrikaans) is the legislative capital of South Africa, and home to world famous Table Mountain. It is sometimes called the 'Tavern of the Seas' since it spans the head of the Cape Peninsula, and it is regarded by most of its residents as the most beautiful city South Africa has to offer. Among its many attractions are Table Mountain, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, Robben Island, the beaches, and its proximity to Cape Point. The City Centre is home to the Cape Town Castle, Gardens and Museum, as well as a Planetarium, shops, bars, clubs and the craft and flower markets. There are at least 3 Internet cafés in Cape Town, and also at some of the big hotels (the Purple Turtle off Greenmarket Square charges R10 for 15 minutes).
'Dockside' at Ratunga Junction, just outside the centre of Cape Town, is the hippest place to be at night. It is the largest and newest club in town, but its drinks are also the most expensive. Cape Town also plays host to international bands and sporting events.
At 1085.9 metres, Table Mountain dominates the city skyline. It can be climbed by many paths, or ascended via a trip in the rotating cable car (R65 return). The views from the top are incomparable, and you can send your friends an email from the 'roof of Cape Town' (any other present from the top is likely to prove expensive). The most famous view of Table Mountain can be gained from Blouwberg Strand on the opposite side of Table Bay, or from Robben Island.
This flat island in Table Bay was home to one of the most notorious prisons in the world, where Nelson Mandela and other leading anti-apartheid figures were jailed. Robben Island is now a national park home to several rare wildlife species. The Prison itself is now a museum, and the island can be reached by ferry tours from the Cape Town Waterfront. The regular tours (often partly led by ex-prisoners) cost just over R100 and include the ferry and the prison tour as well as a bus tour of the island.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
The Waterfront is a major hub of city life and a main tourist destination. Buses leave the main Cape Town station at Adderly Street for the Waterfront every ten minutes. It is a working port, as well as home to numerous shops, craft stalls, restaurants and cinemas, possibly more expensive than anywhere else in Cape Town but with an atmosphere of their own. It is also the location of Cape Town's Imax cinema, and South Africa's largest Aquarium, which at R34 is well worth a visit, to see seals, jellyfish, penguins, sharks and the amazing Kelp Forest Tank.
Cape Point is traditionally said to be where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean, with a visible line in the sea where this occurs. It isn't and there isn't. The two oceans actually meet at Cape Agulhas on the other side of False Bay. However, it is well worth one's while to make a day trip down to the Cape Of Good Hope Nature Reserve, and stop at Boulder's beach on the way down to see the penguins, then travel back up the west coast to Cape Town. You can climb to the very end of the point (there is a funicular to take you up the first bit of the hill if you want) and in the reserve you can see baboons, ostriches and bucks. Many major bus companies run day trips down to Cape Point.
The beaches are of course one of Cape Town's main attractions, and the only one that most locals regularly frequent. It is reported that the beaches on the west coast of the peninsula are colder than those on the east coast. This is true because Llandudno, Camps Bay and Clifton (on the west) are the recipients of an Antarctic cold current, rather than because Muizenberg, Fishhoek and St James (on the east) are on the Indian Ocean (which they aren't). Llandudno is possibly the coldest beach in Cape Town, but also one of the most beautiful, and is a major surfing venue. On the same coast, Clifton's 'Bikini Beaches' and Camps Bay give dramatic views of Lion's Head and Table Mountain's Twelve Apostles. The eastern beaches are more popular with families as they are generally safer, with smaller waves. Mkuizenberg has a set of supertube flumes, and St James has a beach pool which gets submerged at high tide. Fishhoek is possible the nicest and cleanest of the east coast beaches, but take your own beer for the picnic as you cannot buy any alcohol in the town. The eastern beaches can be reached on the Cape Town to Simonstown train line, while buses and taxis run from Cape Town centre round to Clifton and Camps Bay.