A Day in Cape Town South Africa – Part Two
Heather Markel, Writer, Speaker, Photographer, Traveler, Business Strategist
Too much to be able to see it all in a day, even two.
As I mentioned in my last post, Cape Town is much bigger than originally meets the eye. I highly recommend a minimum of a week there to really take in what it has to offer. But, if time is not on your side, I’m sharing what I feel are the highlights of this amazing city. You may wonder if it’s safe with so many disturbing news stories and government warnings. This is definitely a city where you have to pay attention. Take the warnings seriuosly about not walking alone at night, and not giving money to beggars. If you follow the warnings and stick to areas known to be safe, you shouldn’t have a problem.
View from the V&A Waterfront.
Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2020
The Wider City
In this article I’ll take you through some of the major neighborhoods in Cape Town. You could easily spend a half day to a full day in each one, or you can run around like mad or take the City Sightseeing Bus and race your way through to at least see them.
The waterfront (point A on the map) is absolutely spellbinding on a warm, sunny day. There are five main activities to focus on here. First, the watershed has a wonderful crafts market. It is more pricey than the one in Greenmarket Square, but you’ll see these crafts are higher end. You can still try to bargain with some of the vendors here. Next, don’t miss out on the wonderful seafood. There’s a food hall with all kinds of fasst and slow food as well as several restaurants overlooking the harbor. Prices vary, so you can splurge or go easy on your budget. You can’t miss the huge shopping mall, so if you need anything or want some African souvenirs, you can get them here. The aquarium here, though small, is interesting to spend some time in. You can watch fish, see sharks, even touch sting rays. Especially popular if you’re traveling wtih kids. Finally, the Waterfront serves as the departure point to Robben Island where Mandela was imprisoned. You can buy your tickets near the Clock Tower and you’ll depart from there on the morning or afternoon of whatever day you choose.
Sea Point, Bantry Bay, Clifton, Camps Bay
(Points B, C, D, and E.) Much less touristy feeling than the V&A Waterfront are all the neighborhoods that follow along the boardwalk. You could spend a glorious day walking along the water, you can also use the MyCity bus, if you’re short on time, line #104, to see how beautiful this area is. Another option is to walk one block away from the water, to Regent Road, and eat at one of the local restaurants, or grab a cup of coffee. This is a much more residential neighborhood, and is more open and safe-feeling than Greenmarket Square. I came to love the Sea Point area, and Mischu coffee. Here’s a breakdown on these areas.
Bantry Bay and Sea Point are more residential. As mentioned, you can walk along the water, or you can go to Mojo Market which has a small crafts area, and some fun eateries. Strolla Bar gives you a nice view of the water if you want to enjoy a cocktail. This is just a nice area to feel at ease and take a nice walk.
Clifton is fascinating – it’s basically very expensive homes built into a cliff. Sort of amazing to see, and in stark contrast to the housing in the city center. After Clifton is Camps Bay, one of my favorite places! The beach here is beautiful. You can sit on it and enjoy the water, but I think it’s the views of Table Mountain behind you that are astounding. I spent hours spellbound here. There’s even a man that occasionally makes some of the most beautiful sand sculptures I ever saw. Across from the beach are some fun restaurants, albeit a little pricey, and a small shopping center. Again, you can use MyCiti bus #104 to get here, or the City Sightseeing bus.
Speaking of Table Mountain, (point F) you may fancy hiking up the mountain, or using the convenient cable car. (Note the cable car undergoes maintenance and doesn’t run for several weeks each year, and if the weather is too windy, service is suspended.) You can also hike up to Lion’s Head, both of these offer spectacular city views. A great option if you want to hike with other people is Hike Table Mountain. I had Liesl as my guide for Lion’s Head (point G) and we were a small group of 4. If you want to get to the cable car, you can transfer to MyCiti bus 106 or 107 which takes you right to the base of the cable car via a shuttle. There’s also a lookout point and a hidden area to get a drink with a lovely view nearby on Signal Hill.
“Splendid views of Table Mountain from everywhere.”
Hout Bay (point H) is known as one of the wealthiest in Cape Town. You’ll see some beautiful areas. One of the main things to do in Hout Bay is to go to the Fish Market which offers another excellent crafts market. In contrast to the Watershed, it seems like more of the owners are at their table so you’re working directly with the creators. (The market is only open from Friday evening to Sunday, so check whether it’s open before going.) Of course, the fish and chips are one of the main draws. All the locals head to Fish On The Rocks. The only challenge is, on a windy, cold day, they only have open seating, so you may find it too cold to eat there. It’s basic take out, and you sit at picnic tables. There is some shelter, but not enough on a cold or rainy day. If weather doesn’t cooperate, head to Snoekies, which also offers great food, but a bit more shelter. Finally, you may want to head over to the docks to get a boat to Seal Island, or just pet the seal that visits daily. There’s another African crafts market here, though much less impressive than the one at the Fishmarket. Depending where you want to go, I’d suggest the City Sightseeing bus or an Uber to get here.
(point I) If you enjoy wine, you’ll want to spend at least half a day here. Without needing a complicated or expensive ride out to Franshoek or Stellenbosch, you can enjoy excellent wines right in Cape Town. My two favorites were High Constantia and Groot Constantia. High Constantia, at first, I thought was someone’s garage. There is a tasting sign outside, but it’s very low key. Don’t let that deter you – I went inside and was led out to the balcony and enjoyed an excellent tasting while meeting a Belgian family celebrating the marriage of their daughter to a South African. Then I walked up the road to Groot Constantia which is amazing. The grounds are as breathtaking as the wines. There are two tasting rooms. The one further back is closer to several restaurants, catering to most budgets, and you can then enjoy a walk in the vines. The wine tasting was about $6! I went off season and did not make any tasting reservations. It’s a good idea to call and ask if you need one, however. The vineyards are impossible to get to without either City Sightseeing, which stops at Groot Constantia, or using an Uber.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Kirstenbosch is another delightful way to spend several hours. The gardens are elaborate and offer beautiful views and an ideal way to spend time in nature. There’s a sculpture garden, a tribute to Nelson Mandela, and, if you’re lucky, you’ll see some birds that you’ll think are hummingbirds but are actually sunbirds. (red marker in middle of map.)
Monkeying around at the monkey park in Cape Town’s World of Birds.
Photograph by Heather Markel, Copyright 2020
(point J) I spent the half a day in the Khayelitsha township and it was nothing like I expected. I spent a half day there, ate lunch, met locals, and even planted spinach in the garden of one of the residents in the poorest area. I met some of the kids, took their photos, and spoke to many people. If you plan to take the time to see a township, I strongly recommend Juma Art Tours. He’ll also take you to Woodstock and explain the street murals in the community there. (If you have time, visit the Old Biscuit Mill on a Saturday when it’s a craft market and grab a bite to eat, though be warned it closes at 3pm.) Juma is bringing art into the townships and you can even paint as part of your tour with him in Khayelitsha.