Cape Town holds the distinction of being named the best place in the world to visit by both The New York Times and the U.K.’s Telegraph. Breathtaking natural landscapes, rich culture and an emerging arts scene make the city shine.
Cape Town is South Africa’s second-largest economic hub, behind Johannesburg. Fishing, wood-product manufacturing, clothing and textiles, electronics and hospitality are the dominant industries. Finance and business services are expanding at a fast pace. Real estate and construction are growing, too, spurred by the 2010 World Cup and demand for new residences and vacation homes.
Getting to and from the airport
Cape Town International Airport is 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the city center. The MyCiTi bus rapid transit system provides a shuttle service that connects to the Civic Centre bus station in downtown Cape Town. Buses depart every 20 minutes from 5:10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Metered taxis are available outside the arrival terminal. For safety, use Touch Down Taxis, the airport’s only authorized taxi service. Depending on traffic, the trip costs between 300 and 400 South African Rand (US$24.36 to US$32.48, using the exchange rate US$1 to R12.32)
Getting around Cape Town
MyCiTi buses link the city, offering public transportation to the central business district, major landmarks and attractions. Bus drivers do not accept cash. You’ll need to load money onto a myconnect card, which can be purchased at MyCiTi stations, tourism centers and select retailers. Fares are based on distance travelled. Taxis are a reliable way to get around. Rates are about R10 (US$0.81) per kilometer. You’ll find taxis at hotels, landmarks and taxi stands throughout the city.
Where to stay
For luxury and upscale accommodation, try Taj Cape Town (Wale Street, Cape Town 8001; Ph: +27-21-819-2000), The Westin Grand Cape Town Arabella Quays (Convention Square, Cape Town 8001; Ph: + 27-21-412-9999) or Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront Cape Town (Beach Road, Granger Bay, Cape Town 8002; Ph: + 27-21-441-3000).
Midscale and economy options include NH The Lord Charles (corner of Faure and Stellenbosch roads, Cape Town 7130; Ph: +27-21-855-1040) or Holiday Inn Express Cape Town City Centre (101 St. Georges Mall, Cape Town 8001; Ph: + 27-21-480-8300).
Things to see and do
Table Mountain is a fixture on any Cape Town itinerary. And it now has the distinction of being one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. The iconic flat-topped mountain provides a magnificent backdrop to the city. Activities including hiking, rock climbing, mountain biking, paragliding and bird-watching. If it’s just the majestic views you’re after, hop on the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. A return ticket is R225 (US$18.27), and a one-way ticket is R115 (US$9.34). Operating times are 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. February to November and 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. December and January.
For anyone interested in South Africa’s history, a visit to Robben Island is a must. The island has become a symbol of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and oppression. It’s the site of the maximum-security prison that held Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid activist who later would become president of a democratic South Africa. Tours of the island last just under four hours and include a return ferry trip. Former political prisoners guide visitors around the island, including a stop at Mandela’s former cell. Ferries depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The tour costs R280 (US$22.73).
You’ll find many of Cape Town’s museums clustered around a pedestrian strip of Government Avenue, aptly dubbed “Museum Mile.” A few are part of the Iziko Museum’s collection of 12 national museums across three spheres—national history, social history and arts. Look for the Iziko South African National Gallery, Iziko South African Museum and Iziko Slave Lodge. Admission to each museum is R30 (US$2.44), and hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
If you’re craving some rest and relaxation, head to one of Cape Town’s beautiful beaches. The most popular are Camps Bay and Clifton Beach. But to get away from the crowds, head to Oudekraal Beach, 15 minutes from the city center. You’ll find sparkling, turquoise water and white sand—the stuff that postcards are made of. A protected cove provides a safe swimming area, as well as opportunities for diving and snorkeling. It’s part of Table Mountain National Park, so you’ll have to pay an entrance fee of R30 (US$2.44). The beach is open from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.
For a faster pace, visit Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, a bustling shopping, dining and entertainment area that offers sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s at the foot of Table Mountain and looks onto Table Bay Harbor. Duck in to one of many restaurants that line the harbor, and wind down with a sunset cocktail.
Where to eat
There’s no excuse for eating poorly in Cape Town. World-class wines, fresh produce and diverse culinary influences ensure you’ll find high-quality options.
The Test Kitchen is considered the best restaurant in the country and has earned a place on San Pellegrino’s prestigious world’s 50 best restaurants list. Make a reservation at least a month in advance; if you get in, the experience is worth the wait. A unique combination of South African and Asian influences shape every dish. The open kitchen allows patrons to see, hear and smell what’s cooking. Find it at The Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town 7915; Ph: +27 21 447 2337.
With a location right on the harbor, Baia Seafood Restaurant offers a mouthwatering menu that includes Mozambican shellfish, lobster from the Cape and West Coast oysters. Elegant white-linen tablecloths and modern artwork set the mood. Find Baia at Shop 6262, Victoria Wharf Shopping Center, V&A Waterfront, Cape Town 8001; Ph:+27 21 421 0935.
La Mouette serves modern French cuisine with a Mediterranean flair. Find a cozy spot next to one of the old fireplaces in the welcoming Tudor-style dining room. For the best value, try the six-course tasting menu. The restaurant is at 78 Regent Road, Sea Point, Cape Town 8005; Ph: +27 21 433 0856.
Café Paradiso offers a laid-back atmosphere for lunch and dinner. The menu is simple with fresh salads, healthy sandwiches and homemade pastas. The café’s crown jewels are baked goods, so save room for dessert. It’s at 110 Kloof Street, Cape Town 8001; Ph: +27 21 423 8653.