Cape Town was originally established as a supply station for Dutch East Indies’ ships that were headed east. Its holds a picturesque location on the South African coast, offering stunning bay and ocean views with Table Mountain as a scenic backdrop. It is considered one of the most popular tourist destinations in Africa, because of its outstanding scenery, mild climate and great tourist facilities. An overview of the top tourist attractions in Cape Town:
Muizenberg Beach is a coastal suburb of Cape Town. The sandy beach isn’t very long, but the water is warmer to swim in than other Cape Beaches. Its biggest attraction, however, may be the waves that make it popular with surfers; it is where surfing began in South Africa. Muizenberg Beach is a good place to learn this water sport, with lessons readily available. The area fell into disrepair in the late 20th century, but is now pulling itself back up to its former splendor. Non-beach attractions include the house that Cecil Rhodes built and where he died in 1902.
The Castle of Good Hope, shaped like a pentagon, is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. The Dutch East India Company started construction on it in 1666 to replenish supplies for ships; its gate design includes the coats of arms of several Dutch cities. It is a Cape military installation today, as well as home to the Castle Military Museum and the Iziko Museums of Cape Town. The Military Museum tells the history of the Cape, while the Iziko Museum displays historical paintings and antique furniture, known as the William Fehr collection.
The Kirstenbosch National Botanic Gardens, established in 1913, is one of the world’s great botanical gardens, and was the first to concentrate on a country’s native plants. Kirstenbosch features not only plants from the Cape area but also from throughout southern Africa. The garden is set against a backdrop of Table Mountain, a fact that offers visitors some pretty stunning views. Hikers may enjoy a walk on the trail that starts in the garden and leads to the top of Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch is the most famous of nine national botanical gardens in South Africa.
Spectacular scenery is a good reason to visit Cape Point, located at the very end of the Cape Peninsula. Less than 65 km (40 miles) from Cape Town, Cape Point is extremely picturesque with high boulders and stunning ocean views. Part of the Table Mountain National Park, Cape Point is home to about 250 species of birds as well as baboons and zebra. Its tremendous variety of plant life helps make Cape Point a photographer’s paradise. Visitors have a choice of walking a steep path or taking a funicular to the light house atop the boulders.
Cape Town has some of the best city beaches in the world to offer. Clifton Beach is certainly the trendiest of them all and is situated on the west Atlantic side only ten minutes from the city center. Clifton is actually a series of four beaches separated by a stretch of granite boulders. All the beaches have almost pure white sand and offer beautiful views and sunsets. Unfortunately though the water looks blue and appealing, is in fact always very chilly averaging around 12 to 16 °C, and only bearable on a hot summer day.
Bo-Kaap, also known as the Malay Quarter, is a colorful neighborhood not far from central Cape Town. Its brightly painted, uniquely-styled houses, some dating back to the 18th century, and cobblestone streets create marvelous photo opps for visitors. Bo-Kaap is a multicultural area, home to Muslim mosques and shrines, and the Bo-Kaap Museum that showcases the life of early Muslims in the area. The museum also features 19th century furnishings found in Cape Town homes of that era. Previous visitors say the best way to explore Bo-Kaap is on foot.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is considered one of South Africa’s most popular attractions, with its stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean, Table Bay and Table Mountain. Named for the British Queen Victoria and her youngest son Alfred, who tipped the first stones for the breakwater back in the 1860s, the historic waterfront today boasts a variety of shops, restaurants and nightlife. The waterfront also is home to art galleries, an aquarium, an amphitheater with live entertainment that is usually free, and a ship museum, among other attractions.
There aren’t too many places in the world where one can walk on the beach, sunbathe or swim with penguins as companions, but Boulders Beach is one of them. Two penguins settled on this beach, an hour’s drive from Cape Town, in 1982. Now more than 2,000 penguins call this beach home. These are African penguins, sometimes called “jackass” penguins because their chirps sound more like a donkey’s bray than a bird tweet. The path to the penguin area is wheel-chair accessible and allows visitors to get within a few feet of the penguins. While the penguins are used to humans, visitors should look, but not touch them, as they may bite if they get scared.
Located just off the coast of Cape Town, Robben Island is not a place to go if visitors are looking only for a good time. Over a span of three centuries, Robben Island was used as a military base, a hospital for those with socially unacceptable diseases such as lepers and as a prison for political prisoners. Its most famous prisoner was undoubtedly Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned here for 18 years; he went on to become president of South Africa following his release. Today Robben Island is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Cape Town and can be reached by ferry from the V&A Waterfront.
Situated within a national park, reaching the pinnacle of the Table Mountain is an thrilling experience that offers phenomenal, birds-eye views overlooking the city of Cape Town, Robben Island to the north, and the Atlantic seaboard to the west and south. Peaking at 1,086 meters (3,563 ft), the top can easily be reached via an ingenuous cableway, and each Rotair car features revolving floors allowing passengers to enjoy 360-degree views during the trek to the top.