Cape Town inspires discovery. Established in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India and the Far East, it has grown into the best place in the world to visit, as voted for by the prestige New York Times and the Telegraph in 2014. Today, this vibrant multicultural city is a pulsating plethora of activity and we have compiled a list of what simply has to be seen and done when on a visit to the mother city:
A trip to Cape Town isn't complete without a visit to the icon that is Table Mountain. It's even included on the city's flag. The Table Mountain National Park surrounds the base and the table top, as it is affectionately known, is a 1086 metre high summit, measuring 3km from end to end. The cable way is the most popular tourist destination in Cape Town and over 16 million people have been to the top since the opening in 1929.
The panoramic views are what transfix all that reach the top. When skies are clear, you can see right across the Cape Flats to the Hottentots Holland Mountains. These views rival some of the best on the planet and the car itself has a revolving floor giving passengers a 360 degree view over Cape Town as the ascend and descend.
The base of Table Mountain comprises the Table Mountain National Park. It stretches from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south and for interest's sake; the Table Mountain National Park has more plant species than the British Isles. During specific times of the year, Table Mountain is floodlit and is a beacon of inspiration, standing watch over the city of Cape Town. Departures are conveniently every 10 minutes in the high season which are the months of December to February and every 20 minutes in low season, which is May to September. The Cableway doesn't operate when it's very windy or the when the tablecloth (a mist that descends over the table top) makes its striking appearance.
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is situated in the centre of Cape Town's working Harbour, between historic Robben Island and Table Mountain. It was named after a visit by Queen Victoria and her second son Alfred. It is today, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Cape Town. It is a combination of shopping, entertainment and offices, hotels, apartments and residential marina. The concept is that it is the place of living, working, playing and shopping. The shops, restaurants and cinemas are open well into the night and it is always alive with activity.
Great care has been taken into maintaining the architectural landmarks, ensuring they retain their original character while development has sprung up around them. The Clock Tower at the V&A Waterfront is a beautiful example of this, it's a Victorian gothic-style clock that was restored in 1997 and is now a national monument. A Dragon Tree is over 100 years old and is the largest of its type in Cape Town. It's rooted firmly next to the Time Ball Tower, yet another example of Victorian architecture, near the dock house.
The V&A Waterfront is the starting point of all trips to Robben Island and a number of pleasure cruises, yacht charters and trips are available. It is also home to the Two Oceans Aquarium, with an impressive 3000 living sea animals, including sharks and penguins; it's a delightful trip "under the sea".
Robben Island is most famous for its most famous prisoner, Nelson Mandela, South Africa's first democratic president. The once former maximum-security prison and its association with apartheid, is today, a world heritage site. It is now home to a museum that reflects the victory and strength of a man that inspired millions all over the globe.
Robben Island had been used as a prison from 1846 to 1931 and was used to incarcerate indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders for the East Indies, Dutch and British settler soldiers and civilians, women and anti-apartheid activists. The island stopped being a prison in 1996 and was declared a world heritage site in 1999 because of its cultural significance. The museum offers workshops, tours and camps for anyone interested in learning more about historical and modern South Africa. Visitors can see the former prison, view memorabilia of past prisoners, visit quarry mines where they were forced to dig. The island is now also a sanctuary for bird life with over 132 species. The ferry trip to the island is also chance to spot some of the marine life.
The beaches in Cape Town are simply put, world-class. Mountains and sea dominate Cape Town and even though the water is cold, many flock to the white sands to soak up the African sun or participate in water sports, surfing being a popular pastime. South Africa was one of the first countries, outside of Europe, to earn blue flag status for some of her beaches and there are three on offer in the Mother City. The blend of two oceans, being the Atlantic and the Indian, divided by a 1000m high peninsula, makes Cape Town an enviable beach holiday destination. The most popular of these beaches being Clifton's four beaches and Camp's Bay.
Right at the end of the Cape Peninsula, is Cape Point. It's also known as the Cape of Good Hope or the Cape of Storms and it is in the Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park. It is rightfully a World Heritage Site and this tip of land has some of the highest sea cliffs and the freshest air. It is often mistaken as the southern most tip of Africa when in fact that honour goes to Cape Agulhas. This doesn't deter from it being a frequently visited and awe inspiring attraction. The indigenous flora of Cape Point is found nowhere else on earth and is home to animals that include the likes of the Cape Mountain Zebra, Chacma Baboons and over 250 species of bird.
The lighthouse is the most powerful on the South African coast and a funicular known as "the Flying Dutchman" takes passengers 238m above sea level to the old lighthouse. There are a myriad of marked paths for strolls or walks within the reserve and the Buffelsfontein visitors centre has displays and presentations about the area complete with a restaurant perfectly perched for supreme views of the ocean.
Lying at the foot of the eastern slopes of Table Mountain is the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. It is a natural wonder of Cape Town, with 528 hectares of pristine garden beauty. Egyptian geese and the resident meercats as well as an impressive display of South African plants populate Kirstenbosch. There is a water-wise garden, a fragrance garden, a garden that explains the medicinal purposes of some plants and the Dell-one of the oldest parts of the garden featuring tree ferns. A new addition known as the “Boomslang” has been added, which is an elevated walkway through the treetops, providing a unique glimpse through the garden and surrounding Table Mountain. During summer, which is between December and March, there are a series of musical sunset concerts held on the manicured lawns and a craft market is held at the stone cottages on the last Sunday of every month, except during winter. There are several restaurants, a shop and of course, a nursery.
The Cape Winelands are usually top of the list on any visit to Cape Town. Experiencing viticulture, revelling in restored Cape Dutch farmsteads with characteristic gables and thatched roofs, and the mountains that provides a majestic backdrop to all of this, is enticing to say the least. The Cape Winelands are some of the most scenic bar none and wine tourism is one of South Africa's fastest growing industries.
The Cape Winelands stretch from the coast to the plains of the Little Karoo, where grapes are also grown in the riverine valleys. Today, there are approximately 560 wineries and over 4000 primary producers of vineyards in the Cape. The weather is perfect for growing grapes that produce award winning wines in a setting that is drenched in natural beauty.