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The best of Cape Town
There are few better places to saunter aimlessly – and get a thrill out of it – than Cape Town. A fascinating blend of African, European and Malay influences, this wonderful city has emerged over the past two decades not just as one of the world’s great capitals, but also as South Africa’s thriving, diverse, exhilarating heart. Any number of websites, apps and tours can help visitors get the most out of what locals call the Mother City. But the key is to approach this metropolis the way Capetonians do themselves: kick back at the beach, feast at one of many first-rate restaurants, knock back a glass of wine, and, above all, Moenie worry nie – relax and enjoy. Here’s our pick of the absolute best things to do in Cape Town. Done something on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutDoList and tag @TimeOutEverywhere. Find out more about how Time Out selects the very best things to do all over the world.
Capetonians love to eat, and visitors love to eat in Cape Town. Fresh, local ingredients are the norm here, and the South African capital’s melting pot of cultures makes for a brilliantly diverse, globally inspired culinary landscape. But if there’s one Cape Town classic you shouldn’t miss? Try the Gatsby sandwich, a mainstay of the city’s markets that’s so long and overstuffed with slaap chips and polony that sharing is essential. At the other end of the spectrum, fine diners will be delighted by the tasting menus and wine lists (plus occasional beach views) at the city’s priciest restaurants. From haute cuisine to cheap eats, these are our favourite restaurants in Cape Town right now. Eaten somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutEatList.
Looking for things to do in Cape Town that are both quintessential and totally unique? Take a break from the museums and beaches and check out the city's diverse array of shops. Few cities offer such a stylish and accessible fusion of African and Western aesthetics as Cape Town does - be it in the form of fabrics, leather and other materials, gems and precious stones or a gentle nod to a local culture. Cape Town houses the international big brands and convenient malls where you can indulge in hours of browsing and shopping under one roof, but for a more immersive experience, the standalone boutiques will get you to experience some of the most iconic neighborhoods and streets – like Long, Bree and Kloof.
Beach life is big in Cape Town (one of the top things to do in the city, no doubt), despite the fact water temperatures range from chilly to frigid. Still, you’ll see surfers riding waves, divers exploring underwater wonders, and enough sea life to satisfy shore snorkelers—and then there’s the sand. As of 2018, Cape Town led the country with the highest number of Blue Flag beaches, an international designation awarded to beaches that meet high standards for quality control. Simply put, these are considered the best of the best in terms of environmental education, safety, service facilities, and water quality. While quality control is always a nice barometer, it’s not the only one. We can testify that some of the best beaches are ones less developed or that offer experiences you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else—plus lots of top restaurants, hotels and markets nearby. No matter where you throw down your towel, prepare to be dazzled with spectacular mountain views, picture-worthy turquoise waters, and dramatic beachfronts boasting tide pools, marble boulders, and insane sunsets.
Once you’ve taken in the vistas from the heights of Table Mountain, dipped your toes in the icy Atlantic along the city's best beaches and made heart-eyes at the penguins, it’s time to mingle with the locals at one of Cape Town’s numerous markets across the breath of the city. If you’re looking for a unique shopping experience, check out artisan-made wooden sculptures from around Africa, organic market produce, a taste of the Cape’s iconic bites like koessusters (coconut-flecked spiced doughnuts) and Cape Malay curries or shweshwe tailored dresses in contemporary styles—Cape Town’s markets reveal the heart of the city, and should top your list of things to do while you're visiting. One of the draws of the markets is that wherever you look, you’re likely to be surrounded by a natural or historic feature that makes this city a vacationer’s dream.
The beauty of South Africa is in its diversity; they don’t call it the rainbow nation for nothing. There are 11 official languages, thousands of years of human history, and a unique spread of biodiversity and stunning beaches that stretch from Cape Point to Kruger. For many, Cape Town has it all—it’s an urban, international oasis with tons of cultural things to do, from craft markets to world-class restaurants, surrounded by nature, art, and history. This multifaceted city is best viewed through the different lenses of her world-class and specialty museums; and whether you’re looking to explore cultural heritage, get interactive, take in ancient or contemporary art, or gain insight into the life of Capetonians today, there’s a museum for that.
Cape Town’s best hotels are as diverse as its mountain-to-beach landscape. Want to feel like you’re out on safari while in the city? No problem. Looking for a historic estate property off the city’s wine route? You got it. Need the most bang for your buck before checking out the local Airbnbs? Done. The Mother City has everything from chain high rises in the bustling Central Business District to bespoke boutiques along the beachfront, plus great budget-friendly options along the way. The range of rates here stretches wide, with five-star hotels charging anywhere from under $200 to over $1,000 a night. Whatever experience you’re after or whatever budget you’re on, here are the best hotels in Cape Town for you to check out, before you check in.
When it comes to finding a city with an incredible mix of history, wildlife and nature, and top restaurants, hotels and things to do, few cities do it better than Cape Town. Iconic natural beauties like Table Mountain, magnificent animals like the African lion and African elephant and a rich tapestry of civil rights history – you’ll find it all here, at the Southern reach of the African continent. And if you’re visiting this idyllic metropolis, there’s no better way to embrace authentic living than by staying in an Airbnb. So we’ve gathered a list of some of the best Airbnb venues in Cape Town, to make booking a breeze. Permission to daydream, granted.