Cape Town overview

Many visitor's fall in love with South Africa's multifaceted 'Mother City'

Cape Town overview Nestling at the foot of Table Mountain - © Jurie Senekal/Time Out
By Lisa Van Aswegen

Cape Town's most distinctive feature is its stunning setting: it lies on a dramatic coastline of pristine white beaches and icy waters, overlooked by the iconic flat-topped Table Mountain.


Then there’s its unique ethnic mix, which sets it apart from the rest of South Africa: only 31 per cent of its people are black Africans (the national average is just under 80 per cent); many Cape Town residents have a mixed heritage, including those from the distinctive Cape Malay community. And while many Capetonians still live divided lives, the generation born after 1994 is entering adolescence and paving the way for a truly integrated society, one that strives to embrace the South African concept of the rainbow nation.

But while Cape Town may be different from the rest of South Africa, it shares many problems with the wider nation: poverty, the AIDS epidemic, crime (although it is one of the nation’s safest cities). At the time of writing, however, the prevailing mood was one of exhilaration. The 2010 FIFA World Cup Football Tournament is coming to town, and with the gigantic new Green Point stadium taking shape, Capetonians can’t help but be excited about the people, investment and interest that this event will bring.

Read more about The 2010 FIFA World Cup Football Tournament

Whatever challenges it faces, one thing is constant: this multifaceted city has a habit of making people fall in love with it. For some it could be the view of Camps Bay and the glistening ocean as you crest Kloof Nek that’s the draw; for others the sound of the muezzin’s call to prayer wafting over Bo Kaap on a misty morning; or the smell of a fresh espresso at the Neighbourgoods Market in gritty Woodstock; or the sensation of sand between the toes while walking with penguins on Boulder’s Beach; or simply the taste of aromatic spices as you dig into a midnight samosa from a roadside stall on Long Street.

Read more about Cape Town's areas


With sights as diverse as Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for many years, and Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, with its abundant range of African flora, Cape Town’s attractions cover the natural world and the country’s fascinating history in equal measure. Add in wine farms, a string of stunning beaches, and opportunities to see wildlife for a rounded picture of this unique city.

See all museums & attractions in Cape Town


Cape Town has the best food and drink in the country, from cutting-edge molecular gastronomy, to classic bistro fare and African dishes. Wine bars are becoming increasingly popular and the traditional pub is making a comeback. This section also covers the full gamut of the city’s diverse shops and includes over 60 hotel reviews – from hip budget options to lavishly luxurious accommodation.

See all shops, restaurants & cafés, bars & pubs, and hotels in Cape Town

Arts & entertainment

The city is the hub of a cutting-edge art scene, with new galleries – many concentrated in the Woodstock area – showcasing the works of up-and-coming artists and openings packed to the rafters. There’s also a vibrant and diverse music scene, pumping nightlife and a lively gay culture. In this section you’ll find listings for everything from rock venues to contemporary galleries.

See all music venues, art spaces, theatres, clubs, and dance venues in Cape Town

Escapes & excursions

No visit to Cape Town is complete without a tour of the Cape Winelands. Discovering wine farms and phenomenal food along the way is one of the greatest pleasures of the Mother City’s hinterlands. Also not to be missed are the windswept charms of the West Coast, the Whale Route’s winding roads, and the spectacular natural beauty of the Garden Route.

Read more about the Cape Winelands in 20 great things to do in Cape Town

See all venues in Cape Town