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Cape Town: An Insider Guide to the Mother City

Published 30 March 2016

Dawn Jorgensen

Regularly voted as one of the best travel destinations in the world, Cape Town is alluring from the moment you catch a glimpse of Table Mountain from the plane on your approach for landing. An iconic image familiar to anyone who has scoured travel mags and blogs, as well as guide books in preparation of their visit.

Yet most travellers these days are seeking out an insider look that will take them beyond the obvious points of interest to the places locals frequent. They want a feel of the real, a sense of living in this hip and cosmopolitan South African city that holds the hearts of many.

Local Dawn Jorgensen, gives the insiders guide on how best to see the most popular attractions, as well as some of her favourite places.

Go up Table Mountain as soon as you can for an orientation of the city.

The cable car is weather dependent; so take the chance when you can. If you’d rather something more adventurous, there are numerous marked hiking routes to suite your level of fitness. Either way, once on top take the 45-minute circular walk. It really is flat up there, with incredible fynbos and many a dassie and lizard to photograph.

If you’d like to hike up some perspective but don’t want to push the capability boundaries, walk half way up Lion’s Head for an excellent view of the city and across to Table Mountain. Once you’re there you could just keep going, but see how you feel.

Visit the Cape Point Nature Reserve

Or Cape of Good Hope as it is fondly known. The best way is by driving along the False Bay coastline through St. James, Kalk Bay and the naval base of Simonstown. Stop at Boulder’s Beach in Cape Point to visit the African Penguins. Actually if you’ like to have a swim at Boulder’s Beach you’ll be in the water with the penguins, a very special experience indeed.

The Company Gardens

Offering a perfect reprieve for the family with the newly revamped restaurant, food garden depicting the days of Van Riebeeck, giant nests in trees and near tame squirrel ever charming. There is even free wifi if you feel the need to connect with the world. Don’t forget the museums either; the South African National Gallery always has interesting exhibitions on.

One of the best ways to get around

Is undeniably the Hop on Hop off City Sightseeing Bus, which offers numerous routes that stretch from the Two Oceans Aquarium to as far afield as Hout Bay and Constantia. They’ve recently added a walking tour and visit to Langa and Gugulethu too. Best value is their 2-day ticket.

Take a trip to Robben Island

Although the tour needs to be booked in advance and the experience is somewhat influenced by the guide that you get on the day. Still interesting to see this piece of South African history.

Now to more of a local low down

Get to the Sea Point promenade

It’s become a place to walk, run, cycle and talk, with yoga on the lawn, public art and inspired benches to pause on as well as a guaranteed place to chat with locals. If you’re a dog lover, many can be found here looking for extra attention.

For coffee, there’s a cool place called Bootlegger Coffee Company on Main Road, or simply enjoy the outdoor area next to the Sea Point pools where kiosks offer assorted snacks, juices and refreshments.

It’s no secret that walking brings any city to life and Cape Town is no different. A city map can play guide, otherwise simply start at the Company Gardens, heading down Shortmarket, Bree, Long and Wale St, with a look in at George’s Mall as you make your way down towards the Foreshore and on to the V&A WaterfrontLook in at Long Street Antique Arcade whilst there and for a best burger or milkshake, head to the the Royale Eatery on Long.

Explore the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens 

Established in 1913 and recently voted one of the best gardens in the world, will delight with its incredible showing of our Cape floral kingdom. Walk, picnic or enjoy one of their Summer concerts held during season. The newly added attraction is the Centenary Tree Canopy or ‘Boomslang’ as it is better known. Allow some time here.

Take time to visit the cobbled streets of the Bo-Kaap

Found on the slopes of Signal Hill, with the candy-coloured historic homes. The Museum offers an excellent background to the area. Visit Atlas Trading spice shop and if you like, book a cooking course with Coffee Beans Route, who have a collection of guides for every interest, including street art.

Reboot at the best cafes, bars and food markets

Favorite places drawing the locals for a coffee, breakfast or a drink are Haas, House of Machines, Olympia Café in Kalk Bay and the Courtyard at Honest Chocolate .

Bars Mother’s Ruin, Orphanage and Publik fly the flag for drinks and cocktails, whilst best tapas goes to Chef’s Warhouse by miles. The most popular restaurant is Test Kitchen, but you’ll need to get your reservation in early. The Kitchen in Woodstock and Black Sheep on Kloof as well as Devil’s Peak Brewery all offer interesting options for a casual evening out. If vegan is your preference, you can’t beat Plant Café.

Food markets to look out for are the Biscuit Mill, and if you get out there before the crowds do, and the Oranjezicht Urban garden market, which is on every Saturday at the Premier’s home. For bric-a-brac and bargain hunting, find your way to the Milnerton Market. Always check out what’s showing at the intimate Fugard Theaterand catch a live show if you can.

Lastly, don’t forget the beaches

For an unbeatable view of Table Mountain head to Bloubergstrand, but for simply soaking in the sun with the beautiful people, Clifton and Llandudno are hard to beat. Muizenberg and surfer’s corner are perfect for the restless sunbather who want to hone their watersport skills.  

Follow Dawn: FacebookTwitterInstagramblog.


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