Cape Town

Cape Town has one of the most famous profiles of any city in the world. It is a city with a bounty of attractions, rich in natural splendour, surrounded by beaches and mountains.

Table Mountain dominates the skyline behind the city. The revolving cable car up Table Mountain offers breathtaking views back over the city and harbour, and from its flat summit there are great views on a clear day along the coast and to the Cape of Good Hope.

Lion's Head is a favourite place to watch the sunrise - it's a steep trek which rewards the early-riser with panoramic views.

For wildlife lovers, a trip to Boulders Beach is recommended to see the African penguins, or book on a kayak or snorkelling trip to visit the Cape fur seals and explore the magical kelp forests. Take a drive out to the Cape of Good Hope, part of the Table Mountain National Park, to enjoy the rugged beauty of this rocky peninsula home to many birds, antelope and indigenous plants. Keep your eyes peeled for whales between June & November. If you don't manage to see any, there's always the spectacular Two Oceans Aquarium on the waterfront for a marine-life kick.

Chapman's Peak Drive, a toll route, offers 9km hugging the coast, with 114 curves and spectacular views. The drive from Gordon's Bay / Sir Lowry's Pass on the R44 east to Hermanus also offers wonderful views and great chances to spot whales in season.

For culture vultures there is much to enjoy from the new Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art which sits alongside the funky Silo hotel, both part of a former 1924 grain silo building, re-purposed by British Architect, Thomas Heatherwick.

Modern sits alongside old in Cape Town, with the Dutch fortress, small thatched homesteads and British colonial architecture all mixed in.

The South African Museum is the oldest museum in the country and exhibits many of the country's main artefacts while the impactful District Six Museum pays tribute to the people of District Six, all displaced by apartheid during the 60s and 70s. You can ferry out to Robben Island from the waterfront - this is where anti-apartheid activists, including Nelson Mandela, were incarcerated. Ex-prisoners guide you around the island.

The city also offers some excellent shopping and dining opportunities from cafes and fine dining to rustic fish & chips at Hout & Kalk Bay.

The world-famous winelands are only a short drive away - you can visit on a day trip but if you have more time we recommend allocating a couple of nights to this area and staying on an estate or in one of the towns/villages, like Franschhoek or Stellenbosch.

You can also visit Hermanus, around an hour's drive away, which offers some of the best shore-based whale-watching in the Cape Provinces (June to November).There are botanical gardens, including the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, or 'Boomslang', at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, golden beaches perfect for wild walks, small coastal towns and villages - all with beautiful scenery.

There is lots of choice when it comes to choosing somewhere to stay. Neigbourhoods vary in character from the city-centre hotels and apartments to those along the Atlantic Seaboard - known as Cape Town's 'Riviera' this region stretches from the waterfront to Hout Bay and includes the lovely Cape Dutch 'Winchester Hotel' at Sea Point and the spectacular 'Ellerman House' at Bantry Bay. Camps Bay has always been very popular with a cool vibe, lots of coffee and cocktail places, palm trees and the beach - it has a real holiday atmosphere but be warned the water is freezing! Slightly further out you'll find trendy boutique hotels and guesthouses amidst Cape Town's characterful streets.

What time of year you visit Cape Town depends on what you want to see and do. For hot summer 'beach' weather, plan your visit December - February but remember this is also when may Capetonians take leave so it can be busy and prices at their peak. The 'Cape Doctor', a strong south-easterly wind, often blows right through summer to give some relief from the heat. We prefer October/November and March/April when it's cooler and quieter. If whales are top of your list then the peak season is June to October. Cape Town can be cold and wet through winter (June-August) although wildflowers can be seen August/September.

The Cape was the home of the Hottentots, a tribe who traded with the first white settlers and acted as go-betweens with the other tribes. As the settlers started taking more of their land however they turned against the Dutch and after 2 defeats in battle plus suffering a devastating smallpox epidemic, they disappeared from history as a force. The Cape had been initially discovered by Vasco De Gama, the Portuguese explorer, who had called the area the Cape of Storms (later revised to Cape of Good Hope). It is also interesting to note that having discovered this area it was another 10 years before he finally made it all the way to India, his original aim. It was not until the second half of the seventeenth century that the Dutch finally settled the area and had their initially friendly interaction with the Hottentots. As always, the British decided they wanted the area when they realised its potential and so started the long battle between the two nations that culminated in the Boer Wars of the late 1800s. Throughout this period, despite occasional setbacks, the city with its sheltered position and harbour thrived and grew in importance.

Safaris visiting this attraction

10 days
From £8790
Cape & Kalahari

Combine beautiful Cape Town with a safari in the Kalahari at Tswalu.

8 days
From £1620
Cape Explorer

Combine the Western and Eastern Capes on this trip offering a stay in Cape Town and a wonderful safari.

13 days
From £1240
Classic Cape Town & Garden Route

A self-drive tour starting in Cape Town and continuing along the world-famous Garden Route.

9 days
From £4930
Kruger & Cape

A luxurious trip combining a safari in Sabi Sands with a stay in the Mother City.

9 days
From £2545
Safari & City

Safari in the Greater Kruger at Sabi Sands, and wine & dine in the Western Cape's Mother City.