One week in Cape Town, South Africa
If your idea of a fine city includes near-perfect weather, great beaches, scenic beauty, fine dining and a lively downtown, then Cape Town will rank at the top of the list. I hope you will appreciate my photos.
Alberto Adami for 1blog4u
Cape Town is a coastal city in South Africa. It is the capital and primate city of the Western Cape province and the legislative capital of South Africa. It forms part of the City of Cape Town metropolitan municipality.
The city is known for its harbour, for its natural setting in the Cape Floristic Region, and for landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point.
In 2014, Cape Town was named the best place in the world to visit by both The New York Times and The Daily Telegraph.
Cape Town is not only a popular international tourist destination in South Africa, but Africa as a whole. This is due to its mild climate, natural setting, and well-developed infrastructure. The city has several well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table Mountain, which forms a large part of the Table Mountain National Park and is the back end of the City Bowl. Reaching the top of the mountain can be achieved either by hiking up, or by taking the Table Mountain Cableway.
Cape Point is recognised as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula.
Many tourists also drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive, a narrow road that links Noordhoek with Hout Bay, for the views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby mountains. It is possible to either drive or hike up Signal Hill for closer views of the City Bowl and Table Mountain.
Clifton Beach is one of Cape Town’s most famous beaches and is a significant tourist destination in its own right.
Many tourists also visit Cape Town’s beaches, which are popular with local residents. Due to the city’s unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Though the Cape’s water ranges from cold to mild, the difference between the two sides of the city is dramatic.
Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town is known for its colony of African penguins.
Surfing is popular and the city hosts the Red Bull Big Wave Africa surfing competition every year.
The city has several notable cultural attractions. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is the city’s most visited tourist attraction. It is also one of the city’s most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium.
The V&A also hosts the Nelson Mandela Gateway, through which ferries depart for Robben Island.
It is possible to take a ferry from the V&A to Hout Bay, Simon’s Town and the Cape fur seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands.
Cape Town is noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, which combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany, France and Indonesia, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street.
Cape Town’s transport system links it to the rest of South Africa; it serves as the gateway to other destinations within the province. The Cape Winelands and in particular the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek are popular day trips from the city for sightseeing and wine tasting. Whale watching is popular amongst tourists: southern right whales and humpback whales are seen off the coast during the breeding season (August to November) and Bryde’s whales and killer whale can be seen any time of the year.
The nearby town of Hermanus is known for its Whale Festival, but whales can also be seen in False Bay. Heaviside’s dolphins are endemic to the area and can be seen from the coast north of Cape Town; dusky dolphins live along the same coast and can occasionally be seen from the ferry to Robben Island.
The only complete windmill in South Africa is Mostert’s Mill, Mowbray. It was built in 1796 and restored in 1935 and again in 1995.
Greenmarket Square is a historical square in the centre of old Cape Town, South Africa. The square was built in 1696, when a burgher watch house was erected.
Over the years, the square has served as a slave market, a vegetable market, a parking lot and more recently, a flea market trading mainly African souvenirs, crafts and curios. Near the centre of the square is a hand operated pump used to bring clean water to the surface from an underground river that runs through the city.
During the apartheid era, Greenmarket Square was often the focus of political protests, due in part to its proximity to parliament, as well as the ethnicity of its traders and shoppers.
The square was pedestrianised in the early-2000s allowing for better market access and greater pedestrian safety. As of 2016 the Central City Improvement District had been appointed to run the square and conduct research into how it and the trading stores could be improved.
The rock hyrax (Procavia capensis), also called rock badger, rock rabbit, and Cape hyrax, is commonly referred to in South African English as the dassie. It is one of the four living species of the order Hyracoidea, and the only living species in the genus Procavia. Like all hyraxes, it is a medium-sized (~4 kg) terrestrial mammal, with short ears and tail.
Chapman’s Peak drive (“Chappies”, to the locals) is one of the most spectacular stretches of coastal road in South Africa and probably the world. For nearly 6 miles (9 km), the road winds through 114 curves as it climbs high above ocean cliffs and up the side of Chapman’s Peak. This toll road, hewn out of solid mountain rock, connects Hout Bay (in the north) with Noordhoek (in the South).
Take the time to drive safely and to pull off at several view sites along the route. The scenery is stunning and whales are often spotted during the winter months (best whale-spotting months: mid-August through mid-November).
Best Time to enjoy Chapman’s Peak Drive, is in the afternoon. In the morning much of the scenery will be in shadow. The sun of course sets in the west, so visitors may be fortunate to photograph a great Atlantic Ocean sunset.
The toll road may close from time to time for maintenance, so it’s wise to check ahead of your trip, on the Chapman’s Peak Drive website.
Cape Point Lighthouse walk and on to Cape of Good Hope – This is one of the highlights of any visit to the Cape Point Nature Reserve.
There are paths to both the old and new lighthouses at Cape Point.
There are two lighthouses at Cape Point, only one of which is still in operation as a nautical guide. While still a popular tourist attraction, the old lighthouse built in the 1850s no longer functions – it sits too high above the ocean and is often covered by cloud. Ships approaching from the east could also see the light too easily, often causing them to approach too closely. Because of this, they often wrecked on the rocks before rounding the peninsula. In fact, it was the wreck of the Lusitania, on Bellows Rock below the lighthouse in 1911, which prompted the construction of a new, more effective structure.
The New Lighthouse The new lighthouse at Cape Point is one of the most powerful on the South African coast. Its lights have a range of 60 kilometres and each flash has an intensity of 10 million candelas.
The Cape of Good Hope. The name Cape of Good Hope dates back to the 15th century, when Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias became the first European to view Cape Point while in search of the southern tip of the African continent.
According to historical records, Dias first named the region Cape of Storms, owing to the tumultuous weather and treacherous waters, but later, after a suggestion by King John II of Portugal, it changed to the more optimistic Cape of Good Hope.