48 hours in Cape Town
Firstly, lets start by making it clear that we highly recommend more than 48 hours in this beautiful, vibrant and diverse city. There is so much to see and do in Cape Town that 2 nights simply isn’t enough. However, for the sake of this series we’ve done our very best to pack as much in as possible. In reality it would be difficult to do everything we’ve listed without the experience becoming overwhelming, not to mention filling! Hopefully though you’ll ensure you have at least 4 nights, if not more to explore so we’ve also listed some alternatives that we couldn’t fit in or if the option we’ve listed isn’t available. The restaurant scene is huge in Cape Town with many restaurants required to be booked months in advance and often with a deposit (refundable up to 24 hours before the reservation).
We’ve also not considered surrounding highlights such as the must visit Franschhoek in the winelands, the adorable penguins of Boulders beach or Cape Point National Park.
The Ladder on 136 is a relative new-comer to Cape Town. This cute, quaint cafe is located on Bree Street in the heart of the city and is the perfect place to start your day. It serve delicious all day breakfasts, smoothies, light lunches and exceptional Blue Door Coffee.
Such an iconic mountain and instantly associated with Cape Town, no visit would be complete without visiting. At just over 1000 metres, Table Mountain offers stunning panoramic views of the city and the coastline as well as a variety of flora and fauna. You’re very likely to bump into a group of rock hyrax which resemble cute, overgrown hamsters. They have become very accustomed to humans, are harmless and might even pose for a photo for you! For those those who are more active it’s possible to hike up Table Mountain to the cable which takes about 2 hours and you can get the cable car back down.
One thing which is important to consider when visiting Table Mountain is the weather. Wind is a key factor and it’s not unusual for the cable car to be closed due to the wind, sometimes even for days. You also want to avoid visiting when the mountain is covered with cloud which can come and go in an instant. We recommend being flexible with your visit and monitoring the wind. Wind Guru is a useful website which offers a pretty accurate prediction for the wind. Once you start seeing green numbers it’s borderline whether the cable car will be running. You can check for live updates for weather and the cable car on their website. We recommend booking in advance via the website which will enable you access a shorter queue, the tickets are flexible and easily refundable if the cable car isn’t running.
Basically, if the weather is perfect then don’t wait, just drop everything and go as there is no guarantee you’ll have another chance! It is well worth it.
Nestled between Bantry Bay and Camps Bay is Bungalow, one of Cape Town’s best lunch spots. It offers fabulous views of the 12 apostles (the mountain backdrop), the white sandy beaches and the deep blue ocean. The perfect setting for a long lunch. The enticing menu offers an array of dishes from fresh seafood and salads to burgers and even sushi. Whatever you decide to order it should naturally be accompanied by a bottle of some of South Africa’s finest wine which you’ll be able to choose from the extensive wine list. Try to avoid a windy day and be sure to book a table outside as it’s just not the same experience inside.
Alternatively: Grand Africa Cafe & Beach – have lunch looking over the sea with sand between your toes. A Cape Town institution.
The V&A Waterfront
undoubtedly a little touristy but still worth visiting. The V&A has a vibrant atmosphere and is in such a scenic spot, making for lovely stroll taking in the people, the shops and the performers. There is also a very good aquarium for those with children. For those who need to do some shopping, it’s a good place to restock or get something you forgot to pack. Keep a look out for seals which can often be spotted lazily swimming in the water, especially near the clock tower. If you do find yourself exploring the inside of the shopping centre then you’re likely to notice an unusually popular indoor restaurant. Many a local will tell you that Willoughbys has the best seafood and sushi in town – just a shame about the setting.
Hiking Lions Head
With all Cape Town’s incredible scenery it’s best to get outdoors and properly enjoy it. Hiking Lions head is simple and easily done on your own – it’s a very well trodden path and popular so there always someone to follow. Essentially you keep circling the head until you reach the top which allows you to enjoy varying spectacular views throughout your hike. Sunset is, predictably, the most popular time to hike but with such a magical setting it’s still worth it. Be sure to take a warm layer of clothes as you’ll feel the cold as soon as the sun disappears, especially if there is a bit of wind.
You can simply get an uber to the start of the hike which takes a total of 2 hours plus the time you spend enjoying the sunset.
Shio is a little gem of a restaurant with its stylish, chic interior creating an intimate atmosphere, perfectly complemented by the heavenly modern Japanese tapas. With so many delightful and flavoursome dishes, we recommend you try as much as possible! All the seafood in particular is very good, the Lamb Gyoza’s certainly hit the spot but their signature black risotto is outrageously tasty! The cherry on top is it’s incredible value so feel free to gorge yourself!
Alternatively: Fyn is a real must for the foodie, the cuisine is out of this world. However it will cost you so expect to pay international prices.
If you’ve still got gas in the tank and you fancy a cheeky digestif then Tjing Tjing is a lively, trendy bar just off Long Street which is half indoors and half outdoors. Although it often doesn’t get busy until after 10:00pm, don’t let that stop you as it’s a smallish venue so getting there a little before the crowds to grab your spot is no bad thing. The snack menu is very tasty for those who are peckish.
It’s an early start by so grab a quick breakfast to go from Jason, Cape Town’s most famous breakfast establishment. The menu is varied and packed with loads of enticing and intriguing options such as the croissant-donut hybrid which is unsurprisingly mouth-wateringly good. The original Jason is on Bree Street but they have just opened a second cafe in Green Point which is very close to where you start the kayaking in Three Anchor Bay.
What better way to shake off the cobwebs from the night before by getting out on the ocean for a kayak along the Atlantic seaboard. Offers predictably breathtaking scenery and there is a resident pod of dolphins so if you’re lucky you’ll get to paddle amongst them. Starts 07:30 and lasts about 2.5 hours and is very well priced at about £20 per person with all equipment provided.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
Renowned as one of the prettiest drives in the world, it’s impossible not to be in awe as you drive the windy road along the coastline between the mountain and the glistening sea from Hout Bay to the wild white sandy beach of Noordhoek. Lots of convenient viewpoints for photos so have your camera ready. There is a small fee to drive the road of just under £3.
Yet another gorgeous location, Cape Point Vineyards is set a little back from the sea, on a small lake, with manicured lawns and sheltered by the mountains. You can choose to eat in their restaurant (request the terrace) or if you fancy something a little more relaxed you can even chose to have a picnic on the lawn. The menu is fresh, varied and predictably scrumptious! So you can get comfortable, order your wine and settle in for another long lunch! There is also wine tasting available.
Alternatively: Chef’s Warehouse in Beau Constantia offers a divine and impressive tasting menu along with one of the best views of the vineyards. Never disappoints.
On your drive back from lunch you can drive through Cape Town’s most fashionable and well known neighbourhood. With huge, ostentatious properties climbing from the beach up towards the mountains, Camps Bay has always been the playground for the rich and famous in South Africa. Its bustling high street is littered with bars and restaurants on one side and its vast white beach on the other. It’s not hard to see why it draws such large crowds of visitors. For those who enjoy the sun you’ll now have an opportunity to rest and catch some rays. Sun beds are available for a nominal fee and there are drink sellers readily available should you want a refreshment.
Alternatively: Should you want a quieter, more tranquil beach experience then any of the Clifton beaches (1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th) will provide that. Please note there are steep steps to contend with and no facilities so you’ll need to bring everything with you. These beaches are the preference for the Capetonians who tend to avoid Camps Bay.
No trip to Cape Town would be complete without a “sundowner” and The Lawns provides the ideal surroundings for one or several. The food isn’t its strength and the service can be a little slow as the servers negate the different tiers the lawns are spread across but once you have a drink in hand soaking up the sun, enjoying the views as the sunsets then none of that will matter.
Alternatively: La Perla in Sea Point is the local establishment for sundowners but you’ll need to arrive early to grab a seat as you can’t book unless you eat. The food isn’t great and the restaurant feels a little dated. If you do get there early be prepared for some intense heat as the sunsets with little shade available.
Synonymous with creative and innovative cuisine, British born chef Luke Dale Roberts is one of South Africa’s most renowned restaurant owners. The most famous of which is the Test Kitchen which is well worth going to if you can get a reservation but you need to book months and months in advance online and even then it’s a race with the thousands of others who are trying to do the same. However, he has three other sister restaurants in Cape Town – Salisfy (next to the Lawns), The Short Market Club Grill and finally the Pot Luck Club. All of them are great and you’ll not be disappointed at any of them but for us it’s the latter we would recommend first. Located on the top floor of the Biscuit Mill in the up and coming Woodstock area, Pot Luck Club offers a lively vibe with incredible food. The various tapas style dishes are created for sharing and categorised by flavour. It’s a very social immersive dining experience which will not disappoint.
Alternatively: Kloof Street House is very popular with locals and visitors alike for lunch or dinner. It’s always busy which makes for fun, energetic atmosphere and it has a strong menu to boot, rich with flavours. Look out for the South African favourites such as Ostrich and Osso Buco.
Located at the top of the buzzing Kloof street, the Dark House has a very relaxed and comfortable feel making it a popular haunt with locals. A front terrace which greets you on arrival and a roof terrace up on the top floor is ideal for a drink before or after dinner.
With Cape Town being one of the restaurant capitals of the world we could go on for days with alternative places to eat in the city and the surrounding areas. There are also so many more activities and sights to visit from paragliding, snorkeling with seals, scenic helicopter flights to visiting the infamous Robben Island, Kirstenbosch Gardens or having an insight into South Africa’s turbulent history at the District 6 Museum.
If you’re eager to come and experience Cape Town for itself then both our South African experiences in 4 nights in the mother city. If you have any questions then please don’t hesitate to get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Written by James Chisnall, Untravelled Paths