10 Reasons To Travel To Cape Town

It wasn’t until a random Google Images search that Cape Town, South Africa entered into my radar. I wish I had a greater story for choosing this jaw-droppingly beautiful port city, but c’est la vie, it really is as humdrum as that. 

And if you’re curious about any other ways I decide on a place, there aren’t any, because Google Images really is it. I mean, haven’t we all experienced the moment when we first laid eyes on something and immediately thought, I’ve got to have it! To me, destinations are no different. And I figure, if the images I’m seeing through a screen are enough to take my breath away, imagine how it’ll make me feel once I actually get there. 

But for those of you still on the fence about Cape Town’s wild beauty, here are 10 reasons I hope will persuade you: 

The view from Table Mountain

Accessible by cable car, hiking or rock climbing, Table Mountain is Cape Town’s most iconic landmark. One of the new 7 Wonders of the World, the flat-topped mountain rises 3562 feet above sea level and boasts sweeping views of the City Bowl, Table Bay, Camps Bay, Robben Island, the Twelve Apostles, Lion’s Head, and Devil’s Peak. 

I Instagram-filtered this one, if you can tell. Lion's Head and Signal Hill to the left with Robben Island just beyond

I Instagram-filtered this one, if you can tell. Lion's Head and Signal Hill to the left with Robben Island just beyond

With these views, it’s hard to deny that Cape Town has one of the most beautiful natural settings of any city I’ve ever seen. 

Devil's Peak

Devil's Peak

The Twelve Apostles and Camps Bay

The Twelve Apostles and Camps Bay


Wine tastings with a view (and $5 award-winning wine)

Even if you’re not a fan of wine (I’m one of the heretical few) there’s much to enjoy while out exploring some the Western Cape’s most famous wine-producing regions: Constantia, Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek Valley. Don’t worry, the spotlight is definitely on the wine - and if you’ve chosen wisely, a pairing or two of chocolate and cheese - but this is an experience where the drive is not only a means to an end. 

En route you’ll be greeted by vast stretches of mountainous terrain, Cape Dutch architecture, and historic estates. 

And if you do happen to enjoy a glass or two? You might want to research ways to properly pack bottles in your checked bag. Award-winning wines are available for purchase at the estate it was produced for around $5. As ignorant as I am about wines, even I couldn’t resist buying Neethlingshof estate’s award-winning Pinotage (it was delicious!). 

Cage diving with great white sharks

There are only a handful of places whereyou get to check this off your bucket list, and South Africa’s small harbor town of Gansbaai in the Western Cape is one of the hotspots. 

Not as terrifying as it looks, I promise!

Not as terrifying as it looks, I promise!

I highly recommend booking with Marine Dynamics. Not only is the company founded by a marine conservationist, you get served a breakfast buffet upon your arrival, get treated to hot chocolate during your dive, and are greeted by a well-deserved meal after your trip (trust me, you’ll get hungry!). 

The V&A Waterfront

South Africa’s oldest working harbor, the Victoria & Albert Waterfront is bustling with activity 7 days a week. Set against the backdrop of Table Mountain, it’s here that you can browse its many specialty shops, craft markets, theaters and restaurants, take a day trip to Robben Island Museum (where former South African president Neslon Mandela was imprisoned), visit the Two Oceans Aquarium, and book a helicopter tour. 

The Cape of Good Hope

“Hey, do you mind if you took a picture of me with the sign?” 

Words you’d be hard pressed to hear me say, but when you’re in the southwestern-most point in Africa, it’s OK to take a super touristy photo every once in awhile just to prove you’ve been there. 

You can’t tell from this picture but there were about 50 other people waiting their turn.

If you travel solo like I do,  asking someone to take a picture of you with this iconic marker is a great way to make new friends (in my case a pair of charming Irish girls from Limerick). 

If you’re saying to yourself, “so… is that it?”, mercifully no, the whole Cape Peninsula is a wild and rugged national park with many spectacular views: 

Endless roadside attractions

The Western Cape is the perfect place to visit even if you’re terrible at photography. It’s hard to take a bad picture! I mean take a look at the following shots; I took them from the front passenger seat of a moving van (maybe my amateur shots are obvious but they don't look half bad considering!).

And just in case you forget you’re in Africa,  there are wild baboons just chilling on the side of the road. 

Sapphire beaches

If you’re a lover of coastlines and mountains prepare to get blown away - the Cape Peninsula boasts some of Africa’s best sky blue beaches. 

Clarence Drive

One of the most scenic coastal drives in the Cape, Clarence drive connects the towns of Rooi Els and Gordans Bay, It winds down the False Bay coast and passes between the sea and foothills of the southern end of the Hottentots Holland Mountains. 

Numerous viewing stops allow one the opportunity to soak up the magnificent sights. 

Penguins!

Where else can you get this close to wild penguins? Believe it or not, these little guys just hang out here (this ain't a penguin enclosure!)

Boulders Beach in Simon's Town

Boulders Beach in Simon's Town

Stony Point in Betty's Bay

Stony Point in Betty's Bay

Trivia: these little guys are commonly called Jackass Penguins, because of their cackling calls, but for tourism purposes are known as African Penguins. 

I Traveled To Cape Town To Eat

I could never be one of those people who eats to stay alive because for me, food is more that just fuel, it’s the closest tie I know to understanding culture. I plan my days around what meal I’m craving to eat next.

If you’ve ever traveled to New Orleans, many locals and guides use gumbo as a way to teach people about the amalgamation of cultures  that have crossed paths there. The stew combines the culinary practices of the French, Spanish, German, West African and Choctaw. New Orleans takes its food so seriously that you’ll be hard pressed to find anyone talking about the city’s history without mentioning its local (and unique) cuisine.

A big reason Cape Town intrigued me so much, aside from its photogenic coastlines and inviting landscapes, is because I have no idea what Capetonians actually eat. A port city and a mix Dutch, German, Italian, Malaysian, Indian, and African cultures, Cape Town is very much like the melting pot that is New Orleans (sans humidity).

MY FIRST MEAL/MY FAVORITE MEAL
Harbour House Restaurant at V&A Waterfront
While not traditionally South African (it’s more international if you take a look at what I ordered), I couldn’t have picked a better place to have my first meal in Cape Town. First impressions are important! Harbour House is located at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront and features a serene view of the harbor. It’s considered as one of the more upscale restaurants but if you’re traveling from the United States (or live in New York City), after the exchange rate the prices are a bargain. For a three-course meal + a bottle of water, I paid less than $30. Everything I ordered was so freaking good. And the presentation is so fancy! For this kind of service in New York City I’d be paying at least $70.

Appetizer - Potato and Parmesan gnocchi garnished with roast butternut, grilled artichokes, mushrooms, pine nuts, sage and a truffle Parmesan sauce:

Main - Grilled fillet of beef with fondant potato, fine green beans, mushroom ragout and a truffle cream sauce:

Dessert - Chocolate tart with vanilla ice cream and cookie crunch, caramel corn, fudge and caramel sauce:


FAST FOOD
Eastern Food Bazaar at Cape Town City Bowl
If you’re on the fence about where to stay in Cape Town, check out the Airbnb listing for the Mutual Heights apartments. Not only are you centrally located in city bowl, you’ve got a pharmacy downstairs that open late nights (think Duane Reade and CVS) and the Eastern Food Bazaar. A long corridor that spans the width of the block, the bazaar sells Turkish, Indian, and Chinese food as well as pizza and gelato. The portions are enormous and almost everything costs around $3. Add to the fact that this place is open on Sundays while everything else in the city is closed, this place ensures you don’t go hangry.  

BREDIE (SOUTH AFRICAN STEW)
Karibu Restaurant at V&A Waterfront
A case for ordering lamb (my favorite kind of meat) and whatever I couldn’t pronounce. This dish sounded super exotic. I mean how do you even pronounce waterblommetjiebredie? In case you were wondering, waterblommetjiebredie is an aquatic flowering plant native to South Africa. If you’re in the mood for traditional South African food, stop by Karibu and enjoy your dish with a view.

The view from my seat

The view from my seat

BILTONG
J&M Bilton at V&A Waterfront

Also known as the place where I realized biltong actually tastes pretty good. Is it just me or does anyone else think biltong = jerky? I mean, yes, bilton is technically jerky but when I think of jerky I think it’s one of those vacuum-sealed meat sticks you get at gas stations. But unlike those tough, gummy meat Twizzlers, the biltongs from J&M are air- rather than oven-dried. The result? A well-seasoned, soft, chewy, and tender piece of dried cured meat.

INTERNATIONAL/THE HOT NEW SPOT
Hemelhuijs at Cape Town City Center

If you like places that feature an all-day breakfast, this is the place considered by many Capetonians as *the best breakfast*.

French toast with apricot marmalade and sour cream, a side of bacon, and scrambled eggs with avocado