Lets start with some honesty – I love Cape Town! So this might be a little biased.
The city centre is all nestled nicely under the watchful cliffs of Table mountain, in fact the centre is pretty much surrounded with Signal Hill and the Lions Head boxing it in against the Atlantic Ocean. It’s a wonderful place to look at no matter where you are, the views from one landmark show off the best of the others. Long St in the city is a haven of funky coffee shops interesting clothing stores and real cultural highlights, it’s a great place to soak up the sun (and it’s always sunny) and get the feel of what metropolitan life is like in South Africa.
The city has some interesting areas, and a few great attractions, museums and galleries especially, but really nothing competes with Table Mountain for sheer dominance. From the beachside to the sprawling suburbs, the hills to the adventures – this is a city that really has a lot to offer.
The most obvious is of course a climb up Table Mountain. There are a few routes up, the cableway for the less capable or the more lazy, the stairs, and ‘around the back’ each of the routes offer some incredible views from the top and on the way up. Just be sure to take a big bottle of water with you! Once you’re at the top, you can abseil back down (well, part way) which has the longest commercial abseil in the world, But don’t forget the impressive Lions Head climb as well – while it doesn’t have an easy way up the climb is manageable to most with a decent level of fitness. Again, take some water! and the best thing – the views from here are 360 degrees, including an excellent view down the cape to the beaches and back across the city shadowed by the Table.
The cape is well worth exploring, although you’ll need a car – the open top buses don’t go to the very point. Cycling is possible, but only to those that are very keen, the hills, distance and heat make it quite a challenge. There’s penguins down there, and a couple of spectacular points, but don’t be fooled, you’re not at the southern tip.
One big draw to the city is the chance to do a Great White Shark Cage Dive, while this is not in the city itself, there are plenty of operators that offer transfers. Most of the prices are in the same ballpark, so just go with anyone you feel comfortable with – remember those sharks are hungry, so don’t go with the cheapest. It’s a full day activity and well worth it, seeing those beasts right up against the cage, only inches from your face is just mind blowing.
If you’re keen to get out of the Long St party atmosphere, then Observatory is a great little backpacker district, and the local bus runs from a short walk away, making it easy to get in and out of town. Just be a little wary at night. That said, there’s some awesome bars there, with a good student/traveler vibe so a late night in the city is unnecessary.
Overall there’s plenty to see and do here, although you won’t find the traditional African experience, or any of the Big 5, there’s plenty of modern SA to get into. Try to see some live music, and taste some of the local food. Most of all take in the views!