Beyond the shadow of a doubt, a South African holiday is not complete without exploring the attractions of Cape Town, that with its history, breathtaking seascapes, mountains to climb, various fauna and flora to investigate and the amazing wildlife to discover, make this city my favorite one. Our walk through the city centre start from Malay Quarter , known as ‘’Bo Kaap‘’ which means “Above Cape” because of its location up against the slopes of Table Mountain and famous for its brightly colored homes and romantic cobble stoned streets. Once there , it’s interesting a stopover at the museum, which dates back to the 1760s and the oldest house in the area still in its original form. It highlights the cultural contribution made by early Muslim settlers, many of whom were skilled tailors, carpenters, shoemakers and builders.
Then we walk through the Company Gardens, an heritage site created in the 1650s by the region’s first European settlers . Starting from the WP Gunners statue, crossing the whole park, we get to St George’s Cathedral, the Anglican Diocese of Nobel Peace Laureate Archbishop Desmond Tutu. As we follow the city’s main thoroughfare, Adderley Street, turning on Darling street we approach the Grand Parade square. Uniquely considered as one of Cape Town’s most important historical sites, the Grand Parade is the place where in 1652 the Dutch settlers built their first fort and where slaves were once sold and punished. It’s also the venue where a multitude of people gathered to hear the first free-speech by Nelson Mandela to the nation after being in prison for 27 years. Next to the square there is the City Hall, a beautiful baroque building and the Castle of Good Hope built in 1666 by the Dutch East India Company.
Our last stop around the city center is Greenmarket square, originally built in 1696 and where, with its open air market, you can buy local art, crafts, fabrics and artifacts from almost every country on the continent. After a short walk through the many stands, we take a taxi heading to the Table Mountain lower cable way station. The Table Mountain (http://www.tablemountain.net/), rising up from the middle of the city, is the core of Cape Town, dividing the city into distinct zones with public gardens, wilderness, forests, hiking routes, vineyards and desirable residential areas trailing down its lower slopes. Once got the top the view is breathtaking, in front of you the city centre, its docks lined with matchbox ships, on the west, beyond the mountainous Twelve Apostles, your eyes sweeps across Africa’s priciest real estate, clinging to the slopes along the Atlantic seaboard. On the top there’s a round flat trail (only 40 min) to enjoy the sight from many viewpoints. Before getting there, check the website or give a ring because the cableway is often closed for adverse weather conditions (strong wind or clouds). Our day end up at the V&A Waterfront which is a Cape Town’s most visited destination, attracting millions of visitors every year with it’s massive range of restaurants, shops, activities and free entertainment.
If you spend more days in Cape Town, there are others interesting spots like Robben Island, a World Heritage site and where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years in prison (it takes 4 hrs to complete the tour); the Kirstenbosh Botanic garden, the first botanic garden in the world to be devoted to a country’s indigenous flora with its reputation as the ‘’most beautiful garden in Africa‘’; Lion’s head, a mountain where to have a perfect 360° view of Cape town ( around 1.30 hr to get the top on a uphill path sometimes steep ); Langa Township, the oldest black township of South Africa where you’’ll interact with the people as they go about their daily lives (book a tour with a local operator); Green point, with its stadium used for 2010 FIFA world cup (daily guided tour), its lighthouse (said to be the very first ‘solid’ lighthouse on the South African coast and was first lit in 1824) and the beautiful Urban Park; Signal Hill, popular with tourists and locals alike as an ideal venue to appreciate the stunning views of the Atlantic Seaboard, and to watch the sunset.
Travel tips & Information
It’s very easy moving around the city center simply walking and then taking a taxi. You also have the chance to take the ‘’sightseeing bus‘’ with its several stops and routes throughout the city. Dont’ miss a trip around the Cape Peninsula (check the link South Africa: day trip around Cape Peninsula)
Where to sleep and eat: the best area is around the V&A Waterfront, where you can find shops, restaurants and entertainment. I slept at Dale court Guest house, 10 minutes walk from the Waterfront (http://www.dalecourt.co.za/).