top 5 attractions in Cape Town

The city of Cape Town is full of diverse places to visit from secrets of the city to seemingly remote areas in nature minutes away. This city allows you to immerse yourself in the bustle of the city center but also escape to quiet beautiful areas. Here is some of the top attractions, but there is many more.

1) table mountain

Table mountain is without a doubt Cape Town’s most popular attraction. Situated within the Table Mountain National Park which encompasses a chain of rugged mountains that stretch for 60 kilometres from Signal Hill to Cape Point.

Table Mountain’s story began 800 million years ago when sandstone began to form underwater.
Sandstone is a soft type of rock, it was given strength by magma rising from the earth’s core. Usually when magma reaches the surface it forms a volcano, luckily in this case it cooled before reaching the surface forming hard granite. Around 300 million years ago the mountain was still at sea level during an ice age, the pressure of the ice flattened the sandstone creating the flat surface we see today at the top of the mountain. 
When the continents split apart the pressures in the earth’s crust forced the mountain upwards, luckily the pressure was applied to the granite which allowed the mountain to retain its shape and slowly rise up to a kilometre high mountain.
Table mountain is 240 million years old, 6 times older than the Himalayas and the Rockies.
The mountain is unique because of its flat top which resembles a tabletop hence the name table mountain. This iconic mountain greets all visitors as they enter Cape Town for the first time. 

Today Table hosts about 800 000 visitors per year. 
Table Mountain hosts  2200 species of plants and 1470 floral species. About 70% of these species of plants are endemic to this mountain.

There are many different hiking routes to get to the top of the mountain. We have highlighted some of our favourite hikes in a previous blog. The cable car is also an option if hiking is not your thing.

2) Cape of good hope nature reserve

Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is a peninsula/cape at the southernmost point of Cape Town. Commonly confused with the southernmost point of Africa which is actually Cape Agulhas some 200km up the East Coast. 
The peninsula resembles a finger and two ocean currents meet at the point of the peninsula. The cold upward flowing Benguela current which travels up the west coast and the warm down flowing Agulhas current which comes down the east coast from the Indian ocean. These currents are the reason for the vastly varying water temperature on each side of the coastline.

Cape of Good Hope was discovered in 1488 by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias. He is also credited with finding the trade route from Europe to Asia. Diaz originally called the rocky cape the Cape of Storms. Due to the treacherous conditions that can often be found at sea near the cape. Later the King of Portugal renamed it the Cape of Good Hope because finding it allowed the empire to trade with Asia. The Cape is home to over 1000 shipwrecks which shows just how challenging the peninsula was to navigate. 

The nature reserve is a part of the Cape Floral Kingdom, which is the smallest of the six plant kingdoms but hosts the highest number of species. The Cape of Good Hope National park offers 1100 different plant species. The nature reserve also contains many animals including. 250 bird species, antelope, baboons and even zebras. 
Definitely one of the most beautiful places to visit in Cape Town and can easily be combined with viewing the penguins at Boulders Beach.

Kaap Tours offers driving, hiking and cycling tours within the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. Click below to book a tour in this spectacular reserve.

3) Kirstenbosch national botanical garden

Kirstenbosch is nestled on the Eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the greenest part of the mountain. Formally founded in 1913 to preserve the country’s unique flora, it was the first in the world with this ethos. 
The garden only cultivates indigenous plants (with minor exceptions). One can still view part of ‘Van Riebeeck’s Hedge’ in the gardens which is a wild almond hedge planted in 1660 under Van Riebeeck’s instruction. The purpose of the hedge was to provide some protection to the perimeter of the Dutch colony. More specifically to keep the Khoikhoi from gaining access to the area. The part of the name Kirsten comes from the land manager J.F Kirsten who managed the land in the 1700s, the Bosch part is the Dutch word for ‘forest.’

The garden is a fantastic place for a picnic, we offer this as an experience at Kaap Tours. The Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway is not to be missed. It is a curved walkway that threads its way through and over the trees. At times you will be treated to panoramic views of the mountain when you burst out of the canopy. The Skeleton Gorge hike mentioned in our hiking blog also starts from the botanical garden.

4) Cape Town City Centre

Originally inhabited by the indigenous Khoi and San peoples, the area was first visited by European explorers in the 15th century. In 1652, the Dutch established a supply station, known as Cape of Good Hope. The city grew under Dutch colonial rule and later came under British control in the 19th century. Apartheid, a system of racial segregation, was enforced in Cape Town until the 1990s. Today, Cape Town is a vibrant multicultural city renowned for its natural beauty, diverse culture, and historical significance. Cape Town city centre has a number of historical attractions which can give visitors an insight into the history of the city. A visitor can learn about why Cape Town is here in the first place and learn more about the city’s colourful past. Below is a list of some of the historic places/buildings that may be of interest:
Castle of Good Hope
Slave Lodge
Groote Kerk
Company Gardens
St George's Cathedral
Bo Kaap
V&A Waterfront

Additionally there are a number of museums which also contain fascinating details about the city. We do offer a history tour of Cape Town which includes these places.

5) boulders beach penguin colony

Boulders Beach, located near Simon's Town in Cape Town, South Africa, is a popular tourist destination known for its unique inhabitants and picturesque scenery. Boulders Beach is home to a thriving colony of African penguins, making it one of the few places in the world where visitors can observe these charming creatures up close. Tourists can witness the penguins waddling along the sandy shores, swimming in the clear turquoise waters, and nesting among the granite boulders that give the beach its name.

Boardwalks and Viewing Platforms: To protect the penguins and their habitat, the beach features well-maintained boardwalks and viewing platforms that allow tourists to observe the penguins without disturbing them. These elevated vantage points provide excellent opportunities for photography and a chance to learn more about these fascinating birds through informative signage. Swimming and Beach Time: While a section of Boulders Beach is reserved for the penguins, visitors can still enjoy their own beach experience. There are designated swimming areas where tourists can cool off in the gentle waves and relax on the soft sand. The beach is family-friendly and offers a safe environment for swimming, sunbathing, and picnicking.
Environmental Education Center: Boulders Beach is home to an environmental education center that provides valuable insights into the African penguins' conservation efforts and the broader marine ecosystem of the area. Visitors can engage with interactive displays, educational exhibits, and knowledgeable staff who offer interesting facts and stories about the local wildlife.
Scenic Views and Photography: Boulders Beach boasts breathtaking natural beauty, with large granite boulders dotting the coastline, crystal-clear waters, and lush vegetation. The combination of stunning landscapes and adorable penguins creates a picturesque setting, making it a photographer's paradise. Visitors can capture memorable shots of the penguins, panoramic ocean views, and the unique rock formations.
A visit to Boulders Beach can easily be combined with both a tour of Cape of Goodhope and Chapman's Peak in a single day.