Cape Town Travel Guide

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Cape Town Travel Guide

Cape Town Local History

The first known people to be found on Southern African shores were the San people (Bushmen) and Khoikhoi (Hottentots). By the 15th century, Bantu-speaking tribes moved and settled in mostly the eastern half of the country, but never reached the Cape Town area. In 1488 Batholemew Diaz rounded the Cape searching for a stop- off point and named it 'Cabo de Boa Esperanza' (Cape of Good Hope). Due to the Khoikhoi people not wanting to trade with the Portuguese, no stop-off point was established.

In 1652 a Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck arrived in Table Bay. On the instructions of the Dutch East India Company (VOC) his was to establish a supply station, which would provide fresh produce for passing VOC ships. The landing party lead by van Riebeeck built a mud fort on what is now known as the Grand Parade. Van Riebeeck established vegetable gardens and hoped that the Khoikhoi would work the gardens. The Khoikhoi were not interested in giving up their traditional lifestyle for formal employment. In 1658 van Riebeeck began bringing in slaves to work the vegetable gardens. It quickly evolved into a colonial settlement (based in Kaapstad or Cape Town), and the Khoi-San people were driven away. The settlers developed their own dialect (Afrikaans) and Calvinist sect (the Dutch Reformed Church). Slaves were brought in from places such as Madagascar, India, Ceylon, Malaya and Indonesia.

In 1779 the Boers (Dutch-Afrikaner farmers), were spreading into the eastern regions of the Cape, came into violent conflict with the Bantu tribes. This was the first Bantu War and it temporarily stopped the eastward expansion of the colonists. In 1806 the British annexed the Cape and abolished slavery. The Boers felt that the British were interfering in their affairs and decided to move inland, this was known as the Great Trek.

Cape Town Attractions

Top Attractions

Table Mountain Without doubt one of Cape Town's most spectacular features. This flat top mountain dominates the city. It is definitely worth the time and expense to take the cable car to the summit. The views as you travel upwards are breathtaking. Once on top there are various pathways that make walking along them easy and enjoyable. In spring the over 1400 flowering plants are a magnificent sight.

Bo-Kaap Museum 71 Wale Street - (Mon–Sat 9.30am–4.30pm; R5), this once family home was built in 1763 and is now a museum. The museum is the oldest in the area and houses the possessions of Abu Bakr Effendi, a 19th-century religious leader from Turkey, who was brought to the Cape by the British in 1862 to mediate between feuding Muslim factions. Although the museum is small it does give an insight into the lifestyle of a prosperous 19th-century Cape Muslim family.

Groot Constantia This wine estate in Constantia was built by Simon van der Stel in 1685. It is amongst the grandest vineyards and homesteads in the Cape. The estate has a lot to offer the visitor, not only is there the lovely Cape Dutch homestead to view; there is also an interesting museum and beautiful gardens where you can enjoy a picnic lunch. There is also a restaurant for those with a more discerning taste.

Robben Island Which can be seen clearly seen from Table Mountain and the shores of Cape Town, was first used by the VOC (Dutch East India Company) as a prison. It was later used as a leper colony and then again as a prison. Nelson Mandela spent most of his incarceration on Robben Island. This is a must see as the visitor will learn a lot of what happened to Mandela and the other inmates. Booking is essential has the tour is very popular.

Balthazar Restaurant I am an expat living in South Africa and this restaurant is by far the best place to get a steak in Cape Town. The food is great, the view is amazing and the wine list cannot be matched. They claim to have the largest wine by the glass list in the world. I have never seen anyone walk away dissappointed.
submitted by Lindsey, 26/02/08

Biltong & Borewors Two of South African delicacies that have to be tried. The 1st being biltong - a very popular dried meat snack - usually made using beef, but kudu, ostrich and other meats are available too. The 2nd is Boerewors - translated it means Farmers sausage. Any South African will tell you that a braai(Barbecue) without out beer and boerewors is not really a braai!
submitted by Justin, 26/02/05

Cape Town Shopping

There are many places to shop in Cape Town from the exclusive to the more mundane. Try the V & A Waterfront. There are many varied shops in the mall and even a market where you can get ceramics, textiles, candles and jewellery. Between 9am 9pm on Mon Sat and 10am 9pm on Sundays you can see glass-blowers at work.

For more ethnic works such as wooden carvings, leathers belts, hand-made clothing, try the local markets on Greenmarket Square, Burg Street or Cape Town Station Forecourt. The Constantia Craft Market opposite the Kirstenbosch gardens is a sizeable outdoor flea market where you can find good quality local crafts. Take the children as there are camel and pony rides available. This market is open on the first and last Saturday and first Sunday of the month.

Cape Town Activities

The Two OceansAquarium V & A Waterfront The aquarium is magnificent and there is plenty to keep children interested especially the Alpha Activity centre. Although there are plenty of different types of fish, giant turtles, rays, crabs, lobsters etc., there are also penguins and Cape fur seals. The highlight is of course the feeding of the ragged-toothed sharks which takes place on Sundays at 3.30pm. Daily 9.30am 6pm Adults $8, children $4

Mouille Point Promenade - Take the children Inline skating (roller-blading). This is very popular along promenade from Mouille Point to Sea Point as it is long and smooth. You can rent blades from Rent'n'Ride, 1 Park Rd, Mouille Point (Tel 021 434 1122; around $7 for 2hr).

Castle of Good Hope The stone-walled castle is 350 years old and although it was built to defend Cape Town it has never seen any action. Children may find the dungeons and battlements interesting and although you can easily find your way around it is worth taking one of the tours.

Simon's Town's Boulders This popular beach takes it name from the huge rounded boulders on the beach which create little coves with sandy beaches. However, although the sea is slightly warmer and a delight to swim in, its main attraction is the African penguins (jackass). The highlight of course, is being able to swim with them or rather them swimming with you. The entry to the Cape Peninsula National Park is $2 - 8pm 5pm

Cape Town Parks & Gardens

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens The gardens are situated on the east side of Table Mountain and are amongst the most beautiful in the world. There are some magnificent oaks, a Moreton Bay fig and camphor trees, apart from the famous hedge that was planted by van Riebeeck way back in 1660. The gardens boast an excellent souvenir shop and conservatory. To see the gardens in full, reserve a full day so that you do not rush and miss many of the attractions that are available, such as various botanical shows. You can also take a short walk up Skeleton Gorge.

Government Gardens - This garden is found at the top of Adderley Street, behind the Parliament buildings. There are lovely lanes shaded by oaks trees where the squirrels live. Although the gardens and open lawns are not as big as Kirstenbosch it is still a pleasant place where you can sit and relax, while the children feed the squirrels and pigeons. The Government gardens also house the Museum, Planetarium and the Art museum. There is also a restaurant where one can have a fairly affordable meal.

Cape Town Beaches

False Bay - Although the beaches along the southeast side of the city are not as trendy or scenic as those on the Atlantic side, the water there is by far much warmer. The water is often 5°C warmer and can reach 20°C in summer. This makes swimming much more pleasant and Fish Hoek beach is the safest in the Cape. During October and November whales and their calves can be spotted.

Camps Bay This is one of the most beautiful and popular beaches in Cape Town with the Twelve Apostles of Table Mountain as a backdrop. Unfortunately it is often windy and the water is also cold. The surf is strong and care should be taken when swimming as there are no lifesavers. However, here is where you can see some very spectacular sunsets, so take some time to experience just one.

Cape Town Restaurants and Bars

The local Cape cuisine is a spicy mix of cooking styles brought in by the slaves and consists of mild and semi-sweet curries with a strong Indonesian influence. Although it is not the thing to concentrate on there are restaurants which serve only Cape or African dishes for the curious. These include dishes such as bredies (stews), bobotie, a spicy minced dish served under a savoury custard. For the sweet tooth there is malva pudding, which is a rich combination of milk, sugar, cream and apricot jam.

Cape Town has a broad range of cooking styles with international cuisine readily available. Fresh fish such as kingklip and snoek are readily available at every good restaurant. Splash out on whatever takes your fancy; you'll find the quality of meat and fish very high.

Cape Town Restaurants

Africa Cafe - 108 Shortmarket St, Heritage Square Tel 021 422 0221 - This restaurant is probably the best for African cuisine in Cape Town, with a wide variety from around the continent. For approximately $17.00 per head you will be served a communal feast of sixteen different dishes. As this restaurant is very popular booking is essential. Dinner - Mon–Sat. Inexpensive–moderate.

Sunflower Health Cafe - 111 Long St For the more health conscious or the vegetarian this restaurants' menu includes two hot meals each day, as well as salads and tasty cold food. Mon–Fri 9.45am–5.30pm, Sat 9am–2pm - Inexpensive.

Mama Africa - 178 Long St -Tel 021 424 8634 This popular restaurant serves its Cape specialities in a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere. Not only do they have Cape cuisine but also dishes from around the continent and succulent Karoo lamb. The highlight is a twelve-metre bar in the form of a sinuous green mamba. Dinner - Mon–Sat. - Moderate.

Mugg & Bean - Ground level, Victoria Wharf Although this restaurant is located is inside the shopping mall and therefore does not do credit to the Waterfront setting, you can choice from a variety of excellent coffees. They also serve light meals, huge muffins, toasted sandwiches and salads. Daily 9am–midnight - Inexpensive.

Spur Restaurants Upper level, Victoria Wharf For those who enjoy a succulent steak or just a burger. This is a very popular family restaurant, where children are well catered for. The atmosphere is welcoming and relaxing. Daily Mon - Sun - Inexpensive - Moderate

Cape Town Bars & Clubs

Vasco da Gama Tavern - 3 Alfred St - Tel 021 425 2157 - This pub is locally known as the "Portuguese embassy". This is a genuine working man's pub. A Portuguese "speciality" called catemba grilled tongue with bread, accompanied by wine mixed with Coke is standard. At half the usual price the seafood menu is also great, and better than many of the upmarket eateries. Daily 10.45am–7.30pm. Inexpensive.

Drum Cafe - 32 Glynn St, Gardens - Tel 021 461 1305 This cafe serves light meals and is fully licensed. For a totally different experience you can hire a drum for a communal drumming session. If you're a complete novice go on Monday when the groups are smaller. Take the family to the Saturday afternoon sessions at 3pm these are especially for families. There are often parties at weekends when the professionals play; ring for the current schedule. Entrance $5. Mon, Wed, Fri & Sat 8pm–late.

Den Anker Restaurant and Bar - Victoria and Alfred Pierhead This lively but smart pub also has a continental bistro-style restaurant. It is very popular with tourists and locals alike and is extremely busy, but fairly pricey. Den Anker's speciality is imported Belgian beers, both on tap and in a bottle. Daily 11am–midnight.

Club More - 74 Loop St - Tel 021 422 0544 - This very popular and trendy club has fresh and funky house music in a New York-style club. Wed, Fri & Sat 10pm till late. Entry $7

Cape Town children's activities

The Two OceansAquarium V & A Waterfront The aquarium is magnificent and there is plenty to keep children interested especially the Alpha Activity centre. Although there are plenty of different types of fish, giant turtles, rays, crabs, lobsters etc., there are also penguins and Cape fur seals. The highlight is of course the feeding of the ragged-toothed sharks which takes place on Sundays at 3.30pm. Daily 9.30am 6pm Adults $8, children $4

Mouille Point Promenade - Take the children Inline skating (roller-blading). This is very popular along promenade from Mouille Point to Sea Point as it is long and smooth. You can rent blades from Rent'n'Ride, 1 Park Rd, Mouille Point (Tel 021 434 1122; around $7 for 2hr).

Castle of Good Hope The stone-walled castle is 350 years old and although it was built to defend Cape Town it has never seen any action. Children may find the dungeons and battlements interesting and although you can easily find your way around it is worth taking one of the tours.

Simon's Town's Boulders This popular beach takes it name from the huge rounded boulders on the beach which create little coves with sandy beaches. However, although the sea is slightly warmer and a delight to swim in, its main attraction is the African penguins (jackass). The highlight of course, is being able to swim with them or rather them swimming with you. The entry to the Cape Peninsula National Park is $2 - 8pm 5pm

Useful Cape Town Links

Cape Town Travel Adviser
Personalized Cape Town travel and tour guide. Includes useful information on accommodation, real estate, cheap flights, car rentals and more.

Cape Town South Africa
Photographs in and around Cape Town South Africa shot on a daily basis.

Cape Town Activities
Tourist information and attraction details for Cape Town and the surrounding areas.

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