Nestled beneath the majestic Table Mountain and embraced by the azure waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town is known as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world. Being the oldest urban area in South Africa, it holds the nickname “Mother City” and boasts a rich history spanning over 300 years. This vibrant metropolis also claims the distinction of being the most bio-diverse on the planet, housing a plethora of unique species that can't be found anywhere else on Earth. With its crystal-clear beaches, gorgeous mountain views, and an abundance of cultural treasures, Cape Town provides the perfect blend of urban sophistication and captivating natural landscapes.
South Africa's bustling capital has also steadily established itself as a gastronomic destination, featuring a variety of upscale restaurants and casual eateries that showcase the distinctive flavors of Cape cuisine. In addition, the city has numerous lively food markets that offer fresh produce, handmade items, and global street food. Here's our roundup of the best things to do and eat while you are in Cape Town.
Table mountain, cable car. Image by Thomas Bennie from Unsplash
Recognized as one of the seven wonders, Table Mountain is among South Africa's most iconic landmarks and arguably the most popular tourist attractions in Cape Town. This flat-topped mountain got the name from its resemblance to a table, a shape formed by the action of waves lapping against it when it was bordered by the sea. For the most stunning panoramas of the city, reach the top either by hiking or using the Aerial Cableway, which takes only five minutes to ascend. In operation since 1929, this cable car is more than a ride, it's a thrilling encounter with gorgeous views of the spectacular South African landscapes of craggy peaks, sparkling coastline, and bustling cityscape. Once at the top, you can indulge in a variety of activities such as hiking trails, bird watching, connecting with nature, purchasing souvenirs, and photography.
Modern pizza was born in Naples, Italy, in 1889 when its precursor focaccia, a flatbread, was topped with tomatoes, mozarella and basil. The first pizza was cooked for Queen Margherita on her visit to Naples. The world's largest pizza was prepared in Rome in 2012. It was 13,580.28 square feet! By the way, it was gluten-free.
After soaking in the awe-inspiring views and hiking through magnificent sceneries, come indulge in food and refreshments at Table Mountain Café. Here you will find a diverse range of quick snacks to wholesome meals: fresh salads, sumptuous sandwiches, burgers, bagels, hot dogs, muffins, and delicious pizza slices. True to its commitment to sustainable management, Table Mountain Café strives to minimize environmental footprint by using compostable plates, cups, and containers for serving food and beverages, which are made from organic materials. This initiative not only reduces water consumption but also exemplifies responsible tourism in practice.
Bo Kaap. Image by Claudio Fonte from Unsplash
One of the most Instagrammable places in Cape Town, the Bo Kaap neighborhood is an authentic celebration of colors. As you stroll through the cobblestone streets, you'll be greeted by rows of houses in every shade of the rainbow, that have a rich history of their own. Originally established in the 1760s, Bo Kaap became home to Cape Malay Muslims who were brought to the Cape as slaves by the Dutch East India Company and lived in rental houses, known as “huurhuisjes”. The standing regulation demanded that all these buildings be painted white. However, when this restriction was abolished and residents were granted the right to buy their homes, they chose to paint them bright colors as a meaningful expression of their newfound freedom. Today, the vibrant façades continue to be a symbol of unity and celebration.
Bobotie is a baked minced meat delicacy. Punchy with spices and hints of sweetness from sultanas, this mouth-watering South African dish is topped with a delectable layer of egg-based custard. It often incorporates hints of curry, turmeric, and lemon or bay leaves for an unforgettable taste.
Bo-Kaap is an enchanting spot for foodies, full of local eateries, providing a true taste of the neighborhood's rich gastronomic heritage. One of the most exciting places to enjoy authentic Cape Malay cuisine is Bo Kaap Kombuis. Go for such traditional dishes as denning chicken (a South African stew with a spice marinade), bobotie (spiced mince with an egg-based topping, traditionally served with yellow rice), tomato beef bredie (stew), frikkadel, or a variety of curry options, including lamb, chicken, prawn, sugar beam, or dal. Each culinary creation is robust in flavor, evident of the Malaysian, Indonesian, and African influences that make up Cape Malay food. The restaurant's balcony offers breathtaking views of Table Mountain, which, combined with its warm, welcoming environment, makes for an immersive and culturally rich dining experience.
Penguins on Boulders Beach Image from PxHere
Beautiful and tranquil, Boulders Beach is a perfect swimming location, with its crystal waters and boulders acting as barriers against wind and large waves. However, it's best known as a habitat for African penguins. These peculiar and adorable residents have provided Boulders Beach with a distinctive charm and became a symbol of conservation in the region. They are typically seen lounging on the sandy shores, nesting in the dunes, or playing and hunting in the warm, turquoise waters. You can watch the birds from the special wooden platforms without disturbing them. In addition to the penguins, Boulders Beach also hosts a variety of bird species and other wildlife, such as dassies, and offers a rich marine life, including whales and dolphins that occasionally make an appearance.
Fish and chips is a national British fast food dish that is known all over the world. It consists of deep fried fish filet (cod or haddock) accompanied by chips. Such side-dishes as mushy beans, gherkins or onions are often served with fish and chips.
Conveniently located in Simon’s Town at the gateway to the renowned African penguin colony at Boulders beach, Seaforth Restaurant is an ideal spot for those who wish to combine incredible dining experiences with memorable wildlife sightings. The establishment serves a variety of delectable dishes with a focus on fresh, locally-sourced seafood. From classic calamari strips, grilled fish and chips, and garlic mussels to sumptuous garlic-crusted baked hake, savory scampi, and grilled baby kingklip, Seaforth Restaurant is a food lover's paradise. You can choose to dine in the cozy indoor section or opt for an alfresco experience on the terrace with a mesmerizing panorama of the sea.
Kirstenbosch botanical garden. Image by jeanvdmeulen from Pixabay
When in Cape Town, don’t miss a visit to one of the largest and most magnificent gardens on Earth. Kirstenbosch, located at the foot of the majestic Table Mountain, is spread over 528 hectares and contains the most diverse collection of Cape flora. It is not just a garden, it is a living laboratory, a conservation sanctuary, and a place of profound natural beauty. One of the highlights of a visit to Kirstenbosch is the Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway, fondly known as the "Boomslang" (a South African tree snake). Just like this long and thin reptile, the sinuous steel and timber bridge winds through the treetops, offering an exhilarating perspective on the surrounding landscape. During the summer months, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is also a hub for cultural events and entertainment, hosting a plethora of outdoor concerts and other events.
Soufflés are culinary products, typically consisting of boiled ingredients that are mashed, mixed with whipped egg whites, and baked. They can be filled with various types of sweet or savory fillings, like cheese, berries, fruits, or chocolate.
After a leisurely exploration of the captivating Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, there's no better way to conclude your day of natural beauty and outdoor adventures than by indulging in a sumptuous meal at The Conservatory Restaurant. Located within the prestigious Cellars-Hohenort Hotel just a short walk away from Kirstenbosch, the establishment features a warm and welcoming ambiance, characterized by large windows that flood the dining space with natural light. The menu showcases the rich tapestry of South African cuisine, crafted using locally-sourced and seasonal ingredients. You can’t go wrong with such delicious options as traditional Cape Malay bobotie, grilled catch of the day, free-range Chalmar beef filet, seared yellowfin tuna, and the chef’s signature aged Boland Cheese double baked soufflé with cheesy gin sauce. The postcard-worthy views of Table Mountain from the restaurant's windows add an extra layer of enchantment to your dining experience.
Kalk Bay. Image by Tanya Paquet from Unsplash
Listed among the coolest neighborhoods around the globe by Forbes magazine, Kalk Bay stands as a lovely fishing village perched along the southern coast of Cape Town. With its quaint storefronts house vintage bookshops, antique stores, and art galleries, the destination beckons travelers with undeniable allure. It's no wonder the village has become a haven for artists and creatives who find inspiration in its beauty. The beating heart of Kalk Bay is its bustling harbor, where you can watch as fishing vessels return with the day's catch. It is also a place to encounter seals frolicking in the waters, eagerly awaiting tidbits from the fishermen's boats. Along the waterfront, you’ll discover an abundance of seafood establishments offering the day's freshest ocean savory selections.
Traditionally seafood pasta is a mix of prawns, clams, mussels and scallops, all tossed together with spaghetti in a homemade tomato sauce. An easy yet elegant Mediterranean meal that’s perfect for entertaining.
Perched right on the water's edge, Harbour House is one of the best places in Kalk Bay to relish on exquisite seafood. The restaurant's interior is an elegant fusion of contemporary design and nautical elements, featuring glass walls that guarantee every table has a fantastic view of the Cape Town harbor. The establishment prides itself on sourcing the freshest catches of the day, ensuring that each dish bursts with flavor and succulence. From mouthwatering steamed mussels, grilled crayfish, and roasted king oysters to homemade seafood pasta, pan-seared Loch Duart salmon and prawn ratatouille, every bite is a testament to the restaurant's commitment to quality. Enhance your delectable meal by selecting from an extensive list of local and international wines.
Cape Town, with its rich balance of scenic beauty, significant history, vibrant food scene, and diverse cultures, is quite unlike any other city in the world. Whether you're a globe-trotting adventurer, a discerning gourmet, or a history buff, the stunning capital of South Africa offers something for everyone to enjoy.