8 Reasons Why I Fell in Love With Cape Town


View from Lions Head

If I was still nomadic, I would likely be writing this article in Cape Town.

Had I arrived in February with no onward travel plans, there are no doubts in my mind that Dave and I would opted to spend the next three months there without a moment’s hesitation. It’s that amazing of a city.

And I have to confess this was an enormous surprise. I’m a weirdo in that if every single person I know loves a place, I almost want to dislike it, just to be different. On top of that, when I arrive in a city with high expectations, I nearly always end up disappointed.

But in Cape Town, my sky high expectations were exceeded. This is a kickass city that I immediately fell in love with, and can’t wait to return to.

Here are eight reasons why.

1/ It’s One of the Prettiest Cities in the World

I’m trying to think if I’ve ever been in a city prettier than Cape Town and none are coming to mind. If you know of one, please let me know and I’ll book flights there immediately.

I kind of feel like Cape Town has it all: beaches, mountains, colourful neighbourhoods, vineyards, all blended together to make one beautiful city.

In fact, I spent much of my time there with my jaw agape, snapping photos that failed to do my surroundings justice. But for once, I didn’t mind, because everything was just so pretty.

Cape Town panorama

Cape Town gardens and fountain

View from Lions Head

Cape Town sunset from Signal Hill

2/ The Food is Amazing

Step up, Cape Town! You’re now totally in my top five cities to eat in, along with Portland, Lisbon, Taipei, and Melbourne. During my ten days in the city, I dutifully wandered across Long Street, Bree Street, and Kloof Street, encountering nothing but delicious meals along the way.

Jerry’s Burger Bar was so great that we returned for a second go-around a few days later. Kloof Street House was the perfect place for a date night, and cocktails at Asoka were divine. Mezepoli in Camps Bay served up the best Greek food of my life, and I’m still dreaming of their smoked octopus. And close to where were staying was Roxy Late Night, a laid back bar with a retro feel, lovely staff, and baskets of spicy wings. I could go on for paragraphs and paragraphs just about the amazing food we had in Cape Town. It was so good.

On top of that, there’s a thriving cafe scene in Cape Town that I dove headfirst into, surfacing minutes later with jitters and heart palpitations. We were fortunate to be staying opposite Truth Coffee, a steampunk-themed cafe that’s regularly voted one of the world’s best. Even though you could describe it as the complete opposite of a hidden gem, it’s still worth battling the crowds for a delicious breakfast and coffee while you’re in town, which we may have done four, or maybe seven, times.

Needless to say, you’ll struggle to find a bad meal while you’re in Cape Town, so prepare your stomach in advance for an eating extravaganza.

3/ It’s a City of Picnics

After discovering Dave and I would be in Cape Town over Valentine’s Day, I immediately got to researching the most romantic things to do in the city.

Picnics! I love picnics so was over-the-moon excited to discover Cape Town revolves around them. There’s Dial-a-Picnic, where you can order your food online, pick a location, and have someone set it all up for you before you arrive. I totally want to start a similar business in Lisbon as it’s such a cool idea! Aside from that, the majority of vineyards offer picnic options, as do many of the hotels and restaurants around town. While I was researching the best picnics in Cape Town, I would regularly come across lists of 30 or more, proving just how many options we had to choose from.

And, of course, you can create one yourself, which is exactly what we did one sunny afternoon. We stuffed a bag full of snacks and wine, took an Uber up to Signal Hill, wandered around until we found a quiet spot with nobody else around, and got down to chilling out while gazing up at Table Mountain at sunset. This was easily one of my highlights of Cape Town.

Another one of my highlights? Shockingly, another picnic.

I knew we wouldn’t be able to leave Cape Town without experiencing a picnic that involved more than a bag of crisps, some crackers, and a tub of guacamole, so we made out way to Cape Point Vineyards for a Valentine’s Day treat. And it was the best picnic of my life! We split a bottle of wine overlooking the countryside, and snacked on fresh oysters, tangy cheeses, juicy strawberries, and all the delicious meats.

Picnic on Signal Hill with Table Mountain in the background
Views from our picnic at Cape Point Vineyards

4/ It’s All About the Outdoors

When I look at some of my favourite cities in the world, they’re places that are all about getting outside: cities in the Pacific Northwest or in New Zealand, where there’s a real vibe for hiking and exploring. Which makes perfect sense, considering I spend 90% of my time indoors on my laptop.

But not in Cape Town! In Cape Town, I didn’t have time to even read my emails, as I was out and about and on my feet every single day. This is a city surrounded by mountains and that means it’s all about the hiking.

Two months later, I’ll still tell you that my decision to climb Table Mountain on a 36/97 degree day was one of the worst I’ve ever made, but now the heat exhaustion has left my body, I’m feeling a little less traumatised about the experience. Conversely, my hike to Lion’s Head was one of the best decisions I’ve made — I’m not sure I’ve ever been on a hike with such stunning views before. I wish I’d had more time to hike my way up even more mountains while I was there. Just maybe not on the hottest day of the year.

Lauren at Lions Head, Cape Town

Views of Cape Town

View of Table Mountain from Lions Head

5/ There are So Many Lovely Beaches

Urban beaches don’t usually rank very highly in my books, but Cape Town has so many beautiful ones!

Sadly, with such a limited amount of time, I only managed to make it to Camp’s Bay beach. It’s totally the busiest and most popular one in Cape Town, and it’s regularly voted one of the world’s best. I was blown away by its bright white sands and dramatic views of the surrounding mountains, and would happily base myself there on my next stint in Cape Town.

Oh, and I definitely need to check out some of the lesser-visited beaches on my return visit, too!

From the top of Lions Head

6/ You Can Swim With African Penguins!

There aren’t many places in the world where you can sit and watch penguins on the beach, and there are even fewer where you can actually swim with them.

There’s only one place where you can get up close to African penguins, and that’s Cape Town.

Just an hour outside of Cape Town, in little Simon’s Town, you’ll find a colony of African penguins on Boulders Beach. Pay a conservation fee of 70 Rand (~5 USD) to enter, and you’ll be free to spend the entire day splashing around with penguins.

It would be remiss of me to not remind you that the next stop south of South Africa is Antarctica, which means the water is freezing. So, yeah, you can swim with the penguins, but I paddled in ankle-deep water and ended up with numb feet so ventured no further. If you’re braver than me, like basically every child there, you can fully submerge yourself in the ocean and enjoy swimming around with the penguins.

All in all, Boulders Beach is super-cool spot that is easy to visit and inexpensive to do (we paid just a couple of dollars for a day pass on the train).

7/ The Colourful Bo Kaap Neighbourhood

When I first booked my flights to Cape Town, the one place I knew I wanted to visit was the colourful Malay neighbourhood of Bo Kaap. I’ve wanted to visit for forever.

And it was the first thing I did in the city. On my first full day in Cape Town, I hopped on the free Bo Kaap walking tour and wandered around the vibrant houses with thirty other people in tow.

Yeah, if you want to spend time taking photos for Instagram and don’t want to deal with crowds of people, return in the morning later on in your trip. We did exactly that and there was barely anyone around.

So what makes this neighbourhood so bright and beautiful? There are a number of stories claiming the origin, but the one we were told on our tour was that a doctor in the neighbourhood decided to paint his house bright red to distinguish it from the others on his street. After trade picked up, everyone in the neighbourhood followed suit and now you have some of the most colourful streets on the planet.

Bo Kaap is home to Cape Town’s Muslim population and the oldest mosque in the country. The neighbourhood is one of the few areas of Cape Town to resist forced removals under apartheid and was traditionally home to descendants of slaves from other African countries, as well as India, Indonesia and Malaysia. And as I wandered around, the air was full of the scent of spices and braai. And gentrification, as we learned how the residents are starting to move out to the suburbs due to prices skyrocketing, and the developers are starting to move in.

8/ You’ll Never Run Out of Things to Do

I did something on every single day of my trip and left with a list even longer of things I hadn’t managed to cram in.

We couldn’t afford to take the pricey helicopter trip that so many people rave about. We didn’t have enough time to head to Robben Island. We didn’t get to Stellenbosch, or any of the other wine regions outside of Cape Town. We didn’t even make it to the waterfront for a walk around. We barely visited any of the local food markets. We didn’t go paragliding off Lion’s Head (you know I would have so been up for that). We didn’t explore any of the beaches aside from Camps Bay. We didn’t drive down to the Cape of Good Hope. We didn’t get to the District Six museum.

And we definitely didn’t have enough picnics.

View from Lions Head

While I’m not ready to declare Cape Town my favourite city in the world yet, it still managed to rocket into my top ten on just my first visit.

It’s got some of everything: great wine, delicious food, mountains to climb, beaches to lie on, PENGUINS, picnics

If you haven’t been yet, you should totally go.

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Cape Town is a kickass city that I immediately fell in love with, and can't wait to return to. Here are eight reasons why.

Previous January 2017: Travel Summary and Statistics
Next In Which I Accidentally Cancel My Flight Out of Cape Town

64 Comments

  1. Aisling
    April 21, 2017
    Reply

    Ive been to South Africa twice before and still haven’t made it to Cape Town….third time lucky! :) Looks fab!

    • Lauren
      June 12, 2017
      Reply

      Hope you make it there soon, Aisling!

  2. Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    April 21, 2017
    Reply

    Oh my gawwwwd. Do you know, South Africa has never really appealed to me all that much? But now. NOW. Thanks Lauren!

    (But seriously. Your photos are absolutely incredible! And penguins are always a winner!)

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      Yay! I’m so happy to hear that :-)

  3. Dominique
    April 21, 2017
    Reply

    I’m so happy the penguins got a mention! From the moment I opened the post I was looking for those cute penguins at the beach!

    • Lauren
      June 12, 2017
      Reply

      Yeah! I love them so much.

  4. Katelyn
    April 21, 2017
    Reply

    I arrived back on Wednesday and would completely agree. I managed to get to Robben Island and a brief walk round the waterfront, but also missed out on Stellenbosch and other places outside Cape Town. You could easily fill a two week holiday just in and around the city. Gorgeous place filled with fantastic people.

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      Right?! I feel like I could spend months there and still leave with so many things I wish I’d managed to fit in. Such a wonderful city! :-)

  5. Brittany Thompson
    April 21, 2017
    Reply

    I agree with literally everything you wrote! In fact, I just wrote basically the same article! :P I fell so in love with the city – even a month there wasn’t nearly long enough.

    • Lauren
      June 12, 2017
      Reply

      That’s so cool! I can definitely see how a month wouldn’t feel long enough. I feel as though a year wouldn’t even be enough to see everything I’d want to!

  6. Katie
    April 21, 2017
    Reply

    Cape Town is definitely one of my favourites too – SO much beauty and so much to do. I have spend 2.5 weeks there over two seperate visits, cramming activities in everyday, and there is still a massive amount of things I want to do. Did you paddle with penguins at Boulder Beach or the little bay next door? You definitely couldn’t swim with them at Boulders when I was there last but perhaps they have changed it?

  7. Brooklyn Murtaugh
    April 22, 2017
    Reply

    Cape Town is somewhere I’ve been wanting to go forever!
    It looks like such a beautiful and colorful city. I can’t wait to go sometime :)

    • Lauren
      June 12, 2017
      Reply

      I know you’d love it there, Brooklyn!

  8. Golden Triangle Tour 3 Days                     
    April 22, 2017
    Reply

    You captured really amazing pictures of cape town, I enjoyed reading this blog very much. Thanks for sharing!!

    • Lauren
      November 17, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks for commenting! :-)

  9. Natalie
    April 22, 2017
    Reply

    “I’m a weirdo in that if every single person I know loves a place, I almost want to dislike it, just to be different.” I do that sometimes, too!

    And while I don’t have a bucket list per se, I’m totally adding “swimming with penguins” to that list!

    • Lauren
      January 2, 2018
      Reply

      Yes! Your kids would totally love swimming with penguins, too :-)

  10. stephanie
    April 22, 2017
    Reply

    I have never been to Cape Town but it looks lovely!
    Im surprised the food was so good…now I am very curious about it LOL.
    x

    • Lauren
      April 23, 2017
      Reply

      The food was *amazing!*

  11. Anne Morgan
    April 23, 2017
    Reply

    Swimming with penguins – so much more original than swimming with dolphins! I spent about a month in Cape Town years ago, but I don’t think this was a thing then (or maybe it was just the wrong time of year). So you’ve given me a reason to go back and something else to add to my bucket list!

    • Lauren
      June 12, 2017
      Reply

      Yeah! It was pretty badass, and really not that expensive. I loved it!

  12. Kat
    April 24, 2017
    Reply

    Wow, the views from Table Mountain look amazing!! I didn’t know you could see penguins near Cape Town! I’m definitely adding it to my list of places to visit. :)

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      Yay! You’d love it there, because, well, everyone does! :-)

  13. Rachel
    April 24, 2017
    Reply

    I cannot explain how badly I want to go Cape Town! Every article I read (especially this one) makes me fall more and more in love with Cape Town

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      I don’t think I’ve ever read a negative account of Cape Town, so I definitely understand why you feel that way! I hope you get to visit soon :-)

  14. Laura
    April 24, 2017
    Reply

    Some very compelling reasons to go for a visit! I love your blog and I’ve always loved the way you are able to capture the atmosphere everywhere you go. I’ve recently just started my own blog and I’m starting to plan for my upcoming travels, this might just make the list!

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      Hey Laura! Thanks so much for your kind words. They mean a lot :-) Best of luck with your blog!

  15. Rachael
    April 25, 2017
    Reply

    Cape Town looks and sounds amazing! I’ve always wanted to go, but you’re really selling it to me. I having a big wave of wanderlust reading this. Just want to get on a plane and go! Thanks for the great article Lauren.

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      I’m so pleased to hear that, Rachael! It’s definitely worth checking out if you ever get the chance :-)

  16. Alex Steven
    April 26, 2017
    Reply

    I could totally relate to each of your points since I feel the same about Cape Town. It is one of the most beautiful places in South Africa. Lovely clicks!

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      Thanks! Glad to hear the post resonated.

  17. Katie
    April 27, 2017
    Reply

    You’re so lucky Lauren. I would love to go to Cape Town.

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      I’m definitely very fortunate :-) I hope you get to experience it one day too.

  18. Paul
    April 27, 2017
    Reply

    Bo Kaap has been somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a very long time. It looks so beautiful and bright. Was it busy while you were there?

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      Busy when there’s a tour group roaming around, but if you hang around for a few minutes, the street will empty again.

  19. Ronnie Walter
    April 27, 2017
    Reply

    I simply love cape town. It has some really really amazing beaches. The pictures you shared just took me back to this beautiful city.Thanx.

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      I can’t wait to explore some more of the beaches on a future visit!

  20. Aaron
    April 28, 2017
    Reply

    Penguins on the beach?! Sign me up!

    • Lauren
      April 29, 2017
      Reply

      Cape Town is worth a visit for that alone! :-)

  21. Louis
    April 30, 2017
    Reply

    Looks fun, hoping to get there soon and se colorful Bo Kapp :)

    • Lauren
      May 6, 2017
      Reply

      It was one my favourite parts of Cape Town :-)

  22. Lexi Robertson
    May 4, 2017
    Reply

    I’ve been captivated by Cape Town after meeting a lady from there who told me all about the sharks in shallow waters. What an interesting place. Thanks for teaching me more about it!

    • Lauren
      May 6, 2017
      Reply

      No problem! It’s definitely worth visiting if you get the opportunity :-)

  23. Victoria @The British Berliner
    May 4, 2017
    Reply

    I’ve been once. Many years ago.

    It really is a captivating colourful town.
    p.s. Their lamb chops are so delicious that I actually left the restaurant, and then went back 10 minutes later, and ordered the dish again!

    • Lauren
      May 6, 2017
      Reply

      Ha! That’s amazing.

  24. Emma Littlewood
    May 7, 2017
    Reply

    Hi Lauren
    Cape Town looks amazing I’m so excited to visit. I’m going in august this year and I’m just wondering where abouts you stayed? It’s the first time I’ve ever been solo travelling so I’m a bit nervous and just after advice on staying safe. Thanks :-)

    • Lauren
      June 10, 2017
      Reply

      I stayed in the Four Seasons hotel while I was there. Anywhere near Kloof, Bree or Long Street is a great place to be :-) And full of travellers, so you’ll feel safe there. If in doubt, take an Uber anywhere you need to go, as they’re super safe for getting around.

  25. Kandi
    May 12, 2017
    Reply

    Loved reading this review of Cape Town! I’ve been living here for five years and agree with everything listed here. One thing I would add is the amazing food markets you can find across the city! The food scene in Cape Town is amazing, and the markets are a huge part of that imo. Great post!

    • Lauren
      June 11, 2017
      Reply

      Ah, yes. That was one part of Cape Town I didn’t really get to explore. We went to Neighbourgoods Market, but it was so crowded that it was hard to enjoy on a weekend! Would love to check out more of them on my next visit :-)

  26. Bianca
    May 23, 2017
    Reply

    You really captured Cape Town beautifully. It looks like the weather played along perfectly. I’m so glad you had such a great trip.

    • Lauren
      June 9, 2017
      Reply

      I loved it! We had amazing weather while we were there, and I could see it being a regular winter getaway for some summer sun in the future!

  27. Donné
    June 13, 2017
    Reply

    Ahhh my home town!! Your post made me homesick but I’m glad it showed you a good time.
    x

    • Lauren
      July 18, 2017
      Reply

      Your home town is amazing! I can’t wait to return :-)

  28. Rand
    November 2, 2017
    Reply

    Planning a trip to Cape Town early next year, thanks for the list of great ideas! So many amazing things to do and see!

    • Lauren
      November 7, 2017
      Reply

      Seriously! I could spent three months in Cape Town and still have an enormous list of places I wanted to check out there.

  29. Annchen Bronkowski
    November 20, 2017
    Reply

    So happy to see this as a Cape Townian! Also, Jerry’s burgers are the beessssst :) Haven’t been home in a couple of months, and you have made me so excited for my visit next month! As a Lion’s Head addict I can’t wait for my fix! ;)

    • Lauren
      November 23, 2017
      Reply

      Hahahaha, yay! You’re so lucky to live there :-)

  30. 7th Traveler
    January 12, 2018
    Reply

    Nice post. Beautiful pictures. I am planning to visit Cape Town in July 2018. Please suggest me the must-visit places in Cape Town. Thank You In Advance.

    • Lauren
      January 12, 2018
      Reply

      They’re in the post.

  31. Anonymous
    June 11, 2018
    Reply

    i cant recommend the v&a waterfront enough, its just so beautiful. if you get another chance to go back to cape town pls pls pls visit

    • Lauren
      June 16, 2018
      Reply

      Of course! I will do :-) I’m already planning to return next year.

  32. By Bush Telegraph Lodge - Antal
    December 31, 2018
    Reply

    Hi Lauren,
    I live in Joburg for 6 years. I had a couple of brief visits to Cape Town before, but I never really thought much of the city. However, now that I read your post, I am really encouraged to pay another visit.
    Although I have been to the Table Mountains, I feel like I should take another family trip there. But more than anything, I would very much like to see the Penguins of Boulders Beach.
    You’ve truly managed to put this town in a completely different light for me.
    Thank you for the inspirational post.

    • Lauren
      January 8, 2019
      Reply

      Thanks for reading! I hope you make it back to Cape Town — it’s such a lovely city, and seeing the penguins on the beach is amazing.

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