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.
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 even 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.
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.
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!
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 and recording TikToks 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.
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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Ive been to South Africa twice before and still haven’t made it to Cape Town….third time lucky! :) Looks fab!
Hope you make it there soon, Aisling!
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!)
Yay! I’m so happy to hear that :-)
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!
Yeah! I love them so much.
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.
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! :-)
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.
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!
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?
Yep, as far as I’m aware it’s Boulders Beach. The Cape Town tourism board says: “Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town has a lot going for it: the ancient granite boulders protect it from the wind and large waves, making it an ideal swimming spot for kids.” http://www.capetown.travel/visitors/see-do/get-to-know-the-african-penguins-at-boulders-beach
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 :)
I know you’d love it there, Brooklyn!
You captured really amazing pictures of cape town, I enjoyed reading this blog very much. Thanks for sharing!!
Thanks for commenting! :-)
“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!
Yes! Your kids would totally love swimming with penguins, too :-)
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.
The food was *amazing!*
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!
Yeah! It was pretty badass, and really not that expensive. I loved it!
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. :)
Yay! You’d love it there, because, well, everyone does! :-)
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
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 :-)
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!
Hey Laura! Thanks so much for your kind words. They mean a lot :-) Best of luck with your blog!
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.
I’m so pleased to hear that, Rachael! It’s definitely worth checking out if you ever get the chance :-)
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!
Thanks! Glad to hear the post resonated.
You’re so lucky Lauren. I would love to go to Cape Town.
I’m definitely very fortunate :-) I hope you get to experience it one day too.
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?
Busy when there’s a tour group roaming around, but if you hang around for a few minutes, the street will empty again.
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.
I can’t wait to explore some more of the beaches on a future visit!
Penguins on the beach?! Sign me up!
Cape Town is worth a visit for that alone! :-)
Looks fun, hoping to get there soon and se colorful Bo Kapp :)
It was one my favourite parts of Cape Town :-)
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!
No problem! It’s definitely worth visiting if you get the opportunity :-)
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!
Ha! That’s amazing.
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 :-)
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.
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!
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 :-)
You really captured Cape Town beautifully. It looks like the weather played along perfectly. I’m so glad you had such a great trip.
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!
Ahhh my home town!! Your post made me homesick but I’m glad it showed you a good time.
Your home town is amazing! I can’t wait to return :-)
Planning a trip to Cape Town early next year, thanks for the list of great ideas! So many amazing things to do and see!
Seriously! I could spent three months in Cape Town and still have an enormous list of places I wanted to check out there.
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! ;)
Hahahaha, yay! You’re so lucky to live there :-)
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.
They’re in the post.
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
Of course! I will do :-) I’m already planning to return next year.
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.
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.
I just stumbled on your blog – I was looking at Hadrian’s Wall and read you experience and so I went do the rabbit of your blogs :) I actually live in Cape Town and it was fantastic to hear how wonderful your experience was. Just to update you on a few things. Sadly Mezepoli is no more :( I loved their octopus too! They closed down about 2 or 3 years ago and were replaced by a Hard Rock Café… And Boulders (The penguins) now has a different pricing structure – R152 for non locals and R39 for locals, which makes us locals able to visit our own beautiful places without breaking the bank. Hope you visit the Cape again one day. Nina
Thanks for writing about your stay in Cape Town. I am traveling through South Africa on my way to Tanzania and would love to dip to Cape from Johannesburg. It’s only an additional $13 to my flight to do that. Specific question: Where did you stay when in Cape Town? Second is how are you choosing where to stay once you get there? We’ll have 2 full days to be in Cape Town.