It’s hard to balance all there is to offer in Cape Town – from the wine country to penguin colonies to the mountains around. This guide is a little of it all! Live like a local and still see some of the major attractions. Here is the ultimate 4-day Cape Town itinerary with all the highlights!
Where to Stay
There are several areas in Cape Town that are great for tourists (and safer than others).
The V&A Waterfront, which is a hub of activity and houses the Aquarium, the Robben Island Museum and the main stop for the city’s sightseeing bus routes.
Camps Bay and the Atlantic seaboard: the views up the mountain are spectacular, while the beach below is often busy. Celebrities often stay in this area, but affordable accommodation is still available.
The Gardens district, an inner-city suburb right next to the CBD, is close to major attractions and nightlight while still offering a local experience.
We stayed in the Camps Bay area at the Atlanticview Cape Town Boutique Hotel. The sunsets overlooking the beach are worth the stay alone. It’s only 5 minutes from Table Mountain and offers a sweeping 180-degree view of the water.
The best way to get around the city is by car although signage can be a bit confusing (and they drive on the “wrong” side of the road for us Americans). If you don’t want to deal with a car, the city offers Uber for very reasonable rates, but may be difficult to source up the mountain side. Public transportation such as the Metrorail or bus are also cheap ways to get around Cape Town. If you do decide to ride the bus, make sure you keep your belongings close; pickpocketing is frequent. On days booked with tours, transportation is usually included. Hotels often offer private transfers as needed if an Uber is unavailable.
Start your day early as you hike up Lion’s Head. The spiral route, which is about 2.5-3 miles roundtrip, is an easier route up without the ladders and rock climbing. You can Uber to the trail head. Plan for a few hours to navigate the terrain and don’t forget to bring lots of water. The wind up the mountain can also be fierce, so a jacket is recommended.
After you’ve worked up an appetite (and gotten cleaned up), head to Camps Bay beach and enjoy a fresh seafood lunch at Codfather Seafood & Sushi. This unique establishment doesn’t have a printed menu, but rather a fresh sushi conveyor belt for your selection, as well as a fish market display counter with all the fresh offers of the day. Select your favorite, such as Rockfish or Butterfish, and the chef will prepare to order with optional sides. The seafood speaks for itself while the spices and a little bit of oil only bring out the flavor.
In the afternoon, travel up to Table Mountain. You can choose to hike up to the top (quite a strenuous path) or enjoy the cable car! Tickets can be booked in advance. I will warn you, the mountain is often covered in fog, so views may be limited but if you get lucky, be prepared for wonderful views of the Twelve Apostles range, as well as the Atlantic. There is a restaurant at the top and a few small souvenir shops.
If you are looking for a local favorite, book a table at Kloof Street House for dinner. Set in a magnificent Victorian House, the vibrant restaurant is bursting with character. The darkened rooms or candlelit garden are both intimate and cozy. The food is responsibly sourced with a host of flavors. We enjoyed several appetizers, but the mains were certainly the highlight – the grilled ostrich was superb and one of my favorite dishes
Explore outside the city, heading to Cape Point and Boulder’s Beach Penguin colony. We selected a full day tour with transportation, but you can select a half day tour option or hire a private driver to take the day at your leisure. The excursion includes Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, Boulder’s Beach and maybe even whale or seal viewing. Some tours include stops at Bo-Kaap, Maidens Cove and/or Simon’s Town. Be sure to read the fine print to make sure what entrance fees are included. Most require additional payment at Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony and the Cape of Good Hope entrance. Lunch options are usually available for purchase.
After a wonderful day of exploring the coast, come back to the Potluck Club at the Old Biscuit Mill for dinner. Reservations are a must! You can select to sit at a chef’s table, which I would strongly recommend. This was our favorite meal of the whole trip. This eatery’s modern take on dining offers industrial elegance in a cozy environment. The small plate menu is perfect for sharing and ensure you can try several dishes. We loved the fish sliders, taco 2.0, duck and the pork Penang belly. Definitely save room for the peanut butter boom for dessert. And while unconventional, the Thai green curry martini is AMAZING! Open for lunch and dinner, as well as Sunday brunch. Make sure you find the time to try this amazing restaurant while in Cape Town.
Wine. Wine. Wine. How can you come to South Africa and not taste some local wineries? While there are so many options to choose from, the main areas are in Constantia, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch. It’s so difficult to narrow down all the wonderful tasting rooms and you can easily spend a month exploring the region. A car or private transportation is suggested in order to get to all the wineries. With our limited time frame, we choose the Franschhoek Wine Tram Tour, which offers several routes to various nearby wineries via tram and bus. You can realistically fit only 4 to 5 wineries in one day, though your liver might cry for less. We selected the Pink Line, stopping at Leopard Leap, Chamonix, Grand Provence, and Haute Cabrière. There is an option for private car transfers from your accommodation. The tram terminal café offers fresh beignets and hot coffee to carb load before day drinking. Select a winery along the route for lunch or choose tasting menus with your wine to eat along the way. As the day goes on, the buses and trams become more and more entertaining! It’s a wonderful taste of the region and left us ready for our next trip!
As you head back into town, stop for dinner at La Colombe Restaurant at the Silvermist Wine Estate. The contemporary French fusion restaurant in Constantia is well worth the visit after a day of wine tours! However, if you want to go back into town, try Toni’s on Kloof. The Mozambique and Portuguese fusion food is packed with flavors and is a local favorite.
How about breakfast with stunning views of Table Mountain and the Atlantic Ocean? Make your way to the Lawns at the Roundhouse in Camps Bay for a scrumptious breakfast in a wonderful outdoor space. Child and pet friendly, this spot is perfect for casual gatherings and great food.
After breakfast, take the ferry to Robben Island and visit the prison where Nelson Mandela was kept during Apartheid. Learn about the history of South Africa on this five-hour tour with hotel pick up. The ferry is about 30 mins each way and will disembark at Murray’s Bay Harbour, where you board buses for the island tour. The tour route includes the graveyard of people who died from leprosy, the Lime Quarry, Robert Sobukwe’s house, the Bluestone quarry, the army and navy bunkers and the Maximum-Security Prison where thousands of South Africa’s freedom fighters were incarcerated for years. The tour culminates with a viewing of Nelson Mandela’s cell.
Return in time for afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson hotel. Seating times are available Wednesday to Sunday at noon and 3 pm. A glass of bubbles is included.
Enjoy dinner just a few blocks away at the Black Sheep restaurant on Kloof Street. They offer seasonal ingredients and daily specials with Table Mountain view. Their sister establishment – The Dark Horse – is also comfort food perfect for a more casual occasion.
If you’re planning a trip to South Africa, this four-day itinerary for Cape Town allows you to experience the best that this city has to offer.