See Cape Town's sights on a free walking tour
The best way to really get to know a city is on foot – and City Sightseeing has four engaging, free walking-tour options to explore Cape Town. All operate on a tips-only basis, take about 90 minutes from start to end, and are fully guided in English.
So put on your walking shoes and have some fun while learning lots of interesting facts and gaining local insider knowledge about the enchanting Mother City.
The Historic City Walk
Hear a host of interesting stories about the city’s rich history and heritage – from slavery and the effects on residents of the apartheid era to life in the present day. Tour highlights include a peek at vibrant Greenmarket Square in the centre of the city (where slaves were once sold and which now houses a large market selling African craft, clothes, beads and other goods) and the Cape Town City Hall (an imposing Edwardian building on the Grand Parade, where former President Nelson Mandela made his first speech as a free man in 1990).
You will also visit the peaceful Company’s Garden, home to many precocious squirrels, birds and the Cape’s oldest living “citizen”, a cultivated pear tree dating back about 360 years.
Departure times are 11am and 4.15pm from the Long Street City Sightseeing ticket office.
The Bo-Kaap Walk
This tour takes in the extraordinary and photogenic Bo-Kaap "Malay" quarter known for its brightly painted houses and narrow streets. Highlights include South Africa’s oldest mosque, the Auwal Masjid on Dorp Street. You will pass the Bo-Kaap Museum showcasing local Islamic heritage and culture, and get an introduction to traditional spicy Cape Malay food. The vibrant colours of the houses and steep alleys you will have you clicking away to capture the area's distinct character. From the highest vantage point, there are spectacular views of the city and Lion's Head.
Departure times are 2pm and 4.15pm from the Long Street ticket office.
The District Six Walk
This delightful excursion gives insight into controversial District Six’s colourful past as a hub for musicians, artists, and “good” and “bad” gangsters. You will hear heartrending tales of the infamous forced removals and demolition of homes during the apartheid era.
See St Mark’s Anglican Church, which became a haven for parishioners continuing to make weekly pilgrimages from the townships they had been evicted to, and other churches and mosques that were spared the bulldozers at the time. Catch a glimpse of the District Six Museum (and make a mental note to return to the attraction later). Hear about resettlements into the area and gain insider knowledge about where to get a bargain breakfast or delicious piece of cake.
Departure times are 11am and 2pm, departing from the Long Street ticket office.
The V&A Waterfront Walk
This is an informative, guided walk around one of South Africa’s most popular hubs, the V&A Waterfront with its sprawling views of Table Mountain and the ocean. See landmark sites including the Clock Tower, the heritage Breakwater Prison, the Penny Ferry, the Table Mountain New7Wonders frame and Nobel Square, with bronze statues of South Africa’s four Nobel Peace Prize winners: former President Nelson Mandela, the late Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former State President FW de Klerk. Learn more here.
Departure times are 11am, 2pm and 4.15 pm, from the V&A Waterfront ticket office.
Imizamo Yethu Township Walk
All the tours mentioned above are free, but you also have the option of an inexpensive township walking tour.
Head to the pretty seaside enclave of Hout Bay on the City Sightseeing red bus, and hop off for the Imizamo Yethu Township Walk. The tour, with a local accredited guide, will share insight about its history and culture – as well as the harsher realities of life in this informal settlement (most residents still live in shacks and while there are services, they do remain basic). The vibe is friendly and the tour provides a valuable glimpse into the daily existence of a large sector of the Cape Town community.
The township tours operate daily from stop 23 on the Blue Mini Peninsula Tour. Tickets are available from your bus driver, at City Sightseeing tour offices at the V&A Waterfront (stop 1) and Long Street (stop 5), or online. Departure times are regularly during the day and tours are about 40 minutes long.
Tickets cost R80 per adult and R35 per child.
City Sightseeing's Cape Town walking tours are hugely popular with tourists and locals alike, with guides having been described as "knowledgeable and engaging" and "passionate and enthusiastic", and tours as giving "fascinating insight" into local history.
Both tours were really worthwhile, especially the trip to District 6 because of our guide's own experiences of growing up in SA, and remembering what it was like the day Nelson Mandela gave his speech outside the City Hall.
See more comments from Tripadvisor here.
Cape Town is famously photogenic, so bring your camera or smartphone to record your experience and the colours, moods and sights of one of the world’s most magnificent cities.
Get some inspiration to get creative with your own snaps:
For more information and to join the conversation, go to the Cape Town Free Walking Tours Facebook page – and invite a friend to join you.
What to wear and bring
You’ll be walking the streets of Cape Town, some of which are cobbled, so wear comfortable shoes. Bring a bottle of water, a hat and sunscreen, plus something warm to wear if there’s a chill in the air, and make sure your camera or mobile device is fully charged.