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Cape Town summer fun: our top six things to do

  • 02 January 2018 | Libby Peacock

There’s no shortage of things to do in the Mother City, which caters for everyone from adrenaline seekers and foodies to beach bums and culture vultures. Here’s our pick:

Go on a moonlit adventure

Going up Table Mountain during your Cape Town visit is a given. But just a hop from the Lower Cable Station, another magical Mother City experience beckons: a hike up Lion’s Head. The trail is about 2km one way, takes around 90 minutes one way, and is particularly beautiful on a bright summer’s evening.

Don a headlamp and comfortable walking shoes, bring a backpack with drinks and snacks, and pack something warm for when the temperature drops after dark. You must be moderately fit and there are some steep bits closer to the top where you need to use the ladders and chains provided, but the reward is unforgettable views from the top of the 669m peak.

How to get there: Hop off the red bus at Table Mountain, walk down the road and cross at the zebra crossing towards the parking area and clearly marked start of the hike. If you'd rather enjoy the view without breaking a sweat, hop on our Sunset Bus to enjoy a glorious sunset on Signal Hill.

Hug some trees

Even if you have just a few days in Cape Town, find time to visit the amazing Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden at the foot of Table Mountain. A bucket-list item is its 130m-long timber Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway (known as the Boomslang [“tree snake”]), named the Most Beautiful Object in South Africa at the Design Indaba Expo 2015. On a clear day, the views from the Boomslang sprawl all the way to the Stellenbosch mountains.

Back on terra firma, stroll among the famous garden’s indigenous flora, comprising more than 7 000 species, from delicate, fragrant fynbos to majestic yellowwood, stinkwood and boekenhout trees. Explore the shaded pathways away from the crowds, picnic on the lawns or enjoy a meal in the restaurant.

How to get there: Hop off at the Kirstenbosch stop as part of the Mini Peninsula Tour.

Be merry at a market

Squeezed in between the bluest bay and craggiest mountain, the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay is a treasure trove and foodie heaven, with around 100 stalls offering locally made clothes, homeware, jewellery, freshly baked bread and cakes, and much, much more. Come hungry – the friendly food-stall folk serve up delights ranging from succulent Karoo lamb to Asian cuisine. Enjoy your pickings at the convivial long, wooden tables to the strains of live music. There’s a feel-good element, too: the market supports the local Hangberg community. It’s open on Friday nights (5pm to 9pm), and Saturdays and Sundays (9.30am to 4pm).

How to get there: Hop off the Mini Peninsula Tour at stop 24 at nearby Mariner’s Wharf, and the market is a short walk from here.

Join the cool crowd

Walk, cycle, jog or skate … Head to the Sea Point promenade and join the passing parade of locals, their canine companions and visitors from around the world enjoying the sea air and happy vibes. You can walk all the way from the Sea Point Pavilion on the southern end to Mouille Point.

This is people-watching paradise, and there’s an outdoor gym, recently upgraded children’s playgrounds and public art to admire. It’s fun to rent a bike from a stand at the pavilion, where there are also stalls selling food, snacks and fabulous ice cream. Just minutes away from the promenade, Sea Point’s myriad shops, coffee spots and restaurants beckon.

How to get there: The promenade is parallel to Beach Road, stretching from Sea Point to Mouille Point. An easy way to get there is by hopping off the City Tour to Table Mountain Tour at St John’s Road or Winchester Mansions, Sea Point.

Immerse yourself in art

All roads lead to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, but now there’s a cool new kid on the block in its newest precinct, the Silo District: the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA). The largest contemporary art museum in Africa, constructed around a historic converted grain silo complex, the awe-inspiring structure is a work of art in itself and houses seven levels of 21st-century art from Africa and its diaspora.

If this whets your appetite for more, also visit the National Gallery on Government Avenue in Cape Town’s Company’s Garden, which houses South African, African, British, French, Dutch and Flemish art spanning the centuries, as well as temporary exhibitions of photography, sculpture, beadwork, textiles, architecture and more.

How to get there: Head to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (City Sightseeing stop 1) and walk to the Silo District.

Catch an opera in Africa

The Mother City has a vibrant cultural scene. Why not spend a mellow evening listening to authentically local Cape jazz in the intimate Fugard Theatre in Caledon Street, Cape Town, for comedy, drama or a musical; or visit the Artscape Theatre Centre on the Foreshore, for a show that takes your fancy? The Artscape’s current line-up includes such gems as the Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber musical Evita; gritty Tsotsi, The Musical, based on the novel by acclaimed playwright Athol Fugard; and Cape Town Opera’s The Magic Flute. Cape Town Opera is Africa’s premier opera company and South Africa’s largest permanent non-profit performing arts organisation, producing world-class productions while developing young local talent.

How to get there: The red bus is the easiest way to visit all these attractions. Hop on the City Tour to Table Mountain, Downtown City Tour and Mini Peninsula Tour to see these and other attractions.

Buy your ticket

There’s lots more fun to be had – what are you waiting for? Buy your red bus packages online, at stop 1 (at the V&A Waterfront), stop 5 (81 Long Street) or stop 8 (Camps Bay), or from your bus driver.