[Updated August 2020]
No one can argue that Cape Town is firmly on the world map as an unmissable destination.
What lies beyond its majestic mountain, historical Robben Island, sprawling vineyards and iconic sights? We bring you some of the best pocket-friendly things to do in Cape Town. Join us as we uncover unique places to eat, play, shop, celebrate and relax.
1. Free city walking tour
You never really know a place until you’ve walked in its streets, and with the free walking tours in the Cape Town city centre, you’ll be guaranteed a wealth of knowledge. Tours are conducted every day of the year, and with a friendly guide, you’ll be shown around the city’s main attractions at no price at all! Choose between the Bo Kaap, City Centre or District Six tours for a wonderful walk around Cape Town.
2. Browse the markets
On trend with the rest of the world, Cape Town has some of the most wonderful markets that you could ever find. Entrance to the markets are free but be warned that you may want to spend more than a few Rands as you taste and sample your way around the freshest produce, tastiest bites and locally-crafted designs. Some of the popular ones include Oranjezicht Farmers Market (Granger Bay), Bay Harbour Market (Hout Bay), Old Biscuit Mill (Woodstock), Mojo Market (Sea Point) and Route 44 (Stellenbosch).
These are some of our favourites:
Bay Harbour Market
Hout Bay’s Bay Harbour Market offers an eclectic stylish wonderland of exquisite art, craft, fashion, decor and live music complemented by the delicious aromas of food to tempt all the senses. With over 100 stalls, this market is a great outing for the whole family. Housed in an old fish factory, it’s the perfect jaunt for those rainy Cape days.
Contact: 083 275 5586 | View location
Market on the Wharf
It’s no secret Capetonians love all things relating to good food, good vibes and good times and Market on the Wharf at the V&A Waterfront won’t disappoint in any of these categories. All that goodness comes together under one roof where merchants introduce patrons to a diverse range of tastes.
Contact: 021 418 1605 | View location
Oranjezicht City Farmers Market
With education and promoting healthier lifestyles at the forefront of what they do, the Oranjezicht market invites you to visit on a Saturday and Sunday to come and experience what low-impact, sustainable community living is all about. In addition to experiencing the wholesome way of life the OZCF has brought to the city, you can also do your weekly food shopping (fresh produce, home-baked bread, organic dairy, free-range eggs, honey, muesli, etc.) and try out some delicious meals. They even have adoption days if you’re looking to add a furry friend to your family.
Contact: 083 628 3426 | View location
3. Hop on and off with the Red Bus
This is probably the best way to get acquainted with any city, in any season. The red City Sightseeing double-decker buses have built a reputation in many towns around the world for being the go-to vehicle for new introductions and bearing finding expeditions, and in Cape Town, it’s no different. Start day one on the red route – a seamless tour of the City Bowl and its surrounds, and then hop on the Blue Mini Peninsula Tour for sightseeing further afield to Hout Bay and the Constantia Wine Valley. Plug in your earphones and be your own tour guide in more than 16 languages. Whether you’re a tourist or not, this is hands down one of the best things to do in Cape Town.
Contact: 021 511 6000 | View location
4. Catch a movie at the Labia Theatre
You might have heard Gran and Gramps reminisce about back in the day trips to the bioscope and now you can relive their nostalgia in what is arguably the coolest, most unique and independent art-repertory cinema in South Africa. The curiously named Labia Theatre on Orange Street is where you can still sit on the terrace and sip a drink from the licensed bar or take it into the cinema and enjoy whilst watching your movie. Opened by Princess Labia in May 1949 to stage live performances, this movie house now attracts love-birds and hipsters for its retro décor and affordable movie tickets. Buy a movie ticket and popcorn for less than 100 bucks!
Contact: 021 424 5927 | View location
5. Go museum hopping
South Africa has the most fascinating history, from the South African National Gallery’s dinosaur fossils to the former home of high-ranking VOC official at the Iziko Rust & Vreugd Museum. Muse around the various museums and pick up some interesting facts for a full day out across the city.
District Six museum
When the apartheid government swooped on District Six in 1965, forcibly removing its residents and declaring the area a “whites-only” zone, the rich fabric of a disadvantaged but vibrant community was torn apart. In an effort to preserve the memories of District Six and create a monument to the thousands of people around the country forcibly relocated under apartheid, the District Six Museum Foundation was established in 1989. In 1994, the District Six Museum came into being.
See some of the most jaw-dropping and contemporary African art all in one place, at the Zeitz MOCAA. This highly stylish décor-meets-funk museum has some of the most unique and astounding pieces to view, and a view to kill in the Silo District at the V&A Waterfront.
6. Be cool on Bree Street
For a while now, Bree Street has surpassed the status of up and coming, having grown into the hotbed of quintessential Cape Town culture it is today. Some say it’s Cape Town’s best-kept secret chock-a-block with bars, boutique restaurants, galleries and shops of the international designer and homegrown variety oozing Mother City charm and heritage all the way.
7. Find fish ‘n chips in Kalk Bay
Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes are taken care of when you’re in Kalk Bay as there’s only one meal worth having, and that’s definitely a parcel of fish ‘n chips! While there are many restaurants to choose from, we recommend Kalky’s for an authentic Cape Town experience.
8. Indulge in honest chocolate truffles
Honest Chocolate Café, in Wale Street, is the first chocolate café in South Africa. Relax in the laidback atmosphere and dig into everything chocolate, including truffles, cakes, tarts, and warm drinks – perfect for those chilly days. For the gin lovers, walk through the shop where the courtyard leads you to The (Secret) Gin bar, one of Capt Town’s finest hidden gems.
Contact: 076 765 8306 | View location
9. Say what’s SUP Cape Town?
Guy and the SUP Cape Town crew invite you to come down and experience what getting healthy while having fun is all about. From their central clubhouse location at the V&A Waterfront, SUP Cape Town is all about getting on the glassy waters of the canal and getting familiar with one of the fastest-growing water sports in the world.
10. Cycle along the promenade
Rent a bicycle from Up Cycles at the Sea Point Pavilion and explore Cape Town at your own pace. Pedal along the promenade and make your way to the CBD or Camps Bay for a refreshing drink. You’ll get to have fun while exercising and taking in the Mother City’s beautiful attractions, including Green Point Park and Cape Town Stadium. You can return the bike at any Up Cycles station.
Contact: 074 100 9161 | View Location
11. Discover the truth about coffee
For a coffee roastery experience which has won worldwide acclaim, Truth Coffee is about more than just properly roasted beans. From their headquarters on Buitenkant Street, Truth Coffee draws on the Victorian “steampunk” aesthetic of old to create a one-of-a-kind ambience which leaves patrons with the unshakeable feeling that they’re sipping in a setting that is pioneering something special in coffee culture. All elements are drawn together to converge on the giant vintage roaster – the functioning, mechanical heart of Truth Coffee.
Contact: 021 200 0440 | View location
12. Take a hike up Lions Head
The freely accessible Lions Head hike is a hit with locals and visitors. For the price of a bottle of water and a packet of chips, you can enjoy the unsurpassed, 360 views from the top of the city’s second most iconic mountain. It’s about an hour and a half to the top if you’re going at a steady slow pace. Go when there’s a full moon for excellent viewing and a naturally lit pathway to the top.
13. Browse the vinyl at Mabu
The art of record collecting is alive and well in Cape Town City Bowl where Mabu Vinyl is at the forefront of this niche sub-culture. Stephen Segerman of Searching for Sugar Man fame is co-owner of the store and is usually available for a spirited chat about the 2012 hit movie in which he featured. Mabu stocks a rare selection of classics with a catalogue including second-hand records, books, comics, CDs, DVDs and cassettes.
Vinyls go for anything from R50. Shooting the breeze with Stephen – priceless.
Contact: 021 423 7635 | View location
14. Find perfect coffee in Khayelitsha
Lolo, Vusi and Wongama are your hosts, baristas and coffee connoisseurs at the Department of Coffee in Khayelitsha. Founded in July 2012 and situated next to the Khayelitsha train station, these three passionate entrepreneurs have filled a much-needed gap in the morning cuppa routine in one of the busiest intersections of the Cape Flats. The Department of Coffee serves a blend of beans that have been specially roasted for them, as well as tea and hot chocolate, muffins and fresh fruit juices.
Contact: 073 300 9519 | View location
15. Turn a chop against the best backdrop
Set in what is arguably one of the most epic picnic and braai spots in the country, Oudekraal forms part of Table Mountain National Park and is a protected marine area. As such there’s a small fee to enter but the nominal amount is well worth it for the chance to braai South African style next to the sea. Oudekraal features parking, toilets and built-in braais for the whole family, not to mention the epic views and swimming area if you can brave the icy Atlantic water.
Entrance is free for WILD Card and TMNP My Green Card holders.
Contact: 021 428 9111 | View location
16. Grab a sundowner at The Rumbullion
Set on what is arguably one of Camps Bay’s loftiest viewpoints, The Rumbullion at The Roundhouse eases up on the fine dining atmosphere of the neighbouring Roundhouse and opts for more relaxed picnic-style cuisine on the terraces and lawns. Come bask in the natural, leisurely atmosphere with friends and family, while enjoying The Rumbullion’s delicious pizzas and one of the most enviable views in the world!
Contact: 021 438 4347 | View location
17. Walk the Boomslang at Kirstenbosch
Situated on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens is internationally acclaimed as one of the seven most magnificent botanical gardens in the world. Home to the ever-popular Summer Concerts and an aerial walkway called the Boomslang, there’s even more reason to visit Kirstenbosch. The aerial walkway offers a fresh perspective over the lush gardens. It’s a 128-metre-long walkway which allows visitors to experience the Botanical Gardens from the treetops of about 450 of South Africa’s 1,000 indigenous species.
Contact: 021 799 8800 | View location
18. Get bargains and cuddles at DARG
DARG (Domestic Animal Rescue Group) is a pro-life organisation that rescues, cares for, sterilises and finds good homes for abused, neglected and abandoned cats and dogs. The organisation is always grateful for new volunteers – whether you would like to assist at the adoption centre with dog walking, feeding and cleaning, or whether you could offer your help at one of their fundraising events.
Check out their online shop where you can pick up some amazing items at a steal!
Contact: 021 790 0383 / 021 790 2050 | View location
19. Visit World of Birds
Set on four hectares of tropical landscape in the Hout Bay valley, a mere 15 minutes from Cape Town city centre, World of Birds is Africa’s largest bird park with 3,000 birds and 400 species. This is an affordable family day out allowing you the most intimate experience with nature. See how you can support this wildlife sanctuary to stay open – they are doing a sterling job of supporting conservation on a global scale by propagating rare birds and mammals in a protective environment.
Contact: 021 790 2730 | View location
20. Pick strawberries at Polkadraai Farm
A little day trip out of town, enjoy the fruits of your own labour by going strawberry picking at Polkadraai Farm near Stellenbosch. Fun for all ages, Polkadraai Farm invites you to come and “pick your own” from October to December annually when the strawberries are ripe for the plucking. Individuals and families do not need to make a booking but please book a slot if your group is larger than 15 people.
Contact: 021 881 3303 | View location
Also read: Fun day trips from Cape Town
Whether you’re a first-time tourist, repeat visitor or a local, the vibrant Mother City has plenty on offer. We hope our suggestions on budget-friendly things to do in Cape Town adds a spin of fun and flavour to your stay.
Ready to explore the Mother City? Book your flight to Cape Town.
Have we missed any amazing pocket-friendly things to do in Cape Town? Let us know in the comments below!
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