[Updated August 2020]
We can all agree Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Dramatic mountains plunge into a forever blue Atlantic, cafés spill out onto sun-drenched pavements and music fills the streets and gardens. Often we get tunnel-visioned into a routine of doing the same things and we forget to experience our city through the eyes of her many visitors. As we swing into a new season, here are 10 amazing adventures in Cape Town to get you up, out and experiencing our magnificent city.
1. Grab a slice of NYC and walk the CBD
One of the reasons Cape Town is so livable is the walkability of the CBD. A great way to reacquaint yourself with the secret rhythms of her streets is to grab a friend and a slice of pizza from NY Slice in Kloof Street and walk around.
We suggest you take a ramble along Long Street, past the beautiful Palm Tree Mosque, perhaps stopping in at one of the many rooftop cafés and bars boasting incredible views of the city.
If it’s too early for a drink why not have a wander around the oldest part of the city – Greenmarket Square. The bustle of the vendors and the constant flurry of feathers from the pigeons complement the solemn beauty of the forward-facing buildings. On your walk, look out for small details like the koi fish mosaics you will find hidden on the pavement corners of certain streets (Strand and Bree).
The antique market on lower Longmarket is always fun for a browse and if you work up an appetite, make a lunch stop at one of the delicious restaurants nearby.
2. Cycle along the promenade
The promenade is a fantastic place where families, friends, rollerbladers and dogs meet every afternoon and evening to enjoy the fresh sea air and green spaces. Much like Rio’s famous promenade this is a great place for people watching as there is an air of spontaneity and uninhibited gaiety. Rent a cheerful orange bike from Up Cycles at their station by the Sea Point Pavilion and take a leisurely cycle towards the candy-striped Mouille Point lighthouse, stopping for an ice cream from The Creamery.
3. Take a tour under the city
For a more unusual adventure in Cape Town, explore its hidden tunnels, some of which date back to 1652. The tour is safe and offers a unique perspective on the history and construction of the southern-most city on the continent. Tours begin and end at the Castle of Good Hope.
4. Visit the city’s secret gardens
The Company’s Garden may not be secret, however, it offers a cool respite from the summer heat. Enjoy leafy corners, chess sets, rose gardens and curious squirrels. Purchase a small sleeve of nuts from one of the vendors along the avenue and watch as you make not one but many bottle-brush friends. A milkshake at the Company’s Garden Restaurant is a delight, as is a visit to the nearby Planetarium.
The Rust en Vreugd gardens on Buitenkant street can just be glimpsed through wrought-iron gates from the busy street. Once inside this untamed garden you can see a beautiful view of Lion’s Head and imagine Cape Town when it was just a small port town – a quick pitstop on the passage to India and further afield. The garden was originally built on the outskirts of Cape Town between the town and the large market gardens on the slopes of what is now Orangezicht. There is an interesting collection of paintings in the Rust en Vreugd house focusing on the early days in the Cape.
5. Explore the cave on Chapman’s Peak
You’ll find yourself feeling like you’ve travelled to the end of the world when you discover this secret cave on the side of Chapman’s Peak. At the second look-out point, park your car.
The conditions have to be right so visiting on a windy day is not a good idea. Leave the safety of the railings at your own risk and take a short but steep stroll to a sandstone cave tucked into the cliff. This is a great spot for sundowners in the late afternoon.
6. Paraglide off Lion’s Head
This has to be the best way to experience the beauty of the city from a new perspective. This is the ultimate bucketlist item of adventure activities in Cape Town. You’ll take off from Lion’s Head or Signal Hill, depending on the wind direction, soar over turquoise Camps Bay and Clifton before coming to rest gently in Sea Point.
7. Visit “the beach” on Table Mountain
Climb Table Mountain via Skeleton Gorge (the starting point can be found in Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens) and you will find a surreal beach on the top. This is a wonderful spot for a picnic on the soft sand next to the reflective water of the reservoir. After a beachy picnic either return to Kirstenbosch down Skeleton Gorge or continue to the cable car for a scenic ride down. Always carry a jacket, sunscreen, ample water and snacks when hiking.
8. Picnic with the best view in the city
If you drive all the way to the end of Tafelberg Road, past the cable car station and the gridlock of tour buses, past the starting points for the numerous hikes which criss-cross the mountain, you will come across a picnic spot with an incredible view of the city, the harbour and the dramatic plunge and rise from Kloof Corner to Lion’s Head. No skottels are permitted due to the severe threat of fires but do take along a breakfast roll and some coffee in a thermos and enjoy front row seats to a view like no other.
9. Go canyoning for the ultimate thrill
For the fearless and the fit, canyoning (or kloofing) is an excellent way to get a rush of adrenaline and experience Cape Town’s dramatic landscapes firsthand. Jump over waterfalls, abseil down rocky cliffs and plunge feet first into deep river pools. One of the most incredible spots to experience this is at Crystal Pools in the Kogelberg Biosphere Reserve just 90 minutes outside of the city centre. Choose from 3 – 22 metre-high cliffs surrounded by sparkling rock pools.
10. Get your culture fix at the Zeitz MOCCA
Perhaps a different kind of adventure in Cape Town, this museum for Contemporary African Art is an extraordinarily beautiful feat of engineering. Intriguing patterns mark the large circular glass windows on the ceiling, Dahlesque glass elevators zoom up and down the cavernous space, elegiac music filters through the entrance hall while Nicholas Hlobo’s suspended dragon greets visitors. Already hailed as Africa’s Tate Modern we think they’ll soon be referring to the Tate as Europe’s Zeitz MOCCA.
Free for everyone under 18.
There you have our list of 10 unique adventures in Cape Town. From city walks and hiking to adrenalin-filled plunges, we have plenty of activities to suit any thrill and budget.
Let us know your favourite adventure activities in Cape Town – we’d love to hear them!
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