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The Complete Insider’s Guide To Cape Town

Cape Town holds a special place in my heart because it is where I discovered my love for solo travel. I was a broke nursing student in college and I discovered a volunteer abroad program which I really wanted to embark on but when I tried to gather a group of friends to come with me, everyone backed out last minute. Instead of waiting for others, I impulsively booked the trip on a whim and went for a month. I stayed in a house with volunteers from all over the world and I learned so much about myself, the beautiful people of South Africa’s townships, its complicated history and I built the confidence to embark on more more solo trips.

This trip in 2011 would later inspire the Dame Traveler blog to be born in an effort to inspire women who felt like I did at the time with two choices: either you go solo and make your dream come true or wait forever for people to join you and you may never go. A decade later, I would go on to travel to more than 70 countries, many of which were solo.

Twelve years later, I came back to Cape Town and it felt like a full circle moment. I spent another month there and although it was a different experience, I felt just as connected to the Mother City as ever. The nature, the healing energy it provides, the warm people, the gorgeous hotels, amazing restaurants, stunning beaches, wineries, Cape Town has it all. Read along as I share my favorite places and tips for your next trip to Cape Town.


The Best Areas to Stay in Cape Town

There are so many great areas to stay in Cape Town, it just depends on what vibe you’re looking for.

V&A Waterfront:

Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (V&A Waterfront) offers incredible views of the Atlantic Seaboard and iconic Table Mountain. Known as the top destination to shop at in Cape Town, you can find authentic African art, jewelry, home goods and more at V&A Waterfront. In addition, this lively waterfront area offers fine dining, live entertainment and a Ferris wheel that provides 360-degree views of the city and nearby mountains.

Green Point:

Known as Cape Town’s trendy residential area, Green Point is in walking distance to V&A Waterfront as well as to some of the city’s best hot spots. It is also in Green Point where the 2010 FIFA World Cup was taken place! Nowadays, the stadium hosts concerts, sporting events and so much more!

Sea Point:

Cape Town’s oceanfront district of Sea Point is a beautiful and lively area that features luxury high-rises, a sandy beach, breathtaking tidal pools, a scenic promenade and amazing views of the iconic Lion’s Head mountain. It is also here in Sea Point where you could find some of the best foodie options in Cape Town.

Clifton:

Located in the most affluent area of Cape Town, Clifton is a glistening white sand beach that is perfect for everyone! Separated by giant boulders, Clifton offers four amazing beaches: 4th Beach is where you will find families and young adults; 3rd Beach is popular with Cape Town’s LGBT community; 2nd Beach is where you can spot models and South Africa’s rich and famous and then 1st Beach is Cape Town’s pet-friendly area.

Camps Bay:

Camps Bay is a buzzing beach area with swanky restaurants and cocktail bars, adorable boutiques and a beautiful white sand beach. It is in Camps Bay where you will find some of the most breathtaking views of Cape Town’s mountains.

Hout Bay:

I stayed in a short term rental apartment in Hout Bay for a month and I absolutely loved it. It’s slower paced and very different than the areas along the Atlantic Seaboard which are all on the beach. Hout Bay is surrounded by mountains and is very peaceful. Although it feels super remote, it’s actually right next door to all of the Atlantic Seaboard, making it super easy to get to the action.

Tamboerskloof and Bree Street, Kloof Street in the Central Business District

Away from the buzz of Bree Street, this residential area offers a village-y feel and lots to explore. There are tons of hipster style coffee shops and restaurants and it’s also great for shopping as there are many shops and boutiques.

 


Hotels

12 Apostles Hotel & Spa

Located along the Atlantic Seaboard surrounded by the iconic Twelve Apostles and Table Mountain, a stay at the 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa is sure to make your trip to Cape Town extra memorable as it’s the only building on this part of the coastal road. The views are absolutely gorgeous and the hotel itself is designed beautifully with unique art pieces and a stunning pool. It even has it’s own private helipad and hiking paths where you can picnic as well. I highly recommend a stay here.

Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel

Another iconic stay in Cape Town is at the Mount Nelson, A Belmond Hotel in the Gardens neighborhood. This is a slightly difference experience in the city center but is surrounded but absolutely breathtaking views and the property itself is so beautiful that you may never want to leave! I know I surely didn’t.

The layout of the Mount Nelson gardens can be traced back almost 180 years when it was once a farmland, turned into an elegant estate with trees, an orchard, vineyard, aviary and even a deer park.

The iconic resort has been welcoming guests since 1899 and the property feels so warm and welcoming from the. moment you step in and are greeted by the warm staff. It’s also popular for Afternoon Tea so even if you don’t stay here, I highly recommend a visit for Afternoon Tea and to explore the property.

POD Camps Bay

My stay at POD Camps Bay was incredibly special. From the moment I walked into the very last moment when I checked out, the staff was so thoughtful, warm, kind and made this solo female traveler feel safe and right at home. The property is absolutely gorgeous, clean and located in the perfect spot, steps away from the action but not too close where you’re inundating by the noise of the strip. It’s super peaceful and calming. The minimal, modern design is gorgeous and the sun-downers by the pool at sunset was my favorite. I still cannot get over how wonderful the staff was. They went above and beyond for every guest. The property pay a lot of attention to detail, which I also appreciated. I highly recommend this stay, especially for honeymooners (the rooms are very intimate) and/or solo travelers.

O’Two Boutique Hotel

Located right on the beach front in Cape Town’s Mouille Point, everything about our stay at O’Two was a dream. From its stunning 360 degree rooftop views and pool, to its kind and welcoming staff, to its cozy bed, modern amenities and perfect location. O’Two Boutique Hotel is a must stay in Cape Town, especially if you’re the type of person that likes to be close to the action but not in the heart of it so you can relax and have a more local experience. The property is super new and modern with great amenities and the staff is so kind. I really loved it here.



Where To Eat

Mojo Market:

Mojo Market is a thriving foodie haven and lifestyle market that offers something for everyone. Located in the Sea Point area of Cape Town, you can find anything and everything at this place! Mojo Market’s food stands include Argentinian, Italian, Hawaiian, Dutch, Southern Comfort, Japanese, Seafood, Middle Eastern, Vegan & Vegetarian, Chinese, Mexican, Spanish, Indian, traditional African and so much more! This lively market also offers amazing coffee shops, bakeries, candy stands, ice cream stalls and juice bars.

Kloof Street House:

Walking up the stairs towards the elegant Victorian-era house is quite an experience in itself: as you walk in you are almost immediately flanked by an outside dining area with mosaic-style and wooden tables. Good to know: they host a super cool jazz concert every Sunday afternoon.

Our Local

Located in the Gardens neighborhood, Our Local is an absolute dream for vintage / plant lovers. It’s dressed head to toe in plans and the vintage touches are so detailed. The space doesn’t have AC though and the fans aren’t so great. The food was good but I recommend it more for a snack and/or drinks.

 


What To Do

There’s something for everyone in Cape Town. There are hundreds of things to do in this beautiful city, but here are a few recommendations:

Winelands Day Trip or Weekend

Go wine tasting in Cape Town’s Winelands, about an hour drive outside of the city. There are over 2000 vineyards and wine estates in the Western Cape, so where to start? Book a wine tour for a day or spend a weekend there.

To get the full measure of Cape Town’s mountain-ringed winelands, give yourself at least two days.

The three main towns to visit are Stellenbosch, Franschhoek.

We spent the weekend in Franschhoek and stayed at the beautiful Leeu Collection Property. It’s made up of the main house which is located in the center of town and the sprawling estates, just a 5 minute drive away which houses the spa, wine tasting and restaurants, mainly the incredible and world-renowned, La Petite Colombe where we had a spectacular dinner. The mountain views surrounding the property will absolutely take your breath away. The Spa experience was so gorgeous with views of the mountains right from the spa room and such a lovely facial experience that left me relaxed and uplifted for the rest of the day.  It also offers a sauna, plunge pool and gym.

Constania

If you don’t end up making it to the Winelands, a day trip to the gorgeous suburb of Constantia for wine tasting, stunning views and dining is always a good idea.

Hike Table Mountain National Park or Lion’s Head:

One of the best ways to receive amazing views of Cape Town is by either hiking or taking a gondola up to the iconic Table Mountain or Lion’s Head. During my time in Cape Town, I went to the top of Table Mountain and was amazed by the amount of different trails, viewing points and of course, the scenery! Table Mountain is also part of the new Seven Wonders of the World. If you’re looking to get some exercise, take a 2-hour hike to Table Mountain’s summit. Or if you’re feeling a little tired, the cable car is the better option.

An alternative hike to Table Mountain is Lion’s Head which is a bit easier and offers just as stunning views. I recommend hiking in a small group rather than solo if you’re going to hike at sunset, which is the best time.

Wander through Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens:

Considered to be the most beautiful garden on the continent and one of the most grandeur botanical gardens of the world, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in Cape Town is the perfect place to get lost in. It is at Kirstenbosch where you could spot unique plant life and catch some gorgeous views of South African nature. It is truly a magical place!

Take a boat ride to Seal Island in Hout Bay

A fun, scenic, inexpensive boat ride from Hout Bay to Seal Island where you will witness hundreds of seals hanging out on a protected island. It’s absolutely beautiful! There is a bar on board but beware that the sea can get very choppy as it’s not the smoothest ride.

Watershed Marketplace

A warehouse that offers items from more than 150 artists

Oranjezicht City Farm Market

Spend a Saturday morning here and find for local produce, freshly baked breads, and small-batch cheeses. It’s also fun during Wednesday Night Market season where it’s lively into the night with live music.

Beaches

Camp’s Bay Beach

Camp’s Bay, nestled just below the Twelve Apostles mountain range, is the perfect chic and trendy beach town to visit. Be sure to go there before 6pm to secure a table at one of the countless cocktail bars and get wonderful views of the sunset. Hout Bay is also an extremely romantic and picturesque place to enjoy the Atlantic Ocean.

As I mention above, Camps Bay offers a main strip that features glitzy restaurants, high-end boutiques and great nightspots. Even though Camps Bay tends to be more of a public beach in a sense where it is easier for people to access, there are so many wonderful gems about it! My favorite part of Camps Bay is where you could walk on the rocks and watch the ocean crash along them. Camps Bay also offers breathtaking views of the overpowering Twelve Apostles from Table Mountain National Park!

Clifton Beach:

In my own opinion, Clifton offers the best white sand beach in Cape Town. It is powdery soft and super easy to walk on. Another perk about this gorgeous beach is that there are massive boulders where you can set your beach towel on and sunbathe in a secluded area.

Sea Point:

Sea Point is a wonderful beach that offers stunning tidal pools, gorgeous oceanfront views, great eateries and so much more! It is at this wonderful beach where you can stroll along the promenade and get a true taste of South African culture.

Llandudno:

This is one of Cape Town’s most picturesque beaches, especially at sunset. It’s located inside a small community of mega mansions and beautiful luxury homes. It’s secluded but still open to the public. Bear in mind that it’s at the end of the Atlantic Seaboard (just before Hout Bay) and doesn’t have any shops or restaurants near by like the other beach towns.

Boulders Beach:

Located 45 minutes from the heart of the city, Boulders Beach is where you could find the famous Cape Town Penguins! Because of these cute little fellows, Boulders Beach tends to become a bit of a tourist trap. Even though this beach gets crowded, it is still worth it to make your way there to see the penguins and to also get a glimpse of this gorgeous area. The beach offers fresh white sand and inlets between granite boulders. You will fall in love with Boulders Beach!

Muizenberg Beach:

Known as the beach with the colorful bungalows, Muizenberg is a largely kept secret to Cape Town. Located a half hour from the heart of the city, Muizenberg attracts very few tourists and is known as one of South Africa’s largest surfing communities amongst the locals.

Bloubergstrand

A 20 minute drive outside of the city center, Bloubergstrand has the most beautiful panoramic view of Table Mountain. It’s also known for it’s kite surfing as it’s one of the best spots in Cape Town for it.

 

Stay tuned for our Digital E-Guide for more Cape Town tips!

 

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