48 Hours In: Cape Town

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

With Table Mountain providing a spectacular backdrop, Harriet O'Brien soaks up the culture and glamour of South Africa's coastal gem before it gets swamped by football fever



Click
here for the 48 Hours in... Cape Town map


Travel essentials

Why go now?

Sunshine, low prices, magnificent scenery – with great summer weather and a relatively weak exchange rate, South Africa's most glamorous city is an attractive destination right now. What's more, in the build-up to the World Cup, the current buzz is almost palpable. Visit soon to capture the spirit of excitement and avoid the influx of football fans in a few months' time.

Touch down

South African Airways (0871 722 1111; flysaa.com ), British Airways (0844 493 0787; ba.com ) and Virgin (0870 380 2007; virgin-atlantic.com ) fly non-stop from Heathrow to Cape Town. The 23km taxi ride from the airport to the city centre costs around R250 (£20.50).

Get your bearings

Cape Town's setting is implausibly spectacular. The Atlantic Ocean lies to the north and west, while Table Mountain rises a sheer 1,086m to the south, with the ridges of Signal Hill and Lion's Head providing a dramatic skyline in the midst of the city. The historic centre, known as the City Bowl, is to the east of Signal Hill. The new football stadium at Green Point is directly north, and the stylish, revamped docklands is to the north-east. It was called the Victoria and Alfred Docks (1) after Queen Victoria (who never actually visited) and her son Alfred (who did, in 1870). Now known as the V&A Waterfront it is South Africa's most visited tourist site. The City Bowl is easily navigable on foot. Yet given Cape Town's geographical spread, most visitors will also want to explore further afield. Public transport, however, is limited.

Your best bet for getting around is the hop-on, hop-off tourist bus (00 27 21 511 6000; citysightseeing.co.za ) that runs every 20 minutes (from 9.10am-6.30pm). It stops at all the major city sights and costs R110 (£9) for unlimited travel over a day. The central tourist office (2) is on the corner of Castle and Burg streets (00 27 21 487 6800; capetown.travel ). It opens 8am-6pm (Saturdays 8.30am-2pm and Sundays 9am-1pm). An alternative tourist office is located on the V&A Waterfront (1) and is open daily 9am-6pm.

Check-in

The city's most luxurious accommodation is the new One&Only Cape Town (3) at Dock Road, right on the V&A Waterfront. This resort hotel opened last April and offers celebrity restaurants Nobu and Gordon Ramsay's Maze, as well as 131 super-spacious rooms (00 27 21 431 5800; oneandonlyresorts.com ). Doubles start at R5,950 (£484) including breakfast. For a boho-chic boutique option check into Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel (4) at 134 Long Street (00 27 21 422 3074; daddylonglegs.co.za ) in the heart of the city centre. It has 13 funky rooms, individually devised by different artists. Doubles from R775 (£62) excluding breakfast. Cape Town also has a great choice of upscale B&Bs, such as Olaf's Guesthouse (5) at 24 Wisbeach Road in Sea Point, the up-and-coming western district of the city (00 27 21 439 8943; olafs.co.za ). Guests at the eight comfortable rooms here also have use of the swimming pool. Doubles from R675 (£55), including breakfast.

Day one

Take a hike

For a poignant walk around the city centre, start at the top of Wale Street. This was the 18th-century slave area – and also the district where the first freed individuals set up home. Lined with small, colourful houses, the neighbourhood is now called Bo-Kaap. No 71 is the Bo-Kaap Museum (6), which celebrates Cape Town's Malay-Muslim culture (Mon-Sat 9.30am-4.30pm; adults R10/£0.82).

Continue down to the intersection with Queen Victoria Street where St George's Cathedral (7) stands tall. This became known as the "People's Cathedral" during the apartheid years (open 8am-5pm daily; free). Turn next right into Government Lane and branch off along a path through the Company's Garden, originally used for growing vegetables for the Dutch East Indies ships and now a pretty city park. The South African Museum (8) at the end contains an especially absorbing collection of rock paintings (Mon-Sun 10am-5pm; adults R15/£1.20). Walk back along Government Avenue, past the Company's Garden and alongside the Houses of Parliament (9), where South Africa's government spends six months of the year, from January to June.

Continue straight on, over Wale Street and into Adderley Street. Slave Lodge (10) at No 49 houses a museum focussing on the role of slavery in the city's history (Mon-Sat 10am-5pm; adults R15/£1.20). On Church Square, around the corner, Groote Kerk (11) dates from 1678 and was the first Dutch Reformed church in South Africa (Mon-Fri 10am-2pm, free). Continue along Parliament Street and turn right into Darling Street. It was from the splendid City Hall (12) that Nelson Mandela made his first speech after being released from prison in front of crowds gathered opposite in the Grand Parade, which will screen the city's World Cup games this June.

Window shopping

Greenmarket Square (14), its cobbles newly relaid, is where to bargain for souvenirs, but head to the Pan African Market (15) on Long Street if you want more serious crafts. The Victoria Mall (16) at the V&A Waterfront offers plenty of sophisticated retail therapy.

Lunch on the run

Head to the Eastern Food Bazaar (13) close to City Hall at 96 Longmarket Street (00 27 21 461 2458 ). As you tuck into the likes of vegetable biryani at R20 (£1.65), savour the exotic décor of this cool canteen restaurant.

Cultural afternoon

It would be impossible not to be moved by District Six Museum (17) at 25a Buitenkant Street (00 27 21 466 7200; districtsix.co.za ; Mon 9am-2pm; Tues-Sat 9am-4pm; adults R15/£1.20). This former Methodist church was a sanctuary during the apartheid years. It now tells Cape Town's story, from slavery to racial segregation – and through to the present day. It may sound grim, but this is a lively, positive place with sections on Cape Town culture, including the Capetonians' enduring love of ballroom dancing.

An aperitif

Enjoy a sundowner on the terrace of Paulaner Bräuhaus by the Clock Tower (18) on the V&A Waterfront (00 27 21 418 9999; paulaner.co.za ).

Dining in style

Baia Seafood Restaurant in the Victoria Mall (16) beside the V&A Waterfront offers twinkling views over Cape Town's most ritzy district (00 27 21 421 0935; baiarestaurant.co.za ). The menu features dishes such as freshly caught langoustine at R179 (£14.70); and plenty of meat options, such as herb-crusted ostrich at R139 (£11.40).

Day two

Sunday morning: go to church

St Georges Cathedral is a late-Victorian building designed by Sir Herbert Baker (00 27 21 424 7360; stgeorgescathedral.com ). Between 1986 and 1996 it was the seat of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, and it was from here in 1989 that he led a mass demonstration of 30,000 people, which signalled the beginning of the end of apartheid. The main Sunday service is at 10am.

Take a view

Catch the tourist bus to the aerial cableway station (19) on Tafelberg Road, and board a revolving cable car, which will take you to the top of Table Mountain (00 27 21 424 8181; tablemountain.net ; adults R145/£11.90 return). The spectacular ride takes three to four minutes. At the top there's a café, viewing area and plenty of hiking trails. Free guided walks on the plateau are led by local volunteers departing from the upper cable station at 10am and at noon. Even if you don't want to join one of these walks, morning visits are best since wind and cloud can make conditions difficult in the afternoon.

Out to brunch

Hop back on the tourist bus and head south-west to Camps Bay (20), below Lion's Head. Here Tuscany Beach at 41 Victoria Road (00 27 21 428 1213; tuscanybeachrestaurant.com ) is a cool Italian brasserie complete with sunny terrace. It serves breakfast daily until 12.30. Try a "croissant supreme" – topped with fried egg, tomato, and three slices of bacon – at R58 (£4.75).

A walk on the beach

Camps Bay is Cape Town's most beautiful stretch of coast. This long arc of white sand is backed by palm trees and set beside clear blue waters. Notice boards provide guidance as to sealife in the area, from dolphins to right whales and sharks. The latter are not the only deterrents for taking a dip here – even on the hottest of days the Atlantic sea is painfully chilly.

The icing on the cake

Take a thought-provoking trip to Robben Island, declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, eight years after its most famous former prisoner was elected President of South Africa. For 18 years, Nelson Mandela was an inmate at the maximum-security jail. Tours to the island, about 7km off the coast, take around three and a half hours, departing from the Clock Tower on the V&A Waterfront daily at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm. The ticket (adults R200/£15) includes return ferry rides, a tour of the jail led by a former inmate, and a 45-minute bus trip around the island which has also served as a leper colony and quarantine station (00 27 21 413 4263/4; robben-island.org.za ).

Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
News
news
News
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
Life and Style
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
art
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
tvChristmas special reviewed
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Personal Trainer / PT - OTE £30,000 Uncapped

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all