“Is that…raw chicken? On the windshield?” We peered closer. When we were making a list of things to do in Cape Town, South Africa, we wanted wine, waves, and wandering. But chicken wings? It was the first day of 2018, we’d just come downstairs in search of breakfast and the beach, and it was, indeed, a piece of raw chicken wing between the windshield and the wiper. “Must have been one hell of a weird and wild party,” we joked.
Raw poultry aside, Cape Town is an intensely vibrant city, teeming with things to do. It runs the gamut; ritzy waterfront, boho beach city, tin-shack shanty town, untouched nature, and burgeoning industry all exist within its boundaries. To see just one aspect is to deprive yourself of the true city experience.
Things to Do in Cape Town
Where to Stay in Cape Town
We stayed in Woodstock, a neighborhood our Airbnb called, “up and coming”. It was a very real and raw Cape Town experience—the loft was beautifully restored and centrally located, yet behind us was a shanty town, full of sheet metal shacks and glitchy electricity. It felt a little surreal to stay there, straddling that spectrum so obviously. But it also provided us a taste of Cape Town we’d never have seen if we’d splurged on one of the nicer hotels.
Woodstock provided a perfect launch point to explore the rest of Cape Town. And without much further ado, here are some of our favorite things to do in Cape Town.
We did a mini bar crawl along the Sea Point promenade, stopping at Jerry‘s Burger Bar (do yourself a big ol’ favor and order their amazing cheese bombs, which pair perfectly with craft beer), grabbing another pint at local hole-in-the-wall Corner Bar (two big beers for three small bucks), and polishing off the evening with shockingly good Mexican food at El Mariachi (which earned bonus points for an A+ Coronarita). And obviously, a stop to catch the sunset at Milton Beach. (Seems a good place to note that unlike in Germany, there are strict open-carry laws around alchohol—don’t try to bring a bottle of wine to the beach, because you will be met with resistance).
You may have seen Bo-Kaap’s colorful houses on Instagram or Pinterest—they are certainly photo-worthy. Visit with an empty stomach; Malay grannies and aunties often have little stands out front, selling samosas, cakes, meat pies, and other snacks that make perfect beach bites. Don’t miss the Atlas Trading Company spice shop and the uber-trendy Bo-Op Collective, a hipster paradise of locally created goods.
Long Street has a multitude of bars and eateries to be discovered. Our favorites were The Waiting Room, a speakeasy-style bar/club which has an amazing roofdeck; Beerhouse, with it’s endless beer sampler options (99 beers, to be exact!); and Mama Africa, where you can try traditionally prepared dishes and sample ostrich, kudu, warthog, crocodile, and more.
If you’re looking for a romantic option, check out my post about my Cape Town date night post about visiting the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens after hours here!
Markets & Shopping
Some of the most comprehensive shopping can be found at Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront—a sprawling center located at (you guessed it) the waterfront. Visitors can catch ferries to Robben Island, or do day trips to spot whales, dolphins, and other sea life. Our favorites within the center were the African Trading Port, which felt more like a museum than a shop considering the number of artifacts and artworks housed on the upper floors, and the Watershed, which hosts the best local design and craftwork, including artwork, jewelry, sustainable crafts, and clothing. We also really loved spending a Sunday browsing the Bay Harbour Market, which also had some amazing food options, and Hout Bay Lions Craft Market.
For wine-lovers, visiting South Africa’s famous Stellenbosch region will definitely top your list of things to do in Cape Town. We found the Guardian Peak winery to be absolutely lovely (and with killer views from the patio to boot). Though there weren’t many people there, a small group of locals sat near us, which is where we stole our tip for The Thirsty Scarecrow. It blends a love of wine and beer in a very whimsical setting. We ordered a trio of apps, a bottle of Chenin Blanc, and watched the sunset over the fanciful garden. If you are visiting Stellenbosch in high season, it’s best to call ahead and make some reservations. We tried a few other spots but got turned away because they were already at capacity.
And finally, back home to Woodstock, where the Devil’s Peak Brewing Company served up a lovely date night. If you’re a fan of craft beer and burgers, you’ll definitely want to check this place out—especially given their generous every-day-of-the-week specials.
Anything we missed? Leave us a note in the comments!
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