The Big Seven Attractions to See in Cape Town

A Voyage of Discovery in the Mother City

It’s not surprising that 30,000 seasoned travelers voted Cape Town as the Best City in the World this year, the Mother City of the Greatest Country in the World, South Africa. Cape Town has so much to offer the aspirant tourist but our big seven attractions to see in Cape Town maintain the focus on cultural, environmental and historical must-see hotspots. Embark on a voyage of discovery in Cape Town the Mother City. From breathtaking places of beauty to iconic landmarks – it’s all here. The UK Telegraph Travel Awards offers a benchmark for the international travel industry when it identifies tourism destinations for their inspiring and impactful offerings to travelers. It just goes to show that the rainbow nation has it all and Cape Town is the fairest of them all!

Cape Town is the Top City in the World!

A voyage of discovery in the Mother City is quite overwhelming but our big 7 attractions to see in Cape Town trim the things-to-do list for those with time or budgetary constraints. Cape Town is South Africa’s Mother City because of its fascinating history and worldwide fame as a top tourist destination. The parliament buildings lord over the city bowl, home to incredible landmarks, hotels, restaurants, bars, museums and art galleries. From the charismatic Table Mountain to the vibrant V&A Waterfront, Cape Town extends out to the Atlantic Seaboard, the Southern Peninsula, Cape Point and the Winelands!

There is so much to do in Cape Town

The Cape Town Big 7 is the best way to start a voyage of discovery in South Africa’s Mother City. We show you the V&A Waterfront, Robben Island, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Groot Constantia Wine Estate, Cape Point and Boulders Beach for starters.

Victoria and Albert (V&A) Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront (Victoria and Alfred Waterfront) is one of Cape Town’s most visited landmarks, a modern attraction with its roots in South African history. It’s named after Prince Alfred and Queen Victoria, members of the British Royal Family when Cape Town was part of the Cape Colony. Years before that, as long ago as 1654, Jan van Riebeeck built a small jetty for his refreshment station providing fresh water and produce to the ships of the Dutch East India Company.  Two years after massive winter storms in June 1858 which wrecked 30 ships, Midshipman HRH Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son, initiated the construction of the breakwater for Cape Town’s first harbor to make it a safe haven all year round for passing ships.

The walkway along the side of the harbour in the Waterfront of Cape town
The V&A Waterfront is an iconic mixed-use destination located in the oldest working harbour in the Southern Hemisphere.

Today, the V&A Waterfront is best known for its luxury hotels, a wide array of cosmopolitan restaurants, bars, shops, entertainment and glorious ocean and mountain views. It’s a 123-ha playground for tourists to spend hours watching South African live music and drama, exploring the Two Oceans Aquarium and buying the best Cape wines and clothing.

One of the best things to do at the V&A is to browse the brand-new, outstanding Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA). Set in the historic Grain Silo building showcasing the world’s largest collection of contemporary art from Africa, it’s beside the luxury Silo Hotel with its iconic glass windows. It’s not hard to understand why the V&A Waterfront is one of the top attractions in Africa. Try adventure activities and day tours ranging from boat and sunset cruises, helicopter flights, the Big Wheel, a skateboard park, rollerblading and a kids’ play area.

Diverse accommodation at the V&A Waterfront

Robben Island World Heritage Site

Robben Island floats 12 km out to sea from the Cape Town harbor, the deserted isle where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for political crimes during Apartheid. Today, it’s an emblem of freedom and compassion, thanks to a great man who defied all odds to become South Africa’s first black president. It’s now a famous World Heritage Site after being a former leper colony from 1836 to 1931, then a maximum-security jail for political prisoners under Apartheid. The boat ride and the views make up for the mixed emotions the prison may evoke.

The view of Robben Island from Table Mountain
Robben Island has been used as prison and a place where people were isolated, banished and exiled to for nearly 400 years.

As one of Cape Town’s top 7 attractions, Robben Island is a large museum comprising the Maximum and Medium Security Prison Complexes, Robert Sobukwe’s House, the Curio and Village Shops, the Village Precinct and associated recreational facilities, the Helipad and runway on the Island, World War 2 memorials, and the Mayibuye Archives. This is a heritage landmark encompassing environment, education, conservation and tourism assets to promote life-long learning for all who visit.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is the only feature on Earth to give its name to a constellation in the Southern Hemisphere called Mensa meaning The Table. The constellation is seen around midnight in mid-July and it is possible that the very first inhabitants of Table Mountain, the so-called “Khoekhoen”, or the Table Mountain Huriǂ’oaxa, could see the very same stars.

table mountain in cape town south africa
Did you know? Table Mountain is the only South African and only natural site on the planet to have a constellation of stars named after it.

António de Saldanha was the first European to land in Table Bay and when he climbed Table Mountain in 1503 he named it Taboa do Cabo (Table of the Cape) in his native Portuguese. Today, Table Mountain lords over Table Bay and the rest of the Cape and a climb to the top reveals stupendous views out to sea, to Cape Point and beyond. Hikes, Fynbos, amazing animals and trees adorn this mighty World Heritage Site, a flat-topped sandstone mountain rising some 1085m above sea level. Local San and Khoikhoi communities still recognise Table Mountain as a spiritual symbol of their heritage while archaeological remains can still be seen dating millions of years ago. The Table Mountain Cableway is a wonderful way to get onto the mountain and it’s a good idea to hike down again or to hike up and then take the cableway down. Make sure you hike in clear weather only and take the well-trodden routes.

Table Mountain keeps watch over the city bowl

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

Kirstenbosch is one of 10 National Botanical Gardens covering five of South Africa’s six different biomes and administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI). It’s a unique haven for the cultivation of indigenous plants, founded in 1913 to preserve the indigenous South African flora territory, in an era when invasive species were never considered an ecological and environmental problem!  Cecil John Rhodes planted the avenue of Camphor Trees and Moreton Bay Figs in 1898 and when he died, he donated the gardens to the Government. The Forestry Department planted the Kirstenbosch estate and Cecelia with Pines and Eucalypts, and Kirstenbosch became rather neglected.

The Boomslang walkway at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden in South Africa
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is acclaimed as one of the great botanic gardens of the world. Few gardens can match the sheer grandeur of the setting of Kirstenbosch, against the eastern slopes of Cape Town’s Table Mountain.

At last, Harold Pearson arrived in South Africa in 1903 as the new chair of Botany at the South African College and he started the wonderful botanic garden that we know today. Pearson and his team sold firewood and acorns to make money and their first task was to create “The Dell” where they planted cycads, still visible there today. There were traces of ancient Stone Age people and the Khoikhoi people were here for about 2,000 years before the Dutch and Portuguese sailed around Cape Point.

Kirstenbosch is managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).

Groot Constantia

Groot Constantia is the epitome of Cape heritage, culture, history and environment woven into one unforgettable outing on the outskirts of the Mother City below Table Mountain. For an array of genuine South African experiences, this wine estate also offers top-class restaurants, a museum, hikes and stunning gardens surrounding verdant vineyards.

The vineyards at Groot Constantia in South Africa
Groot Constantia is South Africa’s oldest wine farm – in existence for 330 years.

It all began in 1685 when Simon van der Stel acquired the Groot Constantia erf as the Dutch East India Company Governor of the Cape of Good Hope. He built the house and cultivated vineyards, fruit and vegetables along with grazing cattle but, when he died in 1712, the huge estate was divided into three smaller estates: Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Bergvliet. Sixty years later the Cloete family bought the estate to plant it up with grapes for winemaking. A tragic fire burned the house to the ground in 1925 and in 1969 the South African Cultural History Museum took it over.

Tourists flock to this wine route for award-winning wines, fascinating Cape history and fine dining at Groot Constantia, High Constantia, Klein Constantia, Constantia Glen, Constantia Uitsig, Steenberg, Buitenverwachting, and Eagles Nest. Originally cultivated in 1685, the Constantia Wine Valley is the Cape’s most historic wine-producing region. Expect Sauvignon Blancs, juicy reds and the famous Constantia dessert wine.

The Cape Winelands is a heritage tour

Cape Point Nature Reserve

The slogan for Cape Point Nature Reserve says it all: “CAPE POINT. One point. One million points of view. Escape to Cape Point, where the land meets the sea in a majestic embrace.” If there is one thing you have to do when you are visiting Cape Town, it is to take a drive out to Cape Point for a sensory explosion in nature. This is the far southern end of Table Mountain National Park where towering cliffs and huge dark caves meet the wild thrashing Atlantic Ocean and where seals, seabirds, whales, dolphins, sharks and game fish abound. It’s the Cape of Storms where myriad shipwrecks litter the beaches and rocks and where the lighthouses still spin their lights all day and all night to warn ships of the dangerous Point.

The walkway in Cape Point Reserve of South Africa
The Cape Point Nature Reserve has a number of interesting attractions and pristine white sand beaches populated with marine and terrestrial wildlife.

This is a biodiversity hotspot where Fynbos meets the beaches, Ostriches stroll and tortoises dawdle. Myriad bird species and smaller mammals flit and play in the preserved landscape. Colonies of seals shout on the rocks and whales breach in season. More than 1 100 indigenous and endemic plant species feed the Cape mountain zebra and eland, bontebok and blesbok.

There is plenty to do for the keen outdoor enthusiast from hiking to fishing, surfing and birding, swimming and chilling. The restaurant cooks authentic South African foods, and the fast-food outlet is easy for tourists on the go. It’s fun to jump on the Flying Dutchman Funicular up to the viewing point, below the old lighthouse. Get a good bird’s eye view of the entire reserve then walk on down to the cultural and historical spots, including monuments to explorers such as Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeu Dias.

See Cape Point for yourself!

Boulders Beach African Penguins

Boulders Beach is exactly that, a tiny bit of Cape Beach tucked away between huge boulders of granite which line only this part of the coast. It is located on the Cape Peninsula, in Simon’s Town and it’s a popular tourist spot because of a colony of African penguins which settled there in 1982. Boulders Beach forms part of the Table Mountain National Park and the entire ocean zone around the beach is also part of a marine reserve.

The colony of African penguins at boulders beach in Simons Town
From just two breeding pairs in 1982, the penguin colony has grown to about 2 200 in recent years.

These African penguins are only found on the coastlines of Southern Africa (South Africa and Namibia) and are currently endangered but conservation organizations like the Southern African Foundation For The Conservation Of Coastal Birds SANCCOB, a 24-hour Seabird Rescue Centre, will respond to all seabirds in distress, including African Penguins, Cape Gannets, Terns, Cormorants, gulls, Oystercatchers, Albatrosses, Petrels, Pelicans and other marine birds.

In the past century, the total population of African penguins has declined dramatically due to changes in the ocean currents, overfishing, extreme weather conditions and predators. Penguins are continually threatened by human activities and don’t get enough fresh fish to eat. Swim and walk at Boulders Beach for penguin interactions and stunning environmental beauty.

Boulders is one of Cape Town’s Big Seven attractions to see so embark on a voyage of discovery in Cape Town, the Mother City, to take in breathtaking places of beauty and iconic landmarks – it’s all here.

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