The beautiful city of Cape Town has so much going for it; its charm, great food, the best wine, awesome craft beer, lovely people and some stunning coastlines. Before I visited I wondered how one place could set such high expectations yet never fail to disappoint, and I admit I was sceptical. But after experiencing what’s now one of my favourite cities in the world, I realised that it’s absolutely possible.
48 hours in Cape Town is barely enough time to cover all the highlights of this incredible place. But if that’s all the time you have, you should absolutely stop in and enjoy it for a couple of days. Here’s how to prioritise your time:
Robben Island is where the former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned for 18 of the 27 years he served (this picture below is Mandela’s tiny cell). This tour goes into such an important part of South African history and I highly recommend you do it.
When you arrive to the island, you’ll have a fantastic and informative tour guide showing you around. You’ll visit the limestone quarry where the prisoners worked in gruelling conditions. Sickness wasn’t uncommon as the limestone dust affected the prisoners’ respiratory systems and the heat and exhaustion caused some to collapse. The most interesting (and most difficult) part was when we were shown through the cells by another former political prisoner who served alongside Mandela. He explained the horrific treatment and abuse they received in a way only someone who had experienced it can.
Please, do yourself a favour and experience this tour. Bookings are essential and the tour runs depending on the weather, so book tickets early to make sure you get the chance to go. If you miss out on a ticket, go to the Waterfront where the ferry departs and see if anyone is selling tickets off. I was lucky to get tickets this way!
Cost – R320/adults and R180/children
Duration – Approx. 3 1/2 hours including the ferry both ways
After your tour, it’ll be time for lunch and a coffee stop and the perfect place to combine these two is at The Old Biscuit Mill markets. At this bustling spot in Woodstock, you’ll find a handful of cafés and restaurants alongside a variety of handmade items created by local designers.
These Cape Town Free Walking Tours taught me more about South African history than anything I could have read about alone. The tour guides are extremely knowledgeable, engaging and informative, and by getting this knowledge within an interactive tour, it brought their stories to life.
Have a look in advance to know which ones you’re interested in and what time they’re on. You have a choice of: Historic City Tour, Bo-Kaap Tour and District Six Tour.
There’s no need to book, just show up at the various meeting points at the allocated times. The tours are technically free but a donation is appreciated.
If you don’t have time to do the District Six Tour, at least go to the museum.
The District Six Museum is a small, yet very informative, museum where you can read about the shocking events that happened during the time of apartheid. Laws were put into place to not only keep racial groups apart but to also give whites extra benefits and privileges. On the 11th February 1966, District Six was declared a white residential area and all non-whites were told to leave their homes. Two years later forced removals began. Most of the inhabitants were moved to the Cape Flats which serve as a home to over 700,000 people to this day.
Cape Town is known for its awesome food; it’s almost impossible to get a bad meal here. The city doesn’t go to sleep early so no matter what time you finish up your final tour you’ll be able to settle into a restaurant and enjoy a variety of delicious flavours and locally-made beer and wine.
Table Mountain is South Africa’s most visited attraction, and for good reason – it’s incredible!
To get to the top, you have the option of going both ways with the cable car, or you can climb one way and get a lift for the other. If you’re planning to go by cable car, just check the website on the day to make sure it’s running.
Please be careful if it’s super windy and you’re climbing; you could blow off and die (yes, that’s what they said to us). Be sure to check in with them first to ask if they’d recommend the climb for the weather on the day.
Cost between R240 – R350, depending on the season.
Kalk Bay is by no means a hidden gem, it’s full of people, cafés and boutiques. But there’s a reason it’s so popular; this super cute area on the waterfront is restaurant and bar galore with plenty of food options to choose from. Walk around, soak it all in and admire the buskers playing music on the street.
After you’ve been to Kalk Bay, you’re in the perfect spot to begin the scenic coastal drive around Hout Bay. There are plenty of places to stop and take pictures along this road, so by having the bay on your left, you’ll easily be able to pull into these spots for some great snaps. For a full map of the suggested route, go here.
There is a toll of R40 per car, which needs to be paid in cash.
These adorable little cuties are awesome to see. Their nickname – jackass penguins – comes from their funny donkey-like braying, you’ll know exactly what I mean when you hear them! R65 allows you to get on the boardwalk which gets you very close to the colony and, if you’re brave enough, to dip in the chilly waters and swim near them. But be careful, if you annoy them, they’ll bite!
5. Try authentic African food for dinner.
Hopefully you’re not too exhausted by now because you’re about to try an authentic African feast. Head to either Mama Africa or Africa Café to have the best traditional African food in the city. You can relax and unwind here in a fun and relaxed atmosphere where you’re sure to have a great end to your 48 hours in Cape Town.
Mirna is the founder of Breathe Travel – a community-run travel site for female travellers. Mirna writes loads of travel tips for new and first-time travellers to help them become confident, ready and excited to embark on their own journey. You can also connect with Mirna on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.