Cape Town is one of the most beautifully situated cities in the world and the surrounding Western Cape is equally stunning. Cradled by Table Mountain, Cape Town has immense charm and historical interest. The unique cultural blend – part African, European and Asian – makes for a cosmopolitan city complete with fascinating touring, culture and fine dining experiences. The surrounding areas offer world-class wine country, the spectacular flora and fauna of the Cape Peninsula and much more. Here we share what we would do with 3 days in South Africa’s Cape Town and the Western Cape.
In the video above, you can see for yourself how beautiful the city and surrounding area is.
We recommend you kick off your time in the Western Cape by exploring the Mother City itself, Cape Town. Cape Town is a stunningly beautiful city perched on South Africa’s southwestern coast. It is a compelling mix of contemporary and old-world elegance. World-class hotels and gourmet dining abound, as do art and culture activities.
We offer privately guided tours with top notch local guides, or you can explore the city on your own. We can tailor any visit to Cape Town based on your interests – focusing on food, history, design or arts and crafts (and more) – while visiting sites such as Company’s Garden, Green Market Square and St George’s Cathedral. A visit to the Bo Kaap neighborhood is memorable with its brightly colored 17th century houses and cobblestone streets. Immerse yourself in Bo Kaap even more with a cooking class to explore delicious Cape Malay cuisine. We also love to explore Bree Street, a hotspot for artisans, fashion, jewelry and interior design.
There are also a seemingly endless array of cultural and natural activities on offer. Art galleries, museums and performing arts opportunities abound, including the incomparable Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which are lovely to visit for a serene green escape or to see one of the many famous acts who perform live during the summer months.
A visit to Cape Town lets travelers explore South Africa’s complicated history. One of the most impactful sites is just a short boat cruise from Cape Town harbor where visitors will find themselves on Robben Island, where South Africa’s beloved leader Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years.
A trip up Table Mountain’s cable car is a must (though it is very weather dependent). It provides panoramic views over the city with the chance to hike, take photos and explore the summit. A helicopter ride is another great way to get a bird’s eye view of the ‘Mother City.’
The most difficult thing you may have to do all day is choose where to eat dinner. Cape Town’s dining scene is an embarrassment of riches and there is something for everyone. Our Journey Specialists can make recommendations based on your tastes. A few favorites include Harbour House Restaurant in the V&A Waterfront where the people watching is almost as good as the seafood; Woodstock hotspot The Potluck Club, helmed by chef Luke Dale Roberts who put Cape Town on the international fine-dining map; or if you’re feeling more low-key, casual Surfshack with its cool surfer-chic vibe in the trendy Camps Bay neighborhood.
After breakfast this morning, we recommend getting out of town to explore the area close to Cape Town. The region is a nature-lovers dream and gives a window into the dynamics of the turbulent tip of Africa that sailors used to call the ‘Cape of Storms.’
We offer a variety of day trips to explore the Cape Peninsula. Our top pick sends you out in a specially outfitted van (complete with blow-up paddle boards and artisanal gin and tonics, among other goodies). You’ll visit quaint towns like Kalk Bay and Simonstown. In the latter, you have the chance to sea kayak with African penguins and sea lions (or you can visit them at Boulders Beach along a boardwalk). We think it’s really special to get out on the water and view the penguins going out to sea in small fishing parties.
The Cape Point Reserve treats visitors to a dramatic coastline where you can watch the waves crash against the rocks or onto the wild beaches. Most visitors choose to visit the lighthouse near the tip of the peninsula. The Cape Peninsula is also home to interesting flora and fauna like Cape mountain zebra, ostrich and fynbos. Whether you choose to take it all in from our specialized van or get out and explore on foot, this pristine natural area just a stone’s throw from Cape Town will leave a big impression, as will the drive back to the city via Chapman’s Peak, one of the world’s most breathtaking coastal drives.
If you’d like to keep your special day going, we can arrange dinner at one of the many fantastic restaurants along the Cape Peninsula route. We love Chapman’s Peak Hotel Restaurant in Hout Bay (be sure to try the calamari!), Bistro Sixteen82 in Cape Town’s suburban winelands of Constantia (don’t miss the charcuterie and seafood platters) or Limoncello Ristorante Noordhoek with its gorgeous views, excellent pizzas and touch of romance.
This morning, we recommend heading outside of Cape Town once again for fine wine, good food and spending a day in a beautiful and relaxed atmosphere, the Cape Winelands – namely Franschhoek, Stellenbosh and Paarl – are not to be missed. Each of the three larger towns (and many other quaint tiny villages in between) have their own character – Franschhoek, South Africa’s culinary capital, with its beautiful setting, French flair and charming cafe-lined streets; Stellenbosch, South Africa’s second oldest town, with canal-lined avenues and magnificent examples of Cape Dutch architecture; and Paarl, with its city meets Winelands vibe and Afrikaans Language Monument. They all offer a wonderful experience for guests.
Guests to the Winelands can expect to visit world-class wine estates and find lots of wonderful shops and restaurants, all with a beautiful mountain backdrop. A few AAC restaurant favorites include the uber-seasonal Babel at the Babylonstoren Wine Estate, the rustic cuisine and unforgettable views at La Petite Ferme just outside of Franschhoek and SALT at the Waterford Wine Estate (ask us about their wine safaris!). If that’s not enough, you can consider bicycle tours, hiking, horseback riding, golf and more. There are also lots of fairs, festivals and other events including the annual Stellenbosch Wine Festival in July and the Spier Performing Arts Festival in February or March.
After your decadent day in the Winelands, return to Cape Town for a relaxing evening while taking in the city’s splendor. The vibrant V&A Waterfront is home to AAC favorite the Cape Grace Hotel, and it is a decidedly genteel location to spend the evening. Bascule is the hotel’s whisky bar, which is home to the largest collection of whiskies south of the Equator. Grab a spot on the terrace overlooking the international yacht marina and sample some tapas with an ice-cold beer or a glass of crisp white wine.
It would be easy to spend a week or more in South Africa’s Western Cape, but three days is a great start! Contact a Journey Specialist to plan your customized visit to this incredible destination.
Photos courtesy Captures on Photography, Luke G., Grant Durr, Thomas Bennie, AAC traveler Kate W., AAC President Kent Redding, Nabeel Laher, Visit Stellenbosch, Cape Grace Hotel and South Africa Tourism