Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Cape Town
Cape Town (in Afrikaans Kaapstad), situated at the southwestern tip of the African continent, is for many people one of the world's most beautiful cities, thanks mainly to its magnificent setting against the majestic backdrop of Table Mountain.
But Cape Town has much else to offer: there are a number of front-ranking sights in the city itself and its immediate surroundings, and the beaches on the Cape Peninsula and in False Bay are among the most beautiful in South Africa. At least a week should be allowed for exploring the attractions of Cape Town.Cape Town is the second largest city in South Africa (after Johannesburg - and excluding Soweto from the definition of a city) and the oldest European settlement in southern Africa, Parliament sits here during the first half of the year (in Pretoria during the rest of the year). Cape Town is also chief town of the Western Cape Province, with numerous government offices, the see of Roman Catholic and Anglican bishops and a major cultural center, with two universities, technical colleges and many state and private schools.It is the only town on the African continent south of the Equator in which whites and people of mixed race form the majority of the population. Peculiar to the Cape are the Cape Malays, the descendants of slaves brought in from Indonesia, with cultural traditions of Islamic stamp.Cape Town plays an important part in the economy of South Africa. The commercial and fishing port, with ultra-modern loading and discharging facilities, is the largest in the country after Durban. Most of South Africa's fruit exports are shipped from here.Cape Town's industrial areas lie mainly to the north and east of the city. Its industries include oil processing, concrete factories, the production of fertilizers and chemicals, textiles and the clothing industry, electronics and various light industries.Many banks, insurance corporations, printing firms and publishers have their headquarters in the city. Tourism is now one of the most important sources of income.Cape Town is the starting-point of two important roads: N 1, which runs northeast for 2000km/1240mi, passing through Johannesburg and ending at Messina, on the frontier with Zimbabwe, and N 2, which runs up the coast of the Indian Ocean into Swaziland.Cape Town's International Airport (formerly D. F. Malan) is less than a half-hour's drive southeast of the city. There are regular bus services between the South African Airways terminal in Adderley Street and the airport.The railroad station is in Adderley Street. There are frequent services to the outer districts on the Cape Peninsula to the south, to the False Bay coast as far as Simon's Town and to the outer districts to the north as far as Bellville. Cape Town is also the departure point of the luxurious Blue Train which runs between Cape Town, Johannesburg and Pretoria.There are also regular services by luxuriously equipped buses from Cape Town into the interior of the country.Summer is warm and dry, and sometimes hot; winter is like a northern April, with low temperatures, rain and cold winds. The climatic pattern is influenced by the two marine currents which meet on the southwest coast of Africa: the warm Agulhas Current, coming from the Equator, which flows along the east coast, and the cold Benguela Current, coming from the icebergs of the Antarctic, which washes the west coast.During the summer Cape Town is regularly visited by the "Cape doctor", a strong southeast wind which blows away the city's dust and exhaust gases. Southeasterly winds are also responsible for the celebrated "tablecloth". The wind drives warm, moist air masses from False Bay against Table Mountain; the air then condenses, and a layer of cloud covers the plateau like a blanket of cotton wool.The oldest traces of human settlement on the Cape were left by the Hottentots (Khoikhoi) and Bushmen (San), living as herdsmen and as hunters, gatherers and fishermen. The first European to round the Cape, in 1488, was the Portuguese navigator Bartolomeu Diaz. In 1503 his countryman Antonio Saldanha became the first European to climb Table Mountain. The colonization of South Africa, however, began only on April 6th 1652, when a Dutch merchant, Jan van Riebeeck, landed in Table Bay. He and his companions established, on behalf of the Dutch East India Company, a supply base for the company's ships sailing to India. The site was well chosen: springs under Table Mountain supplied fresh water, the soil was fertile, and increasing areas of land were developed by settlers from Holland, Germany and France. Cape Town became known as the "tavern of the seas". For many years to come the history of Cape Town, the "mother city", as it is still known today, was identical with the history of South Africa.The little "vleck van den Kaap", the little village on the Cape, developed in the course of time into a town of traders, officials and craftsmen which from 1806 to 1910 was capital of the British Cape Colony. More recently, as the seat of Parliament, it has been one of South Africa's capitals.Its situation makes Cape Town one of the world's most fascinating cities, but the city itself is less impressive than its situation. The regularly laid out central area extends between Table Bay, with the harbor, to the north and Table Mountain (1000m/3280ft) to the south. Within this area many historic old buildings have been preserved. The appearance of the city has been much enhanced by the completion, in recent years, of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. The formerly unattractive harbor area is now a lively entertainment quarter.The "better" suburbs, almost exclusively occupied by whites - among them Goodwood, Parow and Bellville - extend northeastward from the city center along N 1, the road to Paarl. To the south, along the coast between Sea Point and Hout Bay, are a series of attractive bathing resorts. In contrast to these are the ugly 19th century industrial and housing areas (Saltriver, Woodstock, etc.) in the harbor area. Along the northwestern edge of the central area is the Malay quarter with its mosques, renovated 18th and 19th C houses and 1950s apartment blocks.The black population live in the area known as Cape Flats, extending southeast from the city center to False Bay. Between N 2 and False Bay are townships such as Athlone, squatter camps like Crossroads and the satellite towns of Mitchell's Plain and Khayelitsha. There are also large townships on the north side of Table Bay and near the big industrial plants, such as Atlantis and Philadelphia.
The symbol of Cape Town, Table Mountain rises to a height of 1087 m, just south of the city center. A cable way takes sightseers up the mountain, or for the more adventurous there are hiking trails.
Green Point Common
Green Point Common, on the north side of Cape Town, west of the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, is an extensive open space with a variety of sports facilities, including a golf course. It lies within the Green Point district at the foot of Signal Hill.
Green Point Lighthouse
Green Point Lighthouse (1824) is the oldest lighthouse in South Africa.
Cape Medical Museum
The Cape Medical Museum depicts both western and traditional medicinal practices. Early-20th C reconstructions of a consulting room, dispensary, dentist's room, operating theater and hospital ward can be viewed.
Address: Portswood Road, Green Point, South Africa
Fort Wynyard, built in 1861 by R. H. Wynyard is a naval museum specializing in the history of South African coastal defense.
Herring Bequest Institute
The Herring Bequest Institute has a fine collection of furniture, porcelain, musical instruments and books.
Signal Hill (Noon Gun)
From Signal Hill (350m/1150ft), to the west of the city center, there is a good view of the city and Table Bay. It is worth driving up after dark to see the shimmering sea of lights that is Cape Town at night. The approach to the hill is from the south by way of Signal Hill Street, which branches off Kloof Nek Road.Every day (except Sunday) at noon a cannon (actuated by an electronic impulse from the Observatory) fires a single shot. In earlier days this "noon gun" served to give the exact time to ships anchored in the bay.
Rust-en-Vreugd, is a mansion in Cape Dutch-style built in 1778 with a magnificent façade. It houses a section of the William Fehr Collection including watercolors, African paintings and antiques.
Address: 78 Buitenkant Street, South Africa
St Mary's Catholic Cathedral
St Mary's Cathedral is the oldest Roman Catholic church in South Africa.
South African Air Force Museum
The South African Air Force Museum illustrates the history of the South African Air Force from the 1920s to the recent past, with the main emphasis on the two world wars. The museum has flight simulators for visitors to experience plus aeronautical artifacts and actual aircraft.
Address: Box 100580, Ysterplaat, Western Cape 7425, South Africa
In the Observatory district is South Africa's oldest observatory, which dates from 1821. Since the construction of the South African Astronomical Observatory in the Karoo, the Cape Town Observatory has been used only by amateur astronomers.
Mostert's Mill is a windmill dating from 1792 which is still in working order.
Address: Box 512, Rondebosch, Cape Town, Western Cape 7701, South Africa
Irma Stern Museum
In the pleasant suburb of Rosebank is the house in which Irma Stern, an artist of German origin, lived from 1928 until her death in 1966. It is now a museum with over 200 of her works as well as antiques and other objets d'art.
Address: Cecil Road, Rosebank, Cape Town, Western Cape 7700, South Africa
Groot Schuur Estate
The Groote Schuur Estate is the official residence of the State President. It stands on the site of the 17th C granary, which later gave place to a grand country house. When this was burned down in 1896 Rhodes commissioned the celebrated architect Sir Herbert Baker to build a new house in Cape Dutch style.
University of Cape Town
On the Groote Schuur estate is the campus of the University of Cape Town. The name Groote Schuur comes from a granary (schuur) built here in 1657. The site was acquired in 1891 by Cecil Rhodes, who left it to the state.The University buildings are picturesquely situated below Table Mountain and Devil's Peak. The University, founded in 1918, developed out of the South African College established in 1829. It has some 15,000 students.
The Woolsack is the house built by Cecil Rhodes for Rudyard Kipling, who was a friend of his; the architect was Sir Herbert Baker. The writer and his family spent the summer months here from 1900 to 1907.
The Josephine Mill (1818) is Cape Town's only surviving and operational watermill. Its original owner named the mill after Crown Princess Josephine of Sweden.The three-storey national monument with a towering chimney and large waterwheel is used as a gallery and meeting space.
Address: 13 Boundary Road, Newlands, Cape Town, Western Cape 7700, South Africa
South African Rugby Museum
Near the Josephine Mill, the largest rugby museum in the world houses a valuable collection of mementos dating back to 1891.
Gold of Africa Museum
The Gold of Africa Museum is housed in the Martin Melck House, which was built in 1783. The interior of the house has been restored to capture the original floors, windows, and walls.The exhibits feature a collection of treasures from the gold-rich African kingdoms that are not as well known as the gold of Egypt. Each piece holds historic legend, and ritual symbolism.
Address: 96 Strand Street, Cape Town, Western Cape 8001, South Africa
Kogelberg Nature Reserve
Kogelberg Nature Reserve is located south-east of Cape Town and is noted for its remote and unspoiled wilderness. The reserve has mountain peaks, valleys and over 1,600 plant species. There are also three sections of indigenous forest - Louwsbos, Platbos and Oudebos.
Long Street is a principal street in Cape Town, located in the City Bowl quarter. It is one of Cape Town's oldest streets and features a number of restored Victorian buildings. This busy and colourful street is home to restaurants, shops, and galleries.
Heart of Cape Town Museum
The Groote Schuur Hospital, established in 1932, which became world-famed in December 1967, when Christiaan Barnard (b. 1922 in Beaufort West), a surgeon working in the hospital from 1958 to 1983, performed the world's first heart transplant.
Address: Main Road, Observatory, Cape Town, Western Cape 7925, South Africa
More on PlanetWare