Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula: Unique and Magical Places
Cape Town was the first town in South Africa that saw the settlement of European settlers. Dutch colonial buildings mingle with modern skyscrapers, sea and so much unspoiled nature. Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula were the last stop on my trip to South Africa, a unique and magical place that impressed me more than many others. When I speak of Cape Town, I refer to the entire peninsula on the south-west of South Africa, which in addition to the small metropolis includes other cities and truly unique places.
They are the symbol of Cape Town, a sort of huge monolith that has the shape of a large table and which with its 1.000 meters of height dominates the city. The summit can be reached on foot, with a very demanding trekking or, in a classic way and honestly more comfortable, with the Cableway: a revolving panoramic cableway that goes up from the city to the summit in a few minutes. From the top of Table Mountain, today a national park, you can admire a spectacular view of Cape Town, the Ocean and the coast. My advice is to buy tickets online to save time and the long line and observe the weather conditions because often the climbs are closed due to the strong wind or poor visibility.
Unesco heritage, the former prison of Robben Island, famous for having “hosted” Nelson Mandela (he spent 27 years of his life there). The only way to visit is by participating in a 5-hour tour that includes: the ferry and a guided tour that takes you to explore the outside of the island and the room of Mandela’s prison. I found the tour very interesting but at the same time a bit too heavy, being obliged to participate in a tour too long at certain times. Robben Island is undoubtedly a very special and fascinating place that allows you to understand more about the history and controversies of this country.
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
They are one of the symbols of the city and the most visited places by both tourists and locals. The Waterfront is an old abandoned port that has undergone a major redevelopment and now is the most frequented area of the city while maintaining the appearance of a port with all the comforts of the case such as: restaurants, shops, museums, an aquarium and several shopping centers. You can eat in one of the many ethnic restaurants or walk between shops, clubs and outdoor shows; there are street artists, playgrounds for children and many companies that organize city tours by boat or helicopter.
In this regard, I recommend a helicopter tour of the city. I opted for the 25-minute hike over the city to the Lion’s Head, a rock form that resembles the head of a lion. If you have never done this kind of experience, do it, you will be lucky enough to see a beautiful city like Cape Town from a different perspective.
Just get away from the center of Cape Town, follow the road that leads to the Cape natural reserve and reach Simon’s Town famous all over the world for the beach of the penguins of South Africa. Access to the white beach that houses this colony of sweet penguins is regulated by a ticket office because this is a protected area and a national park. The penguin colony that populates the beach is about 2.000 that run, play, sunbathe, take a bath while lots of tourists fill the wooden walkways and jostle to observe them more closely. Obviously it is not possible to go down to the penguins beach because in addition to being dangerous for us since their beak is very sharp, it would be harmful to the animals themselves that they would see themselves invaded more than their natural habitat.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
It is a road set on the side of the mountain, overlooking the sea, undoubtedly one of the most scenic roads in all of South Africa. Connect the localities of Noordhoek and Hout Bay, offering you spectacular views. There are many activities that can be done along this road: climbing, cycling, running, horseback riding, visiting the villages, a photographic tour, pic-nic, a lots of possibilities! I simply walked the road stopping at every turn to take beautiful panoramic photos of the west coast of Cape Town. To access it you need to pay an admission ticket.
Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point
The end of the world, the most southerly point of the African continent, what is certain is that here you will find yourself in one of the most magical and fascinating places of South Africa. Once you have paid an entrance ticket, you can freely move the park by car as close as possible to the two viewpoints.
– Cape Point: The first I visited it is easily recognizable by the ancient lighthouse and the walls used to protect the site during the Second World War. Park the car and walk up to the top; it’s not a demanding climb, but if you do not feel like it there’s a gondola lift that will take you to the top.
– Cape of Good Hope: you will see it from the top of the Cape Point lighthouse; it is a rocky promontory bordered by a gigantic sign indicating the coordinates of the southernmost point of the continent.
You could spend hours in this natural park, walking on the various paths and reaching the above points by trekking. I preferred to do it by car to move faster.
Historical Center and Bo-kaap
The small historical center contains the main monuments and attractions of the city: the Castle of Good Hope, Greenmarket Square, the Old Town House, St. George’s Mall, the most charming pedestrian street, with shops and street artists, St George’s Cathedral, the Groote Kerk is the oldest church in South Africa and the Grand Parade, the largest square in the city, dominated by the City Hall. But moving away a few hundred meters from the center there are other very characteristic areas: Heritage Square and Long Street characterized by typical Dutch and Victorian style buildings. One of the most photographed and most famous neighborhoods of Cape Town is surely Bo-kaap, the Muslim district characterized by houses painted in very bright colors. It is a bit more than three ways that I recommend you visit with a guide not because the area is not safe but because an expert will tell you the history of this neighborhood and if you’re lucky you can have a chat with the inhabitants of these colorful houses.
Camps Bay and Muizenberg
They are located in two different points of the peninsula but I recommend a stop to enjoy the sea firstly and then all the lovers of kite surfing that run along the water. Driving along the coastal road to the south, a few kilometers from Cape Town, you reach the town of Camps Bay that allows you to admire a truly breathtaking landscape: you are facing a white beach that laps the town dominated by the 12 apostles, a mountain range formed by 12 rocky peaks. At the edge of the Cape Peninsula, to the east is Muizenberg, a very picturesque seaside resort known for its colorful beach cabins, perfect for sports such as wind surfing and kite surfing. Both are worth a visit for a whole day or just for a few hours, they are two beaches that you cannot miss on a trip to South Africa.
Where to stay
Kensington Place is a luxury boutique hotel located on the slopes of Table Mountain, in one of Cape Town’s most glamorous residential areas. Its rooms have been individually designed and are a surprising mix of contemporary European decor and African art and fabrics. The earth’s colors and natural textures have been used and mixed to create a sober and valuable elegance. Kensington Place enjoys a privileged location that makes it an ideal base for excursions to historic sites, vineyards, nature reserves and beaches.
After a day around the city, a dip to the pool will be inevitable on your return. Then relax on your private terrace to enjoy beautiful views of the city, of the harbor and of the surrounding mountains. The service at Kensington Place is professional, friendly and never intrusive. The staff is always happy to offer assistance for every need, even a sandwich at midnight for an hungry and demanding guest.