When I first told me family and friends I was packing up and heading to South Africa, I got a mixture of responses to say the least. ‘South Africa!?’, ‘Isn’t that dangerous?’, ‘Do you want to die!?’ were among the more memorable reactions. However, here I am, after living and working there for two months, and after experiencing all of its glorious culture, dangers, thrills and wonders, ready to convince you to pack up and make Cape Town, South Africa your future home.
Where to Stay?
Cape Town is an incredible place. The variety of cultures, scenery, lifestyles and languages all blended together in one of the most optimistic and proud cities I’ve ever had the privilege to be in. To tell you the best place to stay when you come over (which, of course, you must) would be an incredibly difficult task. Do you want to live in the city center? By a beach? In a smaller surrounding town? Because of this, I have compiled a list of the places I stayed and know of. Have a look…
1) Fish Hoek
This coastal town is located in False Bay, the other side of Cape Town and a short 40 minute train ride away. This was my home for two months and I will only ever praise it. Situated in a prime location for shopping, sights, hiking, surfing and socializing, Fish Hoek (or Vishoek if you are well versed in Afrikaans) is a beautiful holiday town perfect for those wanting to experience South African culture without being taken out of the comfort of higher-class living. Though surrounded by areas known for conflict (such as the township ‘Masiphumalele’), this is an incredibly safe and peaceful area. With houses scattered up the mountains that surround this town, and a public beach and busy street, Fish Hoek is perfect for anyone wanting to live outside the main city of Cape Town itself.
For those wanting to live further into the best city in the world (check it out!), Bo-Kaap is almost too good. With houses painted pretty much every color in existence, and Lions Head (a famous mountainous landmark) overshadows, you will not want to leave. This area is just a few minutes walk from the
waterfront (everything in South Africa seems to be close to the waterfront!), and is the perfect place for peace in a seemingly never-sleeping city. Due to the larger Muslim population and mosques found here, noise and distractions are at a minimum and staying in a house here for a few days does not dent the finance accounts at all!
3) Clifton Beach
For the more fortunate, looking for luxury and endless jaw-dropping at the natural aesthetics, look no further. Clifton Beach, found round the back of Lions Head, is an incredibly special place. Many hotels and expensive housing are found here, overlooking the gorgeous beaches and glittering sea. If possible, watch a sunset here. Do it. Thank me later.
What to Do?
Where should I begin here? I was only there two months, and I feel like I filled my days with amazing activities and still, haven’t seen all that Cape Town offers. As stated before, it has such a diverse range of culture and history that allows for many, many different experiences and activities based on preference and money.
1) Table Mountain
Of course I had to start with this one. Table Mountain, the one from all the postcards and pictures you’ve EVER seen of Cape Town. Yes, that one. This climb is fantastic. catering to all different levels of climbers, including the cheating method of simply getting a cable car to the top, Table Mountain offers immense views above the clouds (if there are any) overlooking the incredible city of Cape Town and the sea. The climb time itself can vary greatly, as harder, more dangerous routes may take less time, whilst the winding, hardly-steep climb I endured may take a few good hours. When at the top, look out for Mountain Dassies, small mammals that look more stuck up there than anything else, and seem to like all food ever. Table Mountain is a fun, free day out and is a must for all travelers.
2) Lion’s Head
Mentioned before, Lion’s Head is a smaller mountain, one joined onto Signal Hill found running through the center of Cape Town. This climb is also fantastic; not as long or strenuous as Table Mountain, however I would argue takes more skill. One will encounter rope ladders and metal rings needed to hold or pull yourself up from, and this may be a challenge for those not confident in climbing. Do this at sunset and watch Cape Town transform in front of you in the fading light. Just be careful on the way down!
3) Victoria and Albert Waterfront
Not surprisingly, the V&A waterfront can be located at the waterfront. Here, you will find a modern, bustling area full of shops, restaurants, markets, malls, street performers and amazing decorations. This was one of my favorite places to go in Cape Town, and apparently by the amount of people always present, that opinion is shared. High-end, modern, classy, incredible!
4) Chapman’s Peak
For those wanting to truly be blown away by the wonders of Cape Town and the natural beauty, Chapman’s Peak is a drive to paradise. Found south of Clifton Beach, this drive boasts incredible corners on the edges of cliffs, overlooking some of the most stunning bays and mountains you will ever see. Buy or rent a car. Or find a really nice taxi driver (give me a shout, I know a few), and enjoy the views. Be warned; the drive is simply so good that there is a toll booth at the end. After this, if done on a Friday evening, be sure to visit Hout Bay Market, a particular favorite of mine that became some form of tradition. With authentic market goods, amazing food and consistent live music to the highest of standards, it is simply too good to only go once.
5) Brass Bell (Kalk Bay)
For those choosing to stay around Fish Hoek, visit the Brass Bell on a Wednesday night. Karaoke. You’re welcome. You will not be disappointed. Located in a fishing town right next door to Fish Hoek in False Bay, the Brass Bell boasts fantastic cheap food and incredible memories for you and your friends. On that note, just visit ‘Cape to Cuba’ next door also. In fact, look round the whole of Kalk Bay, its jewelry stores and cafes. Just live in Cape Town. Please.
Culture and Atmosphere
South Africa, as a whole, is a developing country. But it takes pride in the fact that its people know, one day, they will be great. Though, yes, racism is still subtly present after its history, and crime in some areas is high, these are isolated incidents and do not dishearten the people who are committed to make this nation great. And I know that will happen soon. One day we are all going to wish we were South African. I believe Cape Town needs to be your future home.