The Western Cape of South Africa

Cape Town City Bowl

Castle of Good Hope

Cape Town is a hive of activity during night or day and this cosmopolitan place will offer something for everyone. Whether you are a student, newly married couple, family, elderly, or single traveler, the lure of Cape Town is magnetic. In the city bowl you will find plenty of museums and interesting old buildings. The most prominent one is of course the Castle of Good Hope build by Jan Van Riebeeck as a fort in a pentagon shape. The Castle is open for tourists every day from 9am until 4pm and you can choose to go on a guided tour or wander around with the aid of a map. There is a Key Ceremony that is held every day at 12pm, after which the cannon on Signal Hill is fired.

Streets and Cape Town Markets

The streets of Cape Town are vibrant and you will find interesting cafes and restaurants down just about every street. The most famous is Long Street where eclectic stores and coffee shops are home to many art students and other creative people. Poetry readings are held along with fashion shows and live music on occasion. For some interesting shopping make sure you go to the closed off section of streets known as St. Georges Mall. Here you will find lovely trees to sit under and the exciting open air craft market called Greenmarket Square. From clothing, African ornaments, to jewelry and art, you can find anything and everything here. One of the best ways to see the city is on the topless double-decker explorer bus.

Table Mountain

The one tourist attraction that must not be missed when visiting the Mother City is a trip up the cable car to the top of Table Mountain. This will give you an amazing panoramic view of the city and Atlantic Ocean and you can see Robben Island clearly from the car. It is open every day from early in the morning until the sun goes down. In summer the last car comes down at 10pm giving you splendid views of the city lights. You area allowed to take your own picnic basket up and pop a bottle of champagne while watching the sunset. There are also restaurants and curio shops to make your outing more enjoyable. You will need to pack a warm jacket, because even on the hottest, calmest day, the high altitude and winds can make it quite cold. As Cape Town is prone to strong winds, the table cloth (a blanket of clouds) may cover the mountain making it impossible to go up. This is why there are no pre bookings and you are able to phone the weather hotline before you leave to find out if the car is still running.

The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

The shopping and tourist hub of Cape Town is undoubtedly the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront. With plenty of stunning shops, first class restaurants, an amphitheater with live shows, boat rides, craft markets, roaming entertainment and various events, the Waterfront is not to be missed on your travels through Cape Town. You can stay here at one of the many gorgeous hotels and take a walk through the Red Shed, the Blue Shed, the Victoria Mall, the Alfred Mall, the Dock, the Exploratorium, Wine Shop, the Mineral World and Scratch Patch, and last but not least, the Two Oceans Aquarium. Here you can see many types of fish, sharks, rays, seals, penguins, lobsters, seahorses, and marine plant life in interesting displays and in large open tanks. There are also talks, live shark feedings, videos, touch tanks and a curio shop to get all your mementos.

Robben Island

From the V&A Waterfront you can get helicopter rides over the bay, go on harbor boat tours and visit the infamous Robben Island on ferry.

Robben Island as mentioned before was where ex-President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. Those interested in South African history shouldn’t miss this trip. The Island is no longer used as a prison and is now a living museum, tourist attraction and environmental research facility. Robben Island lies 12 kilometers off the coast and was home of a maximum security prison for political exiles during Apartheid. One of the former inmates charged with sabotage now acts as a tour guide and lives here with his family in the village. Tourists can go on tours that are 3 and a half hours in length and will take you into the exact cell that Mandela lived in, as well as a bus ride through the village and to various Murray’s Bay Harbor attractions. There are many venues that you will find here starting from the Waterfront with the Nelson Mandela Gateway. On the Island itself you can make use of the 1900’s guest house. This was the old Dutch Reformed Church and British Commissioner’s residence. There is also a hall dating from World War II and an 1841 house that are perfect venues for conferences and other events. There is also a museum shop where you can get mementos of your visit. You might also catch a glimpse of some of the wildlife on the island such as the endangered African penguin and rare Bontebok. Other than the African penguin, there are 143 species of birds living and breeding on the island some of which include the Crowned Cormorant and Black Crowned Night Herons. Eland, Springbok, Steenbok, and Fallow deer are also found quite commonly. Aside from being a prison this island was once used as a leper colony and was at one point, thousands of years ago linked to the mainland via a thin strip of land. The island is still fairly low lying and the highest point called Minto’s Hill is only 24 meters. The terrain consists mainly of Malmesbury shale along the shore, making it very rocky and dangerous, while further in you will find the area is made up of thick limestone and calcrete deposits.

Arts and Entertainment

In the center of town you will find the major Artscape Center where drama, comedy, world class musicals, dance productions and much more take place. You can get a brochure of upcoming events from the centre and make sure you don’t miss the other productions, exhibitions, fashion events and expos held at the Cape Town Convention Center just opposite the entrance to the V&A Waterfront. A different kind of entertainment will be found at the Iziko Planetarium in Cape Town. There are daily star shows in the round theater and a large Minolta start machine and various projectors will ensure that you lie back and see the entire night sky no matter what time it is.

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