Lay of the Land
“Visit Cape Town and history is never far from your grasp. It lingers in the air, a scent on the breezy, an explanation of circumstance that shaped the Rainbow People. Stroll around the old downtown and it's impossible not to be affected by the trials and tribulations of the struggle. But, in many ways, it is the sense of triumph in the face of such adversity that makes the experience all the more poignant.”~Tahir Shah
Central Cape Town: The heart of Cape Town is cradled beneath the horseshoe formed by Signal Hill, Table Mountain and Devil’s Peak. Here lies the central business district, the Company’s Gardens, Parliament and a number of museums. Central Cape Town is undergoing a revitalization, with loft apartments popping up in historic buildings, new restaurants along Bree Street, and nearby Long and Kloof Streets drawing crowds to their restaurants and bars. To the north of these streets is the historic Muslim neighborhood of the Bo-Kaap.
V&A Waterfront: To the north of the above area is the Waterfront, an immensely popular shopping center and residential development around Cape Town’s original Victorian harbor. From here, boats leave for tours of Robben Island, the site of the notorious prison that housed Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners.
Atlantic Coast: Running southwest from the Waterfront are the beachfront areas of Green Point, Mouille Point, Sea Point, Bantry Bay, Clifton, Camps Bay and Hout Bay, now all extremely sought after, high-end neighborhoods. The neighborhood of Fresnaye is set back from the ocean.
Southern Suburbs: On the other side of the city center, stretching toward False Bay, are the southern suburbs, where many students who attend the University of Cape Town live. The wealthier suburbs of Newlands, Claremont, Bishop’s Court are close to the celebrated Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, set against the slopes of Table Mountain. Constantia is famous for wine farms like Constantia Uitsig Estate, and also celebrated restaurants like the award-winning La Colombe at the Silvermist Wine Estate.
If you continue past Kirstenbosch, along a pretty winding road, you will pass through Hout Bay and onto Chapman’s Peak Drive, a spectacular road set on a cliff, leading to the vast expanse of Noordhoek Beach.
False Bay Coast: Continuing through the southern suburbs leads to the False Bay coast, with a string of charming seaside towns, the naval port of Simonstown and Boulders Beach, known for its penguin colony. Farther along the coast are the resorts of Gordon’s Bay, Betty’s Bay and Hermanus, the latter celebrated for it whale-watching opportunities.
Winelands: And forty-five minutes northeast of Cape Town are the winelands, centered around the historic towns of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.
Need to Know: Entry Requirements
A Visa is not required for U.S. citizens visiting for less than 90 days with a valid passport (which must have two blank pages in a row). U.S. travelers are encouraged to read about specific visa requirements on the State Department’s travel website at www.travel.state.gov. Note: Entry requirements to South Africa have changed and now require birth certificates for all minors. They must be the originals and state the names of both parents. You also have to have at least 2 free facing pages in your passport, which has to be valid for six months after your visit.
When to Go
The best time of year to visit Cape Town is from November to February when it is their summer. Temperatures rarely dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit during Cape Town’s winter, which runs from June through August.