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One day in Cape Town

Cape Town may be only the legislative capital of South Africa, but it is a stunning coastal city, sprawling through mountains and into countless bays. From surfing and seeing penguins to learning South Africa’s history in its most colorful neighborhood to trying craft beers and wine, there is plenty to do, see and taste with one day in Cape Town.

While I personally could stay in Cape Town for weeks, this guide will get you to the most interesting stuff if you just have a day. If you’re there now, check out the things to do in Cape Town today. And check this post out if you’re looking for things to do in Cape Town with kids.

To make things easy for you, everywhere mentioned in this post is ALREADY PINNED in the embedded Google Maps below!

One day in Cape Town – overview

Cape Town called The Mother City in South Africa is stretched between the mountain and the sea, it is the most visited place in the country. A great city to come for a romantic or family holiday, as a backpacker or with a group of friends. Cape Town is a young city, founded in 1652 and became the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Originally it was just a supply station for ships going to India, East Africa and the Far East and later the settlement developed into a city.

Getting into Cape Town

Most tourists fly to Cape Town from their countries and start their South African journey here. There are several ways of getting to the city; taking a taxi, a public bus, call an Uber or book a hotel shuttle. The airport is about 23km from the city center, a meter taxi will cost you about $25. More expensive hotels usually have airport shuttle service, it will cost about the same or a bit more but might be more reliable especially if you arrive late. Uber will cost about $20.

First time using Uber? Sign up with this link for a discount on your first ride.

The public bus is called the ‘My City Bus’, the buses are modern and the service reliable, this is the most budget option and will cost you $9. Buses leave from a bus stop at the exit from the main terminal. If you arrive late evening/night don’t take the bus rather use a taxi or shuttle. In April 2018, Cape Town had a long bus strike, and expect it to have lasting effects.

Camps Bay in Cape Town
Camps Bay in Cape Town; image credit Stingy Nomads

What to do in Cape Town in a day

To make things easy for you, everywhere mentioned in this post is ALREADY PINNED in the embedded Google Maps below!

When visiting Cape Town, it doesn’t matter for one day or for a week, be ready to get surprised, impressed and fell in love with this beautiful city. If you have only one day to explore the city the best way will be to do an open-top bus tour. There are four different loops that will take you through the main city attractions; City Tour to Table Mountain, Downtown tour through the city, Constantia Valley Wine bus and Peninsula Tour to Hout Bay and Kirstenbosch. The bus makes over 30 stops and goes to 50 Cape Town attractions. It’s the easiest way to see the highlights in one day and to stay safe in the city.

There are three different packages; a Standard Tour for $15 valid for one day for all four loops, includes walking tour; Premium for $24 valid for two consecutive days for all four loops, includes walking tour, Seal & Harbor or Canal cruise, sunset bus tour; Deluxe valid for three consecutive days for all four loops and includes all the same as the Premium one.

If you have more time, here’s how to spend two weeks in South Africa.

READ
The best festivals in South Africa (and the ones you've never heard of)

The highlights of Cape Town

Table Mountain

Table Mountain is the main symbol of the city and offers stunning views from the top. Take a cable car all the way or hike up Platteklip Gorge, though the hike is quite tough and the uphill is very steep. It’s advisable to take enough water on the hike and to do it only morning/afternoon when there are many people on the trail.

Lion’s Head

Lion’s Head is another iconic mountain of Cape Town, here you have to walk there is no other option and the last bit is quite tricky involves some ladder and chain climbing. The best time to come here is for sunset, you see the sun going down into the ocean. From Lion’s Head, you can take some nice photos of Table Mountain.

V&A Waterfront

The waterfront is a nice and busy area where something is always going on; music, dancing show, performances, open-air bars and restaurants. Great spot to take photos of Table Mountain at sunset.

Cape Town VA Waterfront
V&A Waterfront; image credit Stingy Nomads

Bo Kaap

Bo Kaap in old days known as the Malay Quarter – the most colorful neighborhood of Cape Town where immigrants, mostly Malaysian origin, settled here in the early 19th century. A good place to have some Malay, European and African fusion cuisine and take some awesome funky photos. Be sure to read more about the history of Bo Kaap and how to visit responsibly.

One day in Cape Town Bo Kaap
Bo-Kaap, Cape Town; image credit Stingy Nomads

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden

You will be surprised to find this lush green piece of paradise in arid Cape Town. It’s an amazing place to come for a picnic, to walk through the garden or maybe even to watch one of the Summer Concert evening shows.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden Cape Town
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden; image credit Stingy Nomads

Constantia

This neighborhood gives you a feeling of being in the country. Located on the way to Kirstenbosch, Constantia is the best place to come for wine tasting in the city. Great wines, good restaurants, beautiful scenery, safe – everything you need to enjoy your day in Cape Town.

Cape of Good Hope

The Cape of Good Hope is a stunning place 70km from Cape Town, dramatic scenery, rocky cliffs, white-sand beaches, an old lighthouse surrounded by the endless sea. You can spend here a couple of hours admiring the scenery and go back to the city, there are half-day tours from Cape Town.

There are more sights in the city but these are the one not to miss if you have only one day in Cape Town.

READ
Bo Kaap's history – what you need to know about Cape Town’s most Insta-famous neighborhood

What to taste in Cape Town in a day

South Africa is all about BBQ locally called braai. Of course, in Cape Town, there are plenty of restaurants offering great steaks and meat cooked on fire. If you want to combine great food and unique experience go to The Bombay Bicycle Club, great meat dishes, interesting design and nice vibe.

There are many burger places in Cape Town some of them offer great juicy burgers. Locals’ favorite burger place called the Dog’s Bollocks, a small and very informal place that sells huge burgers. The place opens every day at 5:00 pm and closes when they sell the last burger (they make about 80 burgers per day).

READ
Lekker bru! South African slang and words you need to know in South African languages.

If you’re a vegetarian no worries there are enough great vegetarian and vegan restaurants in the city. One of the best is Spirit Cafe, a cozy place with vegetarian and vegan dishes with use of mainly local farm products.

For great coffee go to Truth Coffee, they have different ways of making and serving coffee and quite a big food menu, good option to come for breakfast or quick lunch. Don’t miss their desserts, chocolate brownie is the winner here.

Speaking about traditional South African cuisine not to forget about great local wines, there are several wine estates within the city. The best area to go for wine tasting and a nice lunch is Constantia, famous for the finest wine farms in South Africa.

Cape Town truth coffee
Truth Coffee in Cape Town; image credit Stingy Nomads

Where to stay in Cape Town

Like any big city, Cape Town has many different accommodation options for any budget and preferences. The best neighborhoods to stay in the city are:

  • Bree Street, Long Street and Kloof Street: buzzing part of the city with many bars and restaurants, great place to stay if you’re planning to go out a lot. Once in Cape Town is ideally located and offers private rooms and dorms.
  • Camps Bay: the fanciest area of Cape Town with the most expensive hotels at the beautiful beach; The Place on the Bay is right on the water and offers apartment-style accommodation.
  • V&A Waterfront: still quite fancy and expensive but nice and safe, with many restaurants and a big shopping mall; the Greenhouse Boutique Hotel is a nice, relatively budget-friendly option close to the waterfront.
  • Tamboerskloof: here you can find places to stay in a different price range, located further from the sea but closer to Table Mountain and Lion’s Head; 91 Loop is a budget option with dorms and La Grenadine is a more comfortable option.
Once in Cape Town

The Place on the Bay

La Grenadine

Other options to stay in Cape Town:

  • Airbnb: There are plenty of nice Cape Town options on Airbnb, but it is worth your time to communicate with hosts first to understand the neighborhood you’re choosing. Save $40 on your first booking with this link.
  • Booking: There are a few hundred options on Booking; save $20 on your first booking with this link.

Cape Town day tours

If you are thinking about going on a tour while in Cape Town, I highly recommend Kiff Kombi Tours. Their tours offer an in-depth perspective of a city with a storied past, plus they have craft beer and take you to their own secret spots. Check out their Cape Town Urban Safari or Craft Beer Safari.

kiff kombi tours in cape townPin to share this one day in Cape Town travel guide

South Africa's beautiful coastal city, sprawling through mountains and bays. Here's what you need to do, see and taste with one day in Cape Town.South Africa's beautiful coastal city, sprawling through mountains and bays. Here's what you need to do, see and taste with one day in Cape Town.   South Africa's beautiful coastal city, sprawling through mountains and bays. Here's what you need to do, see and taste with one day in Cape Town.Note: This post contains affiliate links and features sponsors. My opinions and advice remain my own. For more information on affiliates and sponsors of How Dare She, click here.

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Campbell & Alya

We’re a South African/Russian couple currently based in Cape Town. Hiking, diving, surfing and camping are our passions. We met surfing in the Philippines four year ago and travelled together around South-East Asia, Latin America, Europe and Africa. Two years ago we started our blog emphasizing on budget and adventure travel. A year ago we got married in South Africa and now busy exploring our home countries; Russia and South Africa.

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