If you’re planning a visit to South Africa’s most cosmopolitan city, you will have likely seen countless suggestions offering popular tourist activities to do in Cape Town. Whilst many of these “must-see” ideas are worthwhile, there are also a number of lesser-known activities to suit all sorts of preferences.
To help you plan your most exciting Cape Town travel itinerary yet, we’ve hand-picked some suggestions that are interesting, unusual and most certainly intriguing.
#1 Savour a Shisha
Image via Brightly Coloured Sunflowers
Better known locally as a hubbly bubbly or hookah pipe, Shisha pipes have been a long-standing tradition in many Middle Eastern cultures around the world. Using a special vaporised tobacco known as shisha, which is flavoured and filtered through water, flavours range from simple cherry tobacco to more elaborate options, such as apple and mint.
Some of the best places to smoke a hookah pipe in Cape Town include Baran’s Shisha Lounge near Greenmarket Square, Mesopotamia on the corner of Long and Church Streets, Baghdad Cafe on the corner of Long and Bloem Streets, and Love on Long, which is located on Long Street.
*While we certainly love the taste and ritual of these unique bubbling pipes, remember that they still contain tobacco and nicotine.
#2 Tour the underground tunnels
Image via Voicemap.me
Beneath the city of Cape Town, there is a tunnel system that spans from the Castle of Good Hope to Signal Hill. In years gone by, these tunnels were actively used by soldiers and sentry, who needed a quick route to the main Castle base from their look-out point on Table Mountain. While many of the old tunnels have been sealed, some are still accessible and open for pre-arranged guided tours.
Tunnel tours are not for those who battle with enclosed spaces. But for those who love a bit of adventure, the chance to walk deep underground through a series of dark tunnels is sure to be an exhilarating experience.
#3 Play a game of chess or backgammon
Image via Ingulfed
For those who like their entertainment on the strategic side, there are a few bars and restaurants in the City that offer chess or backgammon sets for use by patrons.
In the City Bowl and surrounds, restaurants that offer the use of board games include:
#4 Explore the city by bicycle
Image via CityCycleTours
One of the City’s biggest selling points is that there are a number of ways in which to explore its famous streets – new and old. One of the older methods of transportation that is regaining popularity is to explore by bicycle. In the City Centre, there are a number of bike lanes, rental shops and even bicycle tours that give you a unique perspective of this metropolitan hub.
If you’d prefer to explore at your own pace, your best bet is to hire a bicycle for a few hours, or days.
#5 Take a Bo Kaap walking tour
Image via DiscoverAfrica
The beautiful Cape Malay Quarter, known as the Bo Kaap, is one of the few places that managed to avoid the forced removals during the apartheid era. This suburb is known for its bright array of different coloured cottages, steep cobbled roads and large number of Mosques. Here, you will find spice shops, museums, art galleries, quaint coffee shops and restaurants serving traditional Cape Malay curries and other treats.
A walking tour is the best way to fully immerse yourself in the Bo Kaap culture, stopping at many interesting landmarks along the way.
Need help planning your itinerary? The 24-hour concierge at Pepperclub Hotel & Spa is on hand to guide you and assist in making any of the above bookings.
Pepperclub Hotel & Spa is a five-star hotel located in the heart of Cape Town, walking distance from all major attractions listed above. For more information, please visit www.pepperclub.co.za
For many first-time visitors to South Africa’s iconic Mother City, budgeting can be challenging if you are unfamiliar with pricing and what to expect. This planning can be made even trickier with a fluctuating foreign currency and exchange rate.
First things first, it is always a good idea to check the current standing of the South African Rand before heading off on your trip to Cape Town. As it stands now, in May 2016, travellers from the United States will enjoy an exchange rate of over R15 to the Dollar, while visitors from the UK get almost R22 to the Pound and visitors from Europe get just over R17 to the Euro. Knowing the current exchange for your home currency will make it a lot easier to budget for your travels before you step foot on the plane.
What will the South African Rand get you when it comes to basics such as meals, transport and other costs? We take a look at some of the most frequent expenses to give you a simple breakdown of what you can expect to spend while in Cape Town (all costs are calculated on a per person basis unless otherwise indicated):
From breakfast to lunch or dinner, there are many delicious options that can be found at restaurants and coffee shops across the city, from healthy to hearty. Depending on where and what you eat, you could expect to spend anything from R30 for a decent breakfast of sausage, egg, toast and grilled tomato with a coffee, to R100 upwards for a more upscale meal. Lunches can cost around R200 (with drinks) for something simple yet filling or R500 upwards for something more luxurious. Dinners can range from R300 – R600 per person, or over R1000 for special set menus at some of the Cape’s top 5-star restaurants.
For a glass of local, good quality white or red wine, you can expect to pay between R40 and R150. For method cap classique (the Cape’s answer to champagne), you can expect a somewhat higher price tag. Local beers and ciders (340ml) typically cost around R20 to R30, and cocktails vary from simple flavour combinations (R30) to sophisticated blends that are closer to R60 or higher.
As is custom in many places around the world, Cape Town works on a simple 10% gratuity system when dining out. This is often, but not always, included in the bill when dining out with more than six people, but it is always a good idea to check. At Pepperclub Hotel & Spa’s restaurants such as Piano Lounge, Paparazzi Bar and Sinatra’s Restaurant, you can always be sure that the service warrants a fair tip! Tipping is also appreciated at spas, hair salons and bars, and even fuel stations. It’s also worth noting that in Cape Town, informal ‘parking attendants’ – more affectionately known as ‘car guards’ to locals – often get around R5 for watching over your car while you shop or dine out.
An average shopping bag of a few basics, such as milk, bread, cool drinks and snacks, will cost around R100. From supermarkets and green grocers to organic food markets, you will find a huge variety of produce that caters to almost all dietary requirements.
CABS & CAR HIRE
There are many taxi services operating throughout Cape Town, from metered cabs to better-known Uber cabs. To get an idea of what an Uber ride will cost you to the Cape’s various tourist destinations from our hotel doorstep, read our recent blog post titled, What Does UberX Cost To See the Cape Town Big 7. To hire a car for a day, it will cost anything from R200 to R2000 per day, depending on the Hire Company, car type and offer. Remember to always confirm what is included and excluded from the quote.
For those keen to do a bit of retail therapy, shopping hotspots, such as the V&A Waterfront, are a must-visit. Clothing ranges in price, from chain store staples in the R50 to R400 bracket to high-end designer items that range from R500 and up. Most stores accept credit card payments – especially in the larger centres. The V&A Waterfront is also a good place to find curios and artwork at reasonable prices – but be sure to visit local craft markets such as Green Market Square, Hout Bay Harbour market and others dotted around the city to support local artisans.
Major cinemas in South Africa include Ster-Kinekor and NuMetro. A movie (and snacks) can be enjoyed at almost any large shopping mall, and will typically cost around R100. Smaller cinemas, such as The Labia on Orange Street in the City Bowl, show more cultured shows and cost around R40. This cinema has the added feature of a fully licensed bar, so take along extra cash to purchase a drink or some snacks. But remember that Pepperclub Hotel & Spa has its own private luxury 29 seater Odeon Cinema – so you can enjoy a night at the cinema without the hassle of endless queues!
10 GREAT PLACES TO EXPLORE ON FOOT IN THE CAPE TOWN CBD
Once you decide when to splurge and when to save, you will soon see that you can enjoy a full, rewarding holiday even with a limited budget. With the Rand at its current favourable position to international travellers, budgeting for a holiday in Cape Town is a lot easier than you may have thought!
Arguably the most iconic destination in the Cape, Table Mountain National Park presents a myriad of outdoor adventures for you to explore during your stay in the Mother City. Whether you are interested in exploring this New 7 Wonder of Nature on foot, by air or car – there is an option for almost every liking.
Walk among fauna and flora:
Table Mountain is home to a number of walking trails – from short, non-strenuous walks to more advanced hiking routes. A few of the most popular routes include:
– Platteklip Gorge
One of the better known routes on Table Mountain, Platteklip Gorge is on the front face of the mountain, with its starting point on Tafelberg Road, just a few meters away from the Lower Aerial Cableway Station. This hiking trail will take approximately 2,5 hours to reach the top of Table Mountain (depending largely on fitness levels).
Image courtesy of Robyn Munt
Once atop, take a short walk to the highest point on the Cape Peninsula, Maclear’s Beacon, and stroll among the magnificent trails and view-points. The Table Mountain Café is also a great stop for breakfast, lunch, or a light refreshment, before descending back down the mountain, either by foot or in the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.
Important to note is that the weather on Table Mountain changes very quickly. It is therefore advisable to wear appropriate hiking gear including a warm, all-weather jacket, no matter what the weather predictions for the day are, as the conditions at the top of the mountain can change instantaneously.
– Lion’s Head
Lion’s Head is one of the most popular hiking routes in the City – and is perfectly suited to most fitness levels. With two options to accommodate all types of physiques – a slightly longer but less strenuous foot path and a more strenuous but shorter route up a chain-ladder – Lion’s Head boasts incredible panoramic views from its peak.
This mountain hike is also extremely popular for full-moon walks and early sunrise hikes. This 2,5 hour route (up and down, depending on fitness levels) is best undertaken with appropriate hiking gear and at cooler times of day.
– Elephant’s Eye
Affectionately named after the cave’s appearance from ground-level, which creates the illusion of the eye of an elephant, Elephant’s Eye is a popular route for families of all ages and fitness levels.
Image courtesy of brettliveshere
Accessible from the lower levels of the Tokai Pine Plantation within the national park (albeit currently closed owing to a devastating vegetation fire in March 2015 which destroyed much of the natural area), or from Gate 1 at the Silvermine Reserve section of the park. The latter route is a less strenuous option that offers majestic views of the City, exceptional vistas and wafting scents of indigenous fynbos.
– Cape of Good Hope
The Cape of Good Hope section of the Table Mountain National Park is the most South-Western point on the African continent. This section of the national park is home to a number of indigenous wildlife, including Eland, Bontebok, Cape Grysbok, Klipspringers, Chacma baboons, Cape Clawless Otters and a variety of other small mammals and bird life. There are a number of easy walking routes perfect for the whole family, as well as guided tours on arrangement. Whilst exploring this section, one should also visit the Cape Point lighthouse, Two Oceans Restaurant and the Cape of Good Hope Visitors Centre for a full day outing.
There are also a number of other routes across the mountain range, which span from Signal Hill in the City Bowl, to Cape Point at the very south of the Peninsula. These include the Jeep Track (starting at Constantia Nek), The Pipetrack (combing the rear- and side-scapes of Table Mountain’s façade with breath-taking views of the 12 Apostles mountain range and Camps Bay beach), Skeleton Gorge and Nursary Ravine (accessed via Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens in Newlands), Silvermine River Walk and the Disa River walk through the Afromontane Forrest in Orangekloof, Hout Bay. For more information on these hikes, please visit www.tmnp.co.za.
Take a peninsula drive:
If exploring the mountain on foot is not your idea of a fun day out, it is also possible to take in the beauty of Table Mountain by car. Driving around the entire mountain range will take just a few hours – but be sure to factor in enough time for various stops along the way at some incredible look-out points (including the world famous look-out on Chapmans’ Peak drive).
Image courtesy of pvcdesigns
A simple guide to Cape Town can be obtained from your closest Cape Town Tourism Visitors Centre or from our Concierge Desk. A popular choice is also the City Sightseeing Hop-on hop-off red bus tour, which chauffeurs you around town to all the well-known tourist destinations.
Get a bird’s eye view:
Another great way to truly see the majestic Table Mountain National Park is from above – with a birds’ eye view of our natural landscape. The more adventurous can paraglide off Lion’s Head or Signal Hill, or if you prefer, enjoy a helicopter tour departing from the V&A Waterfront.
Whatever your preferences may be to explore the famous Table Mountain National Park, ask our Concierge Desk on the ground floor of Pepperclub Hotel & Spa for information on the options, and to assist in making the necessary tour arrangements and bookings to ensure your stay in Cape Town is a truly memorable experience.
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