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Overview

Often referred to as the Mother City, Cape Town is South Africa's oldest city, founded by Jan Van Riebeeck in 1652. It has a splendid seaside setting below Table Mountain, whose flat top - home to habituated hyraxes, pink-hued proteas and boisterous baboons - is most easily accessed by cable car from south of the city center. Central Cape Town, divided into the City Bowl and Waterfront District, is studded with interesting old buildings, notably the Castle of Good Hope built by Van Riebeeck, while the likes of the Bo-Kaap, District Six and South African Museums deserve a full day's sightseeing. The dockside Victoria & Albert Waterfront ...

Often referred to as the Mother City, Cape Town is South Africa's oldest city, founded by Jan Van Riebeeck in 1652. It has a splendid seaside setting below Table Mountain, whose flat top - home to habituated hyraxes, pink-hued proteas and boisterous baboons - is most easily accessed by cable car from south of the city center. Central Cape Town, divided into the City Bowl and Waterfront District, is studded with interesting old buildings, notably the Castle of Good Hope built by Van Riebeeck, while the likes of the Bo-Kaap, District Six and South African Museums deserve a full day's sightseeing. The dockside Victoria & Albert Waterfront mall is great for shopping or eating out, and is also the launch for guided boat tours to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela (among others) was imprisoned for many years. Running south from the city center, the Cape Peninsula, its mountainous spine flanked by the Indian Ocean to one side and Atlantic to the other, offers some staggering scenery. Highlights include the cliffside Chapman's Peak Drive and the endearing penguin colony protected at Boulders Beach. Most dramatic of all is the craggy Cape Of Good Hope - not, strictly speaking, the most southerly point in Africa, but it certainly feels like the end of the continent!

Philip Briggs
About the Expert

Philip Briggs has written or contributed to 50-plus editions of Bradt, Insight, AA and Berlitz guidebooks to African destinations.

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Philip Briggs for Triporati

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Now Happening in Cape Town & Peninsula

Facts at a Glance

  • Location: Southwestern most tip of South Africa, dividing the Atlantic and Indian Oceans
  • Language: Afrikaans, Xhosa, English, Sotho, Zulu, Tswana
  • Currency: Rand
  • Research: Cape Town
  • Weather: Rainfall

Climate

  • Best Time to Visit:

    Unlike most of South Africa, this is a winter rainfall area, best visited during the summer months of Nov-Apr.