While I was in Cape Town for a cultural immersion case study, I compiled a bucket list of to-dos for those traveling to and sightseeing in Cape Town, South Africa. I highly recommend learning about the history of South Africa before going to the beautifully resilient culture.
- Learn about South African Apartheid
Ferry ride to Robben Island
Robben Island, the unique symbol of “the triumph of the human spirit over adversity, suffering and injustice” with a rich 500 year old multi-layered history, is visited every year by thousands of people eager to understand and honour the important aspects of South Africa’s history that the Island represents.”- Robben Island website
Robben Island is a crucial part of South African history and culture. It is where human rights and anti-apartheid activist, South African President from 1994-1995, and world leader Nelson Mandela was held for 18 of the 27 years he was imprisoned (the photo on the left is the cell that Nelson Mandela was held in). For a detailed timeline of Robben Island, click here.
To get to Robben Island, you will go to the V&A Waterfront (listed below) and take a ferry to the island departing from Nelson Mandela Gateway. The views are beautiful and the firsthand knowledge you will learn is worth the ticket price. Not only do they give you tours of the facilities but you will ride a bus around the island. The tour is given by former political prisoners of Robben Island and they go in extensive detail of what life was like on Robben Island.
- Visit the District Six Museum
Apartheid (Afrikaans pronunciation: [ɐˈpartɦɛit]; an Afrikaans word meaning “the state of being apart”, literally “apart-hood”) was a system of racial segregation in South Africa enforced through legislation by the National Party (NP) governments, the ruling party from 1948 to 1994.
Visit the District Six Museum (pictured left) to learn more in-depth about apartheid and what happened within the communities, families and landscape of South Africa. The Iziko Museums of South Africa are helpful in better understanding the turmoil and disparity that motivated South Africans to rebuild their nation. It’s hard to believe that Apartheid wasn’t ended until 1994…
- Ride the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
You will not regret this. The lines might be long if you go during the summer months (opposite of the states) and you might feel like an ultra-tourist, BUT it is the most magnificent view you will ever experience. Table Mountain is one of the seven Natural Wonders of the World and for good reason. The Table Mountain Aerial Cableway will bring you to the top of the mountain where there are viewing spots, paths to explore, and a cafe. I would recommend ordering a beer or a coffee and sitting back and enjoying the view.
- Climb Lion’s Head
I was told at lunch, after dressing in nice white pants and a delicate blouse, that I had the option to hike Lion’s Head. Little did they mention it was more of a CLIMB! But besides the point, there is a lot of hiking and some areas where you must climb a ladder or rock to get to the top. Even though I made it in dress clothes, the trail is pretty steep so wear shoes and clothing you can move easily in. Views are so worth it.
- Shop and eat at the V&A Waterfront.
The V&A Waterfront has everything you could ask for and then more. With over 80 restaurants- from fine dining with candlelit tables to fast food like McDonald’s, it has it all. An indoor shopping center and entertainment venues are just the beginning. The waterfront is at the foot of Table Mountain and offers so much to do. While this is a very ‘touristy’ place to go, it’s safe, you can feel safe getting money from ATM’s here and you’re guaranteed a comfortable and enjoyable evening. Ferryman’s Tavern was our favorite for late night drinks and was a taste of the Irish pubs at home. I regret not doing the Ferris wheel!
- Road trip to Cape Point and stop at breathtaking sites on the way.
#1. Hout Bay Harbour- we ate at Wharfette Bistro, a local, fast-casual restaurant. I ate a yummy fish sandwich.
#3. Chapman’s Peak is the name of a mountain on the western side of the Cape Peninsula, about 15 km south of Cape Town, South Africa. It is opposite the inlet on which the town of Hout Bay is centered. Before we stopped here, we saw a whale! It was an incredible site and one I’ll never forget.
#4. Boulder’s Beach, you can see penguins! What other reason do you need to go?
#5. Cape of Good Hope- your breath will be taken away by these views.
- Wine tasting in Stellenbosch
You NEED to go to Stellenbosch and do wine tasting--it’s the best and you’ll get a deal since the dollar transfers really well. I think it cost around $19 total and I bought like around 5 bottles of wine. We went to Fairview Winery, CBC Brewery, Haute Cabriere Cellar and also did chocolate tasting was at De Villiers Artisan Chocolate–you’ll never be able to eat a Hershey’s bar again.
- Experience Long Street nightlife & eat at Mama Africa
MAMA AFRICA it’s pretty touristy but they have amazing African music and food!!! After dinner, go down Long Street and check out the bar and club scene. Be careful to keep your belongings very close to you–a friend of mine had their iPhone stolen!
- Great white shark cage-diving in False Bay
This cost around $157 and IT WAS SO WORTH IT!!! We were in the Indian Ocean and saw four large great white sharks and none of the other diving companies saw anything. We went to False Bay and went through Shark Diving Unlimited. Every celebrity known on earth has been here and the owner is a huge advocate and researcher to help sharks.
- Eat a fat cake in the townships and drink rooibos tea.
Rooibos tea is a South African herbal tea with many health benefits. It is primarily grown in South Africa.
Fat Cakes or Vetkoek (pronounced Fet-cook and literally meaning fat cake, fat cookie or fatty cake) is a traditional South African dish. Especially in townships, you will see corner stores baking fresh fat cakes just for you. It is bread dough deep-fried in oil. It can be eat just as it is, with butter and jam, or cheese but can be filled with anything you think would taste good. Here’s a RECIPE for Fat Cakes!
Eat at Mzoli’s in Gugulethu [Facebook Page]