We arrive in Cape Town on Wednesday, March 4th, at a quarter past 13:00. Juanne-Pierre, from whom we rented an apartment, will pick us up from the airport. We are about to spend a few days in one of the most interesting and best-located cities in the world. Table Mountain towers majestically over it, and the waters of the Indian and Atlantic oceans wash it from both sides.
Population: 3.5 million; the second-largest city in South Africa.
Air temperature from October to April exceeds 20°C. The warmest months are January and February, with temperatures around 26°C. The water temperature only reaches 20°C in January and February.
Information points: The most advantageous ones can be found in the arrivals hall at the airport and on the Waterfront.
There are two types of charging:
- Standard: You pay a 2.5% commission from the amount charged at myCiTi points and 3.5% at partner points, not less than R1.50. With this kind of charging, you can pay bills up to R200 in selected retail outlets.
- Mover packages: You can charge one or several packages of R50, possible only at myCiTi points, with no commission. They provide an additional benefit: journeys are 30% cheaper. However, you cannot use them to pay for purchases.
There are two fare types:
- Peak: Weekdays during rush hour from 6:30 to 8:30 and from 16:00 to 18:00 – the start of the journey counts.
- Saver: Off-peak hours and non-working days.
At first, it may seem complicated because you must calculate well where and when you are going and on which tariff to see if you have sufficient funds on the card. Without sufficient funds, you will have a problem! Additionally, you can combine trips, if you are traveling in one direction, the interval between the journeys does not exceed 45 minutes, and the total time does not exceed 2.5 hours.
Additional information: When going to and from the airport, you need to pay an extra airport fee.
In addition to city buses, there are minibuses called “taxis” by locals on selected routes. However, you must be careful because “taxi” is also the name for a traditional taxi.
Taxis are quite expensive, with an average fare of R10-12 per kilometer. Prices may be higher during nights and Sundays.
You can take one of these trains to get to Simon’s Town, where the famous Boulders Beach is located, home to a colony of African penguins. It’s worth noting that when I told my local friends about taking this train, they were surprised and mentioned safety concerns. It was even more surprising to them when I mentioned taking the train to Mitchell’s Plain, where there is a large shopping center. One local woman, who happened to be black, swore that she would never travel on the suburban train because she considered it dangerous. Interestingly, we were the only white passengers on board.
When we got off the train in Mitchell’s Plain and looked around, we were panicked. The scene resembled a post-war landscape with broken windows, and everything appearing overturned, torn, and smashed. We quickly decided to head straight back to Cape Town, but we were unsure of where to find the ticket office. A woman we had just met informed us that it was in town. However, we were concerned about how to reach the town without risking our health and safety. The woman offered to help and led us to a taxi, or a mini-bus, and then left us in the care of the driver. I thought to myself, “I will survive!” The bus passed by “our” shopping center, so we decided to go there first before heading to the town.
On the way back, feeling relieved but with heavy hearts, we boarded the mini bus again, albeit in a slightly better mood. In town, the bus station was crowded, which gave us a sense of security that nothing untoward would happen to us there. Instead of returning to the war-zone-like train station, we opted to go back to Cape Town by bus. Fortunately, a bus was scheduled to leave in about 10 minutes. We boarded the bus, and after a while, it drove past the shopping center we had visited earlier, risking our lives.
Juanne-Pierre from whom we rented the apartment to stay in Cape Town, only sighed as he listened to our story. He said that he would never take a train to Mitchell’s Plain, especially since it passes through the infamous shanty town called Langa. However, he added that the “danger” everyone talks about is an exaggeration. He argued that the locals understand the importance of tourism for the national economy, and for their own income and employment. Any violence that occurs is typically among the locals, particularly in the evenings or after visiting a local pub. However, he advised us to remain vigilant and avoid being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Be careful where you rent a flat
In Cape Town, we rented a flat through Airbnb right in the center, on Long Street, which is the most famous street in the city. It’s full of hostels where backpackers and hipsters often stay, along with a few upscale hotels. The price was not cheap, but also not too expensive. We paid 421 euros for 8 nights (including the Airbnb service fee). We disregarded comments about the street noise, as we thought it wouldn’t bother us. As we had survived a few nights on the main street of Mumbai, we would surely survive here, wouldn’t we?
Juanne-Pierre came to pick us up at the airport and welcomed us with a bottle of white wine. He provided us with practical information he had prepared himself, including a map with nearby shops and popular pubs, and even gave us two tickets to a nearby cinema. The apartment windows directly overlooked the pubs and nightclubs on Long Street. Initially, there was no indication of what was about to unfold. The lively atmosphere and loud behavior of people in the pubs were not that terrible. We didn’t plan to stay there all the time – we wanted to enjoy the city’s nightlife.
Long Street is quiet during the day but comes alive at night, especially after 10 PM. However, the real nightmare begins shortly before midnight when the beats of loud music from the pubs and clubs start blasting at the highest volume possible. This continues until four in the morning, and even closing the windows doesn’t provide much relief. The whole building seems to shake, and it feels like being in a disco. This situation repeats itself from Wednesday to Saturday. On Sundays, when it’s theoretically supposed to be quieter, one of the venues arranges a jazz concert with open doors and windows, also lasting until four in the morning. However, Mondays and Tuesdays bring some relief as you can only hear the excited screams of tourists, especially females.
The very first night, we started desperately searching for other accommodation options, hoping to get a refund for the amount we paid for this place. Unfortunately, we can’t find anything at a reasonable price, and we feel desperate. How can we explore the city and enjoy its charms after a sleepless night?
Somehow, after four in the morning, we manage to fall asleep. The morning brings warm sunlight and a glimmer of hope that somehow, we will endure. And… somehow, we do. We survived. However, we would not recommend this apartment, even though the host is a wonderful person. Sleeping in a “disco” is not a clever idea.
Table Mountain: Rising to a height of 1086m above sea level, Table Mountain is a symbol of Cape Town. It boasts a unique ecosystem with over 2.5 thousand plants forming fynbos, which means “small bush” in Afrikaans. In 2012, the mountain was declared one of the new seven wonders of the world. However, reaching its peak can be a bit challenging as it is often hidden in clouds.
To get there from the city center, you can take bus no. 106 (direction Camps Bay) to the Kloof Nek stop. From there, you can reach the cable car station on foot, which is approximately 800m away, or you can take a shuttle bus. Line no. 110 operates daily from the Lower Tafelberg to Upper Tafelberg, usually from 7 am to 7 pm.
Spending some time at the top of the mountain is worthwhile. The name “Table Mountain” speaks for itself, as it is almost flat, and the views are truly breathtaking. The combination of mountains and ocean looks even better than in movies or on postcards. It’s an experience filled with unforgettable impressions and emotions. I highly recommend sitting in the restaurant next to the funicular station, enjoying a meal or simply having a cup of coffee or Amarula, a specialty liqueur produced only in South Africa.
Sea Point is a beautiful area known for its picturesque promenade and stunning views of the ocean. It’s a suitable place to take a leisurely stroll, enjoy the fresh sea breeze, and admire the waves crashing along the shore.
The Company’s Garden is a park located in the city center, close to the parliament. It’s a green oasis filled with lush trees and shrubs. You can often encounter friendly squirrels who may be tempted by a piece of biscuit. Ducks leisurely roam around, unfazed by the presence of humans. Within the park, you can find attractions such as the National Gallery, Planetarium, National Library, the Great Synagogue, Holocaust Centre, and St. George’s Cathedral. There’s also a tastefully decorated restaurant where you can relax with a coffee, a glass of wine, or enjoy a meal.
The National Gallery is part of the Iziko Museums group, which includes 12 museums displaying the history, culture, and art of South Africa and its tribes. You can learn a lot about this fascinating country through its exhibits.
St. George’s Cathedral, located on Wale Street, is the seat of the head of the Anglican Church in South Africa. It’s a beautiful example of Victorian architecture. While visiting, you can also take a walk through the labyrinth located there.
St. Mary’s Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral situated in front of the parliament, at the intersection of Bouquet St., Roeland St., St. John’s St., and Plein St. They hold Sunday masses at 10 AM and 5 PM.
The Slave Lodge Museum is close to the Indian Company Gardens, specifically on Church Place. Originally built in 1679 by the Dutch East India Company, the Slave Lodge was where slaves waited for their masters who attended mass at the nearby Groote Kerk. Today, it houses the Museum of Slavery, which offers exhibitions featuring multimedia, photos, and movies. The building also contains other exhibitions, displaying the interior of a former pharmacy, weaponry, tableware, and jewelry.
The town hall, built in 1905 in the style of Italian Renaissance, is a remarkable architectural gem. It features mosaic floors, a marble staircase, stained glass, and an organ. It now serves as the headquarters of the Cape Philharmonic Orchestra. From the balcony of this building, Nelson Mandela delivered his first speech after his release from prison. The town hall is located opposite the Castle of Good Hope.
The Castle of Good Hope, situated opposite the town hall, was originally built as a fort by Jan van Riebeeck for the Dutch East India Company. Construction was completed in 1679. It’s worth noting that the entrance was moved due to coastal erosion. The castle now houses a part of the William Fehr collection, which includes furniture, paintings, and crockery. It’s open daily from 9 AM to 4 PM, with the last entry at 3:30 PM. Admission is R30.
When it comes to beaches, Clifton Beaches are often regarded as some of the most beautiful in the world. They are accessible by public bus, and the stairs from Victoria Rd. lead directly to the beaches. The guidebooks mention that beach No. 1 and No. 2 are popular among models and those seeking glamour, No. 3 is known as a gay-friendly beach, and No. 4 is popular with families.
Camps Bay Beach, situated at the foot of the Twelve Apostles, is another popular beach among locals and tourists. You can reach it by public bus, and it tends to get crowded, especially on weekends. Please note that the water here is quite cold, around 9 degrees Celsius, due to the influence of melting ice from Antarctica.
Ladundo Beach is considered a paradise for surfers, while Blueberg offers stunning views of Table Mountain. Muizenberg is known for its surfing conditions as well.
For shopping, the Victoria Wharf shopping and dining complex at the V&A Waterfront is a popular choice, offering a wide range of stores and dining options. The Gardens Shopping Centre at Mill Street is also worth exploring. If you’re willing to travel a bit, the Liberty Promenade in Mitchell’s Plain is a large shopping center accessible by train or bus.
If you’re interested in smaller boutiques and antique shops, you’ll find many along Long Street and its surrounding area, which is the main street intersecting the city.
I hope this information helps you plan your explorations in Cape Town.