This post continues with more favorite things to do in Cape Town – touring Cape Town by a double-decker sightseeing bus, walking the colorful Bo-Kaap neighborhood, shopping at an African market, and enjoying an authentic African meal at The Africa Café.
Tour Cape Town – on City Sightseeing’s Double Decker Red Bus
A great way to tour Cape Town is from the comfort and convenience of a bright red double decker bus. City Sightseeing has a variety of routes, all of which allow you to hop on and off anytime you want. Plus, all tours include an informative audio commentary about the attractions you’re seeing along the way.
One afternoon, I took their “flagship” Red City Tour, starting at the V&A Waterfront where City Sightseeing has a ticket office. Since I was short on time, I did the full circle loop without getting off. I loved sitting on the open-air upper deck, with my commentary head phones on and Cape Town map laid out on my lap. It’s a great way to get your bearings and make a list of the sights you’d like to go back to see.
The Red City Tour is definitely the best one to start with. It has 11 stops and lasts around 90 minutes (with no hop offs). Besides a good orientation to Cape Town, it’s the easiest way to visit the Table Mountain Cableway (which is a far walk from city central). The bus also visits beautiful Camp’s Bay, one of the city’s most popular beaches, which is nestled under the nearby magnificent Twelve Apostles peaks.
Enjoy a Walk Through the Colorful Bo-Kaap Neighborhood
Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s oldest and most fascinating neighborhoods. It is known for its brightly colored cube houses and its distinctive Cape Malay culture, which was formed by newly emancipated Asian-Indian slaves around 1840. Today, although gentrification is taking place, Bo-Kaap remains primarily a Muslim community and its residents prefer to call themselves Cape Muslims.
As you walk the streets, some of them cobblestoned, you will be amazed at the rainbow of bright colors. In the past, all Cape Town houses were white but soon Bo-Kaap residents began to paint their homes in preparation for the Eid religious holiday. Apparently, neighbors did some serious color coordinating which remains to this day. It’s a perfect setting for photographers.
When the five-times-daily call to prayer rings out from the ten mosques scattered around Bo-Kaap, you can see older men in robes and skullcaps heading to mosque. The streets are filled with scenes of daily life, which adds to the fun of doing a walking exploration of the community to see what hidden gems you can uncover and interesting locals you might meet.
Shop ‘Til You Drop at Greenmarket Square’s African Market
Shopping for African art and curios is another favorite Cape Town activity for travelers. I really enjoyed the African market at Greenmarket Square, located in central Cape Town. This is a great place to wander around and “get oriented” to the wide variety of African handicrafts and souvenirs which come from all around Southern Africa.
Among the many market stalls staffed by friendly vendors, you’ll find wood carvings, brightly colored African paintings, beautiful fabrics, delicately painted ostrich eggs, intricate beadwork, and interesting “collectibles” made in the shantytowns from a wide variety of recycled items like wire and bottle caps. Of course, bargaining is necessary and expected!
On exotic travels such as this, I love shopping for local handicrafts, especially when I can buy directly from the artist. On my first trip to Cape Town in 2004, I really enjoyed speaking with artist (and pediatrician) Mack Daida (middle of photo).
In fact, I bought one of Mack’s African paintings (acrylic on canvas) which is framed and proudly hanging in my home (upper right). I also love to buy pillow cases (with local designs and colors) from around the world, since they are really easy to pack for the trip home. I had my sweet vendor pose for a photo with my new pillow case (above).
The Africa Café – Providing A Wonderful “Taste” of Africa
For a fun and tasty experience, I highly recommend The Africa Café – and so does Lonely Planet and many others. Billed as South Africa’s first African restaurant, this family-run Café (begun in 1992) serves a wide variety of delicious food from all across the African continent.
Make sure to arrive hungry as the set “Communal Feast” is comprised of around 14 dishes, served family style at the table. Even better, you can ask for seconds on all your favorite dishes and eat as much as you like!
But the food is only half the fun. The friendly – and downright adorable – staff not only make you feel welcome, they provide lively African entertainment with singing, dancing and drumming towards the end of the meal. Have your cameras ready!
Click to read the post “Captivating Cape Town: Part 1″ (V&A Waterfront / Table Mountain)
Click to read the post Cape Town’s Robben Island – A Nelson Mandela “Living History” Must See
Comments: Have you been to Cape Town? Have you done some of the same activities? What did you particularly enjoy? For future travelers, what sounds like fun to you?
Wolf Carol says
Hi Planet Janet,
I love your Website. I’m planning a trip to South Africa in late January and would like to go to Cape Town, Johannesburg, Victoria Falls and Kruger National Park. Is there any place else you think I should see during my 3 week trip that won’t make my vacation too hectic?
Planet Janet says
Wow, Carol, that sounds like an amazing trip! I know you’ll have a wonderful time, as I have been blessed to have visited all of those places (except for spending touring time in JoBerg). One other area to consider is the Chobe Waterfront, which is part of Chobe National Park. Kasane is the gateway town and only an hour or so from Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. I spent three days there on the Zambezi Queen riverboat which included a day safari inside the park – which has an enormous population of elephants. The addition of a Chobe experience might fit nicely into your itinerary. You can fly JoBerg to Kasane with ground to Vic Falls, then fly Vic Falls to JoBerg (or vice versa). Good luck with your travel planning!