Cape Town’s best attractions

Some refer to Cape Town as the “mother city” of South Africa. The metropolis with its 3.7 million inhabitants is not the capital of the country. But it was once the first city to be founded during the South African colonial era, and with that it definitely has something to do with a mother. TRAVELBOOK shows the most important sights in Cape Town.

Cape Town obviously took its name from the nearby Cape of Good Hope, much feared by seafarers traveling to India. Many ships ran aground on rocks that treacherously lay near the surface of the water and sank. Cape Town is often said to be located on two oceans. However, this is incorrect: the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet approximately 200 kilometers southeast at Cape Agulhas.

In any case, it is the Atlantic that determines Cape Town’s climate. Temperatures are between 10 and 25 degrees all year round, but in the South African winter it rains much more than in the summer.

A Dutchman founded Cape Town

The settlement of the area dates back to the Dutchman Jan van Riebeeck, who left the ship at Table Bay and established a filling station for the merchant ships of the Dutch East India Company. The sheltered bay seemed conducive to settlement. That he expelled the natives is another story. Between 1666 and 1679 he had the Fort de Goede Hoop built, the Fortress of Good Hope, now a sight in the city. As a worker, he brought slaves from Madagascar, India and other countries to the city. It is therefore not surprising that many people with ancestors of different origins live in the city today.

Cape Town was an important port, became a British crown colony in 1814 and was ruled by London, flourished with diamond and gold mining and suffered severely from 1901 due to racial segregation and the apartheid system, which was also responsible for establishing the township for the black population on the outskirts of the city. Although apartheid was abolished in 1994, there are still large social and common differences: living conditions are still poor.

Khayelitsha, on the outskirts of Cape Town, is one of the largest townships in South AfricaPhoto: Getty Images

Main landmarks in Cape Town

Robben Island

One of Cape Town’s main attractions is the former island prison of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for years before his presidency. The island served as a prison for political prisoners under the apartheid system and is now a museum. The District Six Museum, housed in a former Methodist church, is also reminiscent of apartheid. Here you can learn, for example, that there used to be only banks for whites.

Robben Island Prison
The infamous Robben Island Prison is now a museumPhoto: Getty Images

Table Mountain and other places of interest

Cape Town’s most prominent attraction is Table Mountain, which rises enormously behind the city. But the Castle of Good Hope, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront with its many shops, the Riebeeck Monument at the main train station and the Cape Town Hall on Darling Street are also magnets for visitors.

Cape Town from Table Mountain
Table Mountain is considered to be Cape Town’s most famous landmarkPhoto: Getty Images

Also interesting: a road trip on the west coast of South Africa is so good

Parliament building and oldest market in South Africa

Some attractions are located on Adderley Street, Cape Town’s main shopping street. The Groote Kerk, for example, or the Museum of the History of Culture. Worth seeing are the parliament building on Gouvernement Avenue and St George’s Cathedral diagonally opposite. Art lovers stroll through the South African National Gallery and then admire the magnificent Rust en Vreugd mansion on the corner of Roeland Street and Buitenkant Street.

Cape Town Parliament Building
The impressive parliament building in Cape TownPhoto: Getty Images

Greenmarket Square on Long Street is also attractive – it’s South Africa’s oldest market square. Long Street is also home to the Old Town House, which houses Dutch and Flemish art, as well as numerous antique shops. And of course Bo-Kaap, the colorful and lively district, where today mainly descendants of former slaves live, is very attractive.

Botanical Garden

You can get a glimpse of Cape flora at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens on the eastern side of Table Mountain. It is considered one of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world and was established in 1913 to preserve the biodiversity of the Cape region. Even today, only native plants are found here.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
One of the most beautiful botanical gardens in the world: Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape TownPhoto: Getty Images

Also interesting: the fascinating Kalahari savannah in South Africa

Famous beaches in Cape Town

Of course there are also numerous beaches in Cape Town. The stretches of beach in the posh Clifton neighborhood are some of the most beautiful, but Camps Bay also has gorgeous beaches.

I notify: Information on entry requirements and the current situation of the crown in South Africa can be found on the website of the Federal Foreign Office.

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(Text: Silke Böttcher)

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