Cape Town is known as the Mother City and is situated on the Cape of Good Hope, the southern gateway to South Africa. A unique and fascinating city, Cape Town is located in the Western Cape and is hugged by the iconic Table Mountain and its surrounding park, all the while gazing over Table Bay.
The city of Cape Town came to the attention of the world when it hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup and is also known widely as being the location where the late former South African president Nelson Mandela spent his years of incarceration.
The view of Table Mountain from the sea has always been an amazing sight and the area now occupied by the city has a varied and complicated history. It was first mentioned by the Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias back in 1486. Another Portuguese explorer, Vasco de Gama also recorded a sighting of what is now known as the Cape of Good Hope in 1497.
A natural harbor, Table Bay then became a regular stop over for Danish, Dutch, English, French and Portuguese ships in the late 16th century, as they headed to the Indies. They reportedly traded copper, iron and tobacco with the local Khoikhoi people in exchange for fresh meat to nourish them on their voyages.
Today Cape Town is a modern and cosmopolitan city with plenty to offer the tourist. Obvious sites to visit are the infamous Robben Island, prison home to Nelson Mandela from 1964 to 1982. Mandela then moved to first Pollsmoor and finally Victor Verster prison in the city until his release in 1990. The island can be accessed by boat from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, allowing visitors to view the cell where Mandela spent so much of his life.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (or V&A Waterfront as it is popularly known) is a fairly recent addition to the existing shipping and fishing harbor of Cape Town. World-class shopping is available along with many restaurants offering all types of cuisine, as well as sailing, fishing and other boat trips out into Table Bay.
Table Mountain itself, bracketed by Devil’s Peak and the iconic Lions Head and Signal Hill, is a fascinating visit and can be accessed by cable car from the city below. A stroll around the top of the mountain offers incredible views from all sides, of the city itself, out into the Atlantic Sea and of the surrounding beaches and mountains.
Speaking of beaches, the coastline on both sides of Table Mountain offers endless sandy vistas, rock pools to explore and great sunsets over the Atlantic Sea, along with some of the best surfing conditions in South Africa. Heading one way along the West Coast, a visitor can experience Bloubergstrand and Milnerton, both offering the popular postcard view of Table Mountain.
Going the other way, a different experience is available in the beaches of the Atlantic Seaboard, including Clifton, Camps Bay and Hout Bay – all a definite must on a Cape Town vacation. Further along there is the False Bay coastline, which offers a long sandy beach running from Gordon’s Bay through to Muizenberg.
The city itself offers a varied shopping and dining experience, with local delicacies and fresh fish available along with all types of international cuisine. To see a little of Cape Town’s past, a trip to Bo-Kaap is fascinating, with its multi-colored houses a living museum of the Cape Malay culture. The area dates back to the time when slaves were brought in from Maritime Southeast Asia. The people were mostly Javanese from what is Indonesia today and spoke Malayu, hence the name Cape Malay was born. The Bo-Kaap is now a multi-cultural area where visitors can sample the delicious Cape Malay cuisine and purchase the various spices used in the culinary delights.
The winelands of the Western Cape are located not far from the city of Cape Town and offer spectacular scenery, coated in the red and white grapevines and with many wine farms available for a wine tasting, delicious meal or even an overnight stay. The historic towns of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are well worth a mention, with their attractive Cape Dutch buildings and restaurants serving the delicious Cape cuisine, all washed down with an excellent South African wine.
Anyone keen on the game of golf, deep sea fishing, water sports of any kind, or just a relaxing day on the beach is spoiled for choice in Cape Town and the surrounding Western Cape. The endless adventure, excitement and fun on offer in the area make it an ideal destination on a South African vacation.
Featured photo by Vitorcius/CC BY-ND 2.0