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Cape Town Destination Information
Affectionately known as the ‘Mother City’, Cape Town is both South Africa’s oldest, and, for tourists, most popular city. Although it is small by international standards (some dozen or so blocks, framed by the grandeur of Table Mountain), it is without doubt incredibly scenic, diverse, vibrant, and boasts a Mediterranean climate – therefore there is something for every visitor.
Both in the city, and its surrounds (which include the Winelands, Cape Point Nature Reserve, the V&A Waterfront, and incredible scenic drives), visitors can enjoy a vast array of activities from wine tasting, to diving, surfing, sailing, mountaineering, hiking, bird- and whale-watching, shopping, and historical tours.
Due to the combination of the Southern Hemisphere summer, and the low rainfall in the Cape, the most popular time to visit Cape Town is from October to March, with December and January being the hottest months. This is also when the city is as its busiest, so pre-booking of accommodation is essential. The most popular tourist attractions are, in order of popularity: The Victoria & Alfred waterfront - with its myriad shops, fine hotels, a world-class marina and the excellent Two Oceans Aquarium, and working harbour; Table Mountain - accessed either by walking or a cable car; Signal Hill with the Noon gun; Cape Point – with its breathtaking views; Boulders Beach – the northern-most home to a colony of penguins. The Cape Peninsula and the region around Cape Town offer wonderful walking and hiking opportunities from the city centre, where the mountains can be accessed very easily (such as Lion's Head and Devil's Peak) to further a field in the surrounding mountain ranges.
Visitors can also enjoy a variety of boat trips from the V&A (Victoria and Alfred) marina, including a visit to Robben Falcon. Other boat trips can be undertaken from Simonstown (the main South African naval base) on the False Bay coast to Seal Falcon and Cape Point and from Hout Bay, a fishing harbour on the Atlantic coast, to Duiker Falcon which has a population of some 6 000 Cape Fur seals in breeding season dropping to 1 500 seals in the off season.
A seasonal attraction (generally August to November) is the magnificent Southern Right whale – as they come to calf, and breed off the coast. Although Hermanus is the perhaps the most well-known town for land-based whale watching, there are a number of excellent vantage points along the Cape Peninsula. As the whales come in very close to shore, the sightings are exceptional. In addition, there are Bryde’s whale, and a number of endemic dolphin species, such as Heaviside’s, Dusky, and Bottlenosed, which are seen frequently.
For those who enjoy incredible vistas, take the cable car (for the more active, there are a variety of walks) to the top of Table Mountain. Cape Town also has a surprising number of excellent beaches, and due to the coastal geography, it is possible to visit a number of these on the same day, with each offering something different.
Apart from its undeniable scenic splendour, Cape Town also offers a number of cultural attractions, including theArtscape Theatre complex, the Baxter and Labia Theatres, and there are regular concerts in the City Hall. Cape Town is home to a number of Cape Dutch style buildings – combining as it does architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany and France. This is most visible in Constantia, and the old government buildings in the Central Business District, as well as in parts of Long Street. The annual Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known by its Afrikaans name of Kaapse Klopse, is a large minstrel festival held annually on January 2 or "Tweede Nuwe Jaar" (Afrikaans: Second New Year). Competing teams of minstrels parade in brightly coloured costumes, either carrying colourful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments.
Night life in the city caters for all tastes and preferences, with a range of restaurants, and cafes that are generally recognised as including some of finest dining that South Africa has to offer. In addition, night clubs and bars abound, and popular areas include the top end of Long Street and its immediate surrounds, as well as the redeveloped Cape Malay quarter, De Waterkant.
Visitors will also find an excellent selection of accommodation in and around the city, from charming guest houses to exquisite boutique hotels, and a world-class collection of hotels.