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Cape Town, South Africa is hands down the most unique city in the world to me. Though I can only compare it to a few hundred cities in the 50+ countries I’ve trotted through, there’s something special about this place that no other city I’ve seen can offer.
There’s also a Capetonian pride that drapes the walls, mountains, and ocean that outline the city.
With its specific mix of African culture with a European flair, Cape Town seems like the lovechild of Paris and Nairobi.
I completely underestimated its size too (
that’s what she said). It is MASSIVE ( again, what she said).
I spent time staying in multiple regions of the city over two months and kept surprising myself discovering more gems the city had to offer.
Though it’s the second-most populous urban area in South Africa (after Johannesburg), it still houses almost 4 million people, made up of 45% Coloureds (not the racist word we know in the U.S., but the actual term used for any mixed person), 32% Whites, 16% Black Africans, 3% Indian/Asian, and 4% classified as “other”.
Now there’s an important reason I broke down the racial demographics by percentage, because I feel quite privileged to experience my travels through two lenses.
In many cases, I was seen as both a local and a foreigner, and I easily blended in with the city, which yielded a pretty unique experience.
To be completely honest, I was a bit apprehensive as to how I might be seen or treated, but I can honestly say that I found Capetonians of all races to be some of the friendliest, most warm, and inviting people on the continent.
You can be cognizant of Apartheid and the country’s history, while still being present in the advances that have been made since.
No country is perfect or without its flaws, and I think you will definitely see the beauty in both the people and places of Cape Town like I did.
There was also the Xhosa greetings (one of the 11 official languages, yes, this is the click one) I got by Black Africans, and I always felt a little bad disappointing them that I wasn’t in fact, Xhosa as well. Just boring ol’ Murican.
But upon learning that, they always had some variation of “Ahhh, seestah, welcome home!” and just like in Johannesburg, it was always such a heart-warming thing to hear.
For anyone wanting to explore Africa in all its rich-cultured-glory, Cape Town is such a perfect entrance into what the rest of this continent can provide.
Though I hate when people say South Africa “isn’t the real Africa” the truth is, Africa is a continent with such varied culture, history, dynamics, and stories. It’s just up to you to get out of your comfort zone to seek and experience it yourself.
So here’s a bit of what I did, where I stayed, practical info, and more stunting #forthegram.
I planned to visit Cape Town for a week, but ended up staying well over a month. I thought I might have overstayed my welcome, but the reality is Cape Town had overwelcomed my stay.
There’s not much that can prepare you for the vibrance that is Cape Town. People from all over Africa and the world flock to relocate to this city for a reason.
The pride and joy Capetonians have for their city is both adorable and expected.Everywhere you turn in Cape Town, there’s a picturesque view or scene waiting to be snapped. Click To Tweet
WHAT I DID
Tsiba Tsiba Wine Tour!
It would be remiss to visit South Africa without cruising through the gorgeous Stellenbosch Winelands to get a taste of some of the best wine in the world.
I went with Tsiba Tsiba Tours based on a reader recommendation and high Trip Advisor reviews, and it definitely didn’t disappoint.
South Africa has the oldest wine industry outside of Europe and exports an average of 450 million liters of wine per year.
Though I sampled enough reds and whites to intoxicate a nation, your guide will happily customize your tour based on your preference, and I got to end with a chocolate and wine-pairing at the end. I slept so well that night. God bless it.
I’ve said it before, but Cape Town has one of the best skylines in the world, and well, the best way to see it is from the sky obviously!
Cape Town Helicopters invited me to come take a spin, and it’s easily one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
It was my first time in a helicopter and only my second time peeing my pants in the sky (don’t ask), so I really can’t recommend them enough, especially if you would kill for the best view of Cape Town.
Bo Kaap Neighborhood!
My vanity really compliments the yellow in the walls, dontcha think? There’s no possible way to visit Cape Town without a quick stroll through this cute and quaint neighborhood.
For photos, I got there at my usual ungodly hour of 7AM to beat the crowd and only found two other
crazies people out there with me.
This is a majority-Muslim area, so please be respectful of that, as well as the fact that it’s a residential space, so not to be too loud and wake them up if you get there early.
As locals came out slowly but surely, I was met with warm smiles and greetings, and I think they enjoy experiencing the variety of tourists that come check out their street daily.
I met a few Italians, Scandinavians, and German tourists while admiring the scenery, and one local even offered to take my photo (snapped above)!
Ladies, wear your brightest and loudest colors for this street, because the photo opps will be insane and your favorite photos of Cape Town will likely come from this neighborhood.
Shopping at Greenmarket Square!
In fineprint in the footnotes of the 10 Commandments reads, “Thou shalt buy alllllll the things at Greenmarket Square” so of course, being the obedient saint I am, I splurged accordingly.
Cape Town is a jewelry mecca, and if you’re obsessed with any type of embroidered jewelry, beaded chains, or wooden and colorful bits and bobs, you will go crazy here.
But be sure to have your haggling hat on because they will charge you as much as possible unless you say otherwise.
Every time I came to shop, I put on my best Naija accent (thanks mom!) and made sure I counteroffered with a third of what they asked.
Ultimately, you can decide how much you’re willing to spend on something, because at the end of the day, you want to support the local economy after all.
But there’s a huge difference between supporting and getting ripped off, so come with an idea of the South African Rand conversion already memorized (more on that below)!
Climb (or cable car) Table Mountain!
No shame in my game y’all, I definitely opted for the
overpriced cable car ride up the top of Table Mountain. The views on the way up and down were incredible around the golden hour.
Though this is usually the heaviest hour for people to visit, it’s still worth coming a little early, bringing some wine and snacks, and camping out on the ledge while you wave goodbye to el sol.
While Table Mountain is a tourist-favorite, I enjoyed the view from Lion’s Head a little more, maybe because I actually climbed that one and had more time, peace, and space to enjoy it.
Either way, this is a must! Speaking of Lion’s Head…
Climb Lion’s Head for Sunrise!
Hiking Lion’s Head wasn’t too bad and will take the average person maybe 45 minutes to an hour to get to the top. I thought the difficulty was pretty standard, and as always, if you have sturdy shoes, you’ll be fine!
Lots of places along the way up to camp out, chill, and just take in the view.
Out of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, I much preferred this view, and you really get to see just how massive and incredible Cape Town is.
Visit Boulder’s Beach for the Penguins!
I’m not sure why penguins in South Africa was such a novel concept to me, but omg, look at these little things. Penguins are the most adorable creatures, and seeing them waddle, fall, and just lay around and bask in their nothingness gave me the ultimate life goals and inspiration to perfect my chill.
Obviously a tourist-favorite, try and get there really early or towards closing time to avoid the crowds. You pay a small entrance fee, and you get to walk a bridge and read little artifacts about the penguins along the way.
Overall, a great way to spend an afternoon, and there’s a local market nearby to buy some little trinkets at too!
Photoshoot at Muizenberg Beach!
I love how many times I ran into these little colorful houses (changing rooms) along the beach, and the one that you’ll get the best pictures at will be Muizenberg Beach!
I got there around 4PM and was surprised that not too many people were around for me to get a cheeky photo frolicking in the sand.
While the water is freezing, the area is filled with yummy fish & chip shops, bars, and boutique stores. Another great way to kill an afternoon, though it’s quite a drive depending on where you’re coming from!
Random note, but if you happen to be eating with Xhosa people, you’ll find yourself eating as they do, with their hands — something that’s quite common in other countries in Africa as well.
Tune into The Afternoon Express!
Soooo, I may or may not have made my national television debut while traveling! The hosts of the show invited me on air (shout out to Libryia of Wanderist Life for passing my name along) to talk about my book, my travels, my inspirations, and my dating life, of course, lol.
You can check out the full interview HERE and then come back and gas me up later, ha!
It was even cooler getting recognized on the streets of Cape Town a few times since that aired, and I loved all the new South African followers I got from it who sent notes of encouragement and love.
WHERE I STAYED
The Blackheath Lodge
Robes and puppies? Say no more. I was so fortunate to have been introduced to the amazing Destinate duo Annareth and Mariette by the lovely Kiersten of The Blonde Abroad, and they, in turn, introduced me to the owners of Blackheath Lodge who graciously hosted me my last night in Cape Town.
This place has the comfort of a home, but the luxury of a hotel. The staff attends to your every need, and the property is centered by a gorgeous pool that I lounged around for the majority of my day.
This boutique lodge is in the heart of Cape Town and very close to Sea Point, Signal Hill, and the V&A Waterfront. If you don’t have your hands full of Coco (their dog), then make sure at least one has a glass of wine. Seriously, South African wine is the best!
While it’s safe to say the list of things to do is endless, if you have extra time, I’d also recommend checking out the V&A Waterfront, Vista Marina, Old Biscuit Mill, Oranjezicht City Farm Market, Mzoli’s, Khayelitsha Township, First Thursdays, Long Street, Truth Cafe, and CoworKite for a co-working space.
There are 11 nationally-recognized languages in South Africa, and English is one of them. So if you’re worried about any language barriers, there will hardly be one.
I did find myself latching onto some Xhosa words (yeeeeeeeh-bo!) and common South African phrases, so if you want to pretend like you know what’s up, just adapt these words into your vocabulary.
When you want to say “REALLY?” you should say “IS IT?”
It will be strange, but you will hear this DAILY and every time I found myself hearing it, I couldn’t help but respond, “IS WHAT?” IS WHAT????” Ha, but I got used to it, and now I’m issing my its like my life depended on it.
Another big one, is they will use HECTIC to describe virtually anything. And in the Afrikaans accent, it sounds more like heektic and it’s kind of funny, but I love it too.
It’s such a dynamic word, so if you want to blend in, throw it in any sentence a couple times and BOOM, officially a South African.
Lastly, my favorite, which I’ll make a video about later, because I’m that excited about how much I’ve mastered its different intonations — this is one mainly Xhosa and Black South Africans use.
It’s YOH. Very similar to how we say YO! in the U.S., but they use it in South Africa with a more serious undertone, usually paired with dilated eyeballs, and a shocked expression. Say this around Black South Africans randomly and you’ll be so official, haha.
South African Outlets
I thought I had a universal charger that had adapters for each continent, but South Africa is a strange outlet! I don’t think it’s used anywhere else in the world, so definitely come prepared with an adapter. Found this cheap one on Amazon here.
Luckily, if you have a European adapter, you’ll likely find hotels that will include them next to their local ones.
You will use the South African Rand (ZAR) which is pretty decent for the Euro and US dollar, but as of July 2017, here are some common conversions to note…
1 USD = 13 ZAR
1 EUR = 15 ZAR
1 GBP = 17 ZAR
1 CAD = 10 ZAR
1 AUD = 10 ZAR
Conversions can be confusing on first glance, especially when it’s not a nice, even number. I try to round up to an easier number and just try to remember the USD amount for increments of 100 ZAR, because it’s a normal amount for most things, especially when haggling in markets.
So 100 ZAR is approximately 7.5 USD, and 200 ZAR roughly 15 USD. I keep that in the back of my mind instead of trying to divide ZAR prices by 13 to get the USD equivalent.
Getting Around & Safety
While there is decent public transportation, the lazy girl within relied on exclusively Uber to get around.
Most of your Uber drivers will be Zimbabwean, and some of the friendliest people ever.
Though I usually make sure my pick-up spot is a public and easily identifiable building, when getting picked up at night, it’s especially important to wait in an area that’s a fairly public space.
There are definitely some dodgy streets around Cape Town that I made a quick pivot and two-step away from if there either weren’t enough street lights, or if I didn’t see anybody else around.
Like any other city, use your best judgment when exploring, especially at night, and trust your gut when talking to people or dealing with situations that just don’t feel right.
BEST FREE THINGS TO DO:
Bo Kaap Neighborhood
Old Biscuit Mill or Orangemarkscht
Crash a Weekend Braai (BBQ)
BEST VIEWS OF CAPE TOWN:
Cape Town Helicopters
BEST PAID THINGS TO DO:
Tsiba Tsiba Stellenbosch Wine Route Tour
Haggle at Greenmarket Square
And now I end with some more jaw-dropping beauty of the unique and stunning city that is Cape Town:
Have you been to Cape Town? What did you love most about it? Any Capetonians have some tips to add? Would love to hear from you guys in the comments! And feel free to share with anybody heading to Cape Town soon!