This is a guest post from Anne Slater-Brooks of Traveltheglobe4less.
If you only have 48 hours in Cape Town, you will have to plan your itinerary carefully. This city is a nature lover’s dream, an adrenalin junkie’s heaven and a gourmand’s Babylon. To do the city justice, and try everything on offer, from paragliding or abseiling from Table Mountain, to kayaking with seals and penguins, to sunset cruises and diving with sharks, safaris and other visitor attractions, merits at least ten days. Two weeks would be better still, as the weather is notoriously changeable, and the best laid plans can be thwarted by errant storms, cloud cover and strong winds.
But, suppose you find yourself in a bitter sweet situation, on a brief stopover after a business trip or even visiting on a cruise liner, and only have 48 hours, how best should you spend them? It’s a tough question to answer, but here’s what I would recommend to give you a good flavour of all that this amazing city has to offer.
The Hop On Hop Off Bus
Unless you have a car, the best way to see the city in such a short amount of time is with City Sightseeing Cape Town. It’s a Hop on hop off bus offering a variety of packages. The two day ticket includes four different routes, a free city walking tour (two to choose from – including the Bo-Kaap walk), free sunset bus and free harbour or canal cruise. It costs just 300 Rand (circa £15) per adult and R200 per child. Now that’s a bargain if ever there was one!
The four inclusive tours are the City Tour, including access to Table Mountain, the Downtown tour covering the main sights of the business district, the mini peninsula tour which includes stops at Hout Bay and Kirstenbosch botanical gardens and the wine tour through the Constantia region. Who would have thought there would be vineyards so close to the city centre?
There are twenty seven stops in total on the four combined routes. You simply do not have enough time to do them all in 48 hours, so here are my top picks for an exhilarating taste of what this incredible city has to offer.
Day One In Cape Town
9am – Table Mountain
Voted one of the “New seven wonders of Nature”, Table Mountain is a must. To avoid disappointment, make it your priority on day one. The mountain is often shrouded in mist, and if the weather is poor on your first day, there may be a chance that it clears for your second day. We were unlucky with the weather on our trip, but still made the trip to the top of the mountain. Whilst we did not see the spectacular views of the bay for which the mountain is renowned, we nevertheless were enthralled with the rotating cable cars, and mist covered trails at the top of the mountain.
It takes the cable car just 3 minutes to whisk 65 passengers to the top of the mountain. Once there, you can take free daily guided walks every hour from 9am to 3pm. Hardy souls, can take a short self-guided hike along the Dassie Walk or longer route along the Klipspringer Walk. If that sounds like too much effort, you can always hang out in the WiFi café simply admiring the views.
Time required: 1 – 2 hours not including time to the base. The City Tour drops you directly at the base of the mountain and passes by every fifteen minutes. It’s best to aim to visit in the morning, as cloud cover and winds often worsen in the afternoon, and the cable car may close if weather conditions are considered dangerous. The cableway opens between 8am and 8.30am depending on the time of year but please check before visiting.
Jump back onto the red City route for a short ride into Camps Bay. This is a small crescent shaped beach fringed by huge rocks and boulders. South Africa’s answer to Bondi Bay, it attracts large swells, and mesmerising crashing waves that could keep you entertained all afternoon. The bay has a more relaxed vibe than downtown Cape Town and is a great place to grab lunch in one of the many seafront restaurants.
If you are not ready for lunch, you could opt instead for a cocktail or two in the Hard Rock Café. Don’t indulge too much however as there’s still a whole city to explore.
Jump back on the red City route for the ride along the coast to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. It’s a stunning stretch of coastline with endless viewpoints, glorious beaches, rugged cliffs and spectacular homes. You will pass the lighthouse at Mouille point and the 2010 World Cup stadium at Green Point. (If you happen to be around at the weekend, and enjoy running, take part in the free Park Run on a Saturday morning. It’s a 5km, timed run with a friendly vibe and great views of the ocean and stadium).
Head to one of the bars or restaurants at the Victoria and Alfred waterfront. They offer a mouth watering selection of seafood, burgers and tapas at exceptional prices. Two of our favourites are Mondiall and Quay Four, both of which wowed us with taste and price. See if you can resist the mouth-watering food!
Day Two In Cape Town
Head to the waterfront for your free harbour cruise, giving you a different perspective of Table Mountain and the Waterfront. Cruises start at 9am and operate every twenty to thirty minutes until 5pm.
I also highly recommend booking a helicopter tour. The views are stunning and will give you a real appreciation for the dramatic geography of the city. Check out our photo below to see how incredible our Cape Town helicopter trip was. Our twenty minute Atlantico trip cost just 6,200 Rand for four people, or roughly £80 a head, and turned out to be the highlight of our time in Cape Town.
Head to the V & A food market where you will be spoilt for choice. The food court offers everything from smoothies, to healthy yoghurts, Indian, local and international cuisines. The sights and smells are a paradise for gourmands.For instance, those with a sweet tooth may find heaven at the fudge stand, whilst lovers of savoury will struggle to choose between oysters, flatbreads, curries and so much more. It’s truly a test of your willpower to pry yourself away from so many mouth-watering options!
Jump on the Blue line and take the tour past Kirstenbosch to connect with the wine tour. This is a short loop between two vineyards, and it may be wise to pick one given your limited time.
We visited Groot Constantia and sampled five wines for just 90 Rand (around £4.50). That included a souvenir wine glass, and access to the museum as well as five generous servings of wine. This estate is a good indication of what a typical South African estate is like, and knowledgeable sommeliers will share fascinating facts about the wine selection on offer. Eagle’s Nest is a more modest vineyard, where wines are sampled with platters of cheese and other savoury options. It’s a relaxed place to enjoy feasting in front of a roaring fire on cold days, or in the enclosed garden if the weather is more amenable.
Head back to the V & A and jump on the sunset bus tour which heads up to Signal Hill to admire the sunsets out to sea. If boats are more your thing, you can opt instead for a sunset cruise at additional cost. We booked with Extreme Scene and paid around £20 a head including a few glasses of bubbly.
Glorious Cape Town
You can pack a ton of activity into just two days in Cape Town, by using the bus as your means of transport. Cape Town is quite spread out, and with limited time, the bus tour makes it much easier to see the key sights. Of course the other benefit is that you can enjoy a few wine tasting sessions without worrying about who needs to drive!
And, if you have more time in the city, why not try one of these Irresistible Day Trips From Cape Town.