Friday, 22 April 2016

Cape Town, South Africa

With its beautiful colonial buildings, stunning setting in the shadow of Table Mountain and slightly exotic edge, Cape Town is one of the great undiscovered tourist destinations amongst Australians and North Americans. We had 48 hours here before we began our South African road trip and it wasn't enough.

The biggest surprise about Cape Town is how modern and orderly it felt. We arrived so long after dark that even David was concerned about navigating to our hotel. We need not have worried. The route to the city was sign-posted and well-lit and driving in Cape Town turned out to be no more difficult than driving in Sydney. Arriving at night had the benefit that we had the roads very much to ourselves. Within an hour of touching down we were safely ensconced in our hotel room.

Cape Town was first settled in 1652 by employees of the Dutch East India Company as a food and provisioning stop for its ships sailing the trade route between the Netherlands and the East Indies. In 1814 it was ceded to Britain following the Anglo-Dutch Wars. Either by design or neglect, I am not sure which, many of the buildings from the colonial years remain standing, making Cape Town a wonderful place to wander about aimlessly soaking up the friendly atmosphere and admiring the architecture.

With only two days here, one of which we used to drive south to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope (the topic of my post next Friday/Saturday) we dismissed any ideas of trying to see all the major sites. Robben Island, the V & A Waterfront, the District Six Museum and the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway will all have to wait for our next visit. Instead we just wandered, enjoying the sunshine, shaking off the jet-lag and soaking up the life of the city.


Central Cape Town is a menagerie of magnificent colonial buildings, African street markets and English style gardens all jumbled together. We had no plan and no particular sights to see but managed a magical morning exploring. 


Central Cape Town
Central Cape Town

Central Cape Town
Central Cape Town
Central Cape Town
Central Cape Town

Gardens in central Cape Town
Central Cape Town



We stayed at the Hilton, just across the road from Bo-Kaap. Also known as the Cape Malay Quarter this was the one attraction I did not want to miss. Bo-Kaap is the city's traditional Muslim quarter categorized by rows of brightly coloured terrace houses and cobbled streets. I have a weak spot for lego-like houses in rainbow colours.


Bo-Kaap
Bo-Kaap street


Bo-Kaap
Looking down on Bo-Kaap from our hotel room window.

Table Mountain

Table Mountain looms large over Cape Town like a slumbering giant.  You can see it from almost anywhere in the city. We had a spectacular view from our hotel room window. Google Table Mountain and you will be directed to the famous and very popular tourist attraction, the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, but you can also visit the mountain by car, or hike, if you are well prepared and fit. The road doesn't go all the way to the top. It looked like it did once but has now fallen into disrepair not far past the lower cableway station. The views are stunning and well-worth the short drive from central Cape Town.

Table Mountain, Cape Town
Table Mountain rising above the suburbs of Cape Town

Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
Table Mountain Aerial Cableway

Signal Hill

Like its larger sibling Table Mountain, Signal Hill provides magnificent vistas across the city. Unlike Table Mountain though we just about had it to ourselves.

View from Signal Hill
Looking down on Cape Town from Signal Hill

The topic of next week's post will be our drive to Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope. If you are interested in scenic coastal roads, cheeky baboons or African penguins then keep an eye out for it next Friday/Saturday.

For last week's post click here.

36 comments:

  1. Cape Town is so vibrant, the colourful buildings are really something!

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    1. If you visit La Boca in Buenos Aires you will see similar buidlings. They are a bit more touristy but great to photograph. Just make sure you have a way home. La Boca is surrounded by unsafe areas and we had a lot of trouble getting a taxi back to our hotel.

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  2. Lyn the colors are amazing! We have been thinking about South Africa as a destination and this trip of yours is really making me think we have to go!

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    1. We are staying at the Augusta de Mist right now in Swellendam. David says you will have to stay here because the owner - lovely guy - is Canadian.
      Wait until you see my game reserve posts. This is such a great place to visit.

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  3. I've heard that Cape Town is charming and spiffy and your photos make it look great. I didn't imagine it being quite so big though! It's a far trip for us but I'd love to get there some day.

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    1. It is a great place to visit. We are almost at the end of our trip now and are already planning to come back.

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  4. Lyn, We loved Cape Town as well. We did go to Robben Island, though, and if you go back I would highly recommend a visit. It was one of our highlights. Great city!

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    1. I was sorry to miss it but we just didn't have the time. I have been reading Nelson Mandela's A Long Walk to Freedom though so I have a sense of what it must have been like.

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  5. Great colorful buildings, Lyn. I've only seen these kind of colors in the barrio of La Boca, in Buenos Aires. I'll have to go visit Cape Town. I've heard is beautiful, but your post is really convincing.

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    1. I loved La Boca. Bo-Kaap is more extensive, less commercial and safer to wander into the back streets. That said I want to go back to La Boca again next time we are in Buenos Aires.

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  6. I'd really like to visit Cape Town. The Cape Colony features in parts of a family tree I've been researching and I'd be interested to see it in real life. Your photos make it look even more appealing.

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    1. I can highly recommend it. It was so much safer and more beautiful than I imagined it would be.

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  7. What a great post! I've been reading/hearing about Cape Town quite often, lately, and your photos really show why. What a fascinating city. I love the rainbow houses of Bo-Kaap - they really remind me of Mexico. Another place where they are not afraid of using lots of colors...all at the same time... ;)

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    1. Mexico is on our list - another place we have been putting off because of safety fears. I would love to get some advice from you on where to go and how safe it is.

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  8. What stunning photos! I particularly like the colourful houses of Bo-Kaap. I love colour and it's not somewhere I'd heard of. #TheWeeklyPostcard

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    1. Until we started researching Capetown I hadn't heard of Bo-Kaap either but, like you, I love colourful houses so it was on my list of things to see. As it turned out our hotel was right across the street.

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  9. You've reminded me how beautiful Cape Town is. We stayed in the V&A Waterfront when we went but I think you did better by being in the centre of town - I'd have liked to spend more time exploring the Bo-Kaap area.

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    1. We were originally going to stay for five nights but we cut it short so that we could spend two nights at Stellenbosch. We didn't make it to the V&A Waterfront but that means we have an excuse to come back.

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  10. Love all the colorful buildings, they remind me of Mexico City!
    Everyone that I have talked to that has visited Cape Town said they enjoyed it, definitely on my list of places I would like to spend some time.

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    1. Cape Town was such a surprise. It was that rare destination where I think I had no preconceptions at all but I was still surprised at how lovely it was.

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  11. We didn't make it to Cape Town on our visit to South Africa. I can see now that we should have found the time.

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    1. Something to look forward to on your next visit!

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  12. Bo-Kaap is so colorful that I can see why you like it. Part of the book that I wrote about in my post this week takes place in Cape Town. I didn't have a very clear idea of what the town looks like when I was reading this book, so I'm glad that your post allowed me to imagine it better.

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    1. It is a beautiful city. We had clear views of Table Mountain every day but we were told that is unusual because it is often covered by cloud.

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  13. Loved your photos and they brought back so many lovely memories of our 6 years in Cape Town. Don't you love the light? It's so different to Australian light. You're right it is slightly exotic and mysterious and has an aura all of it's own. Ahh, Southern Africa is magical - enjoy :)

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    1. 6 years in Cape Town must have been wonderful. We only scratched the surface but we are already planning a return visit.

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  14. Too bad you had to miss those major sights, but those colorful houses in Bo-Kaap were quite interesting.

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    1. Sometimes I think we spend too much time chasing the other tourists around. We had never been to South Africa before and by deciding not to do the major sites, in the limited time we had, I think we made the right choice. Instead we got a feel for the flavour of Capetown. I am sure we will go back one day and maybe tick-off a few of the tourists attractions then.

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  15. We have been in Cape Town for more than three months in total, I guess. We always come back and maybe it will be in future our home base, who knows. We just love it <3 #wkendtravelinspiration

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  16. Cape Town des nto look like I thought it would. I am not sure what I thought it would look like. It is such an interestingly mixture of architecture, and I did not expect so much color.

    Such a fun post.

    Lisa @ LTTL

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    1. It is one of the few places I have been to without any expectations and I thought it was just lovely.

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  17. Cape town has just recently come on my radar and each time I see a write up, I just want to bump it up the list. What a colorful place that has so much to discover.

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    1. If you are planning on going I would say do it soon - within the next few years. The public order and safety situation goes up and down a bit. Right now we felt perfectly safe in the Cape, but it has had its problems in the past.

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  18. Thank you for sharing this Lyn. It's strange that I think of something totally different to this when I picture South Africa, even though it shares so many similarities with Australia.
    I had never seen the colourful streets before so now I have another reason to make sure I get there one day.

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    1. It is a beautiful country, especially in the Cape area.

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