.If you’re visiting Cape Town for the first time, you’re probably feeling overwhelmed with all the things to see…. Wine, penguins, mountains, more wine, helicopter rides, wine and farmers markets. I felt the same way, too. We finished our South Africa trip with a few days in Cape Town and, even though I was travelling with a Saffa, putting together the perfect Cape Town itinerary seemed like a challenge that was impossible to conquer!
For being a relatively small city, there are so many things to do in Cape Town and you won’t get through all of them in a few short days. I regretably missed out on some of the city’s top spots- Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Robben Island and Instagram superstar, Bo Kaap to name but a few. But, in all honesty, we left pleased with the amount that we got to see: we really did manage to pack in loads in those few short days.
(Plus, Veeran is pretty much the perfect excuse for a return visit!)
To help you plan your trip and make the most of your time in the city, keep reading for my perfect Cape Town itinerary for first time travellers! Plus, to make travel even easier, these sights can all be seen using buses, trains and Ubers. Who said you need a hire-car to travel in South Africa?
Cape Town Itinerary for First Time Travellers
Day 1: Table Mountain, Bo Kaap, The Old Biscuit Mill
If there’s one constant on every Cape Town itinerary, it’s Table Mountain. Putting the city’s iconic symbol on your itinerary is the easy part, though: actually visiting, on the otherhand, is a different matter!
Since Cape Town wasn’t exactly blessed with the great weather gene, more often than not, the gondola to the top of Table Mountain is closed- one of the biggest obstacles for anyone creating a Cape Town itinerary.
In an ideal world, you could go early in the morning and spend the rest of your day enjoying all the many things to do in Cape Town. And, actually, we were lucky enough to do this!
We decided to take the gondola up to save time. (Buy online- 290 ZAR Return- £17/$25). You can also hike to the top and, although this would be amazing, we couldn’t justify dedicating a full day of our itinerary to doing this. Besides, regardless of how you get there, you can still see the same gorgeous Cape Peninsula, the same 12 Apostles mountain range and the same little dassies running around at the summit.
Once you get down from Table Mountain, you’re just a 15-minute Uber ride away from Bo Kaap- that place with the colourful houses that you’ve definitely seen on Instagram! After having your photo fix, there are a few cool things to do in this area like visiting the District Six Museum and the Bo Kaap Museum.
Old Biscuit Mill
Later, head to The Old Biscuit Mill where you can experience the artistic side of the city and check out some local handcrafts and tasty food!
Day 2: Robben Island, Houts Bay, Camps Bay
It’s another early morning as you depart on the 9am ferry to Robben Island. This island is where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his imprisonment during South Africa’s Apartheid years. These days, it’s no longer an active prison but you can take tours around it, led by ex-prisoners who share what they’ve gone through. (340 ZAR for return ferry and tour: £20/$30)
If you’re interested in learning more about South Africa’s modern history (which you should be- there’s a lot we can all learn from it), this is a must. Especially if you’re skipping Johannesburg and not visiting the apartheid museum.
After your 4-hour Robben Island tour, you’ll be getting a bit peckish so, grab a light snack (maybe some Biltong?) before heading off on one of the most gorgeous bus journeys of your life: the bus to Houts Bay. (Number 108.) This bus travels down the Cape Peninsula, along the Atlantic Coast where you can marvel at Table Mountain and the 12 Apostles along the way.
One the main attractions of Houts Bay is the fish and chips shop. We had lunch at Snoekies and loved our fish supper. We got a Fisherman’s Basket for 2 which had snoek fish, hake, calamari, chips and 2 rolls- all for ZAR 149 (£9/$12).
However, one of the things we loved most about Houts Bay was the seals that were jumping around the bay and the craft beer hall that we found, too…. You can’t beat a beer garden!
On your way back to the city, stop in at Camps Bay. This is where you’ll find some of South Africa’s most lucrative real estate. I didn’t love the vibes here but I can’t deny how beautiful it is! Watch golden hour approach from the beach then head to one of the strip bars to watch the rest of the sunset- preferably with a glass of South African shiraz in hand!
Day 3: Muizenberg, Simonstown and Boulders Beach
Cape Peninsula Train
Getting to the Cape Peninsula usually requires an expensive tour but, people don’t realise that it’s not really necessary. You can actually get quite far down the peninsula using Cape Town’s little known train service! It won’t get you quite as far as the Cape of Good Hope, but you can still check out the penguins at Boulder’s Beach and the colourful huts at Muizenberg.
The train departs from Cape Town Station, leaves every 40 minutes and costs just 30 ZAR (£1.80/$2.50) for an all-day tourist ticket.
£1.80 for a day of sightseeing vs £30. I’ll choose the former but if you are interested in seeing the Cape of Good Hope, this tour offers decent value for money. Otherwise, you can check out the train schedule here.
The first stop of today’s Cape Town itinerary is Muizenberg. Some people love it for surfing… others love it for Instagram! This is where you’ll see the colourful beach huts that grace the cover of the Cape Town Lonely Planet guide.
Definitely worth a stop since this is one of the city’s most iconic sights.
After you’ve got your beach fix, head back on the train down to Simonstown. I originally thought of this town just a stop off point for Boulder’s Beach but it’s got a lot more to offer than just that. The town felt like a British seaside town, but even more quintessentially British than most seaside towns in Scotland! Plus, you can even go whale watching between July and November.
The bay has loads of al fresco restaurants where you can sit and enjoy the ocean views with some seafood and a cool, crisp glass of white wine.
And then it’s time for the main event… PENGUIN TIME! The scenes on display at Boulders Beach truly epitomise the expression “cool as a penguin.” These penguins (and there are LOADS of them) spend their time lazing about the beach, taking a swim, doing some sunbathing, taking a nap, then repeat, ALL DAY!
Although the main viewing platform can get crowded, we wandered around and found a little secret part with a lot less people. My advice? Get exploring!
If you’re looking for something even more off the beaten bath my friend, Samantha from There She Goes Again loved seeing the penguins at Betty’s Bay.
Day 4: Stellenbosch
Wine Flies Wine Tours
So, you’ve got through all the top spots on your Cape Town itinerary and you’re also in one of the world’s most famous wine regions. Sound like a coincidence? I think not! We ended our trip to Cape Town with a day of wine tasting with Wine Flies Wine Tours. (£50/$70)
This awesome tour picked us up in Cape Town and took us to a selection of wineries in Stellenbosch then dropped us right off back home after filling us with wine.
We started the day with champagne tasting (helllooo…..) then had pairing sessions at different boutique wineries with cheese, chocolate and even biltong. Of course, we also had a braai for lunch that was washed down with even more wine.
Sounds like the perfect day, and it pretty much was. You can read my review of Wine Flies Wine Tours here!
Part of the reason I recommend doing the wine tour with a company is because they’ll arrange all your transport. You don’t want to waste time waiting around on Ubers or, worse, attempting to drive yourself home after a few. Plus, our guide was so funny and full of knowledge, so he completely transformed our experience. Such a nice treat!
Where to Stay in Cape Town
There are lots of different places to stay in Cape Town, to suit all kinds of tastes and budgets. We decided to stay in Camps Bay, based on recommendations, but wished we’d stayed somewhere a little bit more central so we could have had easier access to more attractions by day and restaurants by night.
The most convenient part of the city to stay in during a short visit would be around Green Point. Most of the places on your Cape Town itinerary will be in that area, so it makes sense to stay there. These are a few suggestions.
Budget Backpacker’s Hostel
If you’re on a budget, you can’t get a better hostel deal than Big Blue Backpackers. This spacious hostel is in Green Point, near all the main sights, and is a great place to meet other travellers.
Costs: Dorm- 160 ZAR (£10/$13), Double- 650 ZAR (£40/$55)
Boutique Traveller’s Hostel
B.I.G Backpacker’s is a great choice for travellers looking for a hostel environment with a boutique twist. It’s situated within easy walking distance of V&A Waterfront and has an on-site pool and garden to relax in between sightseeing.
Costs: Dorm- 390 ZAR (£23/$32), Double- 1330 ZAR (£80/$110)
Situated by the coast, but still with plenty of access to all the city’s attractions, Mojo Hotel truly has the best of both worlds. The rooms are clean and modern but it’s the views, that look out over both Signal Point and the Cape Peninsula, that make this hotel stand out.
Costs: Budget Double- 850 ZAR (£50/$70), Double with Terrace and Seaview- 1,500 ZAR (£90/$125)
For a real treat, the Queen Victoria Hotel is a luxurious place to stay in the heart of Cape Town’s tourism centre. Guests can enjoy a state-of-the-art gym, designer spa and even a pool bar!
Cost: Rooms start at 6600 ZAR (£400/$555)
Do You Need a Car to Travel to Cape Town?
It’s a myth that you need a car to travel in Cape Town. The city has a great bus system that’s safe and easy to navigate, and not disimilar to European bus systems. To use it, get yourself a rechargable bus pass and enjoy single fares for as little as 6.40 ZAR (£0.40/$0.55). You can also use the Southern Line of the Cape Town Metro Rail to reach Muizenberg, Simonstown and Boulder’s Beach. (All day ticket- 30 ZAR: £1.80/$2.50). For everything else, Ubers are plentiful around the city and cheap as chips, too. This is how we got around at night, or when we were in a hurry.
Other Things to do in Cape Town
Looking for more inspiration for your Cape Town itinerary? Check out these things to do in the city!
- Take a helicopter ride over the Cape Peninsula
- Tour the Cape of Good Hope
- Relax at Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
- Hike to (or paraglide from) Lion’s Head
- Do a street art tour in Woodstock
- Party on Long Street
- Have afternoon tea at the Mount Nelson Hotel
- and, if you’re lucky enough to visit on the first Thursday of the month, don’t miss First Thursdays!
I hope that this post has made planning your Cape Town itinerary that little bit easier! As always, I’d love to hear any more suggestions that you have down in the comments. And, if you’re travelling to South Africa soon, don’t miss my other posts and travel resources:
- How to Plan an Independent Safari to Kruger National Park
- Exploring Stellenbosch: One Winery at a Time
- Find Cheap Flights to South Africa
- Don’t Forget to Buy Travel Insurance!
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Disclaimer: We were guests of Wine Flies but, regardless how much wine, chocolate and cheese a company feeds me, you can be sure that I’ll always give you my honest opinion of them! All thoughts and opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.