Cape Town is a city that truly has something for everyone because it truly has everything. There is excellent shopping, amazing restaurants, stunning scenery, exciting outdoor adventure activities, fascinating history -- basically there is anything a traveler could want! It is such an incredible place, full of complexities, beauties and an ever changing dynamic.
I think Cape Town is a city that is worth making its own trip because there is probably enough to fill a week-long itinerary; but for most people, Cape Town will serve as the jumping off point for exploring a longer itinerary in South Africa, which is why I created a 3 day itinerary for Cape Town.
How to Spend 3 Idyllic Days in Cape Town
Morning: Breakfast and Coffee at Truth
This will be the best cup of coffee you've ever had. No really, Truth Coffee is rated one of the best coffee shops in the world. It has received countless accolades and has been featured on shows like "Somebody Feed Phil". Regardless whether or not you're a coffee drinker, this is a must-visit location in Cape Town. The intricate steampunk interior of Truth transports you to another era. Their menu comes on a newspaper and their attentive, non-pretentious staff will walk you through the options if you're not familiar with coffee varieties.
Most of their beans are single origin and roasted in house to ensure high quality standards and you can get styles of coffee ranging from nitro cold brew to espresso. The menu and staff will offer suggestions based on your flavor preferences, so don't hesitate to ask questions.
The food at Truth should not be missed either. It is incredible! I had the best croque monsieur of my life here, thanks to the sharp cheese and perfectly prepared bechamel. I liked Truth so much that I came back two more times... It's worth it!
Afternoon: Bo Kaap & District 6 Museum
Just down the street from Truth are a few cultural highlights to enjoy on your 3 day itinerary in Cape Town -- the Bo Kaap Neighborhood and the District 6 Museum. Made famous for its colorful facades, Bo Kaap is a small (like a few square blocks) neighborhood in central Cape Town. You probably don't need to budget more than an hour. Basically, this has become an Instagram place but Bo Kaap is actually an important part of Cape Town's history and cultural heritage. The Bo Kaap neighborhood was recently established as a historic landmark after a long fight by locals over encroaching gentrification that threatened the longevity of the neighborhood and its residents.
Most of the colorful walls you see are private homes, so it is important to be respectful and quiet while you photograph this picturesque area. You'll see influencers in elaborate outfits here snapping photos in front of the colorful homes. Because of its small footprint, you might be waiting to take photos in front of certain iconic spots like the green and pink houses with the blue vintage car. I also recommend patronizing one of the nearby businesses, such as the Atlas Trading Company (an incredible spice shop on Wale Street) or Faeeza's Home Kitchen (for delicious samosas) in order to continue supporting the local residents of this area.
Following your visit to BoKaap, head to the far more interesting and informative stop, the District 6 Museum. This is one of my favorite museums in Cape Town because it shares a micro-history snapshot of this neighborhood which illuminates the larger perspective on South Africa's complicated history. The museum's first floor covers the development of Cape Town and the neighborhood's formation, while the second floor has snapshots into individuals and moments from the neighborhood's past.
Evening: Table Mountain Sunset
An ever present part of the Cape Town skyline is Table Mountain which is the backdrop to this beautiful city. Table Mountain is always worth a visit, regardless of how many times you've been to Cape Town because it is simply stunning. You get sweeping views of the entire city as well as ocean views.
The two best times to visit Table Mountain are sunrise or sunset. Or both! You can either hike to the top of cable mountain on one of several trails or you can take the cable car to the top.
The hikes range from about 2 hours to 6 hours, so budget your day accordingly if you plan to go this route. I did the short Plattekip Gorge hike on my first visit, which was steep and challenging but worthwhile. If you opt for the Table Mountain Aerial Cable Way, the cable car will take about 10 minutes and runs regularly throughout the day. The first one typically runs at 8:30am and the last cable car comes down at 6:00pm. The cable car is super scenic and costs approximately $25 USD. You can purchase tickets at the cable car and you can arrive to the cable car station via bus or uber.
Morning: Sunrise Hike Lion’s Head
It may be an early morning, but hiking up Lion's Head is something worth getting up for. This is perhaps the most beautiful spot in all of Cape Town and it would be a shame to miss it. The hike is steep, but fairly short. It will take about an hour to go up to the top and you should plan to arrive at the trailhead about an hour before sunrise.
The trailhead can be found easily at the Lion’s Head parking lot. If you plug that into uber, you’ll arrive no problem. This hike wraps around the Lion’s Head peak like a corckscrew and there is a part of the hike that involves ladders and holding onto chains. Be aware if you are scared of heights. Once at the top, you will see some of the best views ever!
Afternoon: Food Tour with Eat Like a Local
Recommended to me by a friend, Eat Like a Local is an excellent walking food tour in central Cape Town that will have you sampling some of the best foods this city has to offer. You'll make stops at about 8 different locations, each better than the last! From a bakery with Pasteis de Nata to a funky after-work watering hole, this tour really does show you some special local spots in central Cape Town that you might not have been able to find on your own.
Evening: Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens
I am obsessed with Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens! This was one of my favorite experiences in Cape Town and it is an excellent spot to go around sunset. Maybe you're thinking "botanic gardens? If you've seen one, you've seen them all" but this one is truly special and worth dedicating some of your precious time in Cape Town because:
- South Africa is home to one of only 6 floral kingdoms in the world
- The species found here are endemic and distinct to South Africa
- The park is in a stunning location on the slopes of Table Mountain
You can get to Kirstenbosch by Uber or by bus, including the hop-on, hop-off bus. The park entrance is about 20 minutes from the city center and costs approximately $5 for an all day pass.
Taken at a leisurely pace, you could see most of the gardens in about 2 or 3 hours, but it would also be easy to stay here all day if you were really into plants. I got sort of obsessed with the ecosystems in South Africa during my visit, which you can read more about in my other post. But the TL;DR is that If you don't have a chance to make it out to the Fynbos, Kirstenbosch is another opportunity to see this unique ecosystem up close.
Morning: Muizenburg Beach
No visit to Cape Town would be complete without a stop at the beach. Cape Town is world-renowned for having some of the best beaches, and if you're into it, some of the best surfing. Cape Town is the perfect place to head out to the water and enjoy some vitamin D.
Muizenburg beach is tucked away on the southern side of Cape Town in the shadow of Table Mountain. The wide sandy beach offers amble opportunity lay out on your beach towel, but what really makes this spot famous is the colorful changing rooms lined up along the beach. Ranging from blue and green to yellow and red, these little stalls are an adorable backdrop for a photo shoot, but are also very useful for changing in and out of your beach clothes. All you need is a bag!
Early Afternoon: Boulders Beach
Just a little further down the road, you will find Boulders Beach which is home to one of Cape Town's African Penguin colonies. There are 5 penguin colonies within the Cape Town area and Boulders Beach is one of the most accessible. The African penguin is a critically endangered species with only about 10% of their original population still alive.
Conservation efforts have been underway for a long time, but it is vitally important to be a conscientious visitor when you visit Boulders. DO NOT touch or hold the birds, because it can spread lethal diseases to them and kill their entire colony. DO NOT take any of the habitat away with you, even rocks and shells. DO NOT go off the marked path during your visit in order to get closer to a bird. It is not worth the 'gram.
Late Afternoon: Explore Old Biscuit Mill
I'm a big neighborhood gal, so I love discovering funky neighborhoods in cities around the world. Woodstock was one of my favorites in Cape Town! It's got an edge to it that I enjoyed, full of street art and small boutique shops. Old Biscuit Mill is a quirky outdoor shopping mall that features South African brands and designers in an assortment of independently owned boutiques. There are also some restaurants in cafes nearby, but this is largely at the heart of the neighborhood so you can walk around from here.
Pop into the adorable Asvati Interiors shop on Albert Road, where I had a lovely conversation with the owner. The perfectly curated collection of home decor items will have you ready to redecorate your home. I also loved the shop next door to Asvati which reclaims precious metals from computers and electronics to turn them into upcycled jewelry. Their utilitarian and androgynous style are simple yet socially-conscious.
Evening: Fancy Dinner
Cape Town's restaurant and culinary scene is top-notch. I was all too happy to drop some serious Rand on a delicious dinner for my last night in the city. My two suggestions for dinner would be Chef's Warehouse and Kloof House, with an honorable mention for Melting Pot and House of H.
Chef's Warehouse is a tiny restaurant cranking out innovative tasting menus with international, modern cuisine. Their reasonable 5-course tasting menu had delicious dishes which change daily. Kloof Street House is the exact opposite (photos above). This sprawling, ostentatiously designed restaurant is housed in an old mansion on the city's north side. The food is traditional European done to perfection, with a few surprising flavor combinations to keep you on your toes.
If you want something a little less swanky but equally as delicious, my honorable mentions are the way to go. Melting Pot is a newly opened pop-up restaurant that has a tiny menu of only 6 dishes. Their restaurant concept changes one a month, so it will be different every time, but I loved this place so much that we went twice. It is very small and only has barstool seating. House of H is another great spot for a casual and yummy dinner. The fascinating interior design is worth a visit on its own, but the BBQ is what will get you to stay. Their fatty, well-rendered beef brisket is divine.
Have thoughts or questions about this Cape Town itinerary? Tell me in the comments!
Share this story