(work in progress)
Along with cities like San Francisco and Sydney, Cape Town is one of the 'gayest' cities in the world and would certainly qualify as the Gay Capital of Africa (although this is admittedly hardly a hotly contested accolade on what is still a depressingly homophobic continent). Indeed significant column inches in women's magazines are devoted to the plight of single heterosexual Capetonian women lamenting the difficulty of finding a Good Man, as they've all already been snaffled by other Good Men!
Unlike so many other African nations - notably Uganda, which has some of the most draconian anti-homosexuality laws in the world - homosexuality is not illegal in South Africa. On the contrary, Section 9 of the Constitution specifically prohibits discrimination on the basis of, "race, gender, sex, pregnancy, marital status, ethnic or social origin, colour, sexual orientation, age, disability, religion, conscience, belief, culture, language and birth", although it has to be said that this broadmindedness has not been readily embraced in the more traditional rural areas.
In general, Cape Town is very 'gay friendly', both for gay men and lesbians (and, I suppose for other categories of LGBTI, although I can't comment from a position of knowledge on this). There is a Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival which takes place in April each year, and there are also specialist publications catering for the gay community, including the unusual Pink Map illustrated above (I say 'unusual' as I haven't seen similar publications for other South African cities, although Jo'burg in particular has a sizeable gay population).
Out of interest, I picked up the Pink Map from tourist information last time I was passing through Cape Town International airport, which features a range of information on gay friendly accommodation and service providers. It's certainly useful, although I have to say that the encouraging news - based on feedback from a number of gay friends in Cape Town - is it would probably be unusual for gays to be discriminated against anywhere in cosmopolitan Cape Town these days (the surrounding townships and rural farming communities are probably another matter)
Follow this link to access an online copy of this and other special interest maps of South Africa.
It is difficult to find parking easily in Cape Town and when you do, you have a person wearing a uniform who demands a parking fee. There is no specific fee but you just pay them about 10 Rands upwards depending on the time you have parked. However, there is parking beyond the V&A Waterfront called Granger Bay open parking where you can park the whole day for ZAR 10. There is a Granger Bay closed parking which charges ZAR 10 for 4 hours. Also near the Aquarium you can park for 20 ZAR for unlimited time.
You can also park your car near St. George's Mall which is just outside Green Market square. We did not pay any parking there since it was raining and there was no one!!!But am sure you must pay on normal days.
Drat, I thought that I had already written one of these itinerary tips for Cape Town, but as I couldn't find it when I looked for it the other day. Clearly I only wished that I had already written it, as although putting together this sort of tip is great fun, it's also rather a lot of work!
Cape Town and the surrounding area offers a bewildering range of options for tourists, and despite the fact that I have been visiting there for over 20 years, I am still finding new and exciting things to do, as well as happily revisiting old favourites. There's literally something for everyone, spanning virtually the complete range of interests and budgets, so chances are that your biggest problem will be deciding what to leave out!
The most touristed (some would maintain 'touristy') part of Cape Town is the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront, including the Robben Island ferry terminal (to get the best out of this experience, I suggest that you visit the Slave House for their exhibit on Nelson Mandela before you go), the statues of South Africa's Nobel Prize laureates, Two Oceans Aquarium and the resident seals. There are also boat rides and a canal trip (neither of which I have got around to doing) and watching other people working hard in the active dry docks And, if all else fails, there are a whole range of restaurants and cafes to retreat to.
The Cape Town CBD is probably the most disappointing aspect of the city, as it is blighted by hideous 60s concrete. Nonetheless, there are some lovely spots and interesting things to do, including a wander pass Parliament and a stroll through the adjacent Company Gardens. The Slave House and the Cape Town Museum are also well worth a visit and the District Six museum also gets rave reviews (which is still on my To Do list). The Castle of Good Hope is also underrated and surprisingly interesting.
Travelling further inland, catching the cablecar up Table Mountain is an absolute must - so long as the mountain isn't covered by the 'tablecloth' of cloud. If you're in this area, don't miss the stunning Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, which are located at the foot of Table Mountain and are an exquisite place to pass a couple of hours. In summer, try to catch one of the
open air concerts on Sunday evenings.
One gem that very few tourists experience is the utterly brilliant Heart of Cape Town museum at Groote Schuur hospital - for my money, the most original of Cape Town's museums.
WHEN THE WEATHER TURNS FOUL
Cape Town's weather is notoriously changeable, and so it's always advisable to have a few foul weather options up your sleeve. The general rule of thumb when in Cape Town is not to plan too rigidly and to do the weather dependent activities (such as Table Mountain or Robben Island) whenever the weather is good,as there's no guarantee it will stay that way!
Good wet weather options include the stunning Two Oceans Aquarium, the Cape Town Museum, the District Six museum and the Heart of Cape Town museum.
There are also excellent cinemas in the shopping malls, including the V&A Waterfront. Plus almost infinite shopping options in those malls - so please feel free to contribute to our GDP!
CAPE TOWN FOR KIDS
Cape Town is the perfect destination for family holidays (as evidenced by the mass invasion by local tourists over the long summer holidays in December). Some of the options include the stunning Two Oceans Aquarium, the Cape Town Museum, firing of the Noon cannon on Signal Hill,
the Science Centre, the penguins at Boulders Beach and World of Birds in Hout Bay.
The Cape peninsula's staggering variety of beaches are a surefire winner with kids of all ages.
My kids also love the train ride between Muizenberg to Simon's Town which hugs the False Bay shoreline.
Check out the online version of Cape Town's Child magazine before you go for up to date information on child friendly events and activities.
THE PENINSULA AND FALSE BAY
The most obvious attraction of the Cape peninsula is Cape Point itself, as well as the lovely nature reserve that surrounds it.
It is almost impossible to understate the charm of the many beautiful drives that the peninsula and False Bay coastline offer if you're willing to self drive. Some of the most beautiful include:
The iconic Chapman's Peak drive
Boyes Drive above on the western shoreline of False Bay
Ou Kaapseweg, which traverses the spine of the peninsula
Red Hill Drive from Simon's Town over the peninsula to Scarborough and
The drive from the Strand through Gordon's Bay to Betty's Bay, which skirts the eastern shore of False Bay.
Some of our favourite beaches include Noordhoek, Llandudno for sundowners, Soetwater, Kommetjie, Seaforth and our all time favourite, Boulders Beach in Simon's Town (complete with free range penguins)
Simon's Town is a gorgeous little town which has housed a naval base since the early 19th century, whose most famous sailor was Able Seaman Just Nuisance, a Great Dane. It is also home to the famous penguin colony at Boulders Beach and the glorious Historic Mile boasts among the best preserved Victorian architecture in South Africa.
Kalk Bay is a gentrified but vibrant coastal village which is home to an active fishing fleet, as well as corporate commuters to Cape Town.
CAPE TOWN FOR THE SPORTING
For the actively sporting, Cape Town offers arguably the most scenic ultramarathon and cycling events, the Two Oceans ultramarathon and the Cape Argus cycle tour.
There are myriad other outdoor activities including sea kayaking at Simon's Town, hiking at Silvermines and hiking up Table Mountain (which I have yet to do).
Those who prefer to spectate rather than participate can take in a game of rugby or cricket at Newlands.
Check out google maps:
Hout Bay is quite safe, though I would advise not traveling alone too late at night as there is an informal settlement within the area.
Fondest memory: Cape Town has it all, it would be an injustice to name a few.
I don't live in South Africa but I think you are in for an amazing experience.
Careful research should allay your fears. I do know that Groote Schuur is well known throughout the world as an excellent teaching hospital. It is situated in a beautiful location.
The South Africans can give you good advice. I have visited three times and never been the least bit afraid. Good luck. Our little town in Canada has many South African doctors and I think every one trained at Groote Schuur.
This was a response to a question in the South African Forum
Fondest memory: The beauty of Cape Town is my most lasting memory. You can look in any direction and see something wonderful......the waterfront, Table Mountain and so on.
South Africa is famous for its sunshine. It's a dry country, with an average annual rainfall of about 400-500mm. While the Western Cape gets most of its rainfall in winter, the rest of the country generally has only summer-rainfalls.
In winter from May to September the average temperatures in Cape Town remains low between a minimum of 5°C and a maximum of 10°C.
Storms, driving rain and gale force winds strike sometimes Cape Town.The cold fronts accompanied generally by storms as well..
Frank is a German guy who studied at the University of Cape Town and so fell in love with South Africa that he decided to stay there. He is a certified tourguide of Cape Town and surroundings and his special interest is hiking and nature.
So if you want to go on a somewhat different tour for a change, he is the man for you! He offers both group tours as well as very individual tours!
Have a look at his website Kapexkursionen, which is currently in German only, but since he has lived in Cape Town for more than 10 years, he of course is fluent in English as well. So do send him an email and you will be able to ask your questions right away!
Fondest memory: We spent a fabulous day with Frank on an individual tour to the Cape of Good Hope. He picked us up at our friends' house and took us on a hike in a small National Park. Since we were really interested in learning more about the special Finbos vegetation of the Cape, he was the perfect tour guide for us!!! He showed us flora and fauna on a 3 hour walk through that NP. Incredible!
We later went to the Cape of Good Hope (which was called "The Cape of Storms" in old times - and I now know why this was so!!!) and back to Cape Town again. I was exhausted, but totally happy after that day!! Thanks, Frank! Danke!
Favorite thing: When dining out, check that service charge has not already been added to your bill. If not you should add between 10 - 20% of total bill as a tip. Taxi drivers usually get about 10% of the fare, porters up to R10 per bag and pump attendents at filling stations around R5. Unofficial car guards you give around R5 depending on how long they looked after your car.
Favorite thing: Even though it looked fantastic at night time, all lit up, and some people walking it, I do not think I would recommend it. The only time that it would prob be safe to walk it at night time would be when there is something being offered there.
The Cape Peninsula has a Mediterranean climate with well-defined seasons. In winter, which lasts from May to September, large cold fronts come across from the Atlantic Ocean with heavy precipitation and strong north-westerly winds. The winter months are cool, with an average minimum temperature of 7 °C (45 °F).Most of the city's annual rainfall occurs in wintertime, but due to the mountainous topography of the city, rainfall amounts for specific areas vary dramatically. The suburb of Newlands which is to the south of the city is the wettest place in South Africa.This, of course, makes for some exciting Rugby matches, which are played at the famous Newlands stadium.
Summer, which lasts from November to March, is warm and dry. A very strong wind from the south-east arrives, and is known locally as the Cape Doctor, because it blows away pollution and cleans the air. . Summer temperatures are mild, with an average maximum of 26 °C (79 °F). The only times when Cape Town can be uncomfortably hot is when the Berg Wind, meaning "mountain wind" blows from the Karoo interior for a couple weeks in February or early March.
Fondest memory: I have a small build, and weigh 48kg. My fondest and funniest memory is trying to make my way along the main city street (Adderley Street) with a Cape Doctor blowing hard- I was having to run from street pole to street pole, hanging on for dear life- while trying to keep my skirt from blowing up.
MAIN PHOTO- We lived in St James, which is a beautiful seaside suburb on the False Bay coast. Our house was perched upon the cliffside, and we had this magnificent view of the bay. When the weather was wild, we loved to watch the sea- grey with whitecaps, and huge waves crashing onto the beach below.
Favorite thing: "Just Nuisance", was sold to a Benjamin Chaney who moved to Simon's Town to run the United Services Institute (USI). The USI was frequented mainly by the Royal Navy sailors - The Royal Navy at that time being in charge of the Simon's Town Naval Base. This Great Dane soon grew to be a massive dog and it was here in Simon's Town that he was to become a legend.
When visiting Boulders Beach note that there is 2 parking area`s. One Parking area is where there is no penguins on the beach. You got to walk about 400m between the houses where you`ll come out to the area where the Penguin cologny is. You can walk further 200m from there to the beach with the penguins where you`ll be able to swim there. The other parking spot is at the entrance of the beach where you can swim at the same beach with the penguins.
Just remember to keep your ticket that you paid for at the section of Penguin Cologny as this will provide you entrance to the Penguin beach. The path is clearly marked with sign boards and the walk way is a wooded pathway.
Favorite thing: October 2008 have just had a wonderful holiday in Cape Town and the Western Cape. I would suggest not reading to many reviews on this site for Cape Town, because well meaning Tips about crime might leave you paranoid about security (which it did me!). Cape Town and the Western Cape felt very safe, even safer than my local town back home in England. It's a lovely place and everyone I know who has been loved it too.
Cape Town is bustling with life and has loads to do.
I wouldn't swim with the penguins in winter (June/July, as it is very cold then! Although the Indian Ocean (Fish Hoek, Simon's Town side) is warmer than the Atlantic Ocean (Hout Bay, Clifton Beach and Camps Bay Beach side).
Imhoff is OK, has some nice cheese and arts and crafts... if you enjoy browsing then it's lovely to visit.
The camels do not ride on the road, but on the beach, which is lovely. I do recommend this. There are places there to horse ride on the beach too (Long Beach, Noordhoek).
For Ostriches I would venture to Oudtshoorn, which is a bit far out of Cape Town... but I would not condone riding an ostrich, it is NOT healthy for them at all, no matter what people say. It does a lot of damage to their legs.
Winter weather is not great in Cape Town, if it were only cold that would be fine, unfortunately Cape Town gets cold, wet and windy... so let's hope for a mild winter whilst you are there! The cold is chilly but not as cold as other places in SA, like Joburg (inland and on the Highveld).
Car rental is definately best, get a car at Cape Town International. Alamo are a good hire company, inexpensive and we have used them a couple times when we have been back on holiday.
www.sleeping-out.co.za is quite good, as is Rooms For Africa, here is a link to cheap accomm there.
If you have more questions, please do feel free to ask. Happy planning! :)
The city is abuzz with events all year round. The list of highlights include: the Cape Minstrels celebrating on the streets of Cape Town on the 2nd of January, the Cape Argus Pick 'n Pay Argus Cycle Tour, Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, Cape Town Fashion week, Cape Town Jazz Festival, Decorex Cape, J&B Met, Cape Gourmet Festival, the Red Bull Big Wave Africa, Cape Town Festival, SA Music Week Festival, Hip Hop Indaba, Cape Town World Cinema Festival and many more.
View the events below or contact Cape Town Tourism office on +27 21 487 6800 for further information.
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A great itinerary written by one of VT's valued members, Catherine. If you are looking for ideas on what to do or where to go, have a look at this.