Quick Facts about Cape Town
South Africa’s Mother City is certainly no matron. Exciting and exhilarating, beautiful and beguiling, it most likely she will steal your heart. When you arrive in Cape Town, you will instantly see why this gorgeous African city is a top global travel destination.
A Top Global Destination – Cape Town, in the Western Cape Province of South Africa, is one of the most popular cities in the world. It is the second largest city in South Africa, its seat of the National Parliament and legislative capital. The city centre includes the site of the first European settlement in South Africa in 1652. Rich in history and culture, abundant in its natural beauty, precocious in its multi-culturalism and modern quality of life, Cape Town is an all-round stunner, and many a visitor returns for more.
Getting there & Getting around – Cape Town’s multi award-winning International Airport services most major airlines from around the world directly or through connections with Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo International Airport. The Airport is just 20 kilometres from the City Centre, and road transfers to hotels are easily arranged. Visitors to Cape Town may want to hire cars or prefer to use guided tour operator or taxi services. Cape Town has completed its first phase of an Integrated Rapid Transport bus service, which though currently limited in reach, is modern and safe. Visitors are generally advised to use the local railway system with caution.
When to Visit – Like the rest of South Africa, Cape Town is fantastic all-year round destination. Though, unlike the rest of the country it has a distinctly Mediterranean climate and landscape, and it differs in having cool, rainy winters and dry, hot summers. Cape Town experiences long daylight hours, a minimum of 8 hours in the cooler months from April to August and up to 11 hours in the warmer months from October to March. Sunglasses, sun hats and sunscreen are recommended all year round. The average temperatures are 24 °C in summer and 18.5°C in winter. While this moderation is usual, temperatures can well exceed 30 °C on certain summer days and drop below 10 °C on winter nights.
The Cape Peninsula – Cape Town is set on a spectacular mountainous peninsula that is washed by both the cold Atlantic and warmer Indian oceans. The City centre is located on the shores of Table Bay in a natural amphitheatre at the foot of the iconic Table Mountain, a New7Wonder of the World. The Atlantic seaboard includes prime white sand beaches such as Clifton, Camps Bay and Llandudno. Hout Bay is a beautiful enclave at the foot of Chapman’s Peak, which boats one of the most scenic, sheer roadways in the world.
Cape Point is the evocative southernmost tip of the Peninsula and its wildness has been preserved as the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Quaint villages and historic towns line the False Bay coast with its attractive beaches and stunning scenery. There are several historic wine estates and newer boutique wineries dotted along the Peninsula. One of the best ways to take in the diverse attractions of the Cape Peninsula is on our professionally guided Cape Town Day Tours.
So much to do – It is hard to think of something that you can’t do in Cape Town; it seems to offer it all! The City is vibrant and bustling with restaurants, coffee shops, cafés and bars. There are fantastic night clubs and live music venues that range from African Jazz to contemporary rock and hip-hop. You’ll find world-class shopping opportunities from top global brands to funky local crafts. There is a wide array of attractive markets offering Pan-African artefacts and contemporary décor items to neighbourhood goods and artisanal foods. There is an abundance of museums, galleries, theatres and monuments that are well worth a visit. And then, there is the astonishing natural bounty that includes iconic mountains, incredible beaches and a unique Floral Kingdom of the World.
Cape Town offers some of the world’s best hiking and mountain biking, surfing and paddle-skiing, shark cave-diving, fishing and abseiling. For the more laid-back, there are sunset cruises and concerts, beach picnics and parties, whale-watching, fine dining and wine-tasting. Our professionally guided Cape Town Day Tours, Cape Town Experiences, Cape Town Adventures and Cape Town Getaways will help you make the most of your visit.
Natural Splendour – Within its city limits, Cape Town protects its unique natural heritage through the extensive Table Mountain National Park and the Cape Point Nature Reserve. Cape Town is part of the fynbos biome, one of the six Floral Kingdoms of the World. It is the only Floral Kingdom that falls within the borders of one continent and one region. Though the smallest, it is the most diverse in terms of botanical species per hectare in the world. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens protects hectares of the last remaining indigenous montane forest and showcases the native flora against the spectacular backdrop of the Table Mountain massif.
It is rare to have such access to Nature’s beauty and bounty in a 21st Century city. Various species of dolphins and sharks are residents of the surrounding oceans, and Southern Right Whales visit the protected bays to calve and breed along the course of their annual migration from July to November. Travellers can visit the breeding colony of the rare African Penguin at Boulder’s Beach and enjoy sea cruises to sight Cape Fur Seals and pelagic birds.
The Dutch brought the first vines to the Cape, and in so doing, set off a chain of events that would eventually see the Cape become one of foremost wine regions of the world. Cape Town is one of the few cities in the world that has vineyards and wineries within its city limits. It is also in close proximity to the outstanding Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, Paarl, Wellington, Robertson and West Coast wine regions. Wine tourism is well-developed, and many visitors to the Cape enjoy world-class excursions along the picturesque wine routes which include wine-tastings and fine dining. One of the best ways to experience the Cape Winelands is on one of our guided Cape Town Day Tours or Cape Town Getaways.
Cape Town has a fascinating history with the mingling of an array of cultures and the clashing of destinies over hundreds of years. There is scant knowledge of the area in pre- and Stone Age times, and no substantial evidence of early human ancestors. Early European visitors and settlers came upon the KhoiKhoi people, a south-western African division of the Khoisan race. It is reported that these traditional hunter-gatherers were in fact living a pastoral existence herding Nguni cattle. The area was first mentioned by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1486, who was the first known European to sail around the southern tip of Africa.
By the late 16th Century, Dutch, Portuguese, French, Danish and British ships regularly berthed in Table Bay and traded for fresh meat and produce with the KhoiKhoi inhabitants. In 1652, the Dutch East India Company (VOC) sent Commander Jan van Riebeeck and his crew to establish a fresh produce way-station for their passing ships at the site of the present-day city of Cape Town. The Dutch brought vines, fruit, vegetables and cereals that dramatically changed the natural environment and shaped the endeavours of future generations. This was the first European settlement in South Africa. The Dutch settlers soon experienced a shortage of labour to tend their expanding agricultural gardens, and so imported slaves from Indonesia and Madagascar, many of whom became the ancestors of the current, dominant, mixed race population, often referred to as Coloured or ‘so-called Coloured’.
In 1679, Simon van der Stel was appointed by the VOC as Governor of the Cape signifying that it was no longer just a company asset, but a Dutch colony. He was an intrepid explorer with wine-making experience who soon established his extensive vineyards in Constantia and founded the town of Stellenbosch, some 100 kilometres from Cape Town, and now a major wine-producing region of the world. During the upheavals of the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, the British Empire set its sights on the Dutch colonies including Cape Town. After a number of skirmishes, the Cape colony was ceded to Britain in 1814, and it served as the staging point for Britain’s imperialism into Southern African.