When we did a road trip along the southern edge of South Africa, we started our journey with four days in Cape Town. Now, you could easily spend a week in Cape Town or even longer, but we felt four days was good enough to see the most important sights while still having plenty of time for the rest of our trip.
Below, you can find our exact Cape Town itinerary, including what we did, where we ate, where we slept and how much we paid for it all. Whenever I partnered up with businesses in my role as a blogger, I've mentioned that.
Please note that prices mentioned are from 2017. I've since updated this article but not how much we paid for things, since this includes costs like dinners, etc.
- 4-day Cape Town Itinerary
- Day 1: V&A Waterfront, Bo-Kaap, Kirstenbosch Gardens and a ride on the hop-on/hop-off bus
- Day 2: Whale watching from Simon's Town and Table Mountain
- Day 3: Robben Island, the V&A Waterfront and the Two Oceans Aquarium
- Day 4: Cape Town Peninsula
- Thoughts on our time in Cape Town
- Don't forget travel insurance
- Flights to Cape Town
4-day Cape Town Itinerary
We arrived in the city of Cape Town, South Africa late at night and took an Uber to an Airbnb apartment in the Green Point area. First a good night's sleep, then out to explore!
Day 1: V&A Waterfront, Bo-Kaap, Kirstenbosch Gardens and a ride on the hop-on/hop-off bus
The Cape Town V&A Waterfront seems made for tourists and those with TEFL jobs in the area.. There are plenty of restaurants, two shopping centers and a few sights such as the 19th-century Clock Tower and the Two Oceans Aquarium. It's the perfect place to ease into your exploration of the city as it feels very European and if you want, you can take a romantic sailboat cruise from here to get a view of the Cape Town coastline from the water. Alternatively, head out during the day on a catamaran.
We had a look around before grabbing lunch at the V&A Waterfront Food Market, probably my favorite place at the Waterfront. Here you can get South African food, Mexican food, coffee, wraps, chocolate, samosas… There are plenty of options and they all look and smell equally good.
There's seating outside, but we opted for one of the inside tables as it was quite chilly that day.
There's also a free toilet at the market, so if you have to go…
Speaking of toilets, let me just make a note for the rest of the post: the part of South Africa we traveled through, there were plenty of clean and well-maintained free public bathrooms in the towns and by the beaches. Sometimes there was someone looking after them and then we'd give a tip. Other times, there was nobody and we could just go for free.
Now back to our first day in Cape Town.
As we had a 24-hour ticket for the hop-on/hop-off bus (courtesy of Cape Town Tourism), we decided to take the bus from the Waterfront into the city center as we wanted to visit the Bo-Kaap District, one of the most popular Cape Town neighborhoods.
This area used to be a township also called the Malay Quarter. It's mostly known for the Bo-Kaap Museum, dedicated to the early Muslim settlers of the area, and the colorful houses that you now frequently see pop up on people's Instagram accounts. It probably made them some of most famous houses in Cape Town.
I admit I wanted some colorful photos as well, but here's the thing: in a lot of places, people were hanging around the houses, looking out of their windows and just going about their business. It felt intrusive to use their homes as a photo decor and so I only took some overview photos.
We just wanted to wander around by ourselves, but if you're interested, you can get a tour of Bo-Kaap and even take a Cape Malay cooking class.
I'd planned for us to venture into other areas of the center as well, but Boyfriend isn't a fan of big cities and while there are plenty of places in Cape Town that don't feel as such, the center really does and so we hopped on the Cape Town sightseeing bus again toward the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
The Kirstenbosch Gardens were an amazing surprise. I'd been somewhat hesitant to come here as I usually find botanical gardens a bit boring, but the feedback I'd read about this place online was so positive – and it lies on the route of the hop-on/hop-off.
The Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden covers no less than 528 hectares at the Eastern slopes of Table Mountain. It consists of a cultivated garden of 36 hectares and a nature reserve with hiking routes that go up the mountain.
When you enter, signs lead you to the different themed gardens, the restaurant, and the canopy walk. There's also a visitor center with a shop, an education center, a research center, The Centre for Biodiversity Conservation, a herbarium and the Harry Molteno Library.
Because we wanted to catch the last bus, we didn't really have sufficient time to visit the garden. I think we walked around for about two hours and we could have easily spent double the time there.
We pretty much did see all the gardens, but we rushed through them a bit and had no time to walk any of the trails that start at Kirstenbosch or take a rest and just enjoy the place on one of the benches or patches of grass.
Nevertheless, Kirstenbosch was a highlight for us and I feel it's really one of the things to do in Cape Town. So if you go – which I highly recommend – do take a bit more time for it than we did.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens
Rhodes Dr, Newlands, Cape Town
Opening hours: 365 a year
- September – March: 8 a.m. – 7 p.m.
- April – August: 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
R40 ($3/€2.5) for adults, R25 ($1.8/€1.6) for SA students with student cards and R10 ($0.7/€0.6) for children ages 6-18. Children under 6 years get free entrance.
Good to know:
Every Sunday from November until April, the Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts take place from 5.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on the laws of the gardens. Concert ticket prices depend on the event.
Mini Peninsula tour with the Cape Town Sightseeing bus
I'm usually no fan of hop-on/hop-off buses but the Cape Town one is a definite must. Not for a drive in the city or to get around. It's better to walk around the places you want to see or take an Uber to get somewhere. But for the Mini Peninsula Tour.
So, there are actually four different routes you can follow and a ticket is valid on all routes. There's a City Tour, a Downtown City Tour, a Wine Tour and then the Mini Peninsula Tour I mentioned.
That tour is the best for views of Cape Town and the ocean. I'm not kidding. Make sure you get a seat at the top and just forget about the ear buds they give you. Yes, you'll miss the historical information about Cape Town and the things you'll see along the way, but the sound quality is abysmal. The views, though, oh the views.
The tour starts at the Waterfront (but you can get on at every stop) and goes through Downtown, then south along the Eastern slopes of Table Mountain, past the Groot Constantia Wine Estate, all the way to Hout Bay and then up to the city again along the western Cape Town beaches.
You can do this tour with even the cheapest ticket option, which comes at around €11.20 ($13.20) for adults and I'd recommend it even if you just do the tour and don't get off to see some of the Cape Town sights along the route.
Sure, you can do your own Cape Town drive if you have a rental car, but you or one of your fellow travelers will need to drive and won't get to see much else besides the road. In our case, Boyfriend drove the entire trip and the told me he was really happy we did the Mini Peninsula route with the bus as that way, he really enjoyed it as well.
Additional tip: don't take the tour back until the departure point but get off at Sea Point to walk the Sea Point Promenade to Green Point while the sun sets.
The buses on all four routes run between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. in South African summer, from the end of September until the beginning of May. I believe they started a little bit later in winter but at the moment I'm writing this, the winter timetable has already been taken offline.
Buses pass by the stops every 15 to 20 minutes and you have a couple of minutes to get on. Hand over your ticket to the driver and make sure to wait until he gives you another ticket in return, which you'll have to show each time you get on from now.
Tip: if it's a bit chilly but you do want to sit at the top, grab a seat right behind the glass-covered part in the front. The covered part will stop the wind and you'll still get to take good photos as there will be no window beside you.
Tickets: if you'd like to get tickets for the sightseeing bus, they're a bit cheaper when you buy them online.
If you're finding this article helpful in planning you're South Africa trip, I'd really appreciate it if you'd use my link to buy them. By doing so, I'll earn a small commission at absolutely no extra cost to you. Thanks!
Dinner at El Burro
I'm always in the mood for Mexican food and as El Burro was just a few minutes walking from our apartment, it was quickly decided where we'd have our first dinner.
El Burro is located on the first floor of a building by the busy Main Road. Make sure to get the right door, take the stairs one floor up and you'll be welcomed by a cozy interior with Mexican elements. There's also a balcony which is protected from the wind when it's cold outside.
There's plenty of space in between the tables so that you're not following other people's conversations (or they yours) and we thoroughly enjoyed a relaxed meal after a first full day of exploring Cape Town.
We first shared an order of nachos with guacamole (so good!) and then Boyfriend had steak tacos while I opted for the chicken tacos. Both dishes were delicious and came with a little side salad. No food photos, unfortunately, as it was a bit too dark inside.
Costs of the day
- Uber: €2.83 ($3.33)
- Lunch at V&A Waterfront Food Market: We paid cash here and I don't remember how much it was, but it wasn't a lot :D At most €15 ($17.68) for two dishes and two drinks. As I'm uncertain about this amount, I haven't included it in the total cost of the day.
- Kirstenbosch Gardens: €5 ($5.89) for two adults – We got complimentary tickets from Cape Town Tourism
- Soft drink at Kirstenbosch Gardens: Less than €1 ($1.18), paid cash
- Hop-on/Hop-off bus Cape Town for 24 hours: €22.40 ($26.40) for two – We got complimentary tickets from Cape Town Tourism
- Dinner: €31.29 ($36.87) for two
- Breakfast and drinks grocery shopping: €9.68 ($11.41)
- Total cost of the day: €72.2 ($85.08) for two
Day 2: Whale watching from Simon's Town and Table Mountain
Whale watching tour from Simon's Town
On the second day of our itinerary for Cape Town was the one thing I absolutely wanted to do on our trip: see whales in the wild. As we saw a bunch of whales in different places during our trip, I dedicated a separate post to them.
What I do want to mention here is The Lighthouse, the cute place we went for lunch at after our boat trip in Simon's Town. It has a cozy interior, service is friendly and fast and the food was good too, with the menu offering both cold and warm snacks and full meals as well.
I had some sort of a lasagna while Boyfriend opted for seafood pasta.
Visiting Table Mountain
Another activity that deserves its own article, is our visit to Table Mountain.
Dinner at Den Anker
In the evening, we headed toward to V&A Waterfront to have dinner at Den Anker, a restaurant serving Belgian food. I know, I know, you're supposed to eat local dishes when traveling, but the thing is that we don't really eat that much typical Belgian food at home so when we saw they were serving some classic Belgian dishes, we wanted to go try them out.
Den Anker is located by the water and looks a bit like a greenhouse, with windows everywhere. This gives you great views of the Waterfront, especially in the evening when it's all lit up.
Boyfriend had steak (I think) and I had a stew. Service was friendly and rather fast. The food was good, but it wasn't amazing. Boyfriend really enjoyed his steak but I thought my stew was okay but not mind-blowing (yes, stew can be mind-blowing when done right). Still, we went back the second night.
Yup, there are plenty of good restaurants in Cape Town, but after a day of walking around I sometimes just want an easy solution, you know? Something I don't have to think about. Unfortunately, our second time at Den Anker wasn't that great. Service was slower and the food was meh. Not horrible, but definitely not as good as the first night and not warm enough either.
I'd say, give it a go if you're in South Africa and for some reason want to try Belgian food, but otherwise, there are probably a ton of better places to check out if you're not as lazy as we were.
Costs of the day
- Uber: €53.38 ($62.90)
- Simon's Town Boat Company whale watching boat trip: 2 x R900 or approx. €112 ($132) for two –
We received complimentary tickets
- Lunch: €19.63 ($23.13) for two
- Table Mountain entrance fee and return cable car: 2 x R275 or approx. €33 ($39) for two – We received complimentary tickets
- Dinner: €36.39 ($42.88) for two
- Airbnb apartment for 3 nights: €94.40 ($111.24)
- Total cost of the day: €348.8 ($411.15) for two
Day 3: Robben Island, the V&A Waterfront and the Two Oceans Aquarium
On our third full day in Cape Town, we exchanged our Airbnb for Blackheath Lodge, a boutique b&b located just a short drive from our apartment. Someone I know through the blog does the marketing for this place and she highly recommended it, so we decided to check it out.
Our room turned out to be lovely and, on top of that, Blackheath Lodge serves a yummy breakfast buffet with all kinds of freshly prepared eggs and delicious cinnamon pancakes. Not that I stuffed my face there or anything.
The hotel is also located in a safe and quiet street in the Green Point neighborhood, close to the beaches and the Waterfront. It has parking spots for guests.
Click here for prices and availability for Blackheath Lodge. And if you'd like to book your stay there, I'd appreciate it if you could use my link. If you do so, I'll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.
Tour to Robben Island
Robben Island is another one of those famous Cape Town attractions. Although neither Boyfriend nor I are much into museums, we felt like we couldn't visit Cape Town and then not visit Robben Island as well.
It's an experience that lasts for several hours and there are a few things that are good to know, so I dedicated a separate post to it.
Lunch at the V&A
The boat trip to Robben Island leaves from and returns to the V&A Waterfront, so when we got back, we decided to go for lunch again at the food market. We took our time, relaxing outside on the picnic benches and listening to some street musician playing something that sounded like dub. It was good but seemed so out of place there.
The Two Oceans Aquarium
As we didn't have any other must-dos for the day and we both always enjoy visiting Aquariums, we headed to the Two Oceans Aquarium, also located at the Waterfront.
It's not that big of an aquarium but it's fun to walk through and you do get to see some cool sea life. There are plenty of information plates and there's even a “touch section”. I had mixed feelings about that, but the lady who kept an eye on things over there explained why and where we could touch certain anemones and sea stars. I ended up not doing it, but Boyfriend put his finger to it – literally.
The aquarium also has a penguin section which I thought was bit sad as it was rather small and felt very zoo-like. Yes, I do realize an aquarium is kind of a zoo, but you get the point.
Maybe good to mention at this point is that the aquarium also runs several educational as well as conservation programs focusing both on sealife and the protection of native plant species that are being threatened by alien plants.
Two Oceans Aquarium
Dock Road, V&A Waterfront
The nearest (paid) parking is across the road at Portswood Square.
The aquarium is open all-year-round from 9.30 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Tickets cost R165 ($12.08/€10.25) for adults at the cash register or R149 ($10.90/€9.25) when bought online. There are discounts for kids, seniors and students. If you want to make sure you don't have to queue, get a skip-the-line ticket.
Dinner at Den Anker
Well, you already know how that went :-)
Costs of the day
- Uber: €9.02 ($10.63)
- Robben Island tickets: 2 x R340 or €43 ($51) approx. for two – We received complimentary tickets
- Snacks at Robben Island: a bit of cash. This was probably less than €3 ($3.50). As I'm uncertain about this amount, I haven't included it in the total cost of the day.
- Lunch at V&A Waterfront Food Market: paid cash. Again, I don't know how much this was but we had two dishes, two drinks and (me) an ice cream, so I counted €15 ($17.67) for it in the total cost for the day.
- Two Oceans Aquarium Cape Town: €21.94 ($25.85) for two
- Dinner: €27.84 ($32.80) for two
- Total cost of the day: €116.8 ($137.95) for two
Day 4: Cape Town Peninsula
On our fourth day in South Africa, we went to pick up our rental car for the rest of the trip. We weren't leaving Cape Town just yet, though. Not before we'd toured the entire Cape Town peninsula.
We spent a full day at the peninsula, making some stops along the way and, in hindsight, could easily have made that two days. For that reason, I've dedicated a separate post to this day trip.
Dinner at Posticino
Our last evening in Cape Town, we were both craving pizza. The lovely people at Blackheath Lodge recommended we'd go to Posticino, an Italian restaurant about 15 minutes walking from the hotel at Main Road.
When we got there, the place was already packed and so we grabbed a seat out on the terrace in a corner by the door where it wasn't as loud as inside nor as cold as in the middle of the terrace. Good choice.
We'd already checked the reviews for Posticino – they were good – but didn't have really high hopes until the owner came out and appeared to be proper Italian.
As it was so busy and there were clearly also lots of people who ordered pizzas to come and pick them up, we had to wait a while for our meals.
But then they arrived.
As someone who's eaten pizza all around the world and yes, also multiple times in Italy, I can honestly say this was probably the best pizza I've ever had.
It was stone oven baked but didn't have too much of that white power on it. It was oily, but not too greasy. And it tasted so.damn.good.
I'm sorry I don't have any photos to share, but I'm sure you understand that we just dug right in when those pizzas arrived!
Costs of the day
- Uber: €1.99 ($2.34)
- Coffee break: cash. This was less than €2 ($2.37)
- Boulders Beach: €9.32 ($10.98) for two
- Lunch: €7.94 ($9.36)
- Cape Point: €17.95 ($21.15) for two
- Dinner: €20.76 ($24.46) for two
- Two nights at Blackheath Lodge: prices start at R3200/night or approx. €200 ($236) in a standard room for two people – We received a complimentary stay
- Total cost of the day: €459.96 ($542.66) for two
Thoughts on our time in Cape Town
When I was researching where to stay in Cape Town, several neighborhoods looked good. We decided to go with Green Point as it seemed to be a quieter area and very safe. I'm happy we spent five nights in this neighborhood.
It was very easy to get around from there and on two occasions we just walked to the restaurant at night because it was a short walk along the Main Road and it felt safe (and we were ensured by the hotel staff that it was).
If you're asking how many days in Cape Town you need, I think there's not really a wrong answer. Of course, you couldn't see everything in one day but this is a city that has so many options that you'll have a good time as long as you plan a bit in advance.
Why plan in advance? Because it is a big place. It's not like a lot of European cities where you can just walk through the center and see where you end up. Getting from one sight to another often requires taking an Uber and you don't want to be driving from West to East and back needlessly.
I also think it's good that we started our trip here. For me, visiting a city always requires a bit more energy than being out in nature and obviously, we still had plenty of that when we arrived. Cape Town put us in a holiday mood and made us eager to explore more of South Africa afterward.
Lastly, I don't know if September was the best time to go to Cape Town as it was my first time there, but I loved how not-crowded it was. Yes, the weather was a bit chilly at first, but we had lots of sunshine as well. I think it's definitely a great month to go.
Don't forget travel insurance
Plan for the best, prepare for the worst. Travel insurance has you covered in case (part of) your trip gets canceled, you get sick or hurt abroad, and sometimes even when your electronics break or get stolen. I always make sure I'm covered every trip I go on.
Don't have travel insurance yet? Check out SafetyWing. They offer super flexible plans that you can even sign up for while you're already on your trip. On top of that, they were the first travel insurance to cover COVID, and when I got COVID, they reimbursed all of my expenses without making a fuss. Their customer support team is great and I can personally recommend them.
Flights to Cape Town
We booked our flights to Cape Town and back several months in advance and paid €628,77 ($740.95)/person for a round trip plus €40 ($47.14)/person to reserve our seats for the long flight there and back. While we did stay in South Africa longer than those four days, we made a loop road trip that allowed us to also fly back from Cape Town Airport.
When we booked, a search on Skyscanner showed KLM was the airline with the best connection and prices for us, so we flew with them.
Our route consisted of a short flight from Brussels Airport to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport followed by an 11h and 20 mins flight to Cape Town. It was the longest I'd ever been on a plane in one go and it actually went really well.
The benefit to flying with KLM is that their planes are made for tall Dutch people, so you get a bit more space than you usually do. I've also always liked their on-board service.
Our flight there was during the day and as it didn't depart too early, I was well-rested and just read or dozed off a bit until we got there. Our flight back was a night flight and so I slept most of the time.
Now, I do have to admit that I claimed the window seat twice and that Boyfriend was a bit less comfortable in the middle seat. Evil of me, I know.
One last thing I'd like to mention is that, because of storms in Amsterdam the day before, our flight from Amsterdam back to Brussels was canceled. KLM was super in dealing with the issue and put us on a Thalys to Antwerp in no time, from where we could catch a train back to Leuven.
That's it! I hope these Cape Town travel tips will help you plan your own trip to the South African city.
PIN FOR LATER
We got complimentary tickets to some of the attractions mentioned in this post from Cape Town Travel. As always when I enter collabs like this, no agreements were made about how I'd cover what. You can always expect complete honesty here on the blog.