Cape Town

V A Waterfront

We ended our 2018 travels on the African continent.

It was our first time in Africa and it was a pleasant surprise, mostly for me because I had no expectations.

I must confess I wanted so much to go to Cambodia and Vietnam that when João convinced me to go to South Africa I decided to not even worry about this trip! But now I must tell you it was one of the best experiences of my life!

 The view over Cape Town city center

We flew from Porto to Madrid and from there to Johannesburg, where we took another flight to Cape Town. That was nice for me ’cause it was only a long haul trip and two small ones, and the longest was for 10h during the night, allowing me to rest more!

We flew with Iberia, a company we had never experienced but we became fans! But you can read about that experience here!

We went discovering a little bit from South Africa. And we started in Cape Town, the legislative capital of the country and the most populated following Johannesburg.

The beautiful and frozen beaches of Cape Town 

Famous for its natural Port, Cape Town has a historic meaning to us Portuguese, because here at Cape of Good Hope, Portuguese sailors have proven their value in the period of Discoveries, but we’ll get to this topic later.

A bit of its History 

The oldest remains of any type of human occupation date back to 10000 BC and are present in the Peers caves. But the first time the city effectively became known was by the Age of Discovery, and thanks to the Portuguese sailor Bartolomeu Dias!

So many tried to pass the “Cape of Storms” – a name given by Bartolomeu after the severe storms they survived to pass it, but this passing opened the way to future sailing to India, creating the important connection between the Atlantic and the Indian oceans.

In 1488, João II of Portugal named it Cape of Good Hope!

But the city started to grow after 1652, by the hand of Jan Van Riebeeck and the Dutch East India Company.

Here establishing an important trading point, a support area to the travels between the Netherlands and India. With slave work from Indonesia and Madagascar, the city became to prosper, but by the time of the French revolution the Netherlands were to busy and lost control of the city, leaving the way open for the British to establish in 1795.

The discovery of diamonds in the XIX century increased the flow of immigration to South Africa and Cape Town kept prospering.

South Africa went through some great tension moments throughout history, namely from 1948 to 1990 with the Apartheid (weird to think just a few years ago there was racial segregation here. And did it really end?). And it was just from 1994 onwards that free elections became possible.

The country is going through an incredible period economically speaking, in terms of tourism and real estate. But disparity and the huge gap between poverty and wealth is very noticeable, like an enchanted city involved by an authentic slum where millions of people try to build their lives.

This was the first impact when arriving in Cape Town, the surroundings of the city are immersed in poverty but when you arrive at the city per se, richness is constant.

Beverly Hills worthy mansions, movie star like cars, and its natural beauty almost make us forget that we just passed by millions of people living in a scary level of poverty.

Should you go to Cape Town, despite this shock, YES… but my answer will always be that, when you are in a country that at the same time causes you anguish, revolt, and fascination.

Cape Town has the most sublime ocean view I ever experienced, I met amazing people who will always bring me joy, and above all, I value more what I have, the opportunities life gave me and I took without hesitation, and see the world and the human being with a more caring look.

But, what should you really visit in this Town??

I selected 10 things I consider mandatory! 

Staying at The Twelve Apostles Hotel
The nicest staff ever and an ambiance so serene you almost can’t leave! Just contrasting is the bustle of the Leopard Bar, a meeting point for locals! So if you don’t have the chance to stay at the hotel, don’t miss a trip to the Leopard Bar in the evening for a gin and a sunset! They have an incredible gin menu at a good price for a luxury hotel bar! Moreover, the entire menu has very fair prices. Another highlight of the Hotel is the Spa. One of the best water circuits I ever had. But you can read all about that here!

The Twelve Apostles

Walking around V&A Waterfront and feel the city vibe! 
There’s entertainment everywhere, the different musical groups stand in line to show their talents and entertain whoever passes by. This is the heart of town, and millions of people pass through here every year, tourists and locals. If your intention is to visit a museum, walk around, do some shopping and feel the people and the bustle of Cape Town, this is a mandatory place! Honestly I think everybody visiting Cape Town should spend a few hours here.

It’s not the most interesting thing the city has to offer, but it is worth the visit! From here you can access different places like Robben Island – where Nelson Mandela was kept for years; Cape Wheel – the ferris wheel, that I do well without as always!; the Nobel Square – with statues of the four Nobel Prize of Peace; the Two Oceans Aquarium – an excellent option for those traveling with kids; the Springbok Experience for the loves of the Invictus movie; the Clock Tower – Victorian style, closed by the time we visited; the Diamond Museum, very proper for a city full of diamonds! If your goal, like ours, is just to walk around and do nothing in specific, just enjoy the bustle of this area! The buzzling life and the views of Table Mountain are worth the visit. However we chose to enter two places in the Waterfront area! The Zeitz Mooca Museum and the Silo Hotel.
Zeitz Mooca Museum
The biggest museum dedicated to contemporary art produced by African artists, open since 2017 in the building of Hotel Silo, at Silo’s District. I must confess I didn’t wanna “waist” time visiting a museum in this trip, I resisted but João convinced me in the morning we were supposed to see the Table Mountain but it was too windy, so we decided to see the Zeitz Mocca Museum! And gladly because I loved it! The original structure of the building has a strong industrial heritage, mixing very well with the contemporary art of its interior. The pieces, the ambiance, and the building itself transformed this museum in one of my favorites. Don’t miss it!

Price: 190ZAR (13€ aprox)

Being in Silo’s District and this building take time to enjoy a cocktail at the Silo Hotel!
If you’re lucky you’ll get a table in the Rooftop (it is only available for guests, but if there are tables available they ease the access), if not stay on the 6th floor, the bar is also amazing.
One of the most incredible experiences of Cape Town is the astonishing view over Table Mountain.
This is for sure a place so see! But, good luck, because the city is so wind that sometimes you just can’t climb it, for safety reasons,  obviously. We tried two times, without luck, but the third time was the charm! We went on the cable car, but for the most athletic you can do it by foot. Honestly, I’m a person of moments, and the moment we arrived at the top of Table Mountain, was by far one of the best. Magical, I don’t even have words for it, and you can look at the pictures as much as you want that you cannot understand the feeling, trust me, put this on your wishlist! It is called Table Mountain, because it’s shaped like a table, an authentic table land for 3km! It goes from the Devil’s Peak (the best place to see the sunset) to the Lion’s Head, west! The first documented climb was in 1503 by António Saldanha (Portuguese sailor). Whom actually gave it its name and put a cross at Lion’s Head! You can  buy the ticket to the cable car in situ, it’s not expensive, you just have to wait a bit in line!

Visiting Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope
You can pass without doing it, but if you’re Portuguese you should really go and pay homage to Bartolomeu Dias! It’s about an hours drive from Cape Town to Cape Point (we rented a car, but you can easily book a transfer). We drove the charismatic Chapman’s Peak Drive and stopped everywhere there was a good view!

We then arrived at the Table Mountain National Park. It has paid entrance (303ZAR – around 19€ ) and you get a very simple map to guide you between the two Capes.

What reasons justify the visit to Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope? If you’re Portuguese there’s the history factor, but there are many more! It’s the most southwest you can go on the African continent, and nature is probably the best reason to visit. Miles and miles of unique beauty, where you can see a huge diversity of animals (beware of the baboons!) and you’ll get the freshest and purest air of your life! (due to an air flow from Antartic).

Once inside the park you can follow the direct path to Cape Point with its old lighthouse. From there you get an amazing view over the Cape of Good Hope. You can climb by cable car or the steep stairs, that I recommend, because you can stop and take in the view! From the lighthouse you can drive and follow the directions to the Cape of Good Hope, or up the stairs of the lighthouse there’s a pathway to Good Hope. You can also see two monuments for the Portuguese sailors, Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco da Gama.

Beware of the strong winds, and the opening and closing times of the park, that vary according to the times of sunrise and sunset throughout the year.

After the Capes, stop at Simons Town and enjoy that typically colonial style, making us travel in time.

Here you can also enjoy the typical fish&chips of the area. We had an interesing lunch at Bertha’s, the most emblematic space in town, with a nice terrace over the port.

After lunch, nothing like stopping to see the penguins at Boulders Beach, something you don’t imagine seeing in life! Hundreds of African penguins, established in this beach since 1982. Entering the colony (ticket 76ZAR – 5€), you can turn to the right to a place with less people where it’s easier to see the penguins. No, you can’t touch them or access the beach, you watch them from above.

You can go to Foxy beach, next to this one, where’s its more free, but take care because penguins are not as nice as they look! This area is also great to go to the beach per se, due to its granite structure the beach is more protected from the wind.

The worst time to visit is January, because the penguins are in the ocean searching for food.


One of South Africa’s highlights are the wines! 

In Cape Town you should really visit wine regions and farms. We really wanted to see Stellenboch, but our timing was off. So we chose to visit the Bouchard Finlayson from the Red Carnation family and visited in the great company of Frank Woodvine, who gave us  an authentic biology class along the farm.

We had lunch with Peter Finlayson, winemaker, a wonderful host during lunch and the wine tasting. It is one of the most important farms in South Africa, with awarded wines, just an hour and a half from the city center.

We went on this trip, organized by the 12 Apostles Hotel, once the owners of the hotel also own the farm (see).


Frank Woodvine

We also had time to visit another vineyard, the famous Klein Konstantia, a beautiful property indicated by a dear friend and wine producer who visited before. A huge and well taken care of property, in a beautiful area of the Cape. Constantia has unpaired beauty and the wines are also unique and memorable.

But if you have the chance do the wine circuit around the Stellenboch region.

Besides the wines, gastronomy is something to try in Cape Town. Despite seeming a very international cuisine, there were some restaurants I must consider in my list, like the Aubergine and the Salsify. But about these João talks about in other articles (like here and here)!

There’s much more to see in this rich city, so cultural and with such lovely people, we must return in a few years!

See you soon Cape Town!

Versão Portuguesa

Photos: Flavors & Senses

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