The second capital of South Africa
(officially the first is Pretoria, but parliament, government and president are partially based in Cape Town too). After Johannesburg it's also the second largest city. But it's not merely second best… In fact, most people would agree that it is by far the most beautiful city in South Africa.
Personally, I wouldn't go quite so far as placing it amongst the very best cities
in the world, but it sure has appeal – although less so through architecture or general flair. It's the setting that makes it, esp. Table Mountain towering over the city!
For the dark tourist it is the most rewarding destination within South Africa, in particular for Robben Island
, the infamous prison island that Nelson Mandela was incarcerated on and which since 1997 has been a memorial and museum for tourists to visit on guided tours. But there is also the small but fascinating District Six Museum, which covers a very different aspect of the dark days of Apartheid
. A dark chapter of a different sort (although possibly the darkest of them all) is covered in Cape Town's own and pretty unique Holocaust museum (a bit of a surprise find down here in the deep south of Africa). All three are given separate entries here.
Cape Town Holocaust Centre
In addition to those dark sites, Cape Town is well worth a visit for various non-dark reasons. Most notably of course Table Mountain. A trip to the top is practically obligatory when in the city. And so is the excursion to the Cape of Good Hope; even though it isn't actually the southernmost point of the continent that it was long believed to be … but it is nearly – and it's spectacularly scenic in any case. Beware of the fierce monkeys at the car park and tourist spots – and look out for the odd sight of ostriches grazing by the cliffs. Other popular excursions take in the Cape regions' superb wine lands (with tastings!). In Paarl, moreover, there is to be found a unique oddity: the "Language Monument" (celebrating the various language influences in South Africa, but in particular the Afrikaans language).
Within Cape Town itself, there are lots of museums and art galleries to visit too. Walking the streets on your own is not to be recommended, though. Better get taxis everywhere. Even when it's not downright dangerous, it can still be annoying – I got hassled to the point of extreme annoyance not only by the most persistent begging child I have ever encountered but also by religious zealots attempting to convert me to whatever sect it was they were proselytizing for. But that's harmless compared to the risk of violent attacks, which unfortunately also happen. So be careful (and certainly don't wander anywhere alone, and by no means after dark off the busy main streets).
One area that is a kind of safe tourist "ghetto" is the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, a modern redevelopment of some old docks. It's fenced off and guarded – so no hassles here. But accordingly it also feels quite artificial. Still, it's certainly pleasant to browse around the various stores and craft shops that the area is now full of. Some very good restaurants can be found here too. It's all aimed primarily at tourists, but so what. A particular recommendation has to be the impressive Two Oceans Aquarium.
As a dark tourist you will probably come to the V & A Waterfront (as it is commonly abbreviated) in any case, as it is from here that the ferries for the guided tours of Robben Island depart …
Location: near the Cape that the city derives its name from, though not actually at the Cape of Good Hope itself (which is a day trip away), but rather at the northern end of the Cape District's distinctive mountain range of which Table Mountain is the city's main landmark.
- Cape Town - Bo-Kaap
- Cape Town - Victoria and Alfred waterfront
- Cape Town - president residence
- Cape Town Table Mountain mist on top
- Cape Town Table Mountain
- Cape Town