Cape Town is home to some of my favorite memories of traveling with my family—the city offers so much to discover, and we were quickly swept away by the warmth of a South African welcome.
Nicknamed the “Rainbow City” for its multiculturalism, Cape Town is full of history, culture, and stunning nature. Surrounding wineries lure the foodies, while animal-lovers are thrilled by the penguins and the chance to cage-dive with sharks. Meanwhile, the history buffs are immediately immersed in the complicated past of the region thanks to spots like Robben Island and the District Six Museum, both of which highlight the work of anti-apartheid activists.
Regardless of what interests you, my three-day itinerary will help you hit the highlights and discover hidden favorites.
Cape Town can be a city of extremes, so be prepared for the month you visit, and don’t get blown away by the wind.
If you only have time for one thing, get a panoramic view of the city from the top of Table Mountain.
Head for Table Mountain first for views over the city and Atlantic Ocean. If you want to hike the 1.6 miles (1 kilometer) up it, catch a taxi to the Platteklip Gorge trailhead (make sure to ask about the fare ahead of time). Otherwise, buy tickets for the cable car ahead of time and skip the queue when you arrive at the Lower Cable Station. Keep an eye out for the furry, marmot-like dassies that call Table Mountain home as you explore.
In the evening, head to the historic V&A Waterfront for a quick jaunt on the water, then enjoy dinner with a view of the Atlantic—or combine the two.
South Africa’s past and the bravery of its citizens are highlighted at the Robben Island Museum, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. The island is also a nature conservation area, providing opportunities to spot African Penguins and other threatened species. The island is accessible by ferry from the V&A Waterfront (book in advance to get your preferred timeslot).
Otherwise, set off on a safari—the city is within close proximity to Buffelsfontein Game Reserve and Aquila Private Game Reserve, where you can hope to spot the Big 5 (elephants, lions, leopards, rhinos, and buffalos).
Unwind from your adventures with a day in the Cape Winelands—the green vineyards and dramatic mountains are the perfect backdrop as you sip the Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon the region is known for. Rent a car to explore the nearby Constantia Valley or venture further afield to the towns of Stellenbosch or Franschhoek to admire their delicate Cape Dutch architecture.
Finish your stay with a night out in the heart of Cape Town on Long Street, filled with bars, clubs, and restaurants. Relax over dinner and then dance the night away.