A local's guide to Cape Town, South Africa

Local expert and Insight Guides trip planner Fahranaaz shares local knowledge to help you plan a memorable trip to South Africa's most famous city, Cape Town
Aerial view of Cape Town. Photo: Shutterstock
Aerial view of Cape Town. Photo: Shutterstock

When should we plan our holiday to Cape Town and why?

South Africa is an amazing destination with very short, mild winters, and long, sunny summers. It is, in fact, ideal for anyone who is looking for blue skies and sunshine throughout the year. The truth is that even in the winter months of June-August, you'll be able to find areas where the average temperature is around 27C. However, the best time to visit Cape Town is from October to March, where you can comfortably wear shorts and work on your tan. It gets a little windy in Cape Town in November-December, so just remember to hold on to your cap.

Where would you recommend we stay?

Cape Town is a definite must. You cannot travel to South Africa and not spend at least three days in the ‘Mother City’. If you like a little luxury, the Cape Grace Hotel (included on my Cape Amazing: Cape Town Explored itinerary) should be top of your wish list. Located in the famous V&A Waterfront, one of the most popular areas for visitors, it is just a stroll away from the harbour, numerous restaurants, a shopping mall and within easy access to buses that will take you all over the city.

If you're looking for a more boutique option – MannaBay, situated at the foot of Table Mountain, will steal your heart. Enjoy uninterrupted views of the city and harbour from its contemporary Black & White room. Enjoy the quieter side of city life on either of Insight Guides' trips to South Africa, simply tell me to switch your hotel for something with a cosier feel. 

Is there an ‘unmissable’ experience while we’re in Cape Town too?

One of the best ways to experience Cape Town is by doing a full day Cape Point tour (featured on Day 2 of my South Africa: Cape Peninsula to Victoria Falls holiday), which usually includes a boat trip to Seal Island and a visit to Boulders Beach to meet the local penguin colony. It is a full day trip that will take you on mountainous roads through small fishing villages to a place that will take your breath away: The Cape Point.

Legend has it that this is where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet (although geographers differ somewhat, for the romantic idea of it, let’s just stick to the legend).

African penguins at Boulder Beach. Photo: ShutterstockAfrican penguins at Boulder Beach. Photo: Shutterstock

Where is a great place for dinner?

Cape Town is known as one of the culinary capitals of the world. With its diverse mix of cultures and tastes, you'll find the menu suits even the most demanding palate. If you’re celebrating a special occasion or just want to spoil yourself, consider booking a table at The Test Kitchen in the hip district of Woodstock; here, they're all about creativity and provide a truly fine-dining experience.

To experience great seafood go to Baia restaurant in the heart of the V&A Waterfront. Picturesque views, delicious local wines and the freshest fish, prawns and crayfish will leave you wanting to return day-after-day.

Is there a ‘must-try’ dish while we’re in Cape Town?

Cape Malay curry, offers a delicious combination of fruity, mild and full-bodied flavours. It is a blend of traditional South African essence and Eastern influences, combining both sweet and savoury.

Where is the most romantic spot?

Undoubtedly, the Cape of Good Hope. Tourists usually stop at the foot of the mountain and take photographs of the famous sign. But if you spend some time (and energy) hiking a short while up the hill, you will be rewarded with a secluded spot with unsurpassed views of crashing waves, rugged shoreline and ocean stretching as far as the eye can see.

Where can we hang out with locals?

Consider numerous food markets taking place across the city (don't miss our top 8 favourites). Every Thursday evening you can visit the Cape Point Vineyards food market that offers stalls of local food artists, the finest South African wines and an unmissable view of the sun setting below a watery horizon. On Saturday mornings almost every Capetonian foodie can be found at The Old Biscuit Mill market in Woodstock.

Do you have any additional ‘insider’ tips?

Every first Thursday of the month, central Cape Town comes alive at night. Various galleries, museums and other cultural attractions stay open late giving you the opportunity to visit places that don’t form part of your daily itinerary, while exploring the city on foot too.

What souvenir should we bring home from our trip?

Wooden carved animals that are sold by local artists – you can find them along most of the major tourist routes. If your luggage and country regulations allow, pick up a few bottles of South African wine too. The tastes will take you back in time, allowing you to experience the magic of South Africa long after your holiday is over.

Ready to take your holiday to Cape Town with Insight Guides? 

Local expert Fahranaaz has created holidays to Cape Town and beyond: browse her expertly-selected itineraries and modify them to match your preferences online now