Ranked as the best place in the world to visit in 2014 by The New York Times, South Africa's Mother City may be best known for Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and the Stellenbosch Wine Route. But Cape Town provides so much more to do and see beyond these familiar attractions, so make the most of your time there by getting to know Capetonians and exploring their rich cultural history by partaking in some of these activities.
If you're feeling footloose and fancy FREE…
Then why not march to the beat of your own djembe drum! Touareg Trading hosts fun and free two-hour African drum circle sessions on Saturdays in Cape Town City Centre. Test your own skills by creating rhythmic patterns on one of the oldest-style instruments in the country, or just listen along to this uniquely South African improvisational sound.
Or delve into literary culture in the reading room at Centre for the Book in the National Library of South Africa. You can relax while browsing through contemporary South African texts that you are unlikely to have access to anywhere else in the world. The building is one of the finest examples of Edwardian architecture in the city and book launches and poetry readings are regularly held at the centre, so check the website for details when planning your trip.
If you're feeling energetic, Lion's Head is a popular walking trail particularly on evenings surrounding the full moon. But if you're a serious hiker looking to avoid the hordes of tourists, consider the approximately two hour route to the perennial Cecilia Forest Waterfall. Once there, enjoy the cool mountain water, magnificent views and, if you're lucky, you may even get a glimpse of the legendary forest fairies. Afterwards, unwind on the sandy beach at Camps Bay as you watch the sun go down over the Atlantic Ocean.
For the price of a Subway foot long…
(And yes there are Subways in Cape Town) why not try one of South Africa's signature steak sandwiches instead? A gatsby is a popular local option commonly sold throughout Cape Town at fast food restaurants and food stands. Or head over to Mzoli's Place in the Gugulethu Township where you choose your own meat from the on-site butcher to be grilled at a 'braai' station (barbeque). While you wait, enjoy the vibrant and friendly atmosphere and afterwards dance to local bands at the lively daytime party.
See the works of one of South Africa's most prominent artists at Irma Stern Museum at the University of Cape Town. With subject matter ranging from beautiful landscapes to portraits and colourful still life, the collection has garnered international acclaim. As the premises were once the artist's home, you will also find an extensive collection of African art and artefacts from around the world which surrounded her while she worked.
For the price of a nice bottle of wine…
And with more than a hundred cellars, it's no surprise that wine comes to mind when thinking about Stellenbosch. If you would like to discover the history of the region through the eyes of a local instead of mainstream tourist operators, join a Kayamandi Township Tour. You will be welcomed into the home of 'Xhosa Mama' who will share stories of Kayamandi customs and traditions before taking you on a guided excursion through the town. The half-day tour concludes with a homemade Xhosa lunch.
Alternatively, why not learn how to make your own Capetonian lunch! South Africa is well known for its Cape Malay cuisine. Try your hand at recreating the strongly flavoured colourful cuisine for yourself in a cooking class in the Bo Kaap. Stroll down cobblestone streets past rainbow coloured buildings as you discover how to choose authentic aromatic spices in the local neighbourhood like a native. Afterwards, learn to prepare some full-flavoured masala to be enjoyed at a sit down lunch. If the thought of this journey into gastronomy leaves your taste buds tingling but you're not so sure about your cooking skills, then have the work done for you at an original African taste testing feast! The menu at The Africa Café varies from day to day but is always comprised of a wide range of dishes spanning the country from east to west.
Be the envy of your friends!
You've saved on your accommodation so indulge in something truly unique. Get a bird's eye view of the city while feeling the exhilaration and freedom of tandem paragliding with an experienced instructor. Starting from either Lion's Head or Signal Hill, your flight will include spectacular scenery such as stunning views of Table Mountain and the surrounding coastline before landing in Sea Point. No experience is necessary for your role as passenger so just sit back and enjoy the ride.
Test your sleuthing skills by taking part in a live escape game right in the heart of Cape Town Central! The HintHunt South Africa Sherlock Holmes style experience will initially involve locking you and a group of up to five others in a room. You will then be given 60 minutes to decipher clues and solve puzzles as a team in order to make your way out. Reserve your place in this adventure game craze in advance and good luck on your race to escape!
Go beyond the city limits…
If you have a few days to spare hire a car and head further afield. For a short trip, take the family to Clay Café in the town of Hout Bay for lunch where you can choose and decorate your own pottery to take home as a souvenir. From mugs and bowls to fairies and ducks, your children are sure to find just the right ceramic base for their masterpiece!
About an hour south of the city you will find Simon's Town. Once a naval base, this coastal town is now home to museums, quirky shops, restaurants and cafés so you will be spoiled for choice finding things to do. Be sure to stop by Boulders Beach where you can visit a thriving colony of fluffy and friendly penguins!
If you're an adrenalin junkie, get your blood pumping by getting up close and personal with great white sharks! Drive to the fishing town of Gansbaai, approximately two hours from Cape Town, where you will begin your encounter which involves being lowered into the water in an impenetrable cage. Before long, you'll find yourself spending face to face quality time with some of the world's most feared predators!
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