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Cape Town brings the magic of the southern hemisphere in full-force. It’s rare that you find a destination that checks every box, but Cape Town has beaches and mountains, foodie hotspots and nightlife, and town and country. It also has proximity to unreal African wildlife encounters and a world-class wine region.
Not only that, but our winter in North America is their summer, so a holiday vacation in Cape Town means you’ll be there for a gorgeous-but-temperate beach season. It’s similar to the weather you’d find along the Mediterranean Sea in the summer.
For those putting together a perfect Cape Town holiday itinerary, here’s everything you need to see and do, the out-of-the-city escapes to take, where to stay, and what to eat:
Get your ‘gram at Bo-Kaap
The vibrantly colored facades of Bo-Kaap rival the pastel houses of Portobello Road and the Instagrammable buildings of Cartagena. A neighborhood at the foothills of Signal Hill, Bo-Kaap dates back to the 1700s. Once known as the Malay Quarter, the bright-colored houses are a marriage of Georgian and Cape Dutch architecture.
Shop at the Neighborgoods Market
In the refurbished Old Biscuit Mill warehouse, the Neighborgoods Market has been a shopping staple in Cape Town since 2006. The market is open every Saturday (rain or shine) and showcases some of South Africa’s best food artisans. The curated selection of vendors encourages innovation by local entrepreneurs in the food and design space.
Hike Table Mountain
Take the Platteklip Gorge Trail, which starts at the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway. An easy-to-moderate hike, it’s one-and-a-quarter miles with some challenging inclines. Keep in mind that the trail is in direct sunlight, so starting early can make it cooler and allow you to beat the crowds. While occasionally steep, it’s the most direct ascent of the mountain.
Stay at a chic hotel with views of Table Mountain
15 on Orange Hotel, Autograph Collection, has curated a boutique atmosphere, even amidst a bustling city. Located in the coveted Gardens neighborhood, it’s close to the city center, and allows for convenient access to Cape Town's famous landmarks.
The design is what gives it a trendy-boutique feel—from the inclusion of 95 indoor plants, to the pool bar and deck that have clear views of Table Mountain and Signal Hill. 15 on Orange Hotel, Autograph Collection is also a property you can lean on in terms of curating activities suited to your travel style. They’ll organize hiking trips to Table Mountain and Signal Hill, winery tours to nearby vineyards, or a Peninsula tour, which includes penguin watching and a visit to the Cape of Good Hope.
See the penguins on Cape Peninsula
On the Cape Peninsula, you’re more than welcome to pay the penguins who crowd the beaches a visit. About an hour south of Cape Town, visiting the peninsula allows you to see Cape of Good Hope, the south-western most tip of Africa, touted as a spot where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans intersect. Guests staying at 15 on Orange Hotel, Autograph Collection can take their Peninsula tour, which takes visitors around the peninsula to see penguins and to the Cape of Good Hope.
Wander the Kirstenboch Gardens
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is one of the most talked about national gardens in the world. Nestled in the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, they host outdoor art exhibitions against an unconventional backdrop. August to November is the best time to visit the gardens, as the southern hemisphere moves away from the rainy season and into summer.
Watch the sunset at Camps Bay
Cape Town is known for their beachfront bars, which comes as no surprise, considering the jagged coast lining the greater metropolitan area. (In fact, South Africa’s entire coastline is more than 1,700 miles from Namibia, on the Atlantic, all the way around to Mozambique, on the Indian Ocean.) Camps Bay is a lovely neighborhood about 10 minutes from central Cape Town, sitting on the Atlantic. For the best sunsets, head to Camps Bay Beach or to the waterfront, second-floor terrace at Bilboa.
Grab a reservation at The Test Kitchen
At the top of the trip-planning to-do list should be securing a reservation at The Test Kitchen. Easily the most expensive Cape Town restaurant and the city’s toughest reservation to snag, The Test Kitchen serves an exquisite 10-course tasting menu in their high-concept restaurant designed with a dark room and a light room.
Escape to wine and spa country
While Cape Town has plenty to keep every traveler happy, there’s no getting around that it’s still a fast-paced city. South Africa is a country that begs to be explored, and there are nearby, local destinations that allow you to further experience the area’s culture, wilderness, and wildlife riches.
Ninety-minutes from Cape Town is the Kogelberg Biosphere, where you can stay for a few days at African Pride Arabella Hotel & Spa, Autograph Collection. The property is perfectly situated to give guests a blend of luxury and natural beauty. You have all the escape-from-the-city amenities—inviting swimming pools, a high-end spa—while sitting in close proximity to Hemel-En-Aarde Valley wine country, a wildlife preserve, and the highest zipline in the southern hemisphere.
In addition to wine tasting and seeking out the local wildlife, this should be the part of your vacation where you truly unplug. Learn what an Africa spa experience is like at Arabella Spa. Spa culture around the world varies greatly, particularly when spas go out of their way to include local ingredients and culture into their treatments, and incorporate design elements inspired by the surrounding region. Arabella Spa has the world’s very first African Rainforest Experience, a water and steam treatment that purposefully incorporates African products and techniques.