The Republic of South Africa is the southernmost country in Africa. It is bounded on the south by the coastline of southern Africa stretching along the South Atlantic and Indian Oceans, on the north by the neighbouring countries of Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe, on the east by Mozambique and Swaziland, and surrounds the kingdom of Lesotho. South Africa is the 25th largest country in the world by land area, and with close to 53 million people, is the world's 24th most populous nation.
South Africa has three capitals: Cape Town (legislative), Pretoria (administrative) and Bloemfontein (judicial). There are nine provinces in South Africa, namely: Eastern Cape, Free State, Gauteng, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo, Mpumalanga, Northern Cape, North West and Western Cape.
South Africa has a well-developed communications infrastructure. A number of cell phone providers offer national coverage and there are well-established landline phone networks. Internet and Wi-Fi are easily accessible in most urban areas.
South Africa has its fair share of sporting, movie, music and political celebrities. From global political icons like former president Nelson Mandela and Anglican Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu to golfing greats such as Gary Player and Ernie Els, movie stars like Charlize Theron and musicians (think Miriam Makeba, Ladysmith Black Mambazo and the group Freshly ground), expect South Africans to make news anywhere in the world.
South Africa has been well known for its medical skill since Professor Christiaan Barnard performed the first successful human heart transplant in the country in 1967. There are many world-class private hospitals and medical centres around the country, especially in the urban areas, while many state hospitals also offer excellent care, among them Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town.
Most of South Africa is malaria-free, but if you are visiting the Kruger National Park or low-lying parts of northern KwaZulu-Natal, be aware that you are entering malarial areas and should take precautions in the form of prophylactic medication.
Smoking is banned in public places, but there are usually designated areas where people can smoke.
Private taxis operate in and around the city and also offer airport transfers. Taxis can be booked through Cape Town Tourism. Metered taxi services from the airport can be booked at the Airport Visitor Information Centre or on +27 861 322 223. Once you are in the city, taxis can always be found on Adderley Street and at several points in the V&A Waterfront. If in doubt, ask your hotel concierge to recommend a reliable taxi, or join UBER (uber.com) and get a taxi, private car or rideshare via your mobile phone. All major car hire companies operate from the airport and the city.
In urban areas tap water is usually of high quality and safe to drink. It’s quite safe to have ice in drinks and to eat salads. However, when travelling to remote rural areas and the bush you should take your own drinking water along or buy bottled water.
Discover Cape Town
Cape Town Tourism
Discover Cape Town
Cape Town is a port city on South Africa’s southwest coast, on a peninsula beneath the iconic Table Mountain. Slowly rotating cable cars climb to the mountain’s flat top, from which there are sweeping views of the city, the busy harbour and boats heading for Robben Island in Table Bay.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden
Cape Town’s 101-year-old garden is a heavenly oasis and national treasure on the gentle slopes of Table Mountain. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden was the world’s first botanical garden established to preserve a country’s unique indigenous flora and is world renowned for its botanical achievements. Established in 1913 and home to about 7 000 species, it represents the Cape Floral Kingdom, the smallest of the six floral kingdoms of the world. There’s a conservatory, a ‘useful plants’ section planted with indigenous medicinal plants, a Cycad Amphitheatre in the heart of the garden (where development started in 1913), and the Gondwanaland Garden, featuring plant fossils that are 240 million years old.
The Kirstenbosch Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway is a new curved timber-and-steel bridge that winds and dips through and above the canopy of trees in the garden, offering magnificent views of the peninsula. Entrance fees include the new walkway (adults R50). Book a golf cart by calling 021 799 8782 if you’d like to be driven round the gardens (9:00 am – 3:00 pm); R60 per person (one hour), excluding entrance fee.
The UNESCO world heritage site of Robben Island is a must-see for most visitors to Cape Town. Tours R250 per adult/R120 per child. Advance booking is highly recommended. ((+27) 21 413 4215; www.robben-island.org.za).
The 3½-hour tours depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway in the V&A’s Clock Tower Precinct at 9:00 am, 11:00 am and 1:00 pm daily, weather permitting. The tour includes the ferry crossing, a guided bus tour around the island, a visit to the maximum-security prison – including the cell that housed Nelson Mandela – and the opportunity to meet a former political prisoner on the island.
The world-famous Table Mountain National Park creates a striking backdrop to the city, rising up from the sea and stretching all the way down to Cape Point. It is Cape Town’s most precious asset and the only New 7 Wonder of Nature found in a city. Home to over 1 460 species of fynbos (and dassies – also known as rock rabbits or hyraxes – the only mountain inhabitant famously related to elephants), it’s been a protected area for over 100 years.
The quickest way to explore this natural wonder is to head up via the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (tablemountain.net), which has been running for over 80 years. Each cable car whisks 65 people along the 1 200 metre cable with each ride – that’s more than 800 passengers an hour! Its design is genius: the floor of the cable car rotates, giving everyone a 360° view, and it can be stabilised when windy by way of a 4 000 litre water tank that is filled at the Lower Station. When there is no wind, the water is emptied for use at the Upper Station. (The Cableway is, however, closed due to strong winds for anything from 60 to 90 days a year.) There are three easy walks to do on top, and free, guided walks depart daily at 10 am and 12 noon. Afterwards, relax at Table Mountain Café (meals served on biodegradable plates) or browse the Shop At The Top.
Two smart ways to streamline your visit: buy your Cableway tickets online (tablemountain.net) to skip the ticket-office queue, and use the MyCiti bus service to the cable station as parking is limited. Take sunscreen and warm clothes, as it is several degrees colder on top of the mountain, even if the sun is shining.
Cape Town Wine Routes
Cape Town is unique in so many ways, but perhaps none more so than the diversity of world class wine routes right on the doorstep. Here is a look at 5 of the closest wine routes…
Activities also on offer in the wine lands include
Live performances, spas, bird watching, brandy tasting, art galleries, cheese-making, fly-fishing, game drives, horse riding, olives, food and wine pairings and much more.
The Constantia Valley is the closest wine route to the city, and no more than 20 minutes away. This region is home to both the country’s oldest established wine farms and some of the newest. Constantia wines are largely cool climate offerings, so look out for world class Sauvignon Blancs, wonderful reds and infamous sweet wine offerings.
A short drive north of the city will quickly have you in the Durbanville Valley. Most of the wine estates here offer wonderful dining in addition to their fabulous wines and many with spectacular views back across the ocean towards Table Mountain.
The Franschhoek Valley is a spectacularly beautiful wine route. With many of the wine farms sharing a French Huguenot heritage, expect to find enormous French influence here and not surprisingly a Champagne-inspired sparkling wine sub-route, the “Cap Classique Route”. The gorgeously quaint village of Franschhoek abounds with art galleries, antique shops, restaurants and boutique hotels.
The wineries that fall under the Helderberg Wine Route’s jurisdiction are all in and around the Somerset West area, a 30 minute drive from the city. Historic estates line up alongside cutting edge modern cellars, all producing a wonderful diverse array of wines. In recent times, it has acquired a reputation for producing impressive white wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Stellenbosch American Express®
The Stellenbosch Wine Route was the first wine region in South Africa to establish a wine route along an organised network of wineries and the route boasts almost 200 wine and grape producers. The historic student town of Stellenbosch is the ideal place to start your exploration of this region and is not to be missed.
Canal Walk Shopping Centre is Africa's leading super-regional retail mall. Its dominant presence attracts diverse shoppers from an extensive portion of the Western Cape, and further afield, with its comprehensive retail and leisure options. Canal Walk merges the world's most desirable brands with shopping convenience and entertainment with everyday leisure, all in a majestic setting. Canal Walk Shopping Centre claims to have the widest selection of speciality stores in the southern hemisphere and, with more than 125 000 square meters of prime retail space to cover, few people have the stamina to prove it wrong! When the shopping gets too much, you can enjoy more than 30 restaurants, cafés and coffee shops, serving a range of menus offering juicy South African steak, fresh seafood, pizza and pasta.
Canal Walk Shopping Centre is open from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm daily and is located at the following address: Canal Walk Shopping Centre, c/o Century Blvd & Century City Drive, Century City, Cape Town, 7441.
Long Street holds a truly spirited shopping experience with its vintage retail and design stores dotted along the street. Strolling leisurely in and out of the stores on Long on a hot summer’s day is reminiscent of old bohemia. Here you can find all sorts of hidden gems that you won’t necessary find in a conventional shopping centre so be sure to stop by So You, Me Me Me and Imagenius if you're looking for something a little different. Long Street is synonymous with fashion and is the creative hub for up-and-coming local designers - if you're shopping for the quirky stylista in the family, Long Street will not disappoint.
You’ll love shopping at the V&A Waterfront with trendy mannequins peeking out of every store window. With over 450 retail outlets to choose from - fashion and jewellery, home-ware and curios, and audio-visual equipment - this shopping centre offers a little something for everyone.
And if you’re not into the indoor shopping vibe, there is an organic market as well as the Red Shed Craft Workshop that offers an alternative range of gifts. The Waterfront is known to host many of the international retail outlets and definitely a popular shopping stop for tourists. End your shopping off with a scoop of Gelato at the famous Gelato Mania, or an ice coffee at the range of coffee bars in the mall.
The V & A Waterfront is open from 9:00 am – 9:00 pm and is located at the following address: V & A Waterfront, Dock Road, Cape Town, 8001.