Ever visit a place that so completely steals your heart and soul that you feel like you never want to go back home? That’s what happened to me in Cape Town. I fell in love with the magical city by the sea and lingered literally for years. I made my own home away from home in the Mother City and ended up basing myself there for the past three years. With so many good things to do in Cape Town—the gorgeous weather, stunning landscapes, diverse cuisine, café culture, and vibrant nightlife—it’s hard to resist.
I’d highly recommend staying for longer than a weekend and making your way out to the winelands then road tripping along the coast. But, if you are crunched for time, you can still have an unforgettable weekend in the heart of the city. Ready to explore one of Africa’s greatest wonders? Here’s your ultimate guide to a lively weekend in Cape Town!
Once you check into your hotel, the best way to kick off your time in Cape Town is with a scenic helicopter flight over the city and coast. Get a lay of the land and take in the sweeping vistas as you look out over the entire peninsula, Robben Island, and the incredible Table Mountain National Park.
NAC Helicopters offers a dream excursion over the CBD (the heart of the city), Green Point, Sea Point, and Waterfront neighborhood. While it’s a splurge, it will truly be an unforgettable experience.
After dark, head down to the self-proclaimed “Oldest Gentleman Club in the World,” which is not at all what you are expecting. One part circus and one part restaurant with just a dash of mystical chaos, the Bombay Bicycle Club has food from every corner of the globe and a lively vibe that will keep you lingering over drinks long after the plates have been cleared.
Fridays are theme nights, so let your freak flag fly and wear whatever you feel like. Show up early or late for their Happy Hour Drinks from 4pm to 6pm or again from 10pm until close!
A former biscuit factory, this much-loved spot now hosts a market that welcomes in more than 100 traders every Saturday morning. Mingle with the designers, chefs, photographers, and artists who make this hip foodie heaven so incredible. Eat your way around and be sure to grab a slice of my fave artisanal avocado toast from Oh My Avo! before you go. The Old Biscuit Mill is also a prime place to find a souvenir so keep your eyes peeled. They are open Saturday from 9 am-2 pm.
Once a mishmash of seaside resort spots and industrial centers, Woodstock is now one of the coolest postcodes in town. A vibrant community has taken over what were once the dark corners of Cape Town. Wander around solo to snap pictures then join a tour to learn about the intriguing cultural components of the street art that plays such a big role in the local atmosphere. Cape Town is a city that has seen seismic change in recent decades and digging into that development will really bring your appreciation to another level.
Not long after arriving in Cape Town, Bootlegger coffee shops become my top local haunt. The coffee, food, and atmosphere is unbeatable. Opened in 2012 by three best friends bonded by their love of coffee, this place brews the best coffee in town while serving up a top notch breakfast and lunch menu.
Fuel your afternoon by taking an Uber to your local Bootlegger. This small cafe chain dots the landscape of Cape Town. Try their vegetarian burger or mouthwatering egg benedicts, then snap a shot of the iconic AD/DC neon sign which—fun fact!—is different in each location.
Meeting the locals is always a high point of travel, and that is doubly true when it comes to these guys! Pack your beach towel then spend a sunny afternoon chilling with the penguins at Boulders Beach. There’s always a place in the sand ready to be claimed and the water is gorgeous. The entrance fee is a deal for R152 per person.
Another one of my top spots for mingling with the locals is The Village Idiot. It is located in the heart of CBD, which is the perfect district to be in on a Saturday night. This place is famous for its South African braai (a word that rhymes with cry and is one barbeque style you’ve got to try). Try the steak, which locals say is the best in town. Of course, while you will come for the food, it’s the great music and drinks that’ll keep you there for hours. This is one of Cape Town’s top party spots.
Getting up early on a Sunday morning isn’t everyone’s idea of the perfect weekend break, but I promise it is worth it. Lion’s Head is one of the quintessential hikes in Cape Town, and it’ll give you the best vista in town. Tie on some comfortable shoes and bring your camera. From the summit, you’ll get stunning views of the city bowl, the Twelve Apostles, Table Mountain and the ocean below.
It’s not a particularly challenging hike, but it is a long one so bring along water, especially in the warmer months. Plan on spending around two to three hours hiking.
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, head to Jason’s Bakery. This place does not mess around when it comes to whipping up delicious pastries. Their famous croissants take three days to make! I highly recommend The Bomb breakfast (bacon, Emmental cheese, and a poached egg on top of their famous plain croissant). It’s served all day and will keep you coming back for more. If you’re thinking about a picnic later or might just want a midnight snack back at the hotel, grab a loaf of their world-changing sourdough bread.
Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, you’ll find the Bo-Kaap neighborhood situated at the foot of Signal Hill. The Bo-Kaap Museum is the oldest building of Cape Town and the entire area has a fascinating history. Way back in the 1760s, when slaves were first allowed to lease and eventually buy houses, they nabbed the beautiful properties in this area. In celebration of their freedom, legend has it that they painted their houses in a rainbow of colors. The style is proudly maintained to this day and creates a dazzling streetscape.
The Kirstenbosch Botanic Garden is home to a large collection of African plants and offers trails carved out for trekkers and stone sculptures set in the gardens for artists. In summertime, you’ll often find live concerts held on the grass on Sundays. The garden is one of nine National Botanical Gardens covering five of South Africa’s six different biomes and administered by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI).
At the foot of the vibrant Kloof Street lies Kloof Street House, a beautiful Victorian house covered in fairy lights. The venue is perfect for every occasion whether it be a romantic candlelit dinner with your loved one or live jazz music during Sunday lunch. Lounge in the garden on a balmy summer day or curl up in front of the fireplace when the weather cools down. Book a reservation ahead of time then sample the colonial-inspired menu and the impressive craft cocktails.
Places to Stay: Cape Town Hotels
Belmond Mount Nelson
With a blend of that old Hollywood glamour and the cozy luxury of colonial grandeur, the Belmond Mount Nelson is a luxury oasis nestled beside the famous Table Mountain. Loved by Nelson Mandela, John Lennon, and Winston Churchhill alike, this place is as impressive as any hotel you’ll find on the globe. From the spa to the restaurant to the luxe rooms, the Belmond Mount Nelson is the place to treat yourself in the Mother City.
POD Camps Bay
In the famous Camps Bay beachfront, the five-start POD Camps Bay is surrounded by the swankiest bars and restaurants. What more do you need for a perfect night? Spend the evening living it up at the hottest spots in Cape Town, then lounge beside the turquoise sea on the sun soaked beach at POD Camps Bay.
MannaBay Fine Boutique Hotel
My very first night in Cape Town was spent at the MannaBay Fine Boutique Hotel. This luxurious spot will always have a special place in my heart. If you are looking to be pampered, this place offers 24/7 butler service and even makes dinner reservations for you then brings you there in a complimentary dinner shuttle.
Kiersten Rich is the founder of the award-winning travel blog, The Blonde Abroad. Ranked one of the Top 10 Travel Influencers by Forbes, The Blonde Abroad is a major online resource with photography, curated destination guides, hotel reviews, packing guides, and travel tips for people around the world.