Published April 18, 2012
Impossibly beautiful, effortlessly sophisticated and immensely fun, Cape Town truly does deliver on its promises. Flanked by verdant vineyards set against the backdrop of the looming Table Mountain, this South African metropolis is among the world’s most idyllic cities. The wonders of Cape Town could easily fill a book, but here’s a quick guide to five of its greatest draws.
Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve
There’s no greater place to explore Cape Town’s famous natural beauty than among the abundant flora and fauna at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. This scenic sliver of Table Mountain National Park comprises more than 19,000 acres of rolling hills, winding hiking trails and deserted beaches. The Flying Dutchman Funicular will take you directly to the old lighthouse, where the surrounding viewing platforms provide unparalleled sights of the surrounding landscape.
South African National Gallery
The South African National Gallery is unquestionably among the finest art museums in Africa. Though it boasts an impressive collection of 18th and 19th century European art, its greatest draw is most certainly the vast body of work by South African artists. Throughout the gallery works of video, painting and sculpture tell the harrowing tale of South Africa’s brutal and diverse history through the eyes of its people. In addition to its 5,000-strong permanent collection of works, the gallery regularly draws some excellent traveling exhibitions by some of South Africa’s finest artists.
South Africa’s love affair with wine stems back over 350 years, when Dutch settlers planted the first vineyards around Cape Town in 1652. Today, it is considered among South Africa’s finest exports and Cape Town’s wine is renowned by connoisseurs throughout the world. A visit to the lush wine country that surrounds Cape Town can be an unforgettable experience – particularly if you stop by one of the local vineyards.
The oldest and most famous winery in the region is Groot Constantia, which was established in 1865 by then governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. Since then, Grout’s famous range of red and dessert wines have helped establish its prestigious name. Along with sampling many of these delights, visitors can enjoy the small museum that recounts this long history of this famous winery.
While it was always renowned for its rich and diverse ecosystem, Robben Island first gained international notoriety as the holding pace for South Africa’s most famous citizen, Nelson Mandela. While Robben Island served many functions over the years, as a mental asylum, leper colony, military base and prison, it now contains a fascinating museum documenting the history of the island and the country’s struggle to end apartheid. Government sanctioned bus tours whisk tourists past tiny churches, graveyards and villages towards the island’s infamous maximum security prison.
Two Oceans Aquarium
At the center of Cape Town’s main waterfront is one of its most appealing and enjoyable attractions that’s sure to appeal to the entire family. The Two Oceans Aquarium contains over 3,000 creatures, such as colorful fish, ferocious sharks and stunning coral from both the Indian and Atlantic oceans. Specimens are housed in highly-convincing simulated natural environments like rivers, tidal pools and kelp forests.