48 hours in Cape Town: free things to do

48 hours in Cape Town

There’s really no time to waste if you only have 48 hours in Cape Town, so let’s get right to it. First off, make sure you plan a much longer stay in the Mother City on your next visit. A weekend getaway to Cape Town doesn’t need to be expensive with these suggestions of free things to do in the city of clouds. So get ready to say: #HelloWeekend!

*Please note that Cape Town is currently (January 2018) experiencing a water crisis. If you’ve already booked your trip, don’t cancel it, we’d love to have you explore the Mother City, simply scroll down to the bottom of this post to learn more about how you can be a water-wise traveller and what precautions you should take during your trip. I’ve included official communication from the Cape Town Government as well as useful tips. 

If you’re planning a trip but haven’t booked yet, we’d still love to have you, and please consider visiting other equally beautiful parts of South Africa like the Panorama Route, The Midlands Meander, The KwaZulu-Natal Coastline, Dullstroom or cities like Johannesburg and Durban that are not experiencing a water shortage.

48 hours in Cape Town: Saturday 

Early morning Park Run

I’m not a runner and I’ve never seen myself as a runner, but I’ve done five of the weekly 5km-long Park Run routes across South Africa: three in Johannesburg, one in East London and one in Cape Town (Green Point) and here’s the good news: Green Point was by far the easiest. The first noticeable difference is that at sea level there’s much more oxygen, so unless you live already live at sea level you won’t get tired as quickly. Secondly, the course is flat, like really flat, so it’s easy to keep an even pace as you run around Cape Town Stadium. All Park Runs are free and you can just show up at the starting line before 8am (it starts on the hour). If you’d like to record your time and position though, you can sign up for a printable bar code on the website below. Go at your own pace, some people sprint to the finish, others jog-hop-skip along, parents also come with their strollers, there’s no pressure, easy does it. There are 10 other Park Runs in the Western Cape Province, which you look into.
Where: Vlei Road, Greenpoint
Time: Every Saturday, 8am
Park Run Green Point Website

Breakfast at Neighbourgoods Market

Even if you only have 48 hours in Cape Town during a weekend, make sure you visit Neighbourgoods Market. Some locals may tell you that Neighbourgoods Market is busy, but that’s one of the things I love about it, along with: the vibe, the ambiance and the venue. This weekly Saturday market takes place at The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, where you can buy organic produce from farmers, homemade goodies and pastries from chefs and bakers. Although at times the meals may be a little pricey that’s only because it’s artisanal, small batch home-cooked food and often organically sourced. Before you leave, buy trinkets or odds and ends for your home made by local artists, or perhaps even a bottle of local wine by which to remember your stay in Cape Town.

48 hours in Cape Town

Where: 373 Albert Road, Woodstock (about 15 minutes drive from the Green Point Park run)
Time: Saturdays, from 9am-2pm
Neighbourgoods market Website


Cape Town Free Walking Tour

Next get an insider’s perspective into Cape Town’s history, architecture, culture and day-to-day life when you join a 90-minute-long, free daily walking tour through Cape Town. There are three walking tours to choose from. I did the ‘Historic City’ tour that starts at 11am from Green Market Square. The other two walking tours include District Six and the Bo-Kaap. We spotted a rather rare albino squirrel at The Company’s Gardens near St Georges Cathedral (he’s quite an attraction, especially as some Capetonians still haven’t spotted him), before walking past Parliament, the President’s House and seeing the remnants of Apartheid. Then it was on to The Castle of Good Hope – which used to be a fort and is apparently the oldest building in South Africa. We ended the tour  at the local flower market – the best place to buy proteas. The tours are run by real Capetonians, who are volunteer guides, and although they are completely free, it’s courteous to give a tip.

Where: Corner Shortmarket/Longmarket Streets and Burg Street (about 15 minutes drive from the Neighbourgoods)
Time: daily: at 11am, 2pm, 4:20pm
Cape Town Free Walking Tours website 

Lunching at The Grand

By the time the walking tour finishes at 12:30pm it’ll be lunch time. Take off your shoes and dig your feet into the white sand at The Grand, in Granger Bay near the V&A Waterfront. I had the grilled linefish (because you know, you ought to when you’re at the ocean) and they serve a selection of seafood dishes, alongside Mediterranean cuisine, pastas and salads. While the wooden tables on the beach are my favourite place to sit, they also have tables on the white-washed wooden deck that stares the ocean straight in the face.

Where: Granger Bay Road (off Beach Road) and part of V&A Waterfront (about 15 minutes drive from the Neighbourgoods)
Time: daily, from 12pm until late. Call to see if they aren’t hosting a private function.
The Grand website

Photographing Bo-Kaap

Grab your camera, sling it around your neck and make sure you have enough space on your memory card as you head out to explore the quaint neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap that overlooks downtown Cape Town. These rainbow-painted buildings are quite a sight. Many of the residents of Bo-Kaap, also known as the Cape Malay Quarter, are ancestors of the slaves brought to South Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries from a number of African countries, as well as Malaysia and Indonesia. As you walk the cobbled streets you’ll smell the aroma of Cape Malay cuisine wafting down the alleyway.  Along Dorp Street you’ll see the Auwal, which is the country’s first official mosque. If you prefer not to go alone, you can join the Free Walking tour from 2pm (see details above).

Where: 70 Wale Street (around 10 minutes from The Grand)
Time: Any day, any time, unless you want to join the Free Walking tour from 2pm daily.
Bo Kaap info 

Sunset on Signal Hill

No matter whether you only have 24 or 48 hours in Cape Town, this is a must! Just before the sun sets (summer: before 8pm, winter: around 5:45pm) drive to the look out point on Signal Hill, at the foot of Lion’s Head. Sit with your back to Table Mountain as you watch the matchbox city below and the sun’s reflection in the shimmering waters. Now, I’m not encouraging public drinking here, but… it’s not unusual to see people having a symbolic sundowner on their blanket with crackers and cheese as the ocean swallows the sun. The last time I was there, I also saw a mobile coffee truck.

Where: Signal Hill Road (around 15 minutes from Bo Kaap)
Time: any day, any time (although as with wherever you travel in the world, especially if you are alone, please be careful after dark)
Signal Hill info

Dinner at the Victoria and Albert Waterfront

The greatest thing about the V&A Waterfront is the variety – there are around 80 eateries to choose from, many of which have indoor and outdoor seating areas with views of the yachts coming and going. If you happen to choose a restaurant near the Cape Wheel then you may also hear a live performance at the nearby amphitheater. As you walk from one side of the V&A Waterfront to the other, you’ll see a number of permanent and temporary art works from statues to photographic exhibitions. There are many shops and curio carts here too, should you need to buy anything or want souvenirs.

Where: 19 Dock Road (around 15 minutes from Signal Hill)
Time: daily, 9am-9pm (restaurants open until late)
V&A Waterfront website

The great thing about this 48 hours in Cape Town itinerary is that you can mix and match it to suit your mood.

48 hours in Cape Town: Sunday

Sunrise hike up Table Mountain

Start off your Sunday with an early morning hike up Table Mountain (if the weather permits: when visibility is clear and wind is minimal). The India Venster trail starts about 50m to the right of the lower cable car station. Make sure you have comfortable walking shoes, sun cream, lots of water, snacks, something warm and a hat. The route is quite popular, so if you don’t have hiking companions you can always join fellow hikers (just as I did). Follow the yellow footprints and green/blue spray paint markings. The trail is challenging and requires a certain level of fitness, it takes between two and four hours. We did it in just over three hours and there were many stops along the way to photograph the mist pirouetting above the harbour, as well as the fynbos, resident dassies (rock hyraxes) and lizards. The route and scenery are gobsmackingly beautiful. If, however, you feel like having a relaxed start to your Sunday, you can take the aerial cable way to the top (buy your tickets online).

Where: Top of Tafelberg Road
Time: sunrise: summer: 5:30am, winter: just before 8am.
Table Mountain aerial cableway website (book your tickets online)
Note: Save the emergency number on your phone before you head out: 086-110-6417.

Breakfast at the Table Mountain Cafe, plus two free tours

No matter how you reach the summit, grab a cup of coffee and replenish your energy with a bite to eat at the Table Mountain Café. They open from 10:30am and serve breakfast, sandwiches, pizza slices, salads and drinks. And yes, you guessed it, they also have free Wi-Fi, which you can use to download the free VoiceMap audio walking tour app from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Or you can join the free 30-minute guided walk on the hour from 09:00 to 15:00 daily, which begins at the Twelve Apostles Terrace, just below the café.

Once you’ve explored this Wonder of Nature (it was named one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature in 2012) take the Platteklip Gorge Route down. While it’s quite steep in some parts, this is the most direct route and I found it to be the easiest and fastest route down, plus it offers spectacular views, so stop along the way to take it all in. Unlike the India Venster Route, this route has stone steps and anti-erosion gabions. It took us about an hour coming down.

Lunch time at Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay

You’ll probably want to take it easy… real easy, for the rest of the day, but first make your way to the Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay for some chow. When I arrived there was a live music set on stage and the craft beer was flowing. There’s everything from sushi, Chinese and pizza to a soup bar, low-carb options, Tunisian as well as pastries, a juice bar, plus much more. You can also buy cool South African t-shirts, up-cycled wooden decor elements for your home and browse through the bric-a-bac.

Where: 31 Harbour Road, Hout Bay (around 30 minutes from Table Mountain)
Time: Fridays 5-9pm, Saturdays and Sundays 9:30am-4pm.
Bay Harbour Market website

Chilling at Camps Bay

A 15-minute drive away, you’ll find the perfect place to relax after all that exercise. Camps Bay is one of Cape Town’s awesomest beaches (and not only in my book). Grab a blanket and a book and head to trendy Camps Bay, at the foot of the Twelve Apostles mountain range, for some down time. After being lulled to sleep by the soothing  sound of the waves, muster up the energy to explore the palm-lined, beachfront road and its many cafe and restaurant options. I never say no to cheesecake (especially after so much exercise) and had a delectable slice at La Belle Bistro and Bakery. Take a seat on the outside deck looking out towards the ocean for a kaleidoscope sunset display.

Where: Victoria Road, Camps Bay (15 minutes from Hout Bay market)
Time: from sunrise until sunset
Camps Bay info  

Dinner at Gold Restaurant

For a taste of South African and African cuisine dine at Gold. Here you can try a little bit of everything from the 14-course (sharing or individual) taster menu that spans eight African countries to the sound of beating African drums. They also serve cocktails with an African twist like the Rooibos gin, while the decor will make you feel as though you’re on the set of Tim Burton movie.

Where: 15 Bennett Street (20 minutes from Camps Bay)
Time: open until late
Gold Restaurant website

Find more ideas for a 48 hours in Cape Town getaway on the Cape Town Tourism website. Cape Town International Airport welcomed 4 684 368 arrivals last year, find flights to the Mother City with Cheapflights.

 

The best time to visit Cape Town

Whether you’re in only spending 48 hours in Cape Town or two weeks, here’s a useful guideline on when to plan a visit.

Spring (September – November)

The flowers are in full bloom from September. South Africa’s West Coast is famous the world over for its flower season. Prepare yourself for a burst of colour. September welcomes average temperatures of 15 degrees, while in October it can even reach the twenties. This is also the time for whale watching along the coast.

Summer (December – February)

Clear blue skies, lots of sunshine and long days (around 10 hours a day) is what characterises summer in Cape Town (though it usually lasts a month longer on either side). Temperatures average 25 degrees and the mercury seldom ever drops below 14 degrees. Remember to bring your sunblock, hat and sunglasses. This is the season with the lowest humidity and rainfall is rather scarce at this time of the year with 24mm in November and 14mm in January.

Autumn (March – May)

Autumn is still pleasantly warm in Cape Town with average temperatures of 20 degrees in March and 18 degrees in April. Many tourists have returned back home by autumn, so it’s not as busy as during the year-end school holidays. The vineyards turn auburn at this time of the year, so head off for a tour of the winelands.

Winter (June – August)

Cape Town turns verdant in winter as it’s washed over with the annual rains and the North West winds begin to blow. When it’s not raining daytime temperatures are mild and the sun still shines bright. It’s a good idea to pack something for every season, when visiting during winter: bring along your raincoat, waterproof shoes and don’t forget to layer your clothing. June sees average high temperatures of 17 degrees with lows of 8 degrees. June is the wettest month with 105 mm of rainfall and 82mm in August.

Cape Town Water Crisis and Day Zero

The Cape Town water crisis is the result of a three-year drought and hence falling water levels in dams that supply municipal water (let’s not get into the political stuff around infrastructure).

At the time of updating this post (early March 2018) Cape Town had been experiencing a serious drought and Level 6B water restrictions came into place as of 01 February 2018, which only allowed for a 50 litre (13 gallons) daily water allowance per person. This doesn’t just relate to the home, but across the workplace and leisure activities too. Here’s official correspondence from the Cape Town Government regarding all you need to know about the water crisis. Day Zero is the day that dam capacity will reach 13.5% and municipal taps will be closed for all but essential services such as hospitals. From there water (25 litres per person per day) will be rationed from around 200 municipal water stations. Day Zero is estimated at 15 July, though it is calculated weekly based on reservoir capacity and daily consumption and hence changes accordingly. But in early March, due to a drastic decrease in the consumption of municipal water (up to 60%) and the impending winter rains that will hopefully begin shortly, it was announced that Day Zero may in fact be averted – if water consumption remains as is, which is why we should remain water wise.

Even if you’re only spending 48 hours in Cape Town, responsible water usage can make a big difference to the locals, who have to deal with the long-term consequences. Hence, many hotels, restaurants and travel service providers are getting on board to do their bit by using grey and recycled water as well as by reusing their water supply – in a responsible manner and obviously while keeping hygiene and sanitation in mind. Please be understanding that hotel bathtubs are now plug-less, as bathing consumes about 80 litres of water, and everyone is encouraged to shower for no longer than two minutes once a day (or once every second day if you can manage a wipe down). We also follow the kids’ adage, if it’s yellow let it mellow. Also if you can reuse your towels and don’t need clean bed sheets every day that will go a long way in decreasing unnecessary water consumption.

Also certain items may be removed from the food menu, such as pastas and cooked vegetables. Restaurants are opting for fresh, baked and fried food options instead. There is also a high demand for bottled water being sold at shops.  Restaurants are also trying to be resourceful and water from ice buckets  (perfectly good water as it is melted ice) is being used to wash floors at the end of the day or to water plants and gardens, instead of using water from the tap. Responsible water usage can hopefully push D-Day further out. Here are some really easy-to-follow tips about how to be an H20 Hero when you’re visiting Cape Town. We thank tourists for their understanding and for their help by being water-wise travellers.

***

This post was written as part of a #HelloWeekend blogathon in partnership with Cape Town Tourism, Cheapflights and Travel Concept Solution. I retain editorial control over all the content and this post is based on my personal experiences.

Iga Motylska

Iga Motylska is a Johannesburg-based freelance writer, photojournalist, sub-editor and blogger. She is published in numerous local and international publications, including: Forbes Africa, Forbes Woman Africa, Forbes Life Africa, CNBC Africa, Ventures Africa, Marie Claire, Sawubona, AA Traveller, Fastjet inflight magazine and Seoul Magazine among numerous others. Her editorial interests range from documenting the entrepreneurial spirit to women's and human rights issues, environmental affairs and of course travel writing.

12 Comments:

  1. Linda Feldman

    thank you so much. Would love your ideas for an itinerary for 9-10 days in CAPE TOWN and areas in July 2018. .

  2. Great itinerary! Speaking as a Capetonian, these are all things you have to do, and whilst the woodstock market may be busy ;) It’s definitely something worthwhile if you have limited time ;)

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  6. Such great ideas and brings back such good memories of times in Cape Town :)

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  9. Hey Iga, great piece. Especially enjoy the photos ;)

So what do YOU think? ;)