Cape Town (Afrikaans and Dutch: Kaapstad; Xhosa: iKapa) is the third most
populous city in South Africa, forming part of the metropolitan municipality of
the City of Cape Town. It is the provincial capital of the Western Cape, as well
as the legislative capital of South Africa, where the National Parliament and
many government offices are located. Cape Town is famous for its harbour as well
as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom, including such well-known
landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. Often regarded as one of the world's
most beautiful cities because of its geography, Cape Town is one of the most
popular South African destinations for tourism.
Cape Town was originally developed as a victualling station for Dutch ships
sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East more than 200 years before
the construction of the Suez Canal in 1869. Jan van Riebeeck's arrival on 6
April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa.
Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at
the Castle of Good Hope. It was the largest city in South Africa until the
growth of Johannesburg and Durban.
According to the 2001 Census, the city has a population of 2.95 million.
Cape Town's land area of 2,499 square kilometres (965 sq mi) is larger
than other South African cities, resulting in a comparatively lower
population density of 1,158 people per square kilometre (2,999/sq mi). Cape Town is town twinned
with Nice in France and Haifa in Israel.
Cape Town Map and Tourism
Cape Town is arguably the most popular tourist
destination in South Africa due to its good climate, natural setting, and
relatively well-developed infrastructure. The city has several
well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table
Mountain, which forms a large part of the Table Mountain National Park
and is the back end of the City Bowl. Reaching the top of the mountain can
be achieved either by hiking up, or by taking the Table Mountain Cableway.
Cape Point is recognised as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape
Peninsula. Many tourists also drive along Chapman's Peak Drive, a narrow
road that links Noordhoek with Hout Bay, for the views of the Atlantic
Ocean and nearby mountains. It is possible to either drive or hike up
Signal Hill for closer views of the City Bowl and Table Mountain.
Many tourists also visit Cape Town's beaches, which are popular with local
residents. Due to the city's unique geography, it is possible to visit
several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting
and atmosphere. Beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very
cold water as the water is mostly glacial melt from Antarctica. The water
at False Bay beaches is often warmer by up to 10 °C (18 °F). Both
coasts are equally popular, although the beaches in affluent Clifton and
elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast are better developed with restaurants and
cafés, with a particularly vibrant strip of restaurants and bars
accessible to the beach at Camps Bay. Boulders Beach near Simon's Town
is known for its colony of African penguins. Surfing is popular and
the city hosts the Red Bull Big Wave Africa surfing competition every
The city has several notable cultural attractions. The Victoria & Alfred
Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is
one of the city's most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops
and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Part of the charm of the V&A, as it is
locally known, is that the Port continues to operate and visitors can
watch ships enter and leave. The V&A also hosts the Nelson Mandela
Gateway, through which ferries depart for Robben Island. It is possible to
take a ferry from the V&A to Hout Bay, Simon's Town and the Cape Fur Seal
colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands. Several companies offer tours of the
Cape Flats, a mostly Coloured township, and Khayelitsha, a mostly black
township. An option is to sleep overnight in Cape Town's townships. There
are several B&Bs where you can spend a safe and real African night.
Cape Town is noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest
density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style,
which combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany
and France, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in
the Central Business District, and along Long Street. The annual
Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known by its Afrikaans name of Kaapse
Klopse, is a large minstrel festival held annually on January 2 or "Tweede
Nuwe Jaar" (Afrikaans: Second New Year). Competing teams of minstrels
parade in brightly coloured costumes, either carrying colourful umbrellas
or playing an array of musical instruments. The Artscape Theatre Centre is
the main performing arts venue in Cape Town.
Night life in the city caters for all tastes and sexual debauchery and
depravity, with a range of restaurants and cafes that are generally
recognised as including some of the finest eateries in South Africa (both
in food quality and decor terms). Night clubs and bars abound with popular
areas including the top end of Long Street and its immediate surrounds, as
well as the redeveloped Cape Malay quarter, De Waterkant. Varied
accommodation for tourists is also abundant, ranging from well located
backpackers hostels to hotels that have been rated at the top of their
class in world terms.
Cape Town's transport system links it to the rest of South Africa; it
serves as the gateway to other destinations within the province. The Cape
Winelands and in particular the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and
Franschhoek are popular day trips from the city for sightseeing and wine
tasting. Whale watching is popular amongst tourists: Southern Right Whales
are seen off the coast during the breeding season (August to November) and
Bryde's Whales can be seen any time of the year. The nearby town of
Hermanus is known for its Whale Festival, but whales can also be seen in
False Bay. Heaviside's dolphins are endemic to the area and can be seen
from the coast north of Cape Town; dusky dolphins live along the same
coast and can occasionally be seen from the ferry to Robben Island.
Table Mountain National Park
at the south-western tip of Africa, the Table Mountain National Park
(TMNP) encompasses the incredibly scenic Table Mountain Chain stretching
from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south and the seas and
coastline of the peninsula.
The narrow finger of land with its beautiful valleys, bays and beaches is
surrounded by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean in the west and the warmer
waters of False Bay and has within its boundaries two world-renowned
landmarks - majestic Table Mountain and the legendary Cape of Good Hope.
The Park is recognised globally for its extraordinarily rich, diverse and
unique fauna and flora - with rugged cliffs, steep slopes and sandy flats
- is a truly remarkable natural, scenic, historical, cultural and
recreational asset both locally and internationally. Nowhere else in the
world does an area of such spectacular beauty and such rich bio-diversity
exist almost entirely within a metropolitan area - the thriving and
cosmopolitan city of Cape Town.
Beaches of Cape Town
Cape Town has a wide variety of beaches divided into three regions by the Cape Peninsula
False Bay, including the long sandy beach running from Gordon's
Bay to Muizenberg, and the smaller beaches along the East side of the Cape
Atlantic Seaboard, along the West (Atlantic) side of the Cape
West Coast, along the West coast running Northwards from Cape
A long sandy beach runs more or less uninterrupted for the complete width
of False Bay from Gordon's Bay to Muizenberg, forming the coast of the
Cape Flats. Along the rocky Cape Peninsula, there are frequent beautiful
beaches in between the mountains of the peninsula.
Glencairn, Cape Town
The Atlantic side of the Cape Peninsula faces West and thus is popular
for expensive homes facing the sunset views. There are many beautiful
beaches below the mountains of the peninsula.
The West Coast beaches are long, sandy beaches to the North of Cape Town.
The wind and surf conditions make these beaches popular for surfing and