Cape Town – The Mother city has recently been named the “Favourite City Worldwide” in UK newspaper the Telegraph’s annual travel awards – the third consecutive year that the city has taken the top honour, having been just a top-three runner-up four years ago.
With that in mind, the Cape Town Central City Improvement District (CCID) has put together a list of 10 of the best things that you, as a local or tourist, can do in the CBD.
So if you’re looking for inspiration to get out there and explore the CBD that travellers worldwide regularly vote their favourite, here are some ideas to get you started.
1 Spend a day in The Company’s Garden
The Company’s Garden was created in 1652 by the Dutch East India Company as a garden to grow fresh fruit and vegetables for ships passing through the Cape of Good Hope. It is surrounded by the Slave Lodge, the Houses of Parliament, the South African Museum and Planetarium, St George’s Cathedral, the National Library of South Africa, the South African National Gallery, the Great Synagogue and the Holocaust Centre.
While you’re there, you can see the oldest pear tree in South Africa, a sundial dating back to 1781, a well dating back to 1842, the memorial slave bell and the visitor’s centre for a history of the garden – or visit The Company’s Garden Restaurant.
2 Brush up on history at various museums
Iziko boasts a number of museums under its name, including the South African Museum, the Planetarium, Koopmans-De Wet House, the Slave Lodge, Bertram House, the Slave Lodge and the South African National Gallery. For insight into South Africa and the Cape’s rich culture and history, try to visit a few. For more information, see www.iziko.org.za
3 Eat your way through the Earth Fair Market
The Earth Fair Market takes place on St George’s Mall every Thursday from 11am. It will be hard to choose between the cheeses, biltong, curries, cupcakes, ice cream, home-made lemonade, pastries and other delicious treats, so you may need to visit a few times. For more information, see www.earthfairmarket.co.za
4 Take a stroll through the central city
There are many companies which offer guided tours through the Cape Town central city, with all information available through a quick online search and at various prices. Some of these include African Touch Tours (www.africantouchtours.com), for a three-hour amble around the CBD; Cape Town Carriage Company (www.ctcco.co.za), which takes visitors around town in a replica Victoria horse-drawn carriage; Footsteps to Freedom (www.footstepstofreedom.co.za), for a Nelson Mandela-themed walk; Walk in Africa (www.walkinafrica.com), led by actors who take on the roles of historic characters; and Wanderlust (www.wanderlust.co.za), which also offers walking tours.
5 Explore the CBD’s underbelly:
Good Hope Adventures offers tunnel tours underneath Cape Town’s Central City between one and three hours, starting at the Castle of Good Hope. You’ll be issued with permits and a hard hat, and escorted by a qualified guide and “professional rescue medic” on your journey to discovering the CBD’s “secret tunnels”, which date back to 1652.
Be sure to wear non-slip shoes and clothes you’re happy to get a little grubby or wet. For more information, see www.goodhopeadventures.com/tunnel-tours
6 Get crafty with beer tasting
The Craft Beer Project offers an inner-city beer tour which teaches you “what to look for in a good beer” while taking you through two tasting rooms, a brewery, a restaurant known for craft beer, and a last stop at “a bottle store that hosts the best selection of craft beer in Cape town to stock your fridge at home”.
Alternatively, you can try the Super Cool Beer Tour, which picks up and drops off in the central city; Tuesdays to Saturdays from 2pm to 6pm. You’ll get tastings at four breweries and take part in a food and craft-beer pairing. For more information, see www.thecraftbeerproject.co.za/craft-beer-tours or http://supercoolbeertour.co.za
7 Try innercity wine tasting
While it is a worthwhile experience that should be tested once at the very least, you don’t have to go all the way to the Winelands to sample the Cape’s finest wines. Weinhaus and Biergarten (formerly &Union) on Bree Street, offers “Wine Gems” free wine tastings on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6pm, but booking is essential. For more information, see www.biergarten.co.za
8 Discover the Bo-Kaap
On the verge of the central city, Bo-KaaP is easily recognisable for its colourful houses, friendly culture and fragrant aromas emanating from the homes and spice shops. If you’re looking for a taste of traditional Cape Malay cooking, sample some tasty treats from Biesmiellah, and don’t leave without purchasing some spices from the Atlas Trading Company.
But the best way to learn all about the area’s rich history is through a walking tour or, if you’re after the full experience, a walking and cooking tour. For more information, see www.bokaap.co.za
9 Visit the Castle
The Castle of Good Hope was built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) and is “the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa”. The Castle is open to visitors and entry costs between R5 and R30. While you’re there, keep an eye and ear out for the legendary ghosts that lurk there…
Lady Anne Barnard, the first lady of the colony in the late 18th century and ever the party animal, is said to sometimes arrive at parties in honour of important guests. Also, listen out for the sound of unexplained footsteps or bells ringing mysteriously on their own.
And try not to get bowled over by the vanishing black dog when lights are turning on and off without anyone there to flick the switch. For more information, see www.castleofgoodhope.co.za
10 Soak up some culture
Catch a show at one of the central city’s theatres. At the Artscape Theatre, the Cape Town City Ballet is presenting Cinderella until January 11. And the Fugard Theatre, fresh from the success of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, will be hosting two musicals – David Kramer’s Orpheus in Africa and Cabaret. For more information, see www.thefugard.com and www.artscape.co.za
If you’re feeling like you can handle even more, check out the CCID’s website for an interactive map of central city tourist destinations, experiences and overall useful information for visitors.
The Cape Times