Cape Town (Kaapstad)

Cape Town (Kaapstad)

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Cape Town, or Kaapstad as it's called in Afrikaans, is a lively city; it's a mixture of European and African, of both the developing and the developed world. It is one of the most beautiful cities in the world thanks to the scenery of the surrounding mountains. No matter how long you stay, the city will leave an unforgettable impression. There is a very relaxed atmosphere, which makes you sometimes forget you are in Africa at all. The surrounding area is dominated by the Table Mountain; a kilometer high flat-topped mountain south of the city center that provides superb views over the city and the Cape peninsula, mountain walks can be made and you will encounter vineyards, beautiful garden areas and first class beaches. Cape Town is capital of the Cape Province and the parliamentary capital of South Africa. You will need at least a week to explore all of the area around Cape Town, although that will seem short. As it probably will be the highlight of your visit to South Africa you'll most likely want to come back to this relatively safe city.

Cape Town is the oldest settlement in the country, and the Castle of Good Hope, built between 1666 and 1679, is one of the oldest European structures in the whole of southern Africa. The castle, just as most of the other attractions, lies in the compact city center, often called the City Bowl. One of the places worth a visit is the South African Museum, an exhibition of stuffed animals and compositions of extinct species. There are also displays of indigenous cultures such as the San (Bushman) communities. The District Six Museum is rather simple and shows what this district used to be like before it was rebuilt. Just north of the city center you will find the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront; a revamped port area with a superb atmosphere, not too glossy and touristy but just cozy enough to make you feel comfortable. There are numerous bars, restaurants, small shops and music venues and concerts. There is also a very interesting aquarium and you can take boat rides from here as well.

The Table Mountain (Tafelberg) can be climbed on foot or you can take the cableway, opened in 1929, or you can go up by cable and walk down. The ground station is located at Tafelberg Road and the distance separating the two stations is covered in one span of cable measuring 1244 meters. The views from the top of the mountain are just phenomenal on clear days and the walk down is excellent, although the whole trip could easily take a day or so. There is a restaurant at the end of the cable and Rock Dassies (rodent-like creatures) can be spotted everywhere. The highest point on Table Mountain is Maclears Beacon at 1087 meters above sea level, and about 50 minutes walking from the upper cable station. Table Mountain is a national monument. If you decide to walk down and you take the trail on the eastern side you will most likely end up in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.
Another place that offers views over the city, though not as spectacular is Signal Hill closer to the center.

There are two areas where budget accommodation can be found in Cape Town; the city center and Sea Point, on the Atlantic Ocean, west of the center. Some cheap hotels and hostels can be found in an area called Observatory as well, and this neighborhood is particularly popular with students. It's a bit out of the center on the eastern side of the city, but there are plenty of restaurants and bars around. If you're looking for a place to eat closer to the center, try the Waterfront.

Cape Town has excellent connections with most other cities in South Africa, and there are direct coach and rail links to Zimbabwe.

Around Cape Town

The most visited feature of the Cape Peninsula is probably Cape of Good Hope, the continent's south-westernmost point. Most tourists are attracted to the Cape by seaman's stories about it, rather than its beauty, as it is nothing more than a piece of rock sticking into the water where the Atlantic and the Indian oceans meet. To get there you will have to rent a car or get a coach in Cape Town. Cape of Good hope lies in a nature reserve that bares the same name and where ostrich and Rock Dassies can be seen. If you want to visit Africa's southernmost point you will have to go to Cape Agulhas some 170 km southeast of Cape Town. Expect the same kind of rock (though not as famous) sticking into the ocean there as well.

If you rented a vehicle or visit the area by own means of transportation, take your time and make a stop-over in one of the towns along the route. They are far more interesting than the Cape of Good Hope, but most tourists simply ignore them. The towns offer an inside view of the South African way of life. Especially interesting are Houtbay and the towns on the western shore of False Bay. These include Simon's town, Kalk Bay, Vishoek and Muizenberg. Apart from the cozy feeling of an old-fashioned fishing village they offer marvelously empty beaches.

Along the shore north of Cape Town there are some nice beaches that offer beautiful views of the city and Table Mountain in the background. Especially at sunset the sight can be stunning.

The same views can be enjoyed from Robben island, the former prison of ex-president Nelson Mandela that can be visited by boat. Trips are available from the Victoria and Albert Waterfront in Cape Town. Other interesting places around Cape Town include the vineyard of Groot Constantia and the Cape Flats, location of most of the 'black' townships. It is unwise to visit the Cape Flats without a black friend to show you around.

There is a wide variety of hotels, hostels, guesthouses and dormitories in Cape Town. There are also numerous bars, restaurants, pubs and nightclubs. Cape Town has road, air, rail and sea connections to many other cities in Africa and around the world. Cape Town is in the southwest of South Africa, 1315 km southwest of Pretoria.


Miscellaneous Information

Latitude:    33 54 S
Longitude: 18 32 E
Elevation:  17 m (56 ft.)

Population: 780,000
Cost-of-living compared to Washington D.C.: n/a

Hours from UTC: 2
Daylight savings time: n/a

City phone code: 21
Country phone code: 27

Average Weather Patterns

January20.6°C (69.1°F)1.5 cm (0.59 in)
April16.9°C (62.4°F)4.8 cm (1.89 in)
July12.2°C (54°F)8.9 cm (3.5 in)
October16.1°C (61°F)3 cm (1.18 in)

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