by Fiona Mokry
Cape Town, the symbolic South African capital, is a bursting metropolis with a history just as diverse as its’ population. Alluring, fast-paced and historically rich, Cape Town is a place where struggle and hardship succumbs to a fascinating culture and natural beauty unsurpassed by any other city in the world.
The Cape, as it’s also known, is an awesomely rugged masterpiece. The city is positioned on the dramatically hooked peninsula, jutting into the water where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean meet. With naturally carved bays framed by jagged cliffs, the entire Western Cape province is nature at its’ utmost finest.
Cape Town is a mix of indigenous origins and European influence. First settled by the Dutch in the 17th century, the British ultimately laid claim to the area. The population is made up from about ¾ Sub-Saharan Africans, while the remaining quarter is comprised of Europeans, Asians and other mixed ethnic groups. South Africa proudly displays its’ diversity by recognizing 11 official languages.
As Cape Town rose to be one of the most successful and vibrant cities on earth, it was not without conflict. South Africa stumbled through hard times during Apartheid, which fueled oppression, violence and outrage throughout the country for almost 50 years (1948-1991).
One cannot discuss South Africa without referencing Nelson Mandela; the man known world-wide as the outspoken, fearless and tenacious activist who spoke out against Apartheid. His persistence led him to be the first black South African president, as well as make history as the country’s first president ever to be elected in a democratic election.
Table Mountain is the most iconic sight in all of Cape Town. Named for the level plateau that stretches two miles between the famous Devil’s Peak and Lion’s head, Table Mountain offers incredible panoramic views of the city below. Take a cable car to the top and hike around the trails that lead out to spectacular viewpoints over the cliffs. From the top of Table, you can see down to the “City Bowl”, Table Bay and the Cape Town Stadium, built especially for the FIFA World Cup in 2010.
History buffs won’t want to skip the guided tour of Robben Island, a World Heritage Site where Nelson Mandela and other activists were jailed by the government during Apartheid. Located just off the coast of Cape Town in Table Bay, locals view this historic site as a symbol of their country’s triumph, as opposed to suffering.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (known simply as the V&A Waterfront) is a working harbor combined with bars, restaurants and hundreds of shops all dedicated to local trades. Stroll around the docks, take a look at the different boats moored in the marina, sip locally crafted beer and wine, shop for souvenirs and enjoy live musical performances.
Get out of the city for the day with a drive north to Franschoek – one of Cape Town’s famous winelands – for an afternoon of tasting some of South Africa’s finest wines. Wander around the multiple wineries and farms comfortably spread out in the peaceful, tree-filled countryside. The Sauvignon Blanc is a must try (and buy!) from the cozy Chamonix Winery.
It’s easy to see why the highly popular tourist destination of Camps Bay is so desirable; the surrounding scenery and overall set up of the bay is absolutely stunning. Camps Bay is situated at the foot of the Twelve Apostles mountain range with an up close and personal view of the famous Table Mountain. Many attractions are located within walking distance of this area including multiple bars, restaurants and the V&A Waterfront. This is also a favorite local spot for “sundowners”; sunset cocktails!
If you’re a surfer or beach-lover, you simply cannot miss a visit to Muizenberg Beach. Facing the Indian Ocean, the water here is more inviting than the chilly Atlantic, and the 20 km of sand ensures overcrowding is not an issue. Family and surfer friendly, this resort town is one that’s enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.