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Cape Town has a bright and colorful city center that is steeped in history and culture. The city has beautiful architecture, nearby nature and a lively entertainment district on the water. Although many of the city’s top attractions are away from the city center, we made room in our Cape Town Itinerary to explore Cape Town on foot. On our Cape Town city tour, we visited a few of the most historical places in Cape Town – as well as some of the cultural attractions in Cape Town. While it’s possible to see many of the sights by simply walking around Cape Town, Cape Town sightseeing is best done with a plan in mind. We created this useful Self-Guided Cape Town Walking Tour of the city center so that we could move on our own two feet and get a real feel for the city. (Cape Town Map of Sights below.)
Self-Guided Cape Town Walking Tour
Before you set off on this self-guided free walking tour Cape Town, be sure to pick up a helpful tourist map of Cape Town (or buy one prior to your trip!). You will also want to be sure to wear good city shoes, wear a hat (and or sunscreen) and bring a water bottle with you.
Adderley Flower Market
Start your Cape Town city walk at the Adderley Street, Cape Town CBD bus stop and head south to the Adderley Flower Market.
For more than 150 years women have been selling colorful flower bouquets – making it one of the oldest markets in the city. Set up in a dimly lit alley on Trafalgar Place between the Standard Bank and Golden Acre Mall, rows of stalls feature an array of fragrant and unique blossoms. Sellers are happy to create special arrangements. Note: The Adderley Street Flower Market is open from Monday to Saturday, 7:00am to 8:00pm.
City Hall and Grand Parade
Turn right (southwest) on Parliament and walk to Darling Street. Turn left (southeast) and walk to City Hall and the Grand Parade.
The City Hall building is used for Cape Town culture events – but it also reigns as one of the top Cape Town historical sites. The building is most well-known for the balcony – from which Nelson Mandela gave his first speech after being released from prison. Constructed in the early 1900s – using most materials shipped in from Europe – the grand building stands out from its surroundings. It’s free to go inside, where there are stained-glass windows, marble staircases and pipe organ in the Grand Hall. Note: Cape Town City Hall is open Monday – Friday from 7:45am to 3:00pm.
The main public square on which City Hall stands is called the Grand Parade. It has been used as a marketplace, a site of political rallies and, unfortunately, an oversized, run-down parking lot with random pop-up stalls set up on the fringe.
Castle of Good Hope
At the east end of the Grand Parade is the Castle of Good Hope.
Built between 1666 and 1679 as a pentagon-shaped fort for the Dutch East India Company, the castle is the oldest building in Cape Town – and in South Africa, for that matter. When it was built, it was at the water’s edge, but land reclamation has moved the coastline more than a kilometer away. In 1936, the fort was named a National Monument – and still serves as the center for the Cape Town military. Visitors who are interested in historical buildings in Cape Town and learning more of the Cape Town history should consider visiting the Castle of Good Hope. And, those who really want a better understanding of the history should inquire about the Castle of Good Hope guided tour. Note: Open daily from 9:30am to 3:30pm.
District 6 Museum
Walk southwest on Buitenkant Street to the District 6 Museum.
During Apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s, 60,000 residents who lived in the inner-city District 6 were forced to move from their homes. The District 6 Museum, which opened in 1994, is dedicated to remember the injustices, as well as to help build a multicultural community. Top Tip: Join a tour to learn more about the history of slavery in Cape Town.
The Company’s Gardens
Continue walking southwest on Buitenkant Street to Roeland Street. Turn right (northwest) and walk past St. Mary’s Cathedral to the Louis Botha Farmer warrior Statesman Statue on St. Johns Street. Turn left (southwest) and walk to Gallery Lane (right before the South African National Gallery. Turn right (north) and walk into the Company’s Gardens. Tip: Other museums in the vicinity are the South African Jewish Museum, the Cape Town Holocaust Center and the Iziko South African Museum.
Started by a shipwrecked crew in the 1600s, the Company’s Gardens are now filled with fountains, monuments, museums and even a restaurant. Many of the rare and historic trees and plants include informational plaques and an expansive vegetable garden has been established as a reminder of how the gardens were first used.
Cape Town Parliament
Walk the length of the Company’s Gardens and on the southeast side, see Parliament.
Although not the capital of South Africa (that would be Pretoria), Cape Town is the legislative capital and home to the country’s Houses of Parliament. Three historic buildings in Cape Town collectively make up the Cape Town Parliament – and date to 1884, the 1920s and the 1980s (the latter two were designed in the Neoclassical Cape Dutch style to match the original building). The Parliament buildings house the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. Top Tip: Visitors interested in a Cape Town Parliament Tour and attending a Parliamentary Session should inquire at the Visitors Centre entrance on 120 Plein Street.
St. George’s Cathedral
At the north end of the Company’s Garden is the St. George’s Cathedral.
On the north end of the park is St. George’s Cathedral, an Anglican church that was heavily involved in the anti-apartheid movement. Inside, the enormous stained glass windows light up the church and the 6,000 pipe organ.
Iziko Slave Lodge
To the southeast of St. George’s Cathedral is the Iziko Slave Lodge.
Built in 1679, the historic Slave Lodge (the city’s second oldest building) was used to house slaves of the Dutch East India Company until the year 1811. Today, the building has been re-purposed to a Cape Town museum documenting the history of slavery in South Africa.
Walk northwest on Wale Street to the Bo-Kaap District.
The brightly painted houses on Wale Street mark the beginning of the colorful Bo-Kaap district. The Cape Malay Quarter features many mosques and small restaurants serving Malay dishes. Although heavily visited by tourists now, in the residential area it’s common to see kids playing cricket in the street with neighborhood friends. Top points of interest in the neighborhood include the Bo-Kaap Museum and the fragrant Atlas Trading Company spice shop. Top Tip: For a better understanding of the district, join a guide on a Bo-Kaap Walking Tour – find out more!
End your Cape Town city tour itinerary at the city’s entertainment hub, V&A Waterfront. The 150-year-old working harbor is packed with shops, restaurants, pubs, museums, a clock tower, Ferris wheel, helicopter rides, cruises and street musicians that all compete for the attention of visitors.
To cool off in the heat of the day, we suggest grabbing a shady spot at the Quay 4 Tavern (for a couple of pints of the local Castle beer) or visiting Mitchell’s Brewery, the largest and oldest microbrewery in South Africa dedicated to making fresh, natural beer minus artificial additives.
Cape Town Walking Map
We were pleased by how walkable Cape Town CBD is; all you need is good walking shoes, a Cape Town walking tour map (buy one for your trip!) and a helpful guidebook to help fill in some of the history.
Cape Town Tours
We think our Self-Guided Cape Town Walking Tour is one of the best walks in Cape Town to get just a small taste of the vibrant city. However, joining a Cape Town tour guide would provide more information about the city, as well as provide useful tips and helpful recommendations for your trip to Cape Town. There are numerous tour operators in Cape Town and we researched the top-rated Cape Town day tours to help you find the best Cape Town sightseeing tours in the city.
Red Bus Cape Town
The City Sightseeing Cape Town bus is a great way to get an introduction to the city! We don’t usually take tourist bus tours, but we thought the Cape Town city bus tour was fabulous. In addition to the Hop On Hop Off Cape Town bus routes, the company also offers free Cape Town walking tours as part of a multi-day ticket. Find out more about the ticket options for the sightseeing bus in Cape Town.
Cape Town Private Tours
Hiring a Cape Town private tour guide is a fantastic way to learn more about the city – with a Cape Town city walking tour designed specifically for you! Read the reviews on this highly-rated local guide who creates itineraries for Cape Town guided walking tours and beyond.
Cape Town Adventures Tours
Looking for adventure activities in Cape Town? Search now for the best adventure activities – like paragliding, rafting, and rock climbing.
Bike Tour Cape Town
Follow a local guide on a 3-hour bicycle tour of the best sights in the city – from the V&A Waterfront to the historic inner-city. Learn more about this tour!
Cape Town Food Tour
Street Art Cape Town
Join a bicycle street art tour in Cape Town to discover some of the best wall murals and graffiti art in the city. Learn more about this tour!
Cape Town Day Trips
Want to venture beyond the city center? Cape Town excursions are ideal for seeing more of the surrounding region. There are even Cape Town half-day tours if you are short on time. Search for the best Cape Town tours – from wild penguins to wine tastings – on Viator. Top Tip: Read about our day tour to Cape Town wineries on the City Sightseeing Cape Town Bus.
More Tips for your Trip to Cape Town
Where To Stay
During our visit to Cape Town, we stayed in an awesome Airbnb Apartment in Hout Bay. (Not already a member of Airbnb? Use this link to create an account and save money on your first stay!) However, for those who prefer staying in traditional accommodations, there are many hotels to choose from in – or close to – the city center.
Before You Go
- Cape Town is a walkable city…but only if you have the right shoes! Don’t forget to pack a pair of lightweight and comfortable walking shoes for your trip. I (Sarah) have traveled with these shoes by Columbia, Skechers and Reef. Kris prefers wearing these shoes by Merrell and Sanuk.
- We’re certain you’ll be snapping tons of photos during your trip. Rather than relying on your mobile phone to capture the sights, upgrade to an actual camera for higher quality photos (that can later be beautifully compiled into a travel photo book). We travel with a Canon Rebel (which takes amazing photos, but can be a bit clunky) and a Canon PowerShot ELPH (which takes beautiful pictures, is slim and lightweight – and the new models are wifi enabled so you can share your trip pics to social media in real time!).
- It’s easy to get turned around in any foreign city…and especially Cape Town! Make sure to have a good city map and/or guidebook before arriving.
- We think travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel protected with World Nomads.
More For Your Trip To Cape Town: Read our top tips and detailed guides for Visiting Penguins, Best Cape Town Beaches, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Cape Town Wine Tasting and the Best Cape Town Itinerary!
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