Cape Town in South Africa is crammed with things to do and home to stunning scenery, natural wildlife, winelands, culture and cuisine. Here’s how to spend an incredible 4 days on this epic Cape Town itinerary.
If you’re planning a trip to Cape Town and are keen to see the city’s highlights and nearby hotspots read on for my itinerary. You’ll find all the top sights with tips on how to get the best out of your stay in the city including where to stay and how to get around.
We’re just back from beautiful Cape Town, located on the southwest coast at the tip of Africa. The Mother City has been on my wish list for a long time. The reasons for the city’s appeal are plenty, and we loaded our four day Cape Town itinerary with stunning Table Mountain and coastal views, wine tours, wildlife, scenic drives, the great outdoors, culture, cuisine and more.
You can’t go far wrong with Cape Town. This beautiful city has an incredible vibe and is an excellent option for travellers of all ages and interests, plus, there are things to do to suit any budget. With a vast array of cultures, languages, and religions influencing everything from the food to the art in Cape Town, there’s plenty to see and do.
The city blends the colour and history of Indigenous African, English, Dutch, Malay, Portuguese, German and dozens of other cultures into its food, and language. Beyond that, the natural wildlife and wilderness of the African continent are just a ride away from the luxury and accessibility of the city.
Cape Town itinerary overview
- Day 1: Table Mountain, Bo-Kaap, V&A Waterfront, Boat Trip
- Day 2: Cape Winelands – Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Paarl
- Day 3: Cape Peninsular – Chapmans Peak Drive, Cape Point, Boulder’s Beach
- Day 4: Lion’s Head Hike, Camps Bay, Kirstenbosch or Robben Island
How long to spend in Cape Town?
Our four days in Cape Town concluded our South Africa trip and we felt that was the ideal amount of time to end our two weeks in the country. Four days gave us enough time to enjoy the must-see sights, scenery and soak up the culture.
You could stay a week or more and not run out of things to do but I wouldn’t recommend less than four days, especially if it’s your first visit.
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When is the best time to visit beautiful Cape Town?
The Mother City has a relatively temperate climate which means that sightseeing in Cape Town is a year-round activity. Most visitors prefer to visit during the southern hemisphere’s summer season, which is December to February.
February tends to be the hottest month, with the warmest days hitting over 30 °C. We were there towards the end of November and had beautiful warm weather throughout.
The summer heat gives the city a laid back holiday atmosphere and the city is buzzing. The beaches are busy, the sun is warm, and the long drives around the peninsula beckon.
If you prefer a quieter break you might want to consider taking a holiday to Cape Town slightly outside the peak season. The weather in October is still agreeable most days, and you may benefit from slightly lower prices and less crowds the further away from peak season you visit.
Several Cape Town attractions aren’t dependent on hot weather and, for perspective, many of Cape Town’s winter days are warmer than London’s summer days.
How to get to Cape Town
Cape Town is South Africa’s second most accessible city. Most international airlines fly there directly from their national hubs. If they don’t, they will most certainly fly to Johannesburg. From there, it’s a simple connecting flight and two hours later, you’ll be in the Mother City.
We used British Airways who offer direct flights. Otherwise, all the other major European airlines, including KLM or Lufthansa, will provide routes via connecting destinations. Emirates, Turkish Airlines, and Qatar Airlines are also good options. But, they will fly in via their respective hubs, adding at least six to eight hours or more on your journey from Europe.
It is possible to drive from Johannesburg if you have loads of time to spare. You’ll need to set aside three to five days for that road trip.
For our South Africa itinerary we flew into Johannesburg. We then took an internal flight to Skukoza for a 4-day safari at Inyati Lodge in Sabi Sands Reserve which borders Kruger National Park. After flying back to Jo’burg we took car transfer to Pretoria and then a 4-day luxury train journey with Rovos Rail directly to Cape Town.
Getting to Cape Town city centre from the Airport
Assuming you will be staying in or near the city centre, there are several options for getting to the city from the airport. For R90, you can purchase a ticket on the city-run MyCiti bus shuttle. This bus runs directly from the airport to its main terminus in the city at the Civic Centre.
From here, you can connect to another route or link to a ride service like Uber or a taxi to get to your accommodation more directly. Taxis and Uber also operate from a specific area in the airport. They will typically cost more than the airport shuttle — usually around double for the same distance.
A taxi costs a fair bit more than Uber. Our Uber back to the airport cost ZAR 186 for the 20km journey from our AC Marriot Hotel on the V&A Waterfront.
Tip: If you plan to use the MyCiti service regularly for your sightseeing it’s worth looking into a multi-day or monthly pass. A monthly access card allows unlimited travel for a month for about R930.
You could arrange a private transfer from the airport with your accommodation. Some hotels offer this service as a free extra although most will charge.
Getting around Cape Town sights and attractions
Cape Town isn’t a walkable city and its tourist attractions are fairly spread out but the city does offer several options for getting around.
Private cab services like Uber and Bolt are fully operational and can easily be accessed via the app and they are good value. We relied on Uber, tours and the hotel shuttle bus and water taxi.
Another option is to use the MyCiti mentioned above if they provide the route you need.
Tip: As in many major cities, Cape Town offers a money-saving city pass card. The Cape Town City Pass offers access to a number of attractions and includes the hop-on hop-off bus. Various packages are available, ranging from budget to multi-day premium.
If you’re planning on seeing several Cape Town sights in one day, you may also want to consider hop-on hop-off bus which covers all the top Cape Town attractions including Table Mountain. The open-top bus provides and excellent general sightseeing option.
Where to stay in Cape Town
We stayed at AC Hotel by Marriot Cape Town Waterfront and we were very happy with our choice. Great room, food and lovely people. Below are some more accommodation options based on budget.
Several top-class boutique hotels are on offer in city centre. The O’Two Hotel is just 200m from the Mouille Point Beach, close to the Waterfront, and within easy access to Sea Point and Greenpoint. If you’ve got cash to splash then The One&Only Cape Town sits on the V&A Waterfront and super cool Silo is close by.
For a medium budget, consider an apartment rental like this luxurious 16 on Bree Studio Apartment. Bree Street is fast becoming the very heart of the Central Business District (CBD) with a good choice of restaurants and bars nearby.
Hostels in the city bowl are well-priced for backpackers and budget travellers. A Sunflower Stop Backpackers is located in Greenpoint just north of the CBD. Along with saving some money, you have access to the pool and other standard facilities.
Looking for a hotel in Cape Town? Check hotel rates and availability
So, now that I’ve covered the useful information I guess you’d like to know how to spend four days in Cape Town?
What to do in Cape Town – the itinerary
This four day itinerary is based on the best places to visit in Cape Town for first timers and includes one full day trip to the Cape Winelands and another to the Cape Peninsular.
I’ve covered the city’s most popular attractions even if we didn’t manage to get there ourselves. You can be sure they’re bookmarked for our next visit.
Itinerary – Day 1: Cape Town and Table Mountain
Day one is ideal for getting to know the city and some of its highlights. Cape Town central is well worth exploring and also provides great backup options if you’ve got spare time after any tours.
Head up Table Mountain (weather dependent)
Table Mountain is a beautiful backdrop to the city so it’s only right that it should be at the top of your Cape Town must-see list. But be aware that a visit to the peak is entirely weather dependent.
If the weather isn’t playing along on the day, push it out to the next day or another day on your itinerary. A good reason for scheduling Table Mountain early in your trip.
There are two ways to get up the mountain. You can hike up or use the cable car.
We took the cable car. Pre-booking your tickets is essential. We bought skip-the-line tickets on-line the previous day after checking the weather forecast. Tickets are valid for seven days. Visit first thing in the morning, we went at 08:30 am.
You can check the visibility at the top and book your tickets on the Table Mountain official website.
You’ll see two queues when you arrive. One very long queue and a short one – if you’ve booked skip-the-line tickets you’ll have saved yourself at least a 45-minute wait.
The weather is very changeable. As we rode up the cable car the weather was glorious but not long after we reached the viewpoint grey cloud, known as the ‘tablecloth’, swiftly obscured the view. It stayed there for the rest of our time on the mountain but the views when we first got there were absolutely stunning.
It can get incredibly hot in summer and can also get cold if the weather turns. I needed my fleece. Keep in mind the times of the last car down. There’s a café, shop and toilets in the visitor centre.
Check out colourful Bo-Kaap
For a unique cultural experience, Bo-Kaap, or Malay quarter as it was once known, offers colourful houses in the historically preserved Cape Malay area. Most people drop by Bo-Kaap to snap the rainbow coloured houses for their Instagram. It’s said that Chiappini Street is the most photographed in the city.
Bo-Kaap’s history is as colourful as its houses and has been home to Cape Town’s Muslim population since the 18th century. Today, this historic Cape Malay community serves as a cultural gallery.
Tiny Bo-Kaap Museum in Wale Street is worth a visit to give context to this Cape Malay community and its history. Original settlers to Bo-Kaap were enslaved Malay Muslims and the museum shows what a Cape Malay 19th century home would have been like.
Sadly, today the residents of Bo-Kaap are fighting against gentrification, development and the loss of the area’s identity.
If you want to learn more about the area try some Cape Malaysian cuisine for lunch. It’s influenced by Eastern spices which can be picked up at local spice outlets or the Eastern Food Bazaar. Harvest Café, Atlas Trading Co and Rose Corner Café will give you a taste of Bo-Kaap too.
It’s one of the most photographic sights in Cape Town, and is included on this full day tour of Cape Town’s most Instagramable attractions. Check rates and availability.
Visit the V&A Waterfront
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is South Africa’s oldest harbour and probably the buzziest as it attracts over 23 million visitor every year.
You’ll get excellent views of Cape Town’s most famous landmark, Table Mountain from the Waterfront. There are even a couple of frames for photo opportunities. There’s a shopping mall, loads of restaurants, bars and cafes if you want to shop, eat or people watch. The Food Hall is definitely worth visiting.
But some of the best things to do at V&A Waterfront involve getting out on the water. You’ll have time for one of these tours on day one of your Cape Town itinerary.
Take a Wildlife Marine Boat Tour. If you’re into wildlife spotting then hop on this wildlife cruise that departs from the V&A Waterfront. This Ocean Safari offers the chance to see whales, dolphins, penguins and seals. The winter months, May to November, are the best times for sightings although whales can be seen at any time of year. Check rates and availability.
Two Oceans Aquarium is a huge aquarium on the Waterfront. It’s called ‘Two Oceans’ because the Cape area is where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. Book skip-the-line tickets and avoid waiting in line during the high season.
For the evening explore the V&A Waterfront and choose a restaurant for dinner.
Our hotel, AC Hotel by Marriot Cape Town Waterfront was close to the V&A and accessible by free water shuttle during the day. In the evening we booked Ubers.
Cape Town Itinerary – Day 2: The Cape Winelands
On day two we’re heading out into the famous Cape Winelands for a full-day wine tour in Stellenbosch, Franschhoek, and Paarl on the Western Cape. As well as incredible natural beauty, wildlife and heritage South Africa is home to exceptional wines.
We were hosted on this full-day tour with Original Travel who will organise an incredible Cape Town holiday for you.
Our private full-day guided Cape Winelands tour gave us an excellent overview of the three central regions for wine production: Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl, with wine tastings and food pairings at a winery in each region. Armed with an adventurous spirit we set off.
Our guide and driver Jacky, picked us up from our hotel and we headed to the pretty Zevenwacht Wine Estate just outside Stellenbosch, the second-oldest town in South Africa.
After a short cellar tour we tasted two white wines, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Chenin Blanc followed by two reds; a Pinotage and a Syrah. The wines were paired with four different cheeses which we enjoyed on the wine farm’s shady veranda.
Stellenbosch is a very pretty university town with a young vibe paired with Dutch Colonial history. We had an hour to explore and discovered a raft of Cape Dutch architecture, white clapboard churches and leafy oak tree-lined streets. The charming town has a good choice of restaurants, cute cafes, galleries, boutiques and a chilled Sunday vibe.
The town is surrounded by mile upon mile of lush vineyards and the scenery is absolutely stunning.
Our next stop was to be Franschhoek but Jacky had spotted that I like to take a photo or four and made a detour off the Stellenbosch Road to the Delaire Graff wine estate. The views of the vines with the mountain backdrop are out of this world. I’ve added a hotel stay here to my wish list but I won’t hold my breath!
Onwards to Franschhoek which is an historic French Huguenot settlement. In Dutch Franschhoek literally means French Corner and evidence of the original settlers can still be seen today with many French names on shops and restaurants. It’s a good spot for lunch.
A must-do in the town is the Franschhoek Wine Tram. This unique vintage-style tram travels through the breath-taking scenery of this beautiful valley with stops at various vineyards for tastings. We paired two whites and two reds with wonderful views at Rickety Bridge boutique vineyard.
En-route to our final wine farm we stopped outside Drakenstein prison where Nelson Mandela spent the last three years of his captivity. The prison is now a low-security correctional centre but it’s worth stopping outside to see the statue of Mandela which was unveiled in his presence on his 90th birthday in 2008. I’d like to know how he felt about going back.
Our final wine tasting of the day was just outside the town of Paarl, the gateway to South Africa’s interior and another early European settlement in the Cape Winelands. It’s also where the Afrikaans language was developed,
Marianne Wine Estate sits in a beautiful valley and offers French-style wines with an African vibe. We tasted a white, rose and three reds on the veranda overlooking the vineyard. The red wines were paired with three premium cuts of biltong. If you’re wondering what biltong is, it’s a cured, dry meat similar to jerky and is very popular in Africa.
The wines were good at all three wine farms and there’s an opportunity at each to buy direct from them at a competitive price and get them shipped home.
If you enjoy wine tasting and vineyards then check out my post about the Sudsteiermark wine road in Austria
Cape Town Itinerary – Day 3: Cape Peninsular Road Trip
It’s time to explore the Cape Peninsular, Cape Point Nature Reserve and Boulder’s Beach on a scenic drive from Cape Town on this day itinerary. Be prepared for wild, rugged beauty, white sand beaches, the bluest of blues and more wildlife than you’d expect.
It’s worth hiring a car for this scenic drive but if there’s no driver in your group then this Peninsular and Table Mountain tour is an excellent way to visit this beautiful part of Cape Town.
From Cape Town head out on the M6 and drive along the Atlantic coast to Camps Bay and stop above Maiden’s Cove for stunning views of the ocean with the 12 Apostles mountain range in the background. If you want a day at the beach then this is a good spot but that’s for another day.
Chapman’s Peak Drive
From Camps Bay drive over the pass and continue down the west coast of the peninsular to Chapman’s Peak Drive which is regarded as one of the most spectacular coastal drives in the world. I wouldn’t disagree. The 9 km (5.59-miles) long road runs north to south between Hout Bay and Noordhoek.
The winding road clings to the mountain and around each of the 114 bends you’re greeted with a new incredible view. The coastline is beautiful and the road offers plenty of parking and pull-in spots to stop and admire the stunning views, rugged rock formations and beautifully white sands.
The drive takes around 35 minutes discounting photo stops and there is a toll which varies according to vehicle type. The speed limit is 40 km/h but who’d want to hurry?
Tip: You’ll find this amazing view at Noordhoek overlooking Chapman Bay.
Crossing the peninsular we come to Cape Point Nature Reserve which includes the Cape of Good Hope both of which are part of the Table Mountain National Park.
The reserve offers hiking trails, beaches and wildlife. Apparently, there are troops of baboons but we didn’t see any. However, we did see a mountain zebra, ostrich and an oryx so we weren’t disappointed!
If you thought the views were good on Chapmans Peak Drive then head to the lighthouse and look out over the tumultuous Atlantic ocean. You’ll realise why many felt this was a treacherous passage to sail back in the day.
You can take the Flying Dutchman funicular to the lighthouse although it wasn’t running when we visited. The 15-minute walk up to the top isn’t bad and you’ll get more viewpoints and save a few Rand.
Entrance fees for Cape Point are R376 for adults and R188 for children and it’s well worth the small cost. There’s a small visitor centre, restaurant and toilets on site.
You might want to check whether the Wild Card is worthwhile for the number of national parks you want to visit during your Cape Town trip.
Cape of Good Hope
This is one of Cape Town’s natural wonders, even if it’s not the southernmost point of Africa. You’ll find that 95-miles east at Cape Agulhas where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.
The Cape of Good Hope is at the tip of Cape Point and it’s worth dropping down to the beach for the Cape of Good Hope photo op. The Atlantic whips up a chilly breeze so take something warm to wear.
Visit the Penguin Colony at Boulder’s Beach
Located south of historic Simon’s Town, you’ll find Boulders Beach, home to Cape Town’s colony of African penguins. The penguins didn’t always hang out on the beach. In 1982 two breeding pairs were washed ashore and they stayed. The colony now numbers over 2,200 birds.
Unfortunately, the penguins are listed as endangered and the beach is included in the Table Mountain Protected Area. So, pay your entrance fee and know that part of the cost will go towards helping these cute little waddlers.
Boardwalks lead down to the beach which make access to the beach easy for visitors and help protect the penguins. Although they look very cute remember these are wild birds – heed the signs and don’t try to touch them. They peck.
We finished up with dinner at Saveur Restaurant in Simon’s Town before heading back to Cape Town.
If you like scenic road trips check out these five South Western USA road trips.
Cape Town Itinerary – Day 4: More Highlights
Day four of this Cape Town Itinerary includes a selection of highlights to suit a variety of interests so there’ll be one or two activities to nicely round of your visit to the Mother City.
Hike Lion’s Head
If hiking up Table Mountain seems too much then, hike nearby Lion’s Head. It’s a short 5km (3-mile) moderate hike up the hill which overlooks the Western seaboard. You’ll get wonderful 360 degree views, it takes half the effort and it’s free. A round trip should take around 2-3 hours, depending on fitness levels and pace.
Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela, political prisoners and criminals, were held by the South African government during the Apartheid regime.
The ferry departs from V&A Waterfront to the island where you can pay a visit to the prison cell Mandela was held in before going on to become the first Black president of South Africa.
Nowadays, the museum and tours are partly run by historians and former prisoners who give personal accounts of their experiences during incarceration.
The ferry and the Robben Island tour take between 4-5 hours. If visiting Robben Island is high on your Cape Town list then you’ll need to book ahead. Tickets often sell out days and weeks in advance so plan early. It’s worth noting that ferries are dependent on weather conditions.
Head out to Camps Bay, one of the best beaches in Cape Town, for a beach day and swim in the tidal pools. It’s not far out of town and the beach is lined with bars and restaurants. You can get there on the hop-on hop-off bus, both the red and blue city tour routes stop there.
Explore Groot Constantia Wine Route
If you’d rather not take a whole day out of your time in Cape Town to explore the vineyards then this is a good alternative.
A little way out of the city (doable by Uber) will bring you to Groot Constantia, the oldest established wine farm in South Africa. This wine farm was established in 1685 by the then-governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel.
You’ll find excellent Cape wines on offer as the winery continues to produce an impressive range of red and white wine offerings. Also notable is the period Cape Dutch architecture, offering a little insight into the life and times of the early Dutch settlers.
Take the cellar tour, taste the wines, and then take advantage of the excellent food available at the on-site restaurant, Jonkershuis. The restaurant is casual and easy and the food, with Cape Malay influences, is beautifully presented.
Constantia Valley can be reached on the hop-on hop-off bus (Purple Route)
Take a stroll or hire a bike and head out along Seapoint Promenade and the urban park around Cape Town Stadium.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens were founded in 1913 to preserve the flora and fauna of the region.
There are various themed gardens to explore with some popular sights including the Boomslang Aerial Walkway and Skeleton Gorge which has an impressive waterfall in the Spring months.
You’ll also find some restaurants and gift shop as well as an education and research centre.
Every Sunday from November until April, the Kirstenbosch hosts summer concerts from 5.30 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. on the garden lawns. Prices vary depending on the event.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is a stop on the hop-on hop-off bus (Purple Route)
If you want to do something adventurous you’ll remember forever then book a helicopter flight over Cape Town or parascend from Lion’s Head.
If you love a city break then check out these top city break guides and itineraries.
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Tips for Visiting Cape Town
There will always be niggling questions for those visiting Cape Town or South Africa for the first time. Hopefully, these tips will answer some of those questions.
Is Cape Town safe for tourists?
Like any major city you’ll need to be sensible. As with most tourist cities, crime happens everywhere you go, and it pays to be savvy no matter where you are.
When walking around, be aware of your surroundings, and don’t display your valuables. Keep wallets and money in a zipped bag to avoid pickpockets.
We were advised not to walk around the city after 5pm by hotel staff and we used Ubers in the evenings. We never felt threatened and Cape Town is definitely a city we’d return to.
What to pack for Cape Town
When packing for Cape Town there are a few thing sto bear in mind. As well as any usual gear, pack a comfortable pair of walking shoes. You’ll be doing a lot of walking in and around Cape Town. Bo Kaap, for example, has a few hilly sections you may have to walk.
If you’re hiking to Table Mountain or Lion’s Head bring boots or walking shoes with a grip.
Pack some beach gear. There are plenty of beaches and pools everywhere, and lots of sunshine. Don’t forget your reef safe sunscreen and flip flops.
You’ll need need something warm for Cape Town – the Atlantic can really whip up a chilly breeze and weather is changeable.
The tap water in Cape Town is perfectly drinkable. Be eco-friendly and take a reusable flask.
You’ll need a South Africa travel adaptor plug so you can charge all your devices.
Final Thoughts on a 4-day Itinerary for Cape Town
This four-day Cape Town itinerary only scratches the surface of the endless possibilities it holds. You can mix and match these activities according to your interests. I hope it’s given you a feel for this beautiful city, its culture, winelands and natural beauty.
Disclaimer: Many thanks to Original Travel who hosted our full-day wine tour. All views and opinions and love of a good Sauvy Blanc are entirely my own.