Discover Cape Town on your own

Discover Cape Town on your own

In AIDAaura takes us to destinations in South Africa and Namibia in her farewell season. Cape Town, one of the most beautiful and fascinating cities on the African continent, is the start and end point of our 14-day journey. There we have enough time to discover the sights of the metropolis that are important to us.

Visit to the V&A Waterfront

Just a few minutes' well-marked walk separates Cape Town's Cruise Terminal from one of the city's trendiest destinations, the V&A Waterfront. She is our first target. The Waterfront is a historic harbor basin named after the British monarch Victoria and her second eldest son Alfred.

V&A Waterfront - the clock tower

V&A Waterfront - the clock tower

 V&A Waterfront  

The sprawling area is one of the city's best-known and most popular tourist destinations because of the shopping and entertainment district that has grown up around it. The reason: the cozy harbor atmosphere, many unique shops and restaurants. Special attractions for visitors are the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Watershed Market and the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island.

Former trading house on the V&A Waterfront 

Rhino sculpture at the V&A Waterfront 

Two Oceans Aquarium

The Two Oceans Aquarium is home to around 300 species of fish from the Indian and Atlantic Oceans, as well as some species of freshwater fish, in separate tanks. The main attraction is the Open Ocean Tank, populated by sharks and rays.

Two Oceans Aquarium

Watershed Market

The Watershed Market, designed in the style of an old warehouse, is within sight of the aquarium. There, local vendors sell handicrafts and everyday items such as clothing, jewellery, ceramics and more. Adjacent to the "Watershed Market" is the Robinson Dry Dock, the oldest operating dry dock in the world. Its origins date back to 1882.

 Watershed Market

Watershed Market - interior 

Nobel Square

Between the Watershed Market and a neighboring hotel complex lies Nobel Square, lined with deciduous trees. The square, inaugurated at the end of 2005, shows the bronze figures of the four South African Nobel Peace Prize winners: Albert John Luthuli, Desmond Tutu, Frederik Willem de Klerk and Nelson Mandela, placed with their backs to Table Mountain.

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureates of Nobel Square

Boat tours

Visitors start at the waterfront for harbor tours or from the glass building of the "Nelson Mandela Gateway" next to the "Clocktower" to visit the former prison island of Robben Island. Political prisoners were held on Robben Island during apartheid. Today the island is a major historical landmark for South Africa and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The island has special historical significance for the country as Nelson Mandela was imprisoned there for more than two decades. During the day, South African fur seals laze on a concrete surface at the Robben Island jetty.

Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island

The Robben Island Ferry 

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

On the edge of the V&A Waterfront, next to the exclusive Silo Hotel, is the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA). With almost 6.000 square meters of exhibition space, it is the largest museum of contemporary African art in the world.

Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

Zeitz Museum - side view 

Discover Cape Town on your own with the Hop On – Hop Off bus

The inner city area of ​​the metropolis covers an area of ​​400 square kilometers, and the number of sights is dozens times that. During our stay we see the important attractions of the downtown area. A ride on one of the red Hop On – Hop Off buses is useful for this activity. The bus company offers the "Classic Ticket" for 275 Rand, equivalent to 14 euros. The ticket is valid for three different bus lines that can be used for one day. We opt for the “red” tour. It includes the center, the lower cable car station of Table Mountain and the picturesque coastal suburbs. The buses stop at a total of twelve stops.

Cruise ship guests board at the second stop of the red bus line in front of the MOCAA Museum. The Cruise Terminal and the MOCAA are a few minutes' walk apart. Tickets are available online GetYourGuide: Table Mountain Cable Car Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour or available from the bus drivers.

Long Street - our first stop

Cape Town's Long Street has a tradition of more than 300 years. The street has many well-preserved Victorian houses. It is part of the “must do” for tourists. During the day, Long Street is the hub of bric-a-brac, antique dealers, second-hand bookshops and souvenir shops. At night, the street meets Cape Town's party scene.

Buildings on Long Street
Long Street - gift shop

Long Street offers the best access to the city's central attractions at the fifth stop of the Hop On - Hop Off buses. The meeting point for the 90-minute "Free Guided Walking Tours" through the city center is also located near the bus stop at the location of the "City Sightseeing Tour Office". Of course, the guides are happy about a tip at the end of the tour. The bus company will point this out as a precaution.
The tours take place daily and hourly between 10:00am and 15:00pm

Trendy Long Street

We do not need this form of support. We start well prepared for our tour, which takes us over three kilometers to the sights that we consider important.

The Company's Garden

The Company's Garden is located in the center of Cape Town, in the former garden of the Dutch East India Company. Where initially - and again today - vegetables and fruit were grown, a well-kept garden area with shady trees, palm trees and other green plants delights passers-by.

Promenade in The Company's Garden

Lush greenery in The Company's Garden 

There are monuments and works of art in the complex. A monument is dedicated to Cecil Rhodes, the controversial mining magnate (diamonds) and later Prime Minister of the Cape Colony in modern times.

The Company's Garden - Rhodes Monument

The Company's Garden - Rhodes Monument

The Company's Garden - modern art 

The park is also surrounded by representative buildings such as the parliament building, the national library or the Tuynhuys, which serves as the residence of the South African President during longer stays in Cape Town. By the way, Cape Town is one of the three capitals of South Africa as the seat of Parliament.

Houses of Parliament
Houses of Parliament

In the immediate vicinity of the Company's Garden are two important churches: St George's Cathedral and De Groote Kerk.

St George's Cathedral

The place of worship worth seeing is the Cathedral and the seat of the Archbishop of the Anglican Diocese of Cape Town. Built from stone from Table Mountain, the cathedral was completed in 1936. The urn containing the ashes of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was buried in front of the altar of the church at the end of 2021.

St George's Cathedral
St George's Cathedral - Nave
St George's Cathedral - Altar Cross
St George's Cathedral - stained glass window

De Groote Kerk

The neighboring Groote Kerk is much older than St George's Cathedral. The mother house of the Dutch Reformed Church was completed in 1841. It is South Africa's oldest Christian church, as a predecessor church was built on the same site as early as 1678. Worth seeing at the Groote Kerk are the pulpit and the organ. With around 6.000 pipes, it is the largest and oldest church organ in South Africa.

The Great Church
De Groote Kerk - interior
De Groote Kerk - Pulpit
De Groote Kerk - Organ

Iziko Slave Lodge

Between St George's Cathedral and the Groote Kerk is the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum. The current appearance of the building does not suggest that the Slave Lodge is one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town. In fact, at the time of the Dutch East India Company and thereafter up until 1811, hundreds of slaves lived in the facility in appalling conditions. After the abandonment of slavery, the building was converted into a courthouse. It was then used by various administrations before being converted into a museum of South African cultural history. In 1998 it received the designation Iziko Slave Lodge.

Iziko Slave Lodge

 Iziko Slave Lodge

 Iziko Slave Lodge  

Green Market Square

Our path now leads to the Green Market Square. The former vegetable market is a flea market selling textiles and handicrafts. The market and the breakpoint no. 5 of the Long Street Hop On - Hop Off buses are less than 100 meters apart. The square is surrounded by a few Art Deco houses.

Green Market Square

Green Market Square - Old Town House 

The Old Town House standing on the west side of Green Market Square is worth mentioning. For a long time it served as the town hall. The building is currently used as an art history museum. The Methodist Church, built in 1871 next to the Old Town House, is also worth noting.

Grand parade

The next destination is the Grand Parade, probably the most important square in the center of Cape Town. It is surrounded by City Hall, the Castle of Good Hope and the nearby train station. The extensive area of ​​the former military parade ground is mainly used as a parking lot. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, the Grand Parade turns into a flower, vegetable and fabric market.

Grand Parade with City Hall

City Hall

The eye-catcher and landmark of the Grand Parade is the former town hall. The magnificent building against the backdrop of Table Mountain dates from 1905. The architectural style: an extraordinary mixture of British colonial style and Italian Renaissance. City Hall now houses the City Library and a concert hall. The entrance area decorated by four stone columns is interesting. There is a life-size monument of Nelson Mandela. It is dedicated to the former President of South Africa, who addressed City Hall after his release from 27 years of political imprisonment.

 City Hall

City Hall - Statue of Nelson Mandela 

Castle of Good Hope fortress

The Dutch East India Company had the pentagonal fort built between 1666 and 1679. The fort originally served as a supply depot for ships. Later it was the administrative seat of the Cape Colony. The structure has also been used as a military base, prison, museum and venue.

 Castle of Good Hope

Castle of Good Hope 

The fort is described as the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. Today the Castle of Good Hope is a museum. It offers many different exhibitions and activities that illustrate the history and significance of the fort for the region and the country. The fort is still in use by the South African Army, making it one of the oldest active military installations in the world. The daily program includes changing of the guard and guided tours of the site.

After visiting the Castle of Good Hope, we end our tour of Cape Town's historic center at the Hop On – Hop Off bus stop on Long Street, which we already know. The next bus of the "Red Line" is only a few minutes away.

Stopover at Upper Table Mountain

What would Cape Town be without a visit to Table Mountain, the city's landmark? At 1.086 meters high, it offers spectacular views of Cape Town, the peninsula and the sea in good weather. We booked the ascent to Table Mountain with the cable car rotating around its own axis in advance on the internet and hope that we can go up. Meanwhile, our bus driver moves the bus skilfully through the outskirts of Cape Town and then over steeply rising, winding roads to the "Upper Table Mountain" stop at more than 300 meters above sea level. Unfortunately, because of the wind - like the day before on an organized tour to the Cape of Good Hope - we were not granted this unique experience again. We stay on the bus and enjoy the panoramic view of Cape Town and Lions Head, which adjoins Table Mountain.

Ascent to Table Mountain cable car station
Station Upper Table Mountain
Cape Town - Panorama
Cape Town - Lions Head

Stopover at Camps Bay

The next destination of the bus is Camps Bay. The suburb below the chain of hills of the "Twelve Apostles" offers beautiful, well-kept residential areas, hotel complexes such as The Bay Hotel, bars, cafes, restaurants and shops. It's all because of the turquoise sea and long, inviting beaches. As far as the "Twelve Apostles" are concerned, it appears that the naming was not properly counted. In reality there are 18 surveys.

Camps Bay - Mountain Range of the Twelve Apostles

Camps Bay is rumored to be the meeting place for water sports enthusiasts, Cape Town's jeunesse dorée and tourists from all over the world.

View of Camps Bay
Camps Bay - waterfront promenade
Camps Bay - Hill Range of the Twelve Apostles
Camps Bay - Art Installation on Main Beach
Camps Bay - Main Beach
Camps Bay - Main Beach
Camps Bay - Main Beach
Camps Bay - ceremonial armchairs on Main Beach

Breaking the bus journey at Camps Bay is highly recommended. Keep your eyes open as you continue your journey. Camps Bay stop is followed by the suburbs of Clifton and Sea Point with similarly beautiful residential areas and with a fantastic view of Signal Hill.

Clifton - Houses on the waterfront
Sea point
Signal Hill

Sea Point is followed by Green Point with the distinctive red and white striped lighthouse at Mouille Point. A first signal tower was erected in April 1824. Since the tower was in danger of collapsing as a result of the towers, it was further developed in 1863 to its present form. The platform, which is 16 meters high, is open to visitors.

The Winchester in the Sea Point district

The Winchester in the Sea Point district

 Lighthouse at Mouille Point 

After Green Point, the Cape Town Stadium (currently: DHL Stadium) comes into view. The 55.500-seat arena was built for the 2010 World Cup. After that, the view of the V&A Waterfront opens up.

 DHL Stadium

There we disembark to soak up the atmosphere of the neighborhood one last time before preparing for the flight back to London Heathrow.

V&A Waterfront

The lazybones of the V&A Waterfront 

Two final remarks

In case it is of interest: We completed the program of visits without a break in a good six and a half hours. If there had been a cable car ride up Table Mountain, the trip would have taken at least eight hours.

On public safety: Generally speaking, the major cities in South Africa are described as unsafe. This goes so far that on board the AIDAaura a so-called premium lecturer spreads stories about raids on ship guests. At best, we take this as precautionary information. At least a feeling of insecurity was awakened in us and other fellow travelers. The impressions we gained in Cape Town did not give the impression of a lack of safety anywhere. The city is a lively metropolis. In our opinion, the security situation is no different than in Berlin, London or New York.

April 2023

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