Situated on the bottom tip of Africa, nestled beneath Table Mountain, Cape Town is one of the great cities of the Southern hemisphere and one of my selection of Top Ten Cities for Senior Travellers.
There is enough to see in Cape Town to keep you busy for a week or more, especially if you combine visiting the city with a tour around the Cape Peninsula, as I did.
Although there are ‘hop-on hop-off’ bus services visiting key sites within the city and of course plenty of taxis, it is worth thinking about obtaining a hire car from the airport (as mentioned below), giving you the freedom to travel around the city and peninsula at will.
Keep some flexibility in your programme to take into account closure of the Table Mountain cableway when very windy and also you should try to choose a day to visit when there is no ‘tablecloth’ of cloud blocking the views from the top. More nimble Seniors may decide to walk up, although it’s a tough, long climb whichever of the many routes you take.
When planning your time in Cape Town, also bear in mind that during busy times the Robben Island ferry may need to be booked a few days in advance.
November to February is the busy, hot time in Cape Town and best for beach holidays. However, as a Senior you will probably be more interested in other attractions and in avoiding crowds. I visited in September/October and had plenty of sunshine, with Spring flowers starting to bloom, and no hordes of tourists. March and April can also be good months to visit. Hotel prices are also much cheaper at those off-peak times.
As with any large city you need to be aware of personal safety and take care where you visit, particularly after dark, and avoid wearing expensive watches and jewellery. However neither I nor my wife felt in any way threatened during our visit – except maybe by the baboons when driving around the peninsula!
As mentioned above, there is much to see in Cape Town and the peninsula, with superb scenery and panoramic views from many places. However the five highlights I’ve picked out are, in my opinion, not to be missed on any visit to Cape Town.
- Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Stroll around the wide range of shops, restaurants (over 80) and entertainment venues, whilst taking in the great ocean vistas and mountain views.
- Robben Island. The 3.5 hour tour commences with a ferry ride from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront, with great views looking back towards Cape Town. It is a moving experience being addressed by ex-prisoners and seeing the Nelson Mandela cell.
- Table Mountain. On a clear day the views of Cape Town and the peninsula are quite breathtaking. Good footwear is required when exploring the summit and keep your eyes open for brightly coloured birds and the unique fynbos flora.
- Kirstenbosch Gardens. One of my world Top Ten Gardens, see the earlier post for full details on this UNESCO World Heritage site.
- Cape Peninsula tour. Take a day to travel via Chapman’s Peak Drive down to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point (about 30 miles), hopefully seeing ostriches on the beaches. Return to Cape Town via Simonstown, stopping at Boulder Beach along the way to see the African penguins.
Transport and accommodation
Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly directly from London to Cape Town, although it can be cheaper to have one stop on the way, for example, flying by KLM from a regional UK airport to Schiphol and then directly to Cape Town. And of course, no jet lag!
Car hire went smoothly care of Auto Europe. Although I was told beforehand to take an International Driving Licence, at the airport car hire desk they were only interested in my UK licence. I hired the car for two weeks as after a week in Cape Town, I then drove along the Garden Route, one of my Top Ten Road Journeys(a future page on this website).
There is plenty of good, inexpensive hotel accommodation in Cape Town. I stayed at the Southern Sun Waterfront which is near to an entrance to the V&A Waterfront. It gives a 50% discount for Seniors over 63, although unfortunately only for South African residents! Most of the major chains of hotels are represented in Cape Town, many with Senior discounts obtainable via Hotel Deals for Seniors, for example the Radisson Hotel group.
Don’t be put off by security considerations – just take normal precautions – and I guarantee you will have a great holiday and will add Cape Town to your own list of Top Ten Cities.