Cape Town (Afrikaans and Dutch: Kaapstad), county town of Western Cape Province, is situated in one of the most beautiful bays in the world. 70 km from The Cape of Good Hope. It is, geographically, one of the most isolated capital cities in the world. The city, dominated by Table Mountain, a 1000 metre high flat top mountain, is set in the middle of a region rich in mountain paths, vineyards and warm beaches.
Founded in 1652 by Jan Van Riebeek, who was appointed by the Dutch East India Company to establish a landing and refuelling area for passing ships. The city remained under Dutch control until 1806, when it was handed over to Great Britain. Until the 19th century and the construction of The Suez Canal, Cape Town was an important refuelling centre for those ships rounding The Cape of Good Hope. From 1910 until 1961, the city was the legislative capital of the South African Union. It is the capital city of the Western Cape. Pretoria is officially the nation's capital.
At first glance Cape Town can seem remarkably small. The centre is situated to the north of Table Mountain and to the east of Signal Hill and the old city districts are all within walking distance. The entire zone lies in within a basin, its borders being defined by the steep sides of the mountain. The main residential districts, inhabited by white people, stretch from the North-East to the South of the city, while the black residents, mainly live in The Townships, which are located in the barren and sandy plains to the east. The spectacular Cape Of Good Hope is located 70 km south of the city centre. The Cape’s wonderful local flora is protected by The Cape Of Good Hope Nature Reserve.
Hotels and lodgingEditAlthough the Mount Nelson is the Grande Old Dame of Cape accommodation and features colonial elegance in scenic surroundings at the foot of Table Mountain, the luxury hotel Cape Grace has on occasion been awarded "Best Hotel in the World" status and remains a firm favorite with visitors to Cape Town. There is also the very popular and upmarket Southern Sun Cape Sun (located in the City center), as well as the nearby Victoria & Alfred Hotel at the V&A Waterfront and the Cape Town Lodge. A more economical alternative is the centrally located Park Inn Greenmarket Square, which is adjacent to the oldest hotel in Cape Town, the Tudor . The relatively new ArabellaSheraton Grand Hotel offers easy access to the CBD as well as surrounding regions and is situated at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC). For smaller conference facilities in tranquil, historic surroundings, the Groot Constantia Estate is highly recommended, albeit a bit distant.
The city centre(city bowl) is small and therefore possible to visit on foot. Start from “The Castle,” the oldest building in the city and continue on to the impressive council building, taking in: The Grote Kerk (The Dutch Protestant Mother Church), Green Market Square, The Cultural History Museum, The Parliament Building and The South African Museum. The most widespread architectural style is “Cape Dutch”, even though it doesn’t have any direct links with the true Dutch style, it is possible to notice some shared characteristics.
A visit to Cape Town would not be complete without a trip to Table Mountain. This massive block, consisting of horizontal layers of sandstone, dominates the city. The summit is easily reachable by cable-car, or the more ambitious, can scale the mountain on foot. The Botanical Gardens are situated on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. In order to arrive at Table Mountain cable-car station or The Waterfront, catch the bus that leaves from either in front of OK Bazaar in Adderley Street, or from Seapoint, near the Hard Rock Café.
The Gardens, open to the public all week, cover an area of 560 acres, and illustrate the region’s flora at its best. The South Africa Museum is the oldest and most interesting museum in South Africa. It houses realistic reconstructions of there communal life of the ancient San people, constructed using plaster casts of actual people taken in 1911. Additional displays include objects belonging to other indigenous cultures.T he Museum is open every day, from 10am to 5pm. The Castle Of Good Hope was built between 1666 and 1679, close to the site where originally an old fort with mud walls had stood. Its impressive 10 metre-high walls have never had to fend off an attack. Even today it hosts the Headquarters of the military command, but visitors are more than welcome. The Castle contains two museums which display furniture and paintings depicting Cape Town’s past.
Shop lovers should visit Cavendish Mall at the end of Protea Road, the most elegant shopping centre in the city. Long Street is bustling with shops and Green Market Square hosts a thriving flea market, with stalls offering local arts and crafts. Handicrafts can be bought from African Image (Church Street), Out Of Africa (Church Street) and Peluzu (70, St Georges Mall). Muandi Textiles (90 Station Street) sells printed cloth and material, while Evlyn Kubukeli(190 LowerMain Road) is the place to go for those wishing to buy traditional medicinal products. The Cape produces fine quality wines, to ship a case home try Vaughan Johnson’s wine shop on the Waterfront.
Maps and transportationEdit
Getting to Cape TownEdit
Exploring Cape TownEdit
The public transport system is not very well developed. There is a bus terminal at Grand Parade, an old military parade ground at the side of the Castle Of Good Hope, where it is possible to find mini-buses, which provide a cheap taxi service.
Practical information and resourcesEdit
- Currency: South African Rand Electric supply: 220-230 volts, necessitates the use of an adaptor
- Climate: Mediterranean. In Summer (Dec-Mar) varies from 20-28 °C, in Winter (Jun-Aug) from 7- 18 °C
- Language: Afikaans, English, Zulu, Shoni
- Opening hours: The banks are open Monday to Friday,from 9am to 5.30pm. The shops from 8 am to 5pm and on Saturday, from 8am to 1pm, shopping centres until 9pm
- Telephones: The public telephones, in the post office function 24 hours a day. There are also many private telephone centres, where it is possible to phone and send faxes.
- The Green Dolphin is a busy restaurant, that offers live jazz music in the evenings.
- The Mussel-Craker Oyster Bar, offers fine fish based meals.
- One of the cheaper proposals is the Ferryman’s Tavern, where it is possible to eat a light meal accompanied by a range of recently brewed beers.
- The Spur chain of restaurants offer quality tex-mex meals at very reasonable prices.
Cape Town is perhaps the safest city in South Africa, however it is advisable not to wander the streets after dusk, to avoid isolated areas and where possible to stay within a group. The best and most secure place for those who like the night-life, is The Waterfront, a promenade full of atmosphere with restaurants, bars and clubs offering live music.
An alternative choice could be an evening of classical music in The Nico Malan Complex. Situated on the coast, it hosts classical dance shows, operas and traditional theatre plays, at prices much lower than those in Europe.
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