South Africa’s Mother City has a lot to offer budget-conscious tourists. Make the most of your Cape Town visit by exploring the following 50 things to see or do for R50 or less – or even for free!
1. Explore Cape Town’s Townships
Taste your way through Langa and Khayelitsha, where a mix of traditional and western food can be found. The Department of Coffee is the first artisan coffee shop in Khayelitsha and has become an institution with visitors. The Spinach King, situated just around the corner from Khayelitsha station, sells delicious spinach bread, muffins and sandwiches made from locally grown spinach. In Langa, Fanie’s Place is the perfect spot to drop in for a couple of drinks before dinner at one of the restaurants in the area.
A favourite stop among tourists is the Khayelitsha Craft Market. Here visitors will find a selection of pottery, beadwork, baskets, paintings, curios, and other handcrafted items made of everything from plastic shopping bags, soft drink cans, wire, stone, scrap metal, and traditional beadwork. The market displays the voice which this impoverished community has found through art. Visitors can also grab a bite to eat, with vendors selling traditional food at the market.
2. Take a Train Trip along the Southern Line Rail Route
Cost: R35 for the hop-on, hop-off ticket
The Southern Line Rail Route stretches between Cape Town and Simon’s Town. Besides it being a great way of getting from A to B, it’s also a relaxing way of seeing Cape Town’s varied scenes. The part of the journey between Muizenberg and Simon’s Town winds along the edge of the ocean and the views are brilliant. Buy the hop-on, hop-off ticket and stop at Muizenberg for a surf; Kalky’s in Kalk Bay for some mouth-watering fish and chips; and Simonstown for a trip to Boulders Beach for a visit with the penguins (this visit to the penguins will cost extra).
More Info: Cape Town Train Times
3. Go Wild at Rondevlei Nature Reserve
Cost: R12 entry for adults and R6 for kids
Rondevlei is an unexpected treasure situated within the Cape Town suburb of Grassy Park, about 20 min drive from the city centre. Home to some 256 species of indigenous plants, it spans 290 hectares and has a museum, a network of footpaths, viewing towers, and several bird hides. It is also home to – wait for it – Hippopotami as well as 20 other mammal species, including the Cape Grysbok Porcupine, Cape Clawless Otter and Large-Spotted Genet. And recently, a herd of Eland was released into the reserve. It makes for a really great family outing. Don’t forget to pack your picnic.
4. Take a Guided Tour of the Slangkoppunt Lighthouse
Cost: R16 for a guided tour
The bright white Slangkoppunt (Snake Head Point) Lighthouse, situated on the coast in the South Peninsula, is the tallest cast iron lighthouse in South Africa. The internal spiral staircase you will climb during the guided tour takes you up 100 feet from the bottom to the balcony. If the idea of climbing up all those steps gets you a bit nervous, rest assured that the views from the top are entirely worth it. The tour will leave you with all sorts of interesting facts including the reason for South Africa being one of the few remaining places to retain actual Light House Keepers.
5. Get back to Nature at Newlands Forest
Cost: Free entry into the forest; R25 for adults and R15 for children to enter the braai area
Newlands Forest forms part of the Table Mountain National Park and is a great escape from the busy city surrounds. There’s the option of exploring the quiet pathways to find your own spot and set picnic or cook up a storm at the designated braai (barbeque) area. There is also some great hiking to be done if you follow one of the trails up towards Table Mountain. Always tell someone where you’re going, and never hike alone. Read more safety tips.
6. Have a Braai at Maiden’s Cove Beach
A beautiful scenic lookout point, tucked between Glen Beach and Clifton Beach, is Maiden’s Cove. With vistas of Table Mountain, Camps Bay, and the exquisite Atlantic Ocean, Maiden’s Cove is the perfect spot for a day out with fantastic views. In spring, pods of whales and dolphins can also be spotted from this scenic beach. Splash around in a tidal pool, sunbathe, and be merry.
7. Cool-down with a scoop of Creamery Ice-Cream
Cost: R34 per scoop
The Creamery is a local company and all the ice-cream is made with organic, locally sourced products. Some of the amazing flavours include sweet cream, toasted coconut, cookie dough, sea salt caramel and so much more!
8. Take a Stroll through the Company’s Garden
Cost: Free to visit
The Company’s Garden is situated right in the city centre of Cape Town. It was planted by the Dutch East India Company in 1652 to produce fresh fruit and vegetables for the ships that were sailing along the spice trade route between Europe and the East Indies, via Cape Town. Today it is home to the oldest cultivated pear tree in South Africa, said to have been planted in 1652; a rose garden built in 1929; an aviary with a variety of birds and many other interesting landmarks. It’s also well-known for the resident and perpetually hungry squirrels, so take along some peanuts to feed to them. What’s more, the garden offers free WiFi.
9. Take a Tour of Muizenberg with Voicemap
Download the VoiceMap App – Muizenberg like a Local that will take you on a tour round the streets of Muizenberg and help you see it through the eyes of a local.
10. Take a Self-Guided Historical Walk through the V&A Waterfront
Cost: Free – just grab a map and go!
The V&A Waterfront, situated at the heart of Cape Town’s working harbour, has a rich and varied history that can be traced back as far as 1654. A great way to discover the stories of this iconic site’s past and its’ 22 landmarks is to do a self-guided historic walk. Simply grab a map at the Information Centre and off you go. And if you get hungry or thirsty along the way, there are plenty of food and drink places to choose from. A stop at The Creamery at the V&A Food Market for a scoop of their handmade peanut butter ice-cream is a must!
11. Dim-Sum at the Earth Fair Market
The latest food craze in Cape Town? Dim sum! And one of the best selections that you can get is from Silk Road at the Earth Fair Market every Thursday in the CBD. For R50, you get a combo of various types of dim sum and it’s very filling! Silk Road can also be found at the Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock on a Saturday and at other markets around the city.
12. Visit the Scratch Patch
Cost: From R22 per bag
Did you know that almost half of the world’s gemstones can be found in South Africa? Did you know that you could scratch for these gems yourself right here in Cape Town? The Scratch Patch and Mineral World at both the V&A Waterfront and in Simonstown is a cool way to dig for your own beautiful gems. You get to emerge yourself in all the stones that quite literally cover the floor, then visit the gem exhibitions and shops afterwards.
13. Sweeten Up at Honest Chocolate
Cost: Almost everything on the menu here is under R50
This Wale Street-based coffee and chocolate shop is where you can get handmade chocolate made from raw ingredients and organic Ecudorian cacao with no preservatives or artificial flavouring. It’s also dairy free. You can grab a good cup of coffee with a delectable slice of cake (gluten-free also available) or purchase some of the delicious chocolate products. Try the banana bread bunny chow – a banana bread mini loaf filled with macadamia chocolate spread and ice cream for R48. Click here for more information.
14. Skate along the Sea Point Promenade on Mondays
This weekly event starts at Queens Beach Parking lot (the last parking lot along the Promenade before you get to Bantry Bay) at 6 pm every Monday night and is a fun way to explore the Sea Point Promenade. You will need something that skates – skateboard, longboard, rollerblades, roller-skates or even a BMX – in order to get the most out of this. The event was created in celebration of the lifting of the ban on skateboarding and rollerblading along this area.
15. Be Entertained at The Bay Harbour Market
Aside from having great stalls where you can buy locally made and crafted gifts and curios the Bay Harbour Market has live music that you can enjoy for free. Local artists entertain the crowd and keep the vibe going all day and into the evening. It’s open on Fridays from 5 pm to 9 pm, Saturdays from 9:30 am to 4 pm and on Sundays from 9:30 am to 4 pm.
16. Take a Moonlight Meander in Muizenberg
In Cape Town, we make the most of the full moon. The Muizenberg Moonlight Meander happens at 6 pm on the Saturday closest to the full moon and brings together family, friends and loved ones for a leisurely stroll along the beach by moonlight. The walk starts in front of Knead bakery.
17. Get Cultured on First Thursdays
On the first Thursday of every month, arts and culture in Cape Town has a late night, with dozens of art galleries and cultural events showcasing the wealth of talent that the Mother City has on offer. The event is completely free, with no structured tour, and no schedule to follow, you are free to absorb it all at your own leisure. To ensure your First Thursday can be catered to your own specific preferences, organisers provide a map and highlights of what is on show. From there it is all up to you.
18. Take the Family on City Walk Saturdays
The City Walk Saturdays event happens once a month and starts in the Company’s Gardens, continues down St George’s Mall to Waterkant Street and progresses up the Fan Walk to St Andrew’s Square. It connects significant places in the urban heart of Cape Town through storytelling, public art, walking tours and retail offerings. Expect a wide variety of fun things to do and participate in. This includes a
19. Play Some Cave Golf
Everyone enjoys a game of putt-putt. At the Waterfront you can enjoy this activity in a cave-like setting! It’s fun for the whole family and it’s right next door to the Scratch Patch.
20. Visit the Green Point Urban Park
A unique space in the middle of an urban environment, the Green Point Urban Park is a fantastic, family-friendly place for a picnic, walk, run or for simply lazing around. There is an outdoor gym, a play park, adventure park and outdoor labyrinth. There are different plant species within the area as well as information about them. Access to the park is via Bill Peters drive, Bay Road or Helen Suzman Boulevard.
21. Pick Strawberries at Polkadraai
The beautiful Polkadraai strawberry farm is located in Stellenbosch. Strawberry-picking is between September and January. Take a stroll through rows and rows of fruit beds with family or friends, and pick strawberries to your heart’s content! There are other kiddies’ activities to do and enjoy here. There’s face painting, pony rides, and a playground.
22. Take an Audio Tour at Groot Constantia
Cost: Free to enter (various costs for meals)
One of the oldest wine producing farms in the Cape, Groot Constantia is steeped in history. This farm boasts fine examples of Dutch architecture and has been producing wine on the estate without interruption since 1685 when Commander Simon van der Stel of the Dutch East Company (VOC) was originally granted the land on which Groot Constantia stands. You can amble around the leafy grounds, or take the free VoiceMap audio tours to explore the farm and its rich history. There’s an Iziko Museum on site and if you get hungry, the farm has two restaurants to choose from.
23. Learn something new at the Helderberg Nature Reserve
Cost: R20 for adults, R10 for children (3 to 18 years), R10 for students, R10 for pensioners, R10 per vehicle
The beautiful Helderberg Nature Reserve is located in Somerset West and stretches as far as the cliff faces of the Helderberg Mountain. There is so much to do and enjoy here. There s a plant herbarium, Guinea Gift Shop, an environmental education centre, a picnic area, children’s play area and jungle gym, as well as bird watching, hiking trails and walking trails. Keep your eye on their Facebook page for information on amazing guided hikes.
24. Save at Trenchtown’s Half Price Thursdays
Cost: Pizza from R15, craft beers R30, shooters R9
Trenchtown is situated in Observatory, in the vibrant and busy Lower Main Road. This place is very popular with locals and visitors. On Thursdays, the menu offers a variety of half-priced pizza, a selection of craft beer, and shooters. Also on Thursday, this Caribbean-style hangout spot hosts a karaoke evening starting at 8 pm.
25. Take a Harbour Cruise in Simon’s Town
Cost: R50 for adults, R30 for children under 12
This cruise takes place in the picturesque seaside town of Simon’s Town. It takes you around Simon’s Town Bay to take in the historic sites of the area as well as the breath-taking views.
26. Eat, Drink & Be Merry at the Neighbourgoods Market
Cape Town is full of interesting markets, and the Neighbourgoods Market is one of them. It isn’t just an ordinary market; it’s a melting pot of food, drinks, and crafts. Find it at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock.
27. Take a Cape Town Harbour Cruise
This cruise gives you an amazing harbour cruise from the V&A Waterfront and around the harbour. It’s a fun adventure and it gives you the chance to admire mountain views from a unique angle.
28. Visit The District Six Museum
Cost: R40 entry for adults
The District Six Museum recalls the history of District six community that was forcibly removed in the apartheid era. Visit this moving museum to learn about this vibrant and historically significant neighbourhood.
29. Go Rose Picking
Cost: R6.50 per stem
Stop and smell the roses at Chart Farm. You get to pick your own bunch of heavenly-scented blooms just R6.50 a stem.
30. Take the Kids to Cape Town’s Outdoor Ice Rink
Cost: R30 for 30 minutes, R50 for an hour
This one is for children only, but parents need to supervise, of course. Cape Town’s first outdoor synthetic ice rink is situated at the Rotary Blue Train Park in Moulle Point. Kids can enjoy the fun of ice skating on a sunny day in Cape Town and take in views of the mountain and the sea.
31. Get Caffeen
ated at the award-winning Truth Coffee Shop
Cost: Single Espresso R32, Cafe Latte R38, etc
If you like good coffee served in a gritty and industrialised environment then Truth Coffee is the ideal Cape Town coffee shop for you. Walking into Truth Coffee feels like you’re walking into a Victorian futuristic fantasy: steampunk lovers will be in awe of the well thought out décor. More important than the interior though is the incredible coffee: strong, hot and full of flavour.
32. Take in the Sights with a Free Walking Tour
Learn more about the city, its history, interesting facts and take in the beautiful sights with Cape Town Free Walking Tours. There are various different tours on offer – a historic tour, a street art tour, a Bo-Kaap tour, a promenade bicycle tour, a District Six tour and a Taste of Cape Town tour. Each one offers a unique perspective on Cape Town and what this amazing city has to offer.
33. Find your Creative Flair at The Clay Café
Get creative at the Clay Café in Hout Bay. Design and paint your own plate, bowl or ornament and wait for 10 working days to fire your masterpiece or simply choose your favourite clay canvas from the shelf range with prices starting from R15. It makes for a great family outing.
34. Find your Inner Child at the Toy Museum
Cost: R10 per adult and R5 per child
The Warrior Toy Museum in Simon’s Town is lined with dinky toys, dolls, Maccano, model cars, boats, trains, aeroplanes and other miscellaneous toys that all make up a collection of thousands. This is a must-see for all toy-lovers.
35. Visit Babylonstoren Wine Farm
Cost: R10 on weekdays; R20 on weekends
This expansive wine estate is nestled between Paarl and Franschhoek and will win over locals and visitors alike. Their farm has friendly donkeys, chickens and turkeys, and other feathery and furry friends. Roam in the immaculate and extensive fruit and vegetable gardens, or take part in a healing tea ceremony. Visit the cactus garden to see the baby hedgehogs, before heading to one of the fabulous restaurants or the tasting room.
36. Get Happy at the Foreign Exchange Bar
Cost: Starts at R25
The Foreign Exchange Bar in Observatory is a place where locals and internationals hang out for drinks and lots of fun times. There is everything from beer pong nights to salsa classes. The famed happy hour runs from 17h00 to 19h00 (happy two hours) where you can pick up a refreshing drink from as little as R25.
37. Take to the Hills for a Hike
Cost: Mostly free
There are some magnificent free hiking spots in and around Cape Town. Lion’s Head is one of the more popular ones and, although it can get slightly strenuous, it rewards you with an amazing view at the top. You can also do this in the light of the full moon (a head torch is still advisable). Platteklip Gorge takes you to the top of Table Mountain and you can either head left towards Kirstenbosch or right to the Cable Station. Newlands Forest is leafy and most of the way is shaded by the trees. This is a shorter hike and there’s a pretty stream along the way if you want to cool down. Before you go, check out these mountain safety rules.
38. Mountain Bike at Meerendal
Great for beginners and group rides, the tracks at Meerendal are flat and easy to navigate. You start with a bit of an uphill, but then it takes you to the first stretch of single track and onto a zig-zagging uphill that can prove tough on novices. There are spectacular views to take in along the way.
39. Stay fit with Trail Running
Cost: Mostly free
Cape Town is renown as an international trail running Mecca. There are so many places to trail run across Cape Town that it’s tough to list them all. You can run the hiking trails we mentioned before as well as try the 5,3 km Devil’s Peak route where you start at the top of Devil’s Peak Estate and run the gravel paths to Rhodes Memorial. Also, try the Constantia Nek routes (some fees apply). Trail running is excellent for fitness and endurance.
40. Visit Rhodes Cottage
Cost: Free, but a donation of R10 is encouraged
Cecil John Rhodes is well-known worldwide and was a South African politician and mining magnate in Southern Africa in the late-1800s. At some point, he contributed to shaping both South Africa and Zimbabwe’s political landscape. Once his residence, you can visit the cottage in Muizenberg that is now a museum.
41. Go Bird Watching at Rietvlei Wetlands Reserve
Cost: R13 for adults, R6 for children
This freshwater wetland is located on the floodplain of the Diep River and has extensive reed beds, a tidal lagoon and flourishing flora and fauna. You can find a wide variety of birds here at any time with over 10 000 individual birds having been counted during the water bird censuses. The Friends of Rietvlei organisation often host holiday programs such as fishing and other activities that start at around R5. There are various walking trails and places for wet watersports enthusiasts to enjoy themselves – as well as braai spots.
42. Enjoy a Glass Of Wine and #Stellasessions
Cost: R30 and up for a glass of wine
Stella Cafe & Bar at the Southern Sun Cullinan Hotel is a great spot to wine (see what we did there?) down after a long day at the office. The #StellaSessions happen every Friday at 16h00 where you can enjoy your drink along with some live entertainment.
43. Save Seabirds with SANCCOB
Cost: Between R30 and R50
SANCCOB is a non-profit organisation that aims to preserve and conserve seabirds and other sea life. SANCCOB allows visitors in for a behind-the-scenes tour of the facility where you can get a look at how a seabird hospital works and see how the penguins are treated and fed. If you love what you see and want to get involved, there are various ways to give back to them too.
44. Play Putt-Putt in Mouille Point
Situated in Mouille Point, mini-golf is probably the best value for money of any outdoor activity anywhere in Cape Town. Families with small kids, couples on dates, and groups of friends all congregate here to test their putting skills.
45. Visit the Rugby Museum
Cost: R50 for students, scholars and pensioners. R75 for adults. Children under 5 free.
The Springbok Experience, located in the heart of the V&A Waterfront, tells the history of South Africa through the eyes of rugby. This modern interactive rugby museum with 65 audio-visual screens is a must-do attraction when in Cape Town. Children, adults, and senior citizens alike can enjoy testing their kicking, passing, fitness and reaction skills which is challenging yet plenty of fun. The museum is open 7 days a week from 10h00 until 18h00.
46. Experience an Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony
Cost: R30 for a mini ceremony
Participate in a traditional Ethiopian Coffee Ceremony at Addis in Cape. The experience gives you a glimpse into Ethiopian tradition and feels authentic amongst the traditional Ethiopian furnishings.
47. Watch a Movie at the Labia Theatre
Cost: R40 per person
The Labia Theatre entices people with its old movie theatre charm. It was originally an Italian embassy ballroom and is widely recognised as the oldest independent art-repertory cinema in South Africa. The theatre screens art movies and hosts various interesting film festivals throughout the year. Go here for great movies that you won’t find in the mainstream movie houses.
48. Braai At Oudekraal
Cost: R35 per adult and R15 per child
Nestled between Llandudno and Camp’s Bay, you’ll find cosy coves and blissful white beaches peeking from between the huge boulders. Oudekraal has over 40 braai areas, although most don’t have grids, so be sure to bring your own with you! Get there early, as Oudekraal is immensely popular. Call 021 438 9555 for more information.
49. See South Africa’s Natural History at Iziko Museums
Cost: Between R20 and R50
There are many Iziko Museums in Cape Town and all offer insight into South Africa’s natural and cultural history. The exhibits range from 700-million-year-old fossils to insects and fish, dinosaurs and wildlife menageries as well as everything space-related at the Planetarium. There are also stone tools dating from 120 000 years ago, traditional clothes from the last century and authentic beadwork.
50. Go For A Swim
Cost: Between R6 and R21
There are many public swimming pools around the city. The Sea Point Pavillion is a popular spot and is situated right next to the ocean. So you get a great view along with a fun swim. The cost to enter is R21 for adults and R10.50 for children. In Gugulethu, you will find Vulindlela Swimming Pool. There’s a main pool and a kiddies one. Entry is R6 for adults and R1 for children. Newlands Baths is a popular family public pool with great grassy areas to relax on. The charge is R21 for adults and R10.50 for children. Trafalgar swimming pool is situated in Woodstock and has plenty of green areas for you to relax on in between dips in the pool. The entry fee is R6 for adults and R1.50 for children.
This article has been republished with acknowledgement to Love Cape Town.