As most cities are, Cape Town was a mixed bag (at least it was for me).
We arrived on Roeland Street where we were booked in at Kimbo Backpackers Lodge, also known as Kimberly Hotel. A large 1800s building with a pub and cafe style kitchen on the ground floor with a secure entrance to the next two floors where you find the reception and bedrooms. We paid for a double room (rather than a dorm) with a private bathroom. Whilst the bathroom was private, as in other people couldn’t use it, the toilet and shower were actually in our bedroom so there was no privacy between the two of us. We both spent time hanging out in the corridor as we like to poop without the other person being in the room! But hey, the hostel was in walking distance of everything without being in the centre of nightclub city so you could get a decent nights sleep, that is, if the doors and windows fit their frames….it is a very windy city!
We arrived early afternoon so after a free welcome drink at Kimbo Lodge we went for a wander to get our bearings. Just a few minutes walk and you hit Long Street which is full of pubs, restaurants and some shops. Carry on another 10-15 minutes and you arrive at V&A Waterfront. Here you will find the typical marina set up with lots of fancy restaurants and wine bars next to the water. There is also a shopping centre and lots of entertainment, face painting and a little train for the kids, etc. Yes, it is set up for tourists and the eating and drinking is a bit pricey in some places but there is a market which has food stalls that boast an array of different cuisines which are more affordable.
As we have done on other cities, we bought tickets for the city tour bus (hop on – hop off) as we have found in the past this is an easy way to cover a large area and, when you find somewhere you are interested in or would like to explore, off you hop. There are buses every fifteen minutes thereafter to get you back onto the tour. So yes, we looked like total tourists on a bright red open top bus, but it took us to a places which were too far to walk, but meant that you could skip off the bus, walk as far as you wanted, knowing that at the next stop of your choice, there would be a bus coming by to pick you. Between us we have done similar city tours in Barcelona, New York and Singapore and they are a great, and generally cheap, way to get around large cities within a restricted amount of time.
So my favourite things about about Cape Town were:
It is walk-able. Pop on some comfy shoes and you can spend days walking around spotting cool buildings, quirky coffee shops, sit in the gardens and hit some shops.
If you don’t like being far from the water, head to the Waterfront where you can see old boats getting freshened up and being made ready to get back in the sea. The food lovers market has stalls of all sorts to eat. I could be holed up in that building for days!
Fancy a day at the beach? Just a short bus ride away are beaches on the west coast of the Cape which are sandy and have great promenades with restaurants, bars and shops where you can buy anything beach related which you might have forgotten (or couldn’t pack).
Like coffee? Just wander up and down the streets of the city and the smell of freshly ground coffee beans will lead you in the right direction. Lots of small coffee shops all calling you away from the likes of Starbucks and Mugg&Bean.
Table Mountain is right on your doorstep. Easily accessible and, weather permitting (sadly it wasn’t whilst we were there) you can get a cable car to the top. You can also hike up the mountain. There are various paths you can take of varying length and difficulty. What amazing views of the city below.
What I didn’t like:
Pretty much only one thing really. If you want to walk through the city at night, you do so at your own risk. Everyone we spoke to, whether they lived in the city or not, told us not to walk anywhere once the sun had gone down. Having visited other cities, this advice sounded pretty extreme. So once we arrived at Kimbo Lodge, we asked around……and yup, got told the same thing. This made it difficult for us to do our usual evening bimble up and down the streets looking into restaurant windows seeing how busy they were, what the food looked like and checking Tripadvisor on our phones to decide where to eat. We were told that the best thing to do (if you wanted to get around at night) was to get a taxi directly to your destination and then directly back to your accommodation. Doesn’t really allow for spontaneity …
So far this is the only city where we didn’t venture out at night. Not solely based on advice from local people, but also supported by the feeling you get (and harassment) when the sun is just going down and you are walking home. Gutted. One of my favourite things to do in a city is to walk around at night when the street lights come on and the place starts to buzz with the excitement that evenings in the city do.
Cape Town, even though there was so much I enjoyed about you, I think your one downfall for me totally overshadowed all the great things about you.
Would I come back to this city?……….hmmn, we’ll see.