An Australian friend I met while I was in India last year recently contacted me, asking if June/July was a good time to visit Cape Town and what kind of things she and her husband could do while they were here.
Well, I got very excited and I could hardly type fast enough to get all my thoughts down. This got me thinking that maybe you have some friends overseas who you’d like to tempt to come visit, or maybe you don’t knowabout all the cool stuff there is to do in the city in winter because you’re too busy being Capetonian and complaining about people driving badly in the rain.
So I put together this list of 10 things to do in Cape Town in winter…but they are just as great in summer.
Of course one of the best things about winter in Cape Town is that the out-of-season prices are even better for tourists, and locals alike, if you can believe that. Two-for-one specials, winter menus and reduced accommodation rates all make this the ideal time to stay for longer, for less.
I know Cape Town gets a bad rap for being unbearably rainy in winter, but honestly, this is wildly inflated by Capetonians’ memories. I find Cape Town winters’ days to be, for the most part, warm and sunny with – best of all – no wind! When it does rain, wine tasting in front of winelands fireplaces, weekends tucked away in the mountains and sipping hot chocolate while staring at the rain from inside inner-city coffee shops is a special treat I long for all summer.
10 Things to do in Cape Town in winter
1. See The Cape Town Big 6
I used to be one of those tourists who insist on calling themselves “travellers” and who refuse to check out the “touristy” places, but I’ve grown up and realised that these icons are iconic for a reason and that skipping them will almost always result in regrets.
Cape Town is world famous for Table Mountain because it is that beautiful, so not going up to the top to experience it would be to sorely miss out on one of nature’s 7 New Natural Wonders of the World.
From wild wine tastings to charcuterie and champagne…all with cozy fireplaces and very friendly winemakers; if there’s one place you want to spend winter weekends it’s the winelands. Stellenbosch, Franschoek, Robertson… and they all have cheaper accommodation rates around that time of year, so you should spend a couple of days cuddled up out there.
I suggest these as a starting point:
in Durbanville – Beautiful rolling hills and cold climate wines showcase this region beautifully and the winemaker and farm owner are often on hand to run the tastings.
in Franschoek – One of my personal favourites! Do not leave Cape Town without dining at their restaurant, Bread & Wine.
in Franschoek – Perfect for a rainy day. Sip on their wines while tucking into some amazing farm-made cheese and meat in front of a roaring fire.
in Darling – Their restaurant serves some delicious farm fare and you will have the opportunity to spot the much-fabled Kwagga – a donkey/zebra hybrid that became extinct but was re-introduced by their program.
in Stellenbosch – French Champagne and South African MCC in the heart of old-wine country. Their beautiful wines are not-to-missed, as is Hendrik, their charismatic wine maker. Don’t be surprised if he whips out a sword and demonstrates a sabrage!
in Franschoek – Gentle Giant and winemaker Rob will have you tasting from the barrel and addicted to his wine in no time. Book in advance as the farm is open by appointment only, but it’s definitely worth it as I’ve had some of the most exciting and entertaining tastings of my life here!
If you are particularly into wine, I suggest a visit to the Hemel & Aarde Wine Village in Hermanus. It’s the kind of place that makes me feel dizzy with excitement and choice. They are home to the largest selection of South African wines in the Southern Hemisphere and offer wine tastings daily. This wine shop is to wine enthusiasts what I imagine a New York Library must be to book enthusiasts.
3. Brave The Cold & Go Surfing
The surf in Cape Town is best in winter, especially in Muizenberg – the beach where I surf (when I surf, which to be honest, is not that often). I’d like to remind you that while the conditions are cold, the Indian ocean specifically, is warmer in the winter months and the waves are better than any other time of year. Read about surfing in Muizenberg and hiring a board & wetsuit here
4. Get Outdoors & Go Hiking
Hiking in Cape Town is particularly great in winter because first of all, it’s not too hot, but also because you will see lots of waterfalls cascading down the mountain. You can do a 1 day, 3 day, 5 day…and there are spectacular tented camps to stay at along the way. I spent two days hiking the Hoerikwaggo trail in 2013, which you can read about here
. We also spent a night at the Smitswinkel Bay tented camp
, which is one of the most stunning places places I’ve ever visited.
5. Cape Town Bicycle Tours
There are a few different bike tours you can do in the city; A couple that take you around the city, stopping at important historical and cultural landmarks, then there is one that takes you around the peninsula on an electric bicycle! There is also one in the winelands, so you can taste wine along the way. We had so much fun cycling around with AWOL Tours in 2013, check it out here.
6. Take A Bo-Kaap Cooking Course
Learn to cook local food in the kitchen of a local Cape Malay lady in the colourful Bo-Kaap. I went a while ago and I made a little video which you can check out on the Cape Town Tourism website here
7. Visit The Local Markets
Cape Town has some stunning markets that sell food and local fashion, art and crafts. This is one of favourite Saturday morning activities that I particularly enjoy in winter. Read about my favourite way to spend a weekend in Cape Town here
8. See The City By Foot With A Walking Tour
Walk through the city and stop off at coffee shops, have lunch at a market (on Thursday the Earth Fair Market sets up in St. George’s Square), feed squirrels in the Company’s Garden (big inner-city gardens in the middle of town), visit museums and the planetarium and check out some of the amazing inner-city architecture.
9. Climb Lion’s Head
You can climb Lion’s Head in about 60-90 mins and get an unparalleled 360 view of the city, from Table Mountain to Sea Point. It’s also pretty much the best photo opportunity in all of Cape Town.
10. Beer Tasting & The Cheetah Sanctuary
There is a Cheetah Sanctuary just outside of the city in Somerset West where you can see the awesome work their cheetah rescue programme is doing and learn about the Anatolian dogs they are bringing in from Turkey to help save the lives of wild cheetah’s who are being killed by farmers. Next door is Triggerfish, a craft beer brewery where you can taste like, 30 beers that range from ales and lagers to coffee and wine beers. Read more about the Helderberg and what you can do there here
Spend A Night Or Two Outside Of The City
Just a couple of hours outside of Cape Town you can find various small towns that have a plethora of sights and eateries, from the crayfish and whitewashed cottages of Paternoster to the quaint village life of Stanford. Worth visiting are:
There is just no way on earth you could come to Cape Town and not eat yourself into an oblivion. I have put together this list
of places that you just cannot afford to miss out on – all my favourite places to eat my favourite things in Cape Town.