When you embark on a journey to South Africa, one of the most cosmopolitan places to go that will appeal to everyone's budgets and tastes is most definitely Cape Town. With the soccer World Cup coming to South Africa in 2010, thousands of people worldwide will have their eyes opened to the city and all of South Africa.
With vibrant streets and friendly people you will always feel welcome and at home here. Cape Town is modern and chic with segments of different communities contributing to the unique blend of culture here. You also have the combination of all climates and topography all within very close proximity of each other, so one minute you can be surfing or sun tanning on the glorious beaches and the next you can be breathing in the crisp air as you hike through the Cape vineyards. You will not be disappointed when you come to Cape Town at any time of year.
The different seasons hold splendid sights and experiences that can only be attributed to that specific time of year, so to get a true and overall picture of Cape Town; you need to make more than one trip during different times of year. The weather here is great almost all year round. There are very rainy days in winter and very windy days in summer, but this does not continue for the entire season and most of the time you will have stunning days that are warm and peaceful.
There is so much to see and do here that it is hard to know where to start. If you are new to the country and the Cape, perhaps the best place to start your vacation is in the heart of the Mother City. Here you can visit all the art galleries and museums and by just walking through the streets of Cape Town CBD and the Foreshore you will soon have a pretty good grasp of things. There are streets for the arty and chic, places that are more European with lovely coffee shops and cafes, there are the more earthy, bohemian aspects, areas where the African culture shines, up-market areas, and those that are more down to earth and bustling with the locals. There are craft markets, eateries, as well as interesting, historical places like the tranquil Gardens of Cape Town, Parliament buildings, the President's Residence, the Planetarium, and the Artscape Theatre. You should also make time to go on a tour of the Castle of Good Hope which will be a prominent sight as you travel into the city. This 5-sided castle was once a fort and the tallest building in Cape Town, until the skyscrapers were introduced. The old Town Hall is also great to view and the magnificent architecture is very well preserved and elegant. The Cape Town City library is also housed in this building.
You can also see the most famous of the Cape Town landmarks - Table Mountain. There are regular Cable Car ride up to the top of the flat topped mountain where there are restaurants, shops, walking trails and perfect sunset viewing spots. Weddings and other functions can also be planned up on Table Mountain, but the weather can be of concern during the windy times of year, as the cable car does not ride up due to the strong gusts and the infamous “table cloth" of thick cloud that covers the top. On the other side of Table Mountain sits the botanical gardens of Kirstenbosch which must not be missed.
Moving away from the city center you have a choice of going north or south, east or west. The far south is located along a narrow Peninsula and this is where the historical and seaside towns of Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, and Simon's Town are located. Simon's Town is where the country's naval base is located and offers a quaint Mediterranean vibe. There are lovely old buildings and great naval vessels to see, as well as the firing guns at Lower North Battery which are still in use. You can also go to the 100 year old Jubilee Square where the statue of Just Nuisance, the famous navy dog, stands proudly. From here the marvels of Cape Point are just a short, very pleasant drive away. Here you can see the Chacma Baboons in their natural habitat as well as various antelope and zebra inside the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. There is also an ostrich farm, craft stalls, picnic areas and attractions like Diaz Cross, Da Gama Cross, Cape Point Lighthouse, and the exact point where the two oceans meet - the southeastern most point of the African continent.
If you travel northwards from Cape Town you will get into the hotter northern suburbs and find great places like Durbanville with great wine farms, Tygerburg Zoo, Monkey Town, the Belville Veladrome, and the historical winelands town of Paarl. From here you can move eastward to include other wine areas that make up the longest wine route in the world, like those in Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, with their own unique histories. Along the East Coast you can get to amazing town of Hermanus where the annual Whale Festival is held and the Southern Right Whale migration and breeding is best seen. You should also visit very tip of Africa at Cape Agulhas. If you want to travel along the West Coast of the Cape you will move into the cooler Atlantic Ocean side where the small fishermen type villages still preside with white washed walls and wonderful, untouched natural beauty.
Because South Africa is so off the beaten path for most vacationers - heck it's a 20-hour flight from New York - Cape Town doesn't receive nearly the number of tourists as other vacation hot spots around the world. It's unfortunate because the whole of South Africa is quite amazing. Lisa Jenkins is a freelance writer for FrugalMonkey, a discount travel website with detailed country travel guides. Jenkins lets travelers know what to see and do while in South Africa, including trips to renowned South Africa wineries. The country is expected to receive a major tourism boost thanks to World Cup South Africa coming in 2010.