So you’ve got three days to spend in South Africa and you’re at a loss of what to do. My first and most important secret tip: spend more than three days! If there is any possible way to do that, do it.
Planning to have an extra day in Jo’burg or Durban? I may get flack for it, but cut that day and add it to Cape Town! There is SO much to do in this incredible town, three days just isn’t enough.
That being said, I get it, sometimes three days is all you have… And it’s better than two! I myself was guilty of allocating only a trio of days to the lovely Cape Town, and while I left feeling I had just scratched the surface, I certainly didn’t leave disappointed so I dare say my itinerary is one worth following if you are looking to build a three-day itinerary.
Visit Table Mountain on your first day
This is incredibly important. We didn’t arrive to our hotel until around midnight, but we were still up first thing the next morning to hit up Table Mountain. And how lucky we were that we did!
Our next two days in Cape Town the weather (as it tends to do) took a turn — cooler, windier, and cloudier. The cable car that runs to the top of Table Mountain was closed both of the other days, and while you can still climb up and down the mountain yourself, it won’t be so pleasant. It will be cold and windy up top, you will have limited to no view, and you will be exhausted!
Plus if you want to do anything AWESOME like, say, abseiling down the side of Table Mountain, you probably won’t be able to!
Explore the peninsula
Cape Peninsula is well worth at least a day of exploration, filled with gorgeous sweeping vistas, historic landmarks, and adorable wildlife including baboons, ostriches, penguins, seals and much more. If you feel comfortable with it, I recommend renting a car to explore the area!
Visit wine country
Excuse me while I gush, but South African wine is to die for! I wish America would figure this out and stock more if it in regular stores! If you’re looking for a classic South African wine to try, the Pinotage (a red) is a great place to start.
There are three main wine regions around Cape Town: Stellensbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek. Given the nature of wine tasting, it’s probably best to join a wine tour from Cape Town rather than try to drive yourself to fully enjoy the experience. I highly recommend the tour company Wine Flies. We visited five wineries, which represented a wide range of styles and sizes.
Eat your heart out!
One of the great things about Cape Town is that it’s a very cosmopolitan city, but the prices are incredibly affordable. You can stay at a high-end hotel (I give high reviews to V&A Waterfront Hotel – awesome location, friendly great food, and they ended up giving us two huge rooms for the price of one — both with views of Table Mountain!) or boutique B&B for a sliver of the price you’d pay elsewhere.
And you can dine at exquisite restaurants for the same price you’d pay for a run-of-the-mill meal in the States!
Even if you wander along the waterfront at some of the more touristy hotels, the prices are still extremely affordable. Take your pick from a vast array of places that offer selections of ‘local’ fare. Sure, it’s true that for the most part, the locals don’t eat game meat (except perhaps ostrich), but when in Africa you might as well try it! We sampled warthog, crocodile, ostrich, springbok, kudu and more during our time in Cape Town and on safari.
For a fancy-feeling meal, check out Azure Restaurant at the 12 Apostles Hotel. Just about everyone will tell you how nice it is, but again, the prices are just right! Spoiler alert: they bring out sorbet between courses to ‘cleanse the palate’ with this dry ice that covers the table — it’s very cool! Get a reservation for just before sunset and watch the sight over the ocean! (You will need to take a bit of a taxi ride from Cape Town proper to get there, but it’s worth it.)
If you made it through all these activities in three days you are probably exhausted, but don’t let that stop you from enjoying your last night in the Mother City. Before you say goodbye, head to Long Street to celebrate. Sample some local brews at one of the many pubs or craft beer bars, then head to Mama Africa for an energetic atmosphere and some awesome live African music.
Congratulations on three days well spent in one of the world’s greatest cities!