Last Updated on March 23, 2023
It’s not surprising that a place nicknamed the Mother City has it all in terms of attractions. A magnificent city where mountains meet the chilly water of the Atlantic, there are many ways to enjoy Cape Town regardless of your budget.
Cape Town is one of the most affordable cities in the world. Add in the fact that Cape Town is safe, and it’s clear why Mother City is one of the hot destinations on the continent.
Save some rands while you enjoy this city of South Africa with our list of the top 15 cheap and free things to do in Cape Town.
Hike the Lion’s Head
If you like hiking, Cape Town will blow your mind with its numerous trails that cater to all ages and athletic abilities. One hiking trail that most people find irresistible is the Lion’s Head. Lion’s Head is a mountain located between Signal Hill and Table Mountain. Its summit rises 669 meters above sea level and offers stunning panoramic views of the Mother City below and its pristine white beaches.
Lion’s Head is a relatively easy hike, although you may find it challenging if you haven’t exercised for a while. The hiking distance is around 5.5 km (up and down) and takes 2-3 hours. And like most hiking trails in Cape Town, the Lion’s Head is free to hike.
Table Mountain on a Cable Car
No one comes to Cape Town and fails to visit Table Mountain. Arguably the most iconic attraction here, Table Mountain, is among the first (and probably the last) things you’ll see during your visit to this city.
This 280,000-year-old gentle giant towers 1086 meters above sea level. At this height, Table Mountain is the perfect place to get 360-degree views of the beautiful city of Cape Town and the entire Cape Peninsula.
There are two ways of experiencing Table Mountain- hiking and taking the Table Mountain cable car for R50-R380, depending on when you visit. Hiking the Table Mountain trail is free and takes around 3 hours. If you wish, you can hike up the mountain and take the cable car down. The cable car ride is less than 10 minutes, but the experience and the views are priceless.
Experience Cape Town on Foot
Cape Town is fairly walkable, especially if you’re staying within the heart of Mother City. That said, one of the best ways of experiencing this city’s rich bowl of history and culture is on foot. You can pull a handy area map of the city and take a self-guided tour.
Another option is to join one of the many ‘free’ walking tours of Cape Town. Most of these are tailored by experienced local guides, making it the best way to absorb the stories behind this city’s historical buildings, monuments, architecture, people, and events.
The charges for these guided tours are tip-based. Most tour guides will also design private, tailor-made walking tours to fit your schedule and pace if you wish.
Explore the iconic Bo Kaap
The Bo Kaap (Afrikaans for Above the Cape) is one of the most distinct and instagrammable neighborhoods in Cape Town. This is a historical neighborhood located on the slopes of Signal Hill, just above Cape Town, hence its name.
The Bo Kaap started as a holding center for Indian, Malaysian, Indonesian, and Sri Lankan slaves and convicts. Most people visit this neighborhood to take photos of its vibrant pastel-colored buildings. Others come for its rich history, Cape Malay culture, and mouth-watering local cuisine.
A good place to start your visit to this area is the Bo Kaap museum. It’s located in the oldest building in this area and recaps Bo Kaap’s early history and the events that shaped it. In addition to eating Cape Malay food and meandering through the cobble-stoned streets, we recommend visiting the Auwal Mosque and Tana Baru cemetery.
Visit the Victoria and Alfred (V&A) Waterfront
The V&A is where history meets Cape Town’s thriving modern culture. This iconic tourist showpiece is a 123-hectare neighborhood where almost all Mother City tourists end up. That’s because the V&A is a mall, a market, a recreational area, a marina, a foodie, and a shopaholic haven.
There V&A waterfront is located 2-3 kilometers from the city center at the foot of Signal Hill next to Table Bay. From the waterfront, you can soak in magnificent views of the deep blue waters of the working bay and Table Mountain.
Other ways of experiencing the V&A waterfront include taking a guided walk tour, shopping for arts and crafts, and sampling local cuisine at the food market. History buffs can also catch a ferry to Robben Island- a UNESCO World Heritage Site where Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life as a prisoner.
Connect with Nature at Cecilia Forest
Whether you want to enjoy solitude to soothe your soul, keep fit, or take your family on a nature walk, Cecilia forest can easily provide a half-day of pure bliss.
Cecilia Forest is a part of Constantia- an affluent suburb known for its unrivaled natural beauty. This forest is home to several walking trails and hiking routes, some of which are friendly to the entire family, including children.
The Constantia Nek route is a popular route and one of the most recommended if you want to avoid the sun. The route often takes you through mountain water streams, but you’ll still need to bring water as it tends to get hot.
The waterfall route is another popular trail leading to Cecilia waterfall from the car park or Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. The waterfall is a magical sight and a great place to cool off and grab a snack after the hike.
Ride the Best Waves in South Africa
It’s no secret that South Africa has some of the best surf spots. The good news is that Cape Town hosts some of the best surfing spots in the country. Regardless of your experience level in this water activity, Cape Town has fun and exciting waves for everyone.
Muizenberg, with its gentle waves, is perfect for beginners and longboarders. Seasoned surfers will enjoy riding the powerful barrels of Glen Beach and Dungeon.
Photo Credit: Images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) 12 Apostles and Camps Bay, taken from the slopes of the Lion’s head by Rob Donnelly; (2) Bo-Kaap District (Malay Quarter) by Brian Snelson