10 Hidden Gems In Cape Town

By Melania Totaro, a self-confessed outdoors fanatic in love with Cape Town and its unique surroundings
Edited by Matthew Wears

Although Cape Town is not the biggest South African city, it still has its fair share of secret spots that are really worth exploring! I’ve lived in this beautiful place for over eight years now and I’ve come to know pretty much every corner of the city and its surrounding areas, so I can tell you where to find some of its best kept secrets, that’s for sure! I personally have a passion for the outdoors, so a whole load of my favourite hobbies and interests involve exploring the incredible countryside that surrounds my city, so you can expect to see find a lot of these activities on this Cape Town hidden places list. Even still, I do love exploring the many secret areas in my city too, there’s so many non-touristy things to do in Cape Town itself, so don’t worry, I’m definitely going to be including these too. Whether you want to find that secret beach that feels like your own kind of paradise, stumble upon somewhere totally authentic to eat, or just want a few unusual ideas for what to do when you first arrive, my top ten hidden gems in Cape Town will cover it all.

Explore Beta Beach At Bakoven

When tourists come to Cape Town looking for a great beach, pretty much everyone seems to go to Camps Bay, which I think is great in its own right, but it just gets a bit crowded for me. I prefer to go down to Beta beach, Cape Town’s best kept secret and one of the most beautiful beaches anywhere on the Cape! You can find it down in Bakoven, it has remained one of the best hidden gems in Cape Town since I discovered it, but news is spreading fast so you’ll have to be quick if you want the desert island vibe. I do really love being somewhere that feels like I’m the only one who knows about it, which is exactly how I feel when I’m bathing in the hot sun on Bakoven! Just be aware that this privacy means that there aren’t going to be any public facilities like toilets or anything, but the view of the Cape alone makes up for this.

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Silvermine Nature Reserve

Cape Town really has a huge amount of beautiful natural sites, probably more than any other city in the world. One of my favourite spots that doesn’t seem to attract too many people is the Silvermine Nature Reserve, which technically speaking makes up part of the Table Mountain National Park, although it’s still seems to be one of the best hidden gems in Cape Town. If you’re like me and love outdoor activities, then this is the place to go, there is great hiking and mountain biking trails all over the park, as well as the opportunity to do some swimming over in the Silvermine Reservoir which I’d really recommend. If you want something a bit more adrenaline fuelled, then there are plenty of places to go rock climbing or caving as well, which guarantee to get your blood pumping!

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Shop The Woodstock Area

Along with the historic Bo-Kaap, the Woodstock area of Cape town is a serious contender for the coolest neighbourhood in the whole city, the place is just dripping in a creative culture that brings with it plenty of hip cafes, super trendy restaurants and a whole load of street art! For the daytime, there is plenty of shopping that includes everything from local artisans to super cool vintage shops, I’d recommend you check out the Neighbourgoods Market for some really quirky items. As well as this though, Woodstock has some of the very best Cape Town nightlife, you’ll find loads of bars like The Taproom that give a glimpse of the hipster side of the city. Spending a day exploring the colourful streets is one of my favourite unusual things to do in Cape Town, if you want somewhere with a laid-back bohemian vibe then this is the place for you, and it’s also a super fun place to stay too.

Go Surfing At Muizenberg

As I’ve said before, I do love getting active and experiencing the great nature that South Africa is so well known for, for example surfing! Even though I’m probably not going to be winning any championships any time soon, I still have a real passion for it and I always say it’s one of the most unusual things to do in Cape Town. There’s nowhere in the world where you can surf with such beautiful scenery in the background, it’s a really special experience! Muizenberg was actually where surfing first started in this country, but it’s now transformed from its very basic surfer-roots into one of the coolest places in Cape Town, totally worth spending a day in just sitting back and relaxing. Classes are also available, and it’s known to be one of the best beaches in the country to learn.

Experience A Braai

South Africa is a country that is known for its delicious food culture, and there’s nothing quite like going to a braai - what we call a bbq. These things are about so much more than just the food though, there’s a whole social side of them that is just as important than what you throw on the grill If you really want to discover Cape Town off the beaten path, you can book a traditional braai experience that will allow you to go to a local’s home and enjoy this special mealtime with them, giving you a really interesting insight into what it’s really like. Eating braai at a restaurant just doesn’t give you that same feeling, since it’s as much about the process of sitting around the fire and enjoying drinks with your friends and family as it is about what you eat at the end - sometimes braais can go on for whole days! There are a few companies that offer this, but Braai Cape Town is one of the most popular.

Taste Some Delicious Wine

You would be surprised at how many people come to Cape Town and don’t taste our world-famous wine! About an hour outside of the city is one of Cape Town’s best kept secrets; the absolutely stunning village of Franschhoek, a centuries old Dutch vineyard town that looks like it hasn’t changed much since it was first built. Located high up in the mountains, this place is very picturesque and gives you some of the best dining views of anywhere I’ve ever been. The wine here is obviously the main attraction, but thanks to its mixture of French and Dutch heritage, it’s also got some incredible food. If you’re looking for hidden restaurants, Cape Town has its fair share, but my favourite ones are definitely in the surrounding countryside in places like Franschhoek! You can reach it either on a tour or with uber, or you can head to the vineyards in Constantia (about twenty minutes from the CBD) if you’re hoping to try some wine a little closer to home.

Explore Signal Hill

This is something that can’t be described as one of the hidden gems in Cape Town, since it’s such a popular sunset spot for both tourists and locals. I’m including it on this list though because if you really want to experience Cape Town off the beaten path, there’s no place better to come than here, you can spend absolutely hours getting lost on all the amazing trails and discovering your own secret spots! The views from the top are very special, you can see the whole city and the ocean in front of you and then Table Mountain behind you, I do love the feeling you get when you’re alone in nature with views like this, it’s just how it should be. If you’re like me and love something that gets your heart beating, then Signal Hill has many mountain bike trails that are very fun to ride, just make sure you’re a confident rider, because some of them are pretty extreme.

Watch A Movie At The Galileo Open Air Cinema

Now, I’m not much of a going out and drinking sort of person, which is absolutely fine because not all of the Cape Town nightlife involves doing this, take the Galileo Open Air Cinema for example. This is a program that takes place all over the city in loads of different venues, but my absolute favourite has to be Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens, it has to be one of the best backdrops to any cinema I’ve ever seen! They usually have a super wide selection of films on show to, from classics to family favourites, but you can be sure that every movie is going to be great. Movies run all summer up until the beginning of May and you can find all the details including what’s on and where over on their website. If you’re really lucky and your birthday falls on the day of the film, you’ll get free entry as well as some other little perks too.

Cycle the City

One of my favourite outdoor hobbies is cycling, and the countryside surrounding my city is honestly some of the most beautiful in the world, so seeing it by bike is just such a humbling experience. If you want to explore Cape Town off the beaten path, there’s really no better way than to rent some bikes and make up your own adventure, there are loads or really great bike hires that offer either basic city bikes or more professional racing bikes as well.One of my favourite spots to cycle is Green Point Park where the Cape Town Stadium is, it’s quite a well-known park but it’s so beautifully designed that it makes riding around it just so much fun. If you want something a bit more adventurous, try pedalling along the coast to Oudekraal Beach down past Camps Bay, it’s one of the Capes best hidden beaches and the journey there is very beautiful.

Shop The Company Gardens Market

The Company Gardens Market is one of the secret places Cape Town likes to keep hidden from tourists, but I think it should be on every visitors list. The market has a huge variety of different stalls that sell food items, artworks, independent clothing brands and a whole load of other things! It’s not just stalls though, there’s some really fun activities that you can get involved with, for example they run yoga classes which are really great. The market only began back in 2015 and is definitely still one of the best hidden gems in Cape Town for tourists, so expect to see lots of locals here enjoying the park and spending time with their families. The market takes place every Sunday from 10AM until 3:30PM, but as with any market, if you want the best deals you should come in the morning.

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