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 have a passion for the outdoors, so a whole load of my favorite hobbies and interests involve exploring the incredible countryside that surrounds my city. 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 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 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.
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Explore Beta Beach At Bakoven
When tourists come to Cape Town looking for a great beach, most go to Camps Bay. It's great in its own right, but it gets a bit crowded for me. But just a little further along you'll find at the bottom of Bakoven Beta Beach. It's one of Cape Town’s hidden gems and one of the most beautiful beaches! It has remained one of the best-hidden gems in Cape Town since I discovered it, but the 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 alone makes up for this.
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 favorite spots is the Silvermine Nature Reserve. Although technically speaking, it makes up part of the Table Mountain National Park, it 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 are great hiking and mountain biking trails all over the park, as well as the opportunity to do some swimming over in the Silvermine Reservoir.
Shop The Woodstock Area
Along with the historic Bo-Kaap, the Woodstock area of Cape town is a serious contender for the coolest neighborhood 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 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 colorful streets is one of my favorite 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
While surfing might not be at the top of every tourist's list when they visit Cape Town if you want to get a real taste of living like a local, a dip in the sea is highly recommended. Head to Muizenberg to try your hand at surfing, stand-up paddleboarding, or just stop in for ice cream and a walk on the beach. This area was actually where surfing first started in South Africa, and the beachfront has transformed from its very basic surfer-roots to one of the coolest places in Cape Town. Surf lessons are also available here, 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 as 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!
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 stunning town of Franschhoek. This centuries-old Dutch vineyard town looks like it hasn’t changed much since it was first built. The wine here is 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 favorite ones are definitely in the surrounding countryside in places like Franschhoek! You can reach it either on a tour or with uber. If you’re hoping to try some wine a little closer to home, you can head to the vineyards in Constantia, about twenty minutes from the CBD.
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 hours exploring 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. 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.
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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. One of the best locations has to be Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, it's one of the best backdrops to any cinema I’ve ever seen! 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.
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Cycle the City
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 of really great bike hires that offer either basic city bikes or more professional racing bikes as well. One of my favorite 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 pedaling along the coast to Oudekraal Beach down past Camps Bay, it’s another 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. This 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 great yoga classes. 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 10 am until 3:30 pm, but as with any market, if you want the best deals you should come in the morning.
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