When it comes to short visits, Cape Town straddles a unique line. Although the size of the city lends itself perfectly to a quick visit, the pull of Cape Town’s attractions is often enough to keep visitors coming back for more year after year. If you only have 24 hours in Cape Town you’ll need to plan carefully and make the most of your time. But the good news is, the best things to do in Cape Town in one day are all focused around the city, and many of the best places to visit in Cape Town can be ticked off in just a few hours.
Although it would be impossible to see everything worthwhile in Cape Town in one day, with an early start and some strict timelines you can get a taste of what it is that makes this city one of the world’s most celebrated. Choosing where to stay in Cape Town can help make your short visit easier to manage - pick accommodation somewhere in the Cape Town City Bowl for the most convenient location. If you wake up in the city centre, you can start your morning in one of Cape Town’s buzzing coffee shops - you’ll find the best of them along Bree Street. There, you can have a last look over the Cape Town attractions you want to visit. Or if you happen to be in Cape Town over the weekend, the Oranjezicht Farmer’s Market at the V&A Waterfront (open Saturdays and Sundays), or the Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill (open Saturdays only) are fantastic places for a good coffee and quick breakfast. If the weather is good, finish off your breakfast and head for Table Mountain. Although the Cableway to the summit is busiest in the morning, if you pre-book tickets online you can skip much of the queue. A trip to to the top of Table Mountain will occupy the better part of your morning, but it’s the perfect way to get an aerial view of many famous Cape Town attractions.
As afternoon approaches you might start to think about lunch. Although the Cape Town city centre is packed full of popular restaurants, you can easily make it out to the decidedly more tranquil wine estates in Constantia. Though just a short drive or Uber ride away from the city, these estates offer a truly unique experience making them among the most popular places to visit in Cape Town, even if you’re pressed for time. The wine estates in Constantia are the oldest in the country - they offer tastings and sales to the public, and most have superb restaurants on-site. Groot Constantia is the oldest and grandest of the wine farms in the area, but Constantia Glen, High Constantia and Beau Constantia all offer something different worth experiencing for either a meal or a quick tasting.
Go for a drive
After lunch, cross over the mountain at Constantia Nek, and continue down to the coastal suburb of Hout Bay. There you will be able to take a quick trip along Chapman’s Peak Drive - although it may be too much to include the whole scenic route if you are in Cape Town for just one day, it’s possible to travel to the halfway point for free if you inform the toll booth operator at the Hout Bay side. At the halfway point you’re able to alight from your vehicle and take in incredible views of the ocean and mountains across the water. Head back towards Hout Bay and stick to the coastal road, called Victoria Drive, with the glistening Atlantic shimmering by below, all the way into the city. If you feel like a quick break along the way, there are several iconic beaches to choose from, including Llandudno, Clifton, and Camp’s Bay. Although the first two are more isolated and thus less touristy, Camp’s Bay is easier to reach - and a good suburb to stop in if you’re in need of an ice cream or coffee to boost your energy levels.
Take in the sites
If time allows, you can continue along the road all the way to the V&A Waterfront. With just 24 hours in Cape Town, you can skip over the shops and touristy restaurants. Although a tour to Robben Island, which departs from the Waterfront, is an important thing to do, the lengthy waits and unreliable ferries make it a difficult inclusion in an itinerary of Cape Town in one day. Rather, head the newly built Zeitz MOCAA museum in the Silo District. The museum can easily occupy an entire morning or afternoon, so instead soak up the atmosphere of the remarkable building and dedicate some time to one of the permanent exhibition floors.
As the night rolls around you’ll likely be fairly exhausted. Instead of heading too far out for a meal, pick a restaurant in the City Bowl or surrounds. The likes of the Shortmarket Club, Chef’s Warehouse and Canteen, and La Tête are among the most commended restaurants in the city center, and dedicating a few hours to a meal at either is one of the best things to do in Cape Town in one day. If you’re on a tight budget, there are plenty of other options to choose from nearby, including the trendy Clarkes, Hail Pizza, and True Italic. When you’re done with dinner on Bree Street, you’ll find yourself in the middle of the most fun things to do in Cape Town at night. The street is bustling with trendy bars that stay open to the early hours. Head to The House of Machines for good cocktails and live music, Hanks for a more toned down speakeasy vibe, Arcade to hang out with all the young and cool revelers, or venture to the very top of Bree Street where you’ll find Orphanage Cocktail Emporium - the premium cocktail bar that started the trend in Cape Town.
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