The Western Cape is a province in the south west of South Africa. The capital is Cape Town. Prior to 1994, the region that now forms the Western Cape was part of the much larger (and now defunct) Cape Province. Prior to the formation of the Union of South Africa in 1910, it was called the Cape Colony (see the History of Cape Colony).
The Western Cape is roughly L-shaped, extending north and east from the Cape of Good Hope, the southwestern corner of South Africa. It stretches about 400 kilometres (250 mi) northwards along the Atlantic coast and about 500 kilometres (300 mi) eastwards along the Indian Ocean coast. It is bordered on the north by the Northern Cape and on the east by the Eastern Cape. The total land area of the province is 129,462 square kilometres (49,986 sq mi), about 10.6% of the country’s total. It is roughly the size of England or the US state of Louisiana.
The Breede, Berg and Olifants Rivers are major rivers of the province. The capital is Cape Town and other major cities include Stellenbosch, Worcester, Paarl, and George. The Garden Route and the Overberg are popular coastal tourism areas.
The Western Cape is exceptionally topographically diverse. Most of the province falls within the Cape Fold Belt, a range of sandstone folded mountains of Permian to Carboniferous age that range in height from 1000m to 2300m. The valleys between ranges are generally very fertile and contains alluvial loamy to clay soils.The far interior forms part of the Karoo Basin and is generally arid and hilly with a sharp escarpment in the north. Coastal areas range from sandy between capes, to rocky to steep and mountainous in places. The Western Cape is also the southernmost region of the African continent with Cape Agulhas as its southernmost point, only 3800 km from the Antarctic coastline.
Vegetation is also extremely diverse, with one of the world's seven floral kingdoms almost exclusively endemic to the province, namely the Cape Floral Kingdom, most of which is covered by Fynbos (Afrikaans: Fine Bush). It is extremely rich in species diversity, with more plant species occurring on Table Mountain than the entire United Kingdom. It is characterised by various types of shrubs, thousands of flowering plant species and some small trees.
The arid interior is dominated by Karoo drought-resistant shrubbery. The West Coast and Little Karoo are semi-arid regions and are typified by many species of succulents and drought-resistant shrubs and acacia trees. The Garden Route is extremely lush, with temperate rainforest (or Afromontane Forest) covering many areas adjacent to the coast and along the mountain ranges. Typical species are hardwoods of exceptional height, such as Yellowwood, Stinkwood and Ironwood trees.
The Western Cape is also diverse climatologically, with many distinct micro- and macroclimates created by the varied topography and the influence of both the Indian (warm water) and Atlantic (cold water) oceans, thus climatic statistics can vary greatly over short distances. Most of the province is considered to have a Mediterranean climate with cool, wet winters and warm, dry summers. The interior Karoo has a semi-arid climate with cold, frosty winters and hot summers with occasional thunderstorms. The Garden Route and the Overberg on the south coast have a maritime climate with cool, moist winters and mild, moist summers. Mossel Bay in the Garden Route is considered to have the second mildest climate worldwide after Hawaii.
Thunderstorms are generally rare in the province, except in the Karoo interior, with most precipitation being of a frontal or orographic nature. Extremes of heat and cold are common inland, but rare near the coast. Snow is a common winter occurrence on the higher lying ground, however frost is relatively rare in coastal areas and many of the heavily cultivated valleys.
Adderley flower sellers
The Adderley Street flower sellers and their colourful blooms are located in the market place in Cape Town’s main thoroughfare, between Strand Street and Darling Street, and within easy walking distance of Greenmarket Square. Adderley Street was formerly known as Heerengracht, after a canal that ran the length of the road. In days gone by the homes of many of Cape Town’s forefathers lined Heerengracht, where oak trees provided shade to those who strolled along its pavements. When Adderley became Cape Town’s main street in the mid-19th Century, the oaks were felled and the canal was covered. In 1908 wooden blocks were used to pave Adderley Street in an effort to dampen the noise caused by horses, wagons and carts.
South African Traditionals – Foods, drinks, dances and drums
Eat, drink, dance and drum African style in Cape Town.
South Africa’s rich cultural traditions relating to the preparation of food and drink, eating and drinking, dancing and drumming, are still prevalent in many areas of South Africa – and Cape Town is no different.Enjoy a meal served in true African ambience at Mzoli’s Place, the trendy local butchery-turned-club-and-eatery in Gugulethu, or at Eziko Restaurant in Langa, another of Cape Town’s sprawling townships
South African Wildlife and Game Reserves
Although Cape Town and the Western Cape are probably not the best places to experience a safari (Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal provinces are better known for that), it is possible to have an encounter with South Africa’s big game not far from the Mother City.
Take an imaginary flight with the aviators of yesteryear with a visit to the South African Air Force Museum at Ysterplaat, where the winged wonders of a bygone era have been preserved for posterity.At Ysterplaat Air Force Base, the 22 Squadron operates Oryx and Lynx helicopters to support the army, navy and special forces. It also takes on the roles of sea and maritime search and rescue, firefighting, crime prevention, flood relief and support for the South African Antarctic Programme. The 35 Squadron takes on a variety of maritime and transport roles as well as intelligence gathering and services such as monitoring illegal fishing.
Alphen Antiques and Collectables Fair and Kirstenbosch Craft Market
Visit the Alphen Antiques and Collectables Fair and the Kirstenbosch Craft Market, where dealers, décor divas and antique collectors gather in search of good bargains.The Alphen Antiques and Collectables Fair usually takes place at the Alphen Centre, opposite Constantia Village, on the second and fourth Sunday of every month (unless otherwise advertised).Items on sale range from jewellery and watches to coins, medals, glass, ceramics, porcelain, silver, toys, books, militaria, paintings and small furnishings
Amy Biehl was a young American Fulbright Scholarship exchange student who studied at the University of the Western Cape in 1993. That same year, she was tragically stoned and stabbed to death in Gugulethu township by young supporters of the Pan African Congress who were later granted amnesty through the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.In remembrance of Biehl, a non-profit organisation, the Amy Biehl Foundation, was founded in 1997. Its mission is to “weave a barrier against violence” by focusing on social, cultural and economic empowerment through its many programmes and, in so doing, restore hope and dignity to disadvantaged communities.
Art galleries in Cape Town
More than 100 art galleries – as diverse as the colours daubed on an artist’s palette – await discovery in and around Cape Town. The artwork in a number of these galleries reflects South African culture and is likely to appeal to those looking for an art piece as a memento, while others cater for the more serious art collector looking for a unique masterpiece.Below you will find a list of some of the galleries and spaces across the city. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have found a gem that others should know about, or if you can’t locate a particular gallery that you’d like to visit.
If you are in the mood to take in a show, a spellbinding ballet or moving opera then the Artscape Theatre Centre is worth a visit. It’s one of Cape Town’s modern landmarks, home to the Artscape performing arts company, as well as one of the main performing arts centres.
Relive a piece of South African history, push yourself to the extreme and dine on gourmet food at the scene of the Battle of Blauuwberg (now known as “Bloubergstrand” or simply “Blouberg”).Fought on the Blaauwberg beach near Cape Town in 1806, the Battle of Blaauwberg was a small, but significant battle at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, in which the British beat the Dutch, and which subsequently established British rule in South Africa for the second time. Historian Tim Couzens describes the battles as “one of the largest seaborne invasions Britain had ever undertaken”.
There’s not much physical evidence of this battle that remains, though you can go to the site where Lieutenant General J W Janssens (the then Governor of the Cape) had his base camp. While little remains of the camp, the site offers a magnificent view across Rietvlei and Table Bay.
Bikini Beach, Gordon’s Bay
Situated at the base of the Hottentots Holland mountains on the False Bay coast, the pretty village of Gordon’s Bay is a favourite spot in which to enjoy a relaxing holiday.
The glittering lights of Cape Town lie only 40 minutes away from Gordon’s Bay, a scenic cove with a sheer mountain backdrop, and you’ll reach the airport in half an hour by car.One of the most popular places in Gordon’s Bay is Bikini Beach, and even though the beach itself is small and parking limited, it’s worth trying to find an empty spot along with other holidaymakers during peak season. Thanks to its sheltered locality between the mountain and harbour, Bikini Beach comes into its own when the wind is howling. It enjoys Blue Flag status, attesting to its water quality, safety and related international criteria.
Bo-Kaap Houseing and Estates
Known for its brightly coloured houses and situated at the foot of Signal Hill, Bo-Kaap is the spiritual home of the Cape’s Muslim community.
Boat and yacht charters
One of the advantages of being on a peninsula is that the sea is rarely more than a few kilometres away in any direction, so why not take advantage of this and view Cape Town from a different perspective? go and spend a bit of time on a boat or yacht.
Boulders penguin colony
There are few places in the world where you can get this close to a breeding colony of penguins, swim close to them in the sea and enjoy their private sandy beach.
Boulders Beach is situated near Simon’s Town in False Bay between Fish Hoek and Cape Point. It’s about 2km from the Simon’s Town train station, which is the last stop on the scenic Southern Line railway route. The sea here is good for swimming and the big, round boulders on the sandy beach provide some shade and shelter. Since it forms part of the Table Mountain National Park, there is an entrance fee, which goes towards paying for conservation of the endangered African penguins that live here.
Under the looming Twelve Apostles and Lion’s Head, with views out across the turquoise-coloured sea, Camps Bay sports some of the trendiest places in Cape Town to see and be seen.
Head south from the beaches of Clifton (or north from the buzz of Sea Point) and you’ll discover the chic suburb of Camps Bay. The main drag, Victoria Road, is jam-packed with funky restaurants, trendy pubs, and bucket-and-spade shops on one side, and a palm-fringed beach on the other.It’s here, on the snowy sands of Camps Bay, where you’ll find bronzed and buff locals flexing their muscles and showing off their volleyball skills. While supermodels and rock stars of the world are known to hang out at Camps Bay, it’s also a great place for families – the sandy beach is wide and flat, and parking is sometimes more available than at nearby Clifton. During the Easter break and around the Christmas holidays, Camps Bay is packed to the brim.
While new year always arrives with a big bang in the Mother City, it’s the Cape Minstrel Carnival, known as Tweede Nuwe Jaar (second new year), that gives the celebration its local colour. The Cape Minstrel Carnival is Cape Town’s longest-running street party, tracing back to old slave traditions during the days of the Cape Colony.Historically celebrated on January 2, the one day Cape slaves were given off every year, the carnival is still marked today, typically on January 1, by merrymaking, music and a parade: Performers from local communities, dressed as minstrels and waving parasols, dance and sing their way from Zonnebloem, formerly District Six, through the city centre.
Legend has it that the carnival was influenced by a group of African-American musicians who docked in Cape Town in the late 1800s and entertained sailors with their spontaneous performances. Many tunes you will hear played during the parade are more than 200 years old, although you’re sure to hear pop songs and local interpretations of modern music too. The song-and-dance troupes involved take the event very seriously – some start practicing up to six months in advance – and there are prizes for the most flamboyant performance, the best-dressed troupe, the best singer and the best band.
Cape Town International Airport
Cape Town International Airport is Africa’s third-largest airport. Having undergone an upgrade for the FIFA World Cup™, the airport now offers passengers and visitors a memorable experience and a great venue for conferencing and shopping.
The desire to discover a sea route to access the bounty of the East in the days of the early explorers led to the demise of countless ships along the rugged and treacherous South African coastline. All in all, researchers have documented more than 2 500 wrecks along the South African coastline since 1500 – hundreds of these in the waters off the Western Cape – but believe many more await discovery in their watery graves.
The steep slopes of the Cape Peninsula are home to more than 100 caves, ranging in size from overhangs to deep fissures with underground tunnels.
The caves in Table Mountain itself have been created by movement of native sandstone. Some better-known caves, such as Wynberg Cave, Bat’s Cave, Smuggler’s Cave and the Giant’s Workshop, have been formed by eons of water erosion following earlier rock movement.
Located on the N1 just outside the Cape Town city limits, Century City, is a mini city network providing work, leisure and fun activities to those looking for an ultimate lifestyle away from the hubbub of the The suburb is spread over 250ha and has a golf course, various residential properties and Canal Walk shopping centre.
Chapman’s Peak and Noordhoek
Chapman’s Peak Drive winds its way between Noordhoek and Hout Bay and is touted as one of the most spectacular marine drives in the world.Chapman’s Peak is the 593m (1 945ft) high southerly extension of the Constantiaberg, and the 9km (5.6mi) long Chapman’s Peak Drive (when open) offers stunning 180-degree views over the Atlantic Ocean.
The route below the peak was initially constructed during World War I and traverses 114 curves along the rocky coastline. Starting in picturesque Hout Bay, the road winds steeply up to Chapman’s Peak point – revealing exquisite views of the sandy beaches and aquamarine ocean below – before heading down towards Noordhoek.
Church Square and Slave Lodge, at the top corner of Adderley Street, bear witness to the turbulent past of the Cape of Good Hope.Located at the entrance of the Gothic-style Groote Kerk, Cape Town’s historical Church Square was the place where slaves would wait under a “slave tree” while their owners attended church.
In 1920 a statue of the parliamentarian Jan Hendrik Hofmeyr was erected in Church Square in recognition of his efforts to have Dutch recognised as a language (on the same footing with English) in the Constitution of 1910.Despite its historical significance, Church Square was a car park from the 1970s to the 1990s. However in 2004 it was converted into a multi-functional “green” space.
City Hall and Grand Parade
Cape Town’s City Hall was built in 1905 in Italian Renaissance style, and is one of the last Victorian-style sandstone structures in the Mother City. Despite showing its age, Cape Town’s iconic City Hall continues to be sought out by urban explorers.
District Six Museum
The District Six Museum revives the history of a vibrant community that was forcibly removed to the city’s periphery during apartheid.
In 1966 the National Party government declared District Six a “white group area” and moved thousands of residents (mostly coloured and black people) to the Cape Flats, where they had few facilities or means of making a living. All buildings except religious ones were demolished.Nowadays, former residents and their descendants are rebuilding their memories and cultural heritage once again in this area.
According to the museum, District Six, close to the city and port, was originally “a mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants”.The 170-year-old museum building in Buitenkant Street was formerly the Methodist Mission Church. It contains a permanent multimedia exhibition called Digging Deeper, which includes narrated life histories of District Six residents.
The address 96 Strand Street, Cape Town, is better known as the Gold of Africa Museum, which is dedicated to preserving the ancient art of African goldsmithing while simultaneously inspiring contemporary design.
Gordon’s Bay is a harbour town with excellent beaches, which lies against the Helderberg.Gordon’s Bay, about 45 minutes’ drive away from Cape Town, is named after Robert Jacob Gordon, a Dutch colonel, explorer and acting governor of the Cape.A visitor’s paradise, the town boasts long Blue Flag status beaches and a good climate.Along the beachfront lies a stretch of pubs, cafés, shopping malls and restaurants, where visitors can enjoy a variety of meals or just relax and watch the sun set.
Historic buildings and architecture in Cape Town
As the oldest city in South Africa, Cape Town boasts a number of historical buildings, many of which are still in use today and open to visitors. The city’s architecture is a testament to the many varying influences in South Africa’s unique history.
Lighthouses of Cape Town
If pharology (the study of lighthouses) brings a twinkle to your eye, there are 10 places along the Cape coast where you’ll find them. The precursors to today’s modern automated lighthouses were large fires set on the water’s edge to warn sailors that they were approaching land. The Egyptians were the first to build lighthouses.
Lion’s Head forms part of the Table Mountain range and provides a scenic backdrop to the City of Cape Town.
The Montebello Design Centre is one of Cape Town’s best-kept secrets. The centre features more than 20 arts and craft studios and workshops, an historic greenhouse and nursery, a forge, stunning restaurant and organic deli farm shop. It’s a non-profit development project aimed at promoting good local craft and design, and generating job creation.
Mouille Point, lying just north of Sea Point, is a well-heeled suburb with a number of cushy apartment blocks and short-term accommodation for tourists.
Noordhoek Farm Village
Tucked under the welcome shade of massive oak trees at the southern end of Chapman’s Peak Drive lies the delightful Noordhoek Farm Village.
Observatory or “Obs” as the locals call it, is Cape Town’s bohemian suburb and lies east of the city centre. where
you can old cape building
The imposing Rhodes Memorial, which sits at the foot of Devil’s Peak in the Table Mountain National Park, offers visitors spectacular views towards the Hottentots Holland mountains.
Once “home” to some of South Africa’s most famous political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, Robben Island is one of South Africa’s most visited tourist attractions, and rightly so. Do not leave Cape Town without visiting the island – it is likely to be one of the highlights of your trip.
Robben Island is situated some 9km (5.5mi) offshore from Cape Town. Dubbed “Robben” (“the place of seals”) by Dutch settlers, the island was declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, and over the centuries has been used as a prison, a hospital, a mental institution, and a military base. It is most famous for being a political prison during apartheid, an era of racial segregation in South Africa, when many of South Africa’s most prominent freedom fighters spent time here. Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of the 27 years he was imprisoned here.
Swimming in Cape Town – beaches and pools
South Africa’s Mother City offers an array of beautiful, white, sandy beaches and a refreshing, crystal-clear ocean set against an azure sky. The Cape Peninsula separates two of the great oceans of the world, the cold Atlantic Ocean and the slightly warmer Indian Ocean, which meet officially at Cape Aghulas. And if the ocean’s too cold, there’s also a great choice of public swimming pools in Cape Town.
On November 11, 2011, Table Mountain was named among the New7Wonders of Nature, following a lengthy international public voting process.You can get to the top of Cape Town’s most famous icon in just five minutes by taking a cable car up, or spend the better part of your day hiking it.Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, established in 1929, takes visitors to the top in one of two cable cars, each with rotating floors and huge windows to ensure your views while travelling are almost as spectacular as those on the summit. Cable cars depart every 10 to 15 minutes.
There are a number of short walks on the top, as well as longer ones that can take you down to Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, or even further along, to the Silvermine Nature Reserve.Table Mountain is known for its rich biodiversity and is home to over 1 500 species of plants (more than the number found throughout the entire British Isles), most of them fynbos, which forms one of the world’s six plant kingdoms all on its own. At its highest point, Table Mountain reaches 1 085m (3 560ft) and affords views all the way to Robben Island and beyond.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, Table Mountain Café is a self-service restaurant where you can enjoy food and refreshments. The Café uses compostable plates and containers for food instead of regular, washable plates, helping conserve about 20 000 litres of water per month. Measures like these are part of Table Mountain Aerial Cableway’s mission to reduce their ecological footprint.
The Castle of Good Hope
Its position, although unremarkable today, indicates the original position of the shoreline, which, thanks to land reclamation, has been extensively changed. It's strange to think that the original entrance to the fort had to be moved due to the waves that sometimes pounded against its doors.
West Coast Ostrich Show Ranch
For a tourism experience with a difference, visit the West Coast Ostrich Show Ranch. This family-owned ostrich business includes informative tours.a place every one should visit.