The 18 Best Things To Do in Cape Town on a Budget

By on February 28, 2019 in Africa, Budget Travel Ideas, SOUTH AFRICA with 4 Comments

18 Best Things To Do in Cape Town on a Budget

Well, what can I say?

It’s been a hiatus of 15 years since I lasted visited Cape Town at the tender age of 19 and boy oh boy has this city got even better than I remember!

Arriving to blue skies, an epic view of Table Mountain from the airport and a week of exploration stretching ahead of me, the scene was right for me to fall in love with this place all over again.

And I did!

With more things to do in this city than you can shake a stick at, here, fellow shoestring nomads, are my 18 best things to do in Cape Town on a budget!


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Bohemian Lofts Backpackers kindly sponsored my stay in Cape Town, but, as always, all views are my own.


#1 Sail to Robben Island

South Africa, Cape Town, Robben Island

There’s no question Robben Island is one of the best things to do in Cape Town on a budget.

Costing just £20 for a 4 hour tour, which includes a boat rode over to the island, a bus tour around the island and a tour of the prison from a former inmate, this is a deeply profound opportunity to see where Mandela was held captive for a large part of his imprisonment.

Plus the boat ride is brilliant – you get an amazing view of Cape Town from the ocean on the way back and I saw dolphins, seals and whales… although wildlife is not guaranteed!

I advise booking your Robben Tour online in advance. You can do it here.

 

LOOKING FOR A BUDGET TOUR OR SELF-DRIVE TRIP IN SOUTH AFRICA?

If you’re interested in an unforgettable, well-priced tour in South Africa with guides you can trust, or a self-drive trip organised by a great company, then email me at steph@bigworldsmallpockets.com and I’ll send you my top recommendations – simple!

 

#2 Stroll the V&A Waterfront

South Africa, Cape Town, Waterfront Views

The fancy and most touristy part of Cape Town, there’s no doubt the V&A Waterfront is worth a stroll and a snap.

Free to wander around, it has some nice historic parts including the Clock Tower, a good food market and some top shopping care of The Watershed.

And who could forget the great Zeitz MOCAA Museum – an epic piece of architecture that you can snap from the outside for free.

With street art, selfie spots, picturesque bridges and lazy seals, there’s plenty of photo opps at the Waterfront making exploring here one of the best things to do in Cape Town on a budget.

 

#3 Walk from Muzienberg to Kalk Bay

If you’re looking for a chilled, seaside, free stroll in Cape Town, then look no further than the coastal path that runs from Muizenberg to St James and then onto Kalk Bay.

Stop to stare at the beautifully coloured Victorian bathing houses, the expert surfers and then head into one of the pretty coastal cafes to soak it all up over a drink.

Tigers Milk and Cape to Cuba come highly recommended.

 

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#4 Hang with the Penguins in Simon’s Town

South Africa, Cape Town, Penguins

Come on, who doesn’t love a penguin?

Everyone loves a bl**dy penguin… me included!

And on a great day trip from Cape Town you can see hundreds of the little critters at close proximity for under a tenner (152 Rand) – definitely one of the best things to do in Cape Town on a budget!

Head to Simon’s Town via the train or an Uber and hit up Boulders Beach to walk among these amazing birds via a beautifully constructed boardwalk.

Afterwards, don’t miss the opp to swim with them too – take the path ahead instead of turning into the Visitor’s Centre and you can get even more up close and personal with these cuties.

 

#5 Hit the Beach at Clifton

South Africa, Cape Town, Clifton Beach

And while we’re on the subject of beach days, does it get better than Cape Town’s Clifton Beach?

Nope!

Of course it’s free, it’s a beach.

And course it’s beautiful, it’s Cape Town!

Head here on a day when the wind isn’t blowing to experience one of the best things to do in Cape Town on a budget… no question.

 

BEST HOSTEL IN CAPE TOWN

Without a doubt, the best hostel award in Cape Town has to go to Bohemian Loft Backpackers.

Situated in the funky student area of Observatory, I loved the vintage shops, quirky cafes and charming bookstores of this suburb and the very local vibe.

Bohemian Loft is run by the wonderful Jenny and her team – who will go above and beyond to look after you.

Each room is personalised, comfy beyond measure and the place is spotlessly clean – from the streetside balconies to the guest kitchen and cosy communal areas, I loved this place.

 

#6 Stroll the Sea Point Promenade

And just up from Clifton is the stunning Sea Point and its perfect promenade.

Join the locals for an amble along this seafront boulevard, or rent a bike and enjoy the cycle.

Enroute, check out Mojo Market for a drink or lunch in a casual, pop-up kinda way.

Otherwise the Art Deco Pavillion has a great seawater pool.

 

#7 Visit the Cape

South Africa, Cape Town, Noordhoek

You can’t go to Cape Town and not go to the Cape right?

Situated a few hours’ drive from the city centre, the cheapest way to get here is to rent a car if you’re a group or take a tour if you’re travelling solo.

Combining this spot with Simon’s Town and Muzienburg or Kalk Bay, is also a great way to get your money’s worth.

Once you reach the dramatic “end of the world”, pay to enter and then enjoy a stroll to the lighthouse that marks the combining of the Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

The scenery is nothing short of spectacular, so definitely bring your camera to ensure you remember the experience of this great thing to do in Cape Town on a budget.

 

#8 Take a Wine Tour in Constantia

South Africa, Cape Town, Constantia

You can’t come to Cape Town and not enjoy a drop or 2 or the local tipple right?

While you can day trip to Stellenbosch or Franschhoek to experience some wine tasting, if you’re in the city already it’s cheaper to just head to Constantia, the wine growing region that’s basically a part of Cape Town it’s so close.

Pick your vineyard and get sampling!

 

#9 Drive Chapman’s Peak

South Africa, Cape Town, Chapman's Drive

The amazing drive that marks the coastline between Hout Bay and Noordhoek, this toll road does involve a small payment, but it’s more than worth it as it’s one of the most spectacular stretches of coastline going.

If, like me, you love a road trip, this one is ideal, with picnic spots and lookouts completing the picture.

Combine it with a trip to the Cape or Simon’s Town to make it as cost effective as possible.

 

South Africa, Cape Town, Old Building

HOW LONG TO SPEND IN CAPE TOWN

Well how long is a piece of string?!

Honestly I’d suggest at least a week in Cape Town to ensure you have the chance to tick most of the major sights off your list.

Plus you might need a few days to rearrange activities due to the wind.

Given this, and the fact you’ll want to make some day trips, you honestly could spend at least 2 busy weeks in Cape Town and not see it all!

 

#10 Take a Free Walking Tour

No surprise, I love a free walking tour and was delighted to learn this city offers a couple of different options when it comes to strolling the city with a guide for only a tip at the end.

Leaving every day, normally from Long Street in the city’s CBD, a free walking tour is certainly a must when it comes to the best things to do in Cape Town on a budget.

And you’ve got a choice too – not just of companies, but also of the different routes.

The Historic City Tour and the Bo Kaap Walk seem to be the most popular.

And while you’re in the CBD, checking out the Greenmarket Square Souvenir Market and the Parliament Building too, which are just a hop, skip and a jump away.

 

#11 Get Your IG Snaps in Bo Kaap

South Africa, Cape Town, Me in Bo Kaap

Come on, if you’ve ever been on Instagram you’ll know about Bo Kaap!

Brightly coloured houses with open doors that waft out the smells of delicious Cape Malay food.

The allure of this area, just north of the City Centre, is palpable and heading here, camera in hand, to get snaps of yourself posing on these iconic streets is free and a lot of fun!

 

#12 Enjoy the Café in Woodstock / Observatory

South Africa, Cape Town, The Kitchen

Cape Town has a really pulsing, vibrant feel to it and the hipster movement has officially landed.

As such, delicious cafes abound, which as you know if you read this blog a lot, I’m all for!

And the top areas for sniffing out the local gems in my opinion, are Woodstock and Observatory, the first of which has undergone more gentrification than the other.

Both however, still possess a gritty charm, an army of young trendies and more delicious caffeine (including vegan milk options – hoorah) than you can shake a stick at!

South Africa, Cape Town, Cafe Coats

 

5 ESSENTIALS TO PACK FOR CAPE TOWN

#1 Cape Town Lonely Planet – A great travel aide to this city with tons of historical info, maps and top tips, the Cape Town Lonely Planet will help you get the best from your time in this city.

#2 Metal Water Bottle – Cape Town tap water is drinkable – hoorah! Bring your metal water bottle so you can refill from the tap here, helping the environment and your small pockets at the same time.

#3 Good Camera – Cape Town is one of those ultimate bucket list destinations and travelling here with a good camera will help you preserve the memories. I highly recommend the mirrorless Sony A6000. Light, compact and robust, it’s been perfect for my Africa travel adventures.

#4 Sun Hat – Cape Town is hot and dry and often, windy as hell. When you’re walking the city, taking day trips or hiking some of the mountains here you’ll be exposed to the sun for long periods of time, so making sure you pack a sunhat for adequate protection is key. I love this one from Hello Sunshine.

#5 Amazon Audible – Travel to Cape Town from just about anywhere takes a long time – no matter whether it’s a plane, bus or boat. Having something to listen to while you enjoy the journey therefore is a must! I love Amazon Audible, which is the best audiobook service around!

 

#13 Retreat to the Company Gardens

South Africa, Cape Town, Company Gardens

It’s free, it’s beautiful, it’s by the city centre and it makes for the perfect escape for an hour.

There’s no doubt retreating to  Company Gardens is one of the best things to do in Cape Town on a budget.

And while you’re there, learn about the history of this place and why it’s so closely linked to the founding of Cape Town as the city we now know it to be.

 

Heading to this great city soon? Why not check out my complete Cape Town itinerary!

 

#14 Hit the Botanic Gardens

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are on everyone’s hitlist in Cape Town and no zero surprise there, because they’re stunning.

Costing just 60 Rand to get in, you can spend a whole afternoon here (if you have the time) strolling and soaking up the picturesque environment.

Not to be missed is the Tree Canopy Walkway, which is included in the entrance fee and is a lot of fun.

 

#15 Shop at the Neighbourgoods Market

South Africa, Cape Town, Bicycle

I originally visited the Neighbourgoods Market in Joburg by complete chance and loved it.

I was therefore delighted to discover that the original market can actually be found in Cape Town.

Taking place every Saturday in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, this is a must for delicious food, cool coffee, great people watching and an awesome vibe!

 

THE BEST TRAVEL INSURANCE FOR SOUTH AFRICA

I would never think of travelling to South Africa without proper coverage and always recommend travel insurance from World Nomads who I’ve used during my time in this country and throughout the continent.

I love their great coverage of safari activities – crucial for a country like South Africa – as well as their excellent customer service and ability to claim online, which is very handy if you’re travelling in remote places for a long time.

 

 

#16 Take the Pipe Track

South Africa, Cape Town, Lookout View

One of the best walks in Cape Town with some of the most stunning views of the 12 Apostles and the sweeping coastline here, the Pipe Trail is a must

Simple as that!

Up there as one of the best free things to do in Cape Town as far as I’m concerned.

 

#17 Watch Sunset from Signal Hill

And with gorgeous nature spots a go-go, you’ll be spoilt for choice in Cape Town.

That said, you cannot miss sunset from the top of Signal Hill.

There’s some sort of cannon firing display that goes on here at noon, but personally, I think it’s all about this spot at the end of the day, when the colours really show off the view at its best.

Get an Uber up here, especially at sunset, as I wouldn’t advise walking, and take a picnic and a friend with you.

 

#18 Hike Table Mountains /  Lions Head

South Africa, Cape Town, Landscape

And finally, number 18 on my list of the best things to do in Cape Town on a budget is to hike one of this city’s amazing mountains.

Choose from Table Mountain or Lions Head, pick your route, take sunscreen, water, a hat and possibly a guide and set out for an unbelievable experience.

 

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So there you have it, my mammoth list of the best 18 things to do in Cape Town on a budget.

You really can’t go wrong with this city shoestring travellers, so get it on your list asap!

Goodness only knows why it took me 15 years to visit again, but I’ll be back a lot sooner next time!

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 4 Brilliant Comments

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  1. Great post for things to do in Cape Town thanks for the great tips!!!

  2. Oh! I love love love penguins! Anywhere I can see them in the wild is on my bucket list.

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