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Cape Town guide
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Last updated : Nov 2009
Cape Town Travel Guide
Cape Town Travel Guide and Cape Town Travel Information - TravelPuppy.com
'The mother city of Africa and the Western Cape'

With its beautiful location, tucked into the arms of a broad bay, surrounded by natural, white sand beaches and set against the canvas of Table Mountain, Cape Town is 1 of the most stunning cities in the world. Lovingly nicknamed the Mother City, the city is the epicentre of South Africa’s Western Cape region and the seat of South Africa’s parliament. Formerly home to the nomadic Khoi people for at least 30,000 years, the Cape Peninsula was 1st settled, on 6 April 1652, by Dutch sailors led by Jan van Riebeek of the Dutch East India Company.

Portuguese explorer Bartholemew Diaz had already discovered the Cape in 1488 and named it Cabo Tormentoso or ‘Cape of Storms’, however Portugal’s King John II later renamed it ‘Cape of Good Hope’. It then became a British colony in 1795, when the British Empire extended its borders. The city has been the 1st port of call for several European settlers, entrepreneur and religious refugee, as well as for Indian, Madagascan and South East Asian slaves. All these people combined with the local Xhosa and Khoi population and the city became a melting pot of religions, cultures, styles and flavours.

Nowadays, traders from other African countries (such as Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ethiopia and Nigeria) also favour Cape Town, mainly because there are so many tourists there. The city has a reputation for being the most tolerant and hospitable city in South Africa, with a strong diversity and open minded generosity. Capetonians are proud of their easy going and laid back nature, jokingly known as the ‘Cape coma’, so different from their more hectic counterparts in the north.

On the streets, a great variety of languages are spoken, while stalls selling all manner of crafts, textiles and food are squashed among art galleries, American style malls, European fashion boutiques, luxury hotels, backpacker lodges and the ubiquitous chains. In summer, it is complicated to escape the glitz of the international media, whether fashion shoots, film crews, music videos or commercials, lured by exotic locations, great foreign exchange rates, a world class infrastructure and seemingly continuous supply of drop dead gorgeous models and extras.

Although Cape Town is unquestionably on the up and up, it is still delimited by the ever visible legacy of apartheid. The 1st glimpse of the city coming from the airport is of shanty towns or townships, a hangover from the days of the well known Group Areas Act, which reserved the prime city land for whites only. At the foot of Table Mountain, the area acknowledged as District Six (once populated by the local mixed race community known as ‘Cape coloured’), now renamed Zonnebloem, is still somewhat of a ghost town, although housing development is in progress. The inhabitants were moved to the desolate and windswept Cape Flats, which has become well known as the gangland of disaffected Cape Town youth. Even today, comparatively few non whites live in the more upmarket suburbs, although some of the former townships are gradually turning into middle class estates as the economic circumstances improve.

Nevertheless, natural splendour spreads out from Cape Town. To the south, the flawless beaches of the Cape Peninsula are fringed with attractive towns and mansions ending in the beautiful Cape Point nature reserve. To the east lies the mystifying magnificence of the Overberg, the deserted beaches, rolling plains and lofty mountains of the Southern Cape. To the north and north west, the misty and severe beauty of the West Coast, the basic wilderness of the Cedarberg and the verdant valley of Ceres await the traveller.

Numerous visitors think that Cape Town is best during the peak summer months (December to February) however it is attractive all year round. Summer brings extensive, hot beach days and balmy outdoor evenings, but they could also be portrayed as scorching and overcrowded and there is the chance of the legendary strong southeaster wind.

Spring (September to November) brings blooms of flowers, whilst autumn (March to May) guarantees a golden haze of warm days. Winter (June to August), although wet and often cold, is combined with weeks that are both clear and warm. The city is free of tourists and wonderfully green, dolphins and whales stop in the several small bays along the coastline, and waterfalls, the most impressive sight of this secret season, streak silver paths down the mountains.
Useful travel links
Cape Town Visitors guide to Cape Town