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View from Table Mountain (dreamstime)

7 cheap things to do in Cape Town

17th April 2012

Jo Price explores what you can do in South Africa's second most-populous city for under R50 (£4)

1. Climb iconic Table Mountain

A chance to tackle this mighty mountain shouldn’t go amiss during your stay. Brace yourself for a challenging but rewarding climb that will treat you to spectacular views at the summit and an epic sunset on a clear day. Completing this ascent is a great way to embrace Cape Town’s outdoor culture from the get-go.

At the top, keep a lookout for the resident hyraxes (commonly know as rock rabbits). Believe it or not, the small hoofed animal's closest living relative is the elephant.

If an easier climb is more your cup of tea try walking the Lion’s Head route. It has breathtaking views of Camps Bay and takes around two hours to complete the return journey.

2. Chill out with African penguins

The charismatic African penguins of Boulders Beach are famed for occupying this cove in their thousands.

Visit the Table Mountain National Park (entry fee R35) and head for the coast, for access to walkways right onto the main beach where you can see the penguins up close. If you’re brave, share a swim with them in summer.

However, there is a lesser-known (and free) option: take a path on the edge of the national park in Simonstown called Willis Walk to see penguins waddling along the vegetation and the path.

Did you know? African penguins are also referred to as jackass penguins, because they make a sound that is very similar to a donkey's bray.

3. Try beer tasting at Newlands

The South African Brewery (SAB) at Newlands offers tours three times a day in the week and at 10am on a Saturday. It is located north-east of Table Mountain Nature Reserve.

The tour involves taking a journey back to the early 1800s, when Jacob Letterstedt built the original Mariendahl Brewery. The Old Malthouse, Oasthouse and Mariendahl Tower Brewery at the site now have National Heritage status. You will be guided through the malthouse and get a true taste of the production process.

Two complimentary beers at the end of your visit make it a satisfactory trip!

4. Picnic in Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Kirstenbosch was established in 1913 to promote, conserve and display the extraordinarily rich and diverse flora of southern Africa. There are over 7,000 plants (including many rare and threatened species) in cultivation at the gardens, set against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.

Adult entry fee is R40 and gives you access to the beautiful grounds. The landscape provides the perfect setting for outdoor artwork and gives you the chance to meander and observe thought-provoking sculptures.

Bring a picnic and settle down for a relaxing afternoon. Be sure to take your rubbish with you – bins are not present in order to keep the gardens natural and pristine.

5. Discover South Africa’s diamond heritage

If you're curious to learn the three billion-year-old story of how a diamond is formed and made into the finished polished stone, then Cape Town Diamond Museum is a must-see.

Discover South Africa’s role in the diamond rush and how that shaped the history of one the world’s most desirable treasures. Ogle some the world’s 'most famous' diamonds and understand how the raw element is set and polished.

Tours cost R50 per person. Entry allows you to go behind the scenes and find out what the fascination is all about from the diamond experts themselves. The museum is located at The Clock Tower, Waterfront, and tours operate seven days a week.

6. Peruse contemporary artwork

To satisfy even the hungriest culture vulture, pay a visit to WhatiftheWorld Gallery on 1 Argyle Street, Woodstock. As an added bonus, visitors can view the artwork for free, although donations are appreciated.

In 2007, the gallery was selected by Contemporary Magazine (London) as one of the ‘Top 50 Emerging Galleries from Around the World.’ It provides a great platform for emerging new talent and supports rising stars of South Africa’s contemporary art scene.

7. Listen to sounds for the soul

West End is one of Cape Town’s popular jazz clubs, showcasing local and international artists alike. The club has been hosting performers for over 15 years and is a recommended hangout for serious jazz fans. It can be found on College Road, Rylands. Admission varies, but most promotions offer entry for R50 and include a drinks voucher.

For the past 13 years, Cape Town has played host to a world-renowned Jazz Festival. As an alternative, visit the city the end of March and lookout for the festival’s community free concert. This is held as part of the build up to the main festival, scheduling some of the acts that are due to perform there. 

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