A friend in Alaska asked me recently when the best time is to visit the Mother City (as Cape Town is affectionately known by the locals). Unfortunately, as is the case with most popular tourist destinations, the good weather is also when the city is at its busiest.
Cape Town is also notorious for having four seasons in one day, so it’s safe to say that the weather patterns in our neck of the woods are somewhat less reliable than say, Johannesburg, where spring arrives without fail on September 1st and summer disappears overnight come April.
We love it here though, and quite honestly, we wouldn’t have it any other way. It keeps us on our toes and makes us appreciate those days when it does get really hot.
In answer to my friend’s question, the very best time to visit is anywhere between the beginning of December and the end of February. Although if crowds aren’t your thing then it’s best to wait until mid-January, because by then most of the tourists will have returned home.
Either way, it’s best to find and book your accommodation well in advance. Under normal circumstances I’m all for shooting from the hip and making arrangements on the fly, but planning a trip to Cape Town over the festive season requires German precision.
Failure to comply will result in you spending your holiday in a flea-infested backpackers hostel (if you’re lucky). Make no mistake it gets busy here. Aside from the international crowd seeking respite from colder climes, we also have the usual influx of in-landers in search of some end of year sun and sea to wash away the year’s stresses.
Right, now that I’ve got the cons out the way, let’s focus on why the festive season is a great time to visit Cape Town.
Well for starters we have our rainy season in winter, so there’s no chance of being caught in a sudden downpour and getting drenched. The sun also rises before five and only sets after eight, which means the days are lovely and long.
You’ll get to meet a really interesting cross-section of people from all over the world, and depending on where you choose to hang out, you might even come across the odd local too. Rumor has it we’re not that friendly, but that’s simply not true (buy us beer and we’ll be friends with anyone).
There are plenty of good deals to take advantage of at this time of year.
Table Mountain Cableway has a sunset special where tickets are half price after 6pm. City Sightseeing Cape Town offers a 2-Day Ticket that includes a Red City and Blue Mini Peninsula Tour as well as a free Canal Cruise, Night Tour and Wine Tour Bus into Constantia Valley.
By the end of day two you’re guaranteed to know the lay of the land.
The Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens hosts Summer Sunset Concerts every Sunday evening between November and March. They always feature a fantastic lineup of talented local musicians, so you’re guaranteed to find something that appeals.
The gardens are also one of the stops on the Blue Mini Peninsula route.
Take advantage of the summer weather.
The Cape Peninsula is well known for its many prime surfing spots, although given the chilliness of the Atlantic Ocean you’d be advised to bring a wetsuit. If you prefer to travel light however, you can always head over to Muizenberg where the False Bay waters are a fair amount warmer.
Kite surfing is another popular sport in these parts, but again, it means getting wet, so while I respect the skill involved I’m not sold on the idea. I’m more of mountain adventurer myself, preferring to scale Table Mountain for no other reason than to take in the city from an all-encompassing vantage point.
By far the best way to ascend this natural wonder is via Platteklip Gorge. It’s a fairly stiff climb, but luckily you can indulge in a hearty breakfast at the Table Mountain Café when you get to the top. Once you’re done replenishing your energy stores you can either head back down on foot or take the cable car. It’s best to get a really early start, as the route can get pretty busy.
Quench your thirst with some welcome sundowners.
Now if you’re a more sedentary sort, then you’ll want to skip the above and move right along to Camps Bay for sundowners. The strip along the beachfront has a variety of restaurants and bars to choose from, all of them equally adept at whipping up wild and delicious cocktails to enjoy while taking in the spectacular sunset.
Of course sundowners don’t necessarily need to include an actual sunset in order to be enjoyed. Long Street is a vibrant smorgasbord of bars, eateries and shops, offering everything from traditional African cuisine to American Diner style burgers and fries.
There’s plenty more besides, so I’d say unless you’re a hermit the pros of visiting Cape Town during the Holidays far outweigh the cons. Come on in, the water’s fine (metaphorically speaking anyway).