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Cape Town

© SA Tourism© SA TourismThere is nowhere quite like Cape Town. It is in Africa, and of Africa, but yet so different. Perched between the ocean and the mountain and with a National Park as its heart, it's wild and wonderful. But it's also the oldest city in South Africa, and it has a cultural heritage spanning more than 300 years.

It is in Cape Town that the Rainbow Nation really covers the spectrum, as nowhere else in the country do we have such cultural diversity. Between beautiful Cape Dutch homesteads, elegant Georgian townhouses, traditional dancers with painted faces performing in the city streets, the smell of spicy Malay cooking, the tang of a well-matured wine and the sound of the snoek horn advertising the wares of fish vendors, this city will fill your senses. The bells of St George's Cathedral alternate with the plaintive tones of the muezzin calling the faithful to prayer. Visitors give a startled jump, and Capetonians calmly glance at their watches, when the noon gun booms above the city – a relic from the days of sail when sea captains had to check their chronometers.

No-one could get bored in Cape Town. Table Mountain offers some of the best climbing in the world and it's right here in the city. The surfing is fantastic, the diving is cold but good, and you could go mountain biking, try sand-boarding or head out to sea in a kayak – where you may see seals, dolphins or penguins. A great thing to do on a full moon summer's night is to walk up Lion's Head before dark, watch the sun set on one hand and the full moon rise on the other and then walk down in the silvery light – as long as you’re prepared to share the experience with half of the city’s population, but that adds to the fun (and makes it safer).

If all this sounds too gung ho, don't worry. Shopaholics will love Cavendish, Canal Walk or the V&A Waterfront where they’ll be spoilt for choice. There is so much live music, so many temporary and permanent art exhibitions, so many movies, plays and even opera, ballet or symphony concerts that there is absolutely no excuse to stay cooped up in a hotel room. Most visitors will want to sample some Cape wine and it’s possible to visit a different museum every day for a week and, of course, everyone just has to see Robben Island.

Cape Town has something for everyone. As well as catering admirably for the top end of the market with its many excellent quality establishments, it also has more backpackers hostels than any other city worldwide.

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