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Colonized by the Dutch in 1652, Cape Town, South Africa, is a dynamic and soulful place that has increasingly become an attractive tourist destination thanks to its varied cultural offerings, eclectic food scene, architectural gems and stunning natural beauty. The city and its surrounding areas also offer plenty for history buffs, as well.
Whether visiting UNESCO World Heritage sites, strolling the city’s historical waterfront, learning about anti-apartheid activists or checking out remnants of World War II-era bunkers and radar stations, travelers have myriad ways to explore the area’s rich, colorful history.
EatIt’s an hourlong drive from the city to Cape Point, the southwestern tip of Africa (the continent’s southernmost point is three hours east in Cape Agulhas). Seafaring European voyagers rounded Cape Point in the 15th century in search of a route to the East, but today’s travelers can fuel up for a day of exploration at Two Oceans Restaurant, where the offerings include seafood platters piled high with grilled langoustine, steamed mussels, shrimp, fish and calamari. Grab a table on the deck for dazzling cliff and ocean views.
Suggest clients stay in the area for a hike on Cape Point’s numerous trails or to enjoy sweeping vistas of the Atlantic. They can also ride the Flying Dutchman funicular up to an 1850s lighthouse, explore strategic lookout points built during World War II and observe other relics from Cape Point’s military past.
SleepTaj Cape Town may be less than 10 years old, but it’s steeped in history. The luxurious five-star hotel occupies two historic buildings: the former South African Reserve Bank and the adjacent Temple Chambers, which dates to 1896. The Taj offers guests complimentary guided walking tours to significant sites nearby.
The hotel’s two landmark buildings, along with a tower addition, feature 176 guestrooms and suites with a mix of classic and contemporary furnishings. Brocade fabrics, plush floral carpeting and other traditional details blend with modern amenities such as complimentary Wi-Fi access and marble walk-in showers. A highlight of my room was a private balcony with views of majestic Table Mountain.
PlayThe bustling Victoria and Albert Waterfront, also known as the V&A Waterfront, attracts visitors year-round with its shops, restaurants, hotels, museums, aquarium and other attractions. It’s also the departure point to catch a ferry to Robben Island, home to a former prison off the coast of Cape Town where anti-apartheid South African leader Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years behind bars.
Daily tours, led by former inmates, include a visit to Mandela’s 7-by-9-foot cell, which contains a small table, a metal bucket and a sleeping mat on the concrete floor. It’s an unsettling yet fascinating and informative experience to visit Robben Island, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. Tours fill up quickly and are best booked online in advance.