I had two months between my flights in to Cape Town and out of Johannesburg, and it was barely enough to scratch the surface of the “Rainbow Nation” and its many layers of history, culture, language and food, though I’ve gathered some of my highlights below… I know that I’ll just have to come back! 😉 If you have other suggestions for things to do, see and EAT in South Africa, please let me know in the comments and I’ll add them to the lists below!
>> For photos from in and around Cape Town & Johannesburg, check out my South Africa Photo Galleries.
Map of South Africa
What to do in South Africa
- Cape Town – Explore the waterfront communities of Sea Point, Green Point and the V&A Waterfront. Check out the weekend markets like the Bay Harbor Market in Hout Bay or Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. During the summer, be sure to take in a movie at the Galileo open air cinema at Kirstenbosch Gardens, perhaps after a walk along the tree canopy. Take a drive or catch the 108 or 109 bus along the coast to Hout Bay for fish & chips from Fish on the Rocks. Explore the cuisine of the Cape Malay population or take a cooking class in Bo-Kaap. Take the cable car or hike up beautiful Table Mountain at sunrise or sunset. Some people will argue that you really need a car to get around, but there are quite a few tourist routes available with the MyCiti bus system that we found quite convenient and inexpensive and Uber when we needed a quick point-to-point trip (for $20 off your first ride, use the code “uber.malia”). For a unique way to see the sights with your own two feet, check out running tours from Run Cape Town.
>> For restaurant suggestions and an easy way to see most of these spots with a map view, check out my Cape Town list on Foursquare . There’s also a (mostly Cape Town specific) twitter feed embedded if you scroll to the bottom of this post, which is helpful for the absolute latest news.
- South African Winelands – A quick trip from Cape Town, Stellenbosch is the most well-established wine region with over 200 wineries, but you can also visit Franschhoek, Paarl, and Constantia. One of the best wine tours that I’ve done (anywhere in the world) was with a company called Wine Flies – they offer a day tour from Cape Town to Stellenbosch which includes tastings at five wine farms, a cheese pairing, chocolate pairing, and braai for lunch. An amazing deal for only R650!
- Johannesburg – South Africa’s most populous city is a sprawling, sometimes gritty place, broken up into neighborhoods and suburbs. Eat Out has a great list of Joburg’s best restaurants for 2015, helpfully broken down by cuisine – African, Indian, Portuguese, Asian, even American! Must see sights include the Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill, SoWeTo, Satyagraha House. Check out one of Joburg’s popular markets, such as the Neighborgoods Market (Saturdays, Braamfontein), Market on Main (Sundays, Maboneng Precint), 44 Stanely. The city is quite spread out, so good options for finding your way around include the quick and efficient Gautrain, the city’s ReaVaya buses (free wifi at stations), and Uber (for $20 off your first ride, use the code “uber.malia”).
>> For an easy way to see these on a map view, check out my Johannesburg list on Foursquare.
What to Eat in South Africa
- Bobotie – Cape Malay dish made of spiced ground beef topped with an egg custard and baked
- Biltong – dried meat, sliced after curing/drying. Can be made of a variety of meats including beef, kudu, springbok, ostrich
- Samp – also umngqusho, samp and beans
- Braai – the Afrikaans word for a barbecue or grilled meat
- Koeksister – a spiced, fried sweet pastry
- Bunny Chow – an Indian dish from Durban, hollowed out bread filled with curry, usually eaten with your hands. Also called kota.
- Soji – another Indian dish from Durban, soji is a semolina based dessert often served at weddings or special occasions.
- Gatsby – a long sandwich roll, usually has meat and french fries or “chips”, especially common in Cape Town
- Craft Beer
- Cape Malay Cuisine
- Egusi – a traditional Nigerian soup made with melon seeds, meat or fish and bitter leaves (which reminded me of seaweed?), usually served w/ pap
- Mopane Worms – grubs that eat the wood of the mopane tree, these are usually roasted with spices and eaten as a snack.
- Prego rolls – Portuguese sandwich rolls with meat (usually steak) simmered in a prego sauce. Goes well with a beer or to take along to a picnic. You can even find potato chips in “prego sauce” flavor here!
- Peri peri sauce – a Portuguese hot sauce or marinade made with African bird’s eye chili, lemon (or citrus peel), garlic and herbs.
- Droewors – Droewors (or Drywors) are dried sausages eaten as a snack
- Boerewors – a coriander spiced sausage (can be made of beef, or with game like kudu, springbok or ostrich) often grilled or braaied.
- Tomato Bredie (tamatiebredie)
>> 25 South African Restaurants you must experience before you die – I love when roundups tell you where to go, but also what to order there!
>> A great list by Eat Out of 30 of the Best Food Blogs, a handful of them from South Africa
>> Cape Towns Top 5 Cuisines
>> A good list of coffee shops or restaurants with free wifi from Capetown Magazine
>> For a laugh: Americans trying South African snacks
South Africa Resources
- Cape Town Tourism – Official tourism site for Cape Town
- Johannesburg Tourism – Official tourism site for Johannesburg
- Eat Out – A guide to the dining scene in South Africa, food news and restaurant reviews
- South African Food – Wikipedia page
- Joburg.co.za – Great resource for lifestyle news & events in Johannesburg
- Melissa Chang’s Urban Mixed Plate – A collection of posts from Hawaii social media maven Melissa Chang’s 2009 visit to South Africa
- Train Travel in South Africa – tips via Seat61.com
- Wondering where to Stay in South Africa? Check out my page of Airbnb Recommendations for a few of my favorites.
A special mahalo to those who helped with tips…
Melissa C., Christina H., Melanie G., Nawahl K., Monika J., Justin P., Kirsty W., Clare A., Dheren S.