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The Best of the Free Things to Do in Cape Town

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1 month ago

There are a surprising number of free things to do in Cape Town, so it’s a good thing that we’ve put together a list of the best them. We’ve thought a lot about what the best way to experience what makes Cape Town special and, happily, mean of those things that free.

On top of these, you could also spend a day lazing on one of Cape Town’s amazing beaches, or take a road trip down to the Cape Peninsula, but no matter what you do, it’s Cape Town, so you’ll have an amazing time. Just make sure you keep your wits about you because, unfortunately, there is still violent crime in Cape Town.

Visit the penguins at Boulder’s Beach

It might cost a little bit of money to travel to Boulder’s Beach, but if you get to Water’s Edge Beach in the morning (closer to 7 am), you’ll be able to see the penguins before they move toward the paid admission area closer to Boulder’s Beach.

Penguin on its own in Cape Town

Water’s Edge Beach itself is perfectly secluded and is great for an early morning swim. It’s also just by Kalk Bay which is a great little suburb of Cape Town. One of the best free things to do in Cape Town is to get to Water’s Edge Beach early enough and swim with the penguins or watch them hanging out on the rocks.

Penguin with its face turned walking behind another penguin

South Africa is known for its amazing safaris, so make sure you go see the penguins (for free!) and add another notch to your belt of animal sightings.

Hike Lion’s Head

Much more approachable than Table Mountain, you can start and finish Lion’s Head in less than two hours. You’ll get the most amazing views for the least effort (as far as hiking mountains goes), and you’ll still have the whole day ahead of you to take advantage of all the amazing free things to do in Cape Town.

Travel tip: Don’t attempt to hike Lion’s Head when it’s wet or cloudy.

View of Lion's Head from Table Mountain with city and ocean in the background

Make sure you are prepared for steepness, and be warned that there is some scrambling involved. We would recommend the Pipe Track and the trails around the base of Lion’s Head and around Signal Hill are truly fantastic and are the local favorites.

Walk along the V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront is a wonderful symbol of modern South Africa. It’s jam packed with museums, shops, hotels, and plenty of statues and landmarks telling the story of modern-day democratic, post-Apartheid South Africa.

The V&A Waterfront is split into six districts, the best of which are is the Granger Bay District. This district houses The Grand, one of the best venues in Cape Town, and the Silo District which is where the Zeitz MOCAA museum is.

Nelson Mandala statute with a seagull on its its head on the V&A Waterfront

There is plenty to do at the V&A Waterfront, including going to the TimeOut Market to try some of South Africa’s amazing foods and unique desserts, but if you’ll get so much out of simply just walking around and enjoying the liveliness and vibe of the area.

There are also plenty of incredible waterfront restaurants which you might want to stop and have lunch at. Otherwise, you won’t feel an afternoon has been wasted by walking in and out of the shops and seeing what’s on offer.

Walk through the colorful houses of Bo-Kaap

There is something very charming about the colorful houses in Bo-Kaap, which is a small area just outside Cape Town’s central business district. These houses tell the story of immigration to South Africa by Malaysians whose culture and cuisine have had a huge impact on the culture and cuisine of South Africa (make sure you try some delicious Cape Malay desserts).

While in Bo-Kaap, check out Tana Baru shrine and stop by Artisan House for some incredible pieces from local and pan-African artists. You’ll also find local and African brands like millecollins whose designs lend from traditional African designs.

Take a free walking tour

There are plenty of organizations that run free walking tours throughout Cape Town, including the eponymous Free Walking Tours Cape Town. These tours run on tips, of course, but tipping for these tours is modest by typical Western standards.

The best free walking tours in Cape Town will take you through the City Centre and Bo-Kaap. You’ll find others that will take you into lesser-known inner-city neighborhoods.

We find that local guides in Cape Town tend to be particularly knowledgeable, and they’re only too willing to share their knowledge. So feel free to ask them questions about South African life, whether in the modern day or during apartheid.

Join a volleyball game

Every Thursday during summer on Clifton 1st beach, you can join a volleyball game for free with Friends Who Volley. This really is one of the most quintessentially Cape Town things to do, and you’ll almost certainly walk away having met a bunch of new friends, both local and foreign.

We would suggest you get there an hour or so before the games begin so you can start getting into the spirit. There is something magical about the huge crowd that gathers on the beach during the summers, and you’ll absolutely want to be a part of it.

Everybody is incredibly friendly and is simply just looking to have a bit of fun. If you’re looking to experience the Cape Town lifestyle (aside from breakfast like Capetonians do), then you absolutely must get yourself to a free volleyball game.

See Ostriches at Cape Point Ostrich Farm

You expect to see the Big Five during your travels to South Africa. But Western Cape is also home to ostriches which are interesting (albeit daft) birds. One of the best places to see them is at the Cape Point Ostrich Farm, which you will pass on our ultimate Cape Peninsula road trip.

You can see the ostriches (and the turtles) for free, but if you want to see the baby ostriches, you’ll need to join one of their (inexpensive) tours which run every half hour during the work day. Otherwise, seeing the ostriches in the open space is exciting enough – and is one of the best free things to do in Cape Town.

Swim at a tidal pool

There are amazing beaches everywhere in Cape Town (and they’re free, too!), but as locals know, swimming on the Atlantic side of Cape Town can be a chilling affair (read: it’s cold, even in summer). That doesn’t stop everyone, but Capetonians long ago accepted this fact.

Realizing that they wanted the beauty of the ocean views, local authorities began building tidal pools on the waterfront for public use. You can’t go wrong with a swim at a tidal pool in the morning. One of the best tidal pools is at Camps Bay, but there is also an excellent one at Kalk Bay.

Be prepared because the tidal pools do tend to get busy in summer. There will be a lot of people swimming with you – it’s fun though, I promise!

Browse the shops at Longmarket Street

This is a hard one to put on a list of free things to do in Cape Town because you will absolutely be tempted to buy some of the beautiful handicrafts on offer. But even if you don’t want to, we would highly recommend spending a couple of hours browsing the market stalls.

Longmarket Street in Cape Town with yellow building

You’ll find lots of great trinkets in South Africa’s national colors on Longmarket Street. There are even hand-carved animal and human statues. All of this is set against the beautiful, old colonial buildings in the area.

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