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What is the most beautifully located city in the world? Everyone has his favorite, but everyone will also agree that Cape Town should at least be in the Top 10. This cosmopolitan and historical city is gorgeously located on the Atlantic Ocean, overlooking the famous Table Mountain, the top of which is often covered with clouds (the 'tablecloth'). Cape Town combines a vibrant city life with relaxed lazing on one of the fantastic beaches. The wine growing regions begin near the city and you can notice that when ordering a glass in a good restaurant. Delicious wine at an affordable price.
For the best view of Cape Town, go to the top of the Table Mountain in the morning, because clouds form around the mountain in the afternoon. Spectacular too, but a lesser view. There are several ways to reach the top. You can hike it, but most people opt for the comfortable cable car. At the highest point, the Devil's Peak you have a 360 view. Have a seat in one of the pits in the huge boulders. They seem to be made to sit in and enjoy the view. Pack warm clothes, because it can be cool, or even cold at the top.
Once back in town it is fun to visit the main street of Cape Town: Long Street. An appropriate name, because the street indeed is long. With the surrounding streets Adderley Street and Strand Street you can easily spend the entire day here. The houses are built in Victorian style and painted in bright colors. On the ground floor there are many shops with secondhand clothing, antiques, handicrafts and books, but you can also find many restaurants, bistros, coffee shops and cafes.
A sharp contrast for all that fun is the Slave Lodge, on the corner of Wale Street and Adderley Street. It is one of the oldest buildings in South Africa. Here, the VOC housed slaves, but criminals and the mentally disturbed too. Nowadays, it shows an exhibition about slave trade and the miserable conditions on the slave ships.
More extensive shopping can be done in the heart of the old harbor. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is also an entertainment area with dozens of restaurants and bars. Additionally, this is where the Two Oceans Aquarium is, so named because Cape Town is located on the spot where two oceans come together: the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. Spectacular is the largest basin where sand tiger sharks and other predatory fish swim. Boats leave from the waterfront to the infamous Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held captive for 27 years. Incidentally, this 'prison island' is not an invention from the South African apartheid regime. It was already a penal colony in the time of the Dutch East India Company (VOC).
On the southern side of th city heart lie the Kompanjiestuinen (Company's Gardens), formerly the VOC vegetable garden. This is the location of the South African Museum, the oldest museum of the country with natural history, anthropological and ethnological exhibitions. It includes models of whales accompanied by sounds of the 'whale language'. Also located in the Kompanjiestuinen is the South African National Gallery. There are distressing paintings with the apartheid as its theme on display, as well as cheerful artworks of beads and textiles and sculptures of different tribes.
Near the Kompanjiestuinen lies the Gardens district, a trendy shopping and entertainment area. It is home to big and small specialty stores, fashion boutiques, hip coffee shops, bars, cafes and restaurants. If you like a colonial atmosphere, definitely try the high tea in the Mount Nelson hotel.
Wine lovers should definitely take a drive from Cape Town through the wine regions of South Africa. There are several routes. One of the most famous is Route 62 which takes you past the Cape Winelands, the Broad River Valley and Little Karoo. Another is the Stellenbosch Wine Route. Stellenbosch is one of the best preserved towns of the VOC era. The Stellenrijck Museum is dedicated to the history of wine production in this area.
South of Cape Town lies Cape of Good Hope. Most people drive to this southernmost tip of Africa without stopping, but you should definitely take the time to have a better look at the nature reserve you're traveling through. Beautiful trails have been set, but look out for the cheeky baboons in this park. From the Cape you can enjoy a fantastic view of the ocean and if you're lucky you can spot some whales (best chance is in November).
Cape Town is a car-friendly city with relatively few traffic jams. There are many covered parking areas in the center of Cape Town. In addition, every street has a 'Parking Assistant' who helps you park and keeps an eye while you're away. What you give them is up to you, but don't be too skimpy! You can also choose to park your car in one of the P+R sites on the outskirts of the city and travel by public transport to the city center. Do not leave any valuables in your car!
The Cape Town Airport is situated twenty kilometers east of the city center. It has been completely renewed and expanded for the 2010 World Cup. The airport is easily accessible with a rental car using the N2. This is a busy road, especially during peak hours.