Cape Town: 20 free things to do

2013-03-15 16:31
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Breaking up Seli 1

The wreck of the Turkish vessel Seli 1 is being blown up as part of a plan to get rid of the debris at a Cape Town beach. See the pictures.

In the Mother City and want to plan an all-encompassing itinerary that's not going to break the bank? Check out this list of 20 free things to do...

1. Walk the promenade. The Sea Point promenade is 11 km long, winding along the Atlantic coastline hugging the Mouille Point and Sea Point seafront areas of Cape Town. Lawns, playing areas and small patches of sandy and rocky beaches lure locals and tourists to walk, exercise and sit. Ideal for people-watching, the promenade is a nice spot for a picnic, reading on a bench or just laying on the grass. The surface is level and good for wheelchairs and prams. Go early in the morning or at sunset when the locals come out to play.

2. Climb Lion's Head. There are a few paths, some lead to the top of Lion's Head. Other paths curl around the mountain affording you views along the coastline, over the peninsula and city. The scramble to the top is daunting for those sensitive to heights. Lion's Head can be crowded on full moon nights and when the weather is good.

3.Picnic on Signal Hill
. This point looks out over the city. If you have a car it is an easy drive to the top. Pack a picnic basket and drink a toast to the setting sun.

4. Beach-bumming. Show it off on the beach. Even if you don’t have it. Get a suntan and catch a wave on one of the beaches around Cape Town. On the Atlantic Ocean side are Clifton, Camps Bay and the boulder-strewn Llandudno beaches. Further along are Hout Bay, the long Noordhoek beach and the tiny Smitswinkelbaai down a steep mountain slope. On the other side of the peninsula are the warmer waters of Muizenberg, Fishhoek and Boulders beaches. Swim at Milnerton beach, (MyCiTi Lagoon Beach or Milnerton) or explore the rock pools along the Sea Point promenade.

5. Take a hike. Head up Table Mountain and into the parks and the forests of Cape Town area and experience nature. Check out this useful website before you set conquering the wild outdoors:

6. Feed the squirrels in the Company's Garden
. Or feed the birds. Or yourself. Spread a picnic blanket and you might be joined by birds and very tame squirrels. This 8.5 ha park in the centre of the city has a Japanese garden, beautiful roses, an aviary and South Africa’s oldest cultivated pear tree, growing here since 1652. (MyCiTi Government Avenue)

7. Get into politics. Join a guided tour of the parliament buildings. The tour includes the history of parliament, its function and how it works. Observe debates from the public galleries. A tour lasts about an hour and no firearms are allowed. From 9:00 to 12:00, Monday to Friday. 120 Plein St. (MyCiTi Government Avenue, walk through the Company Gardens)

8. Browse the Long Street antique arcade
. Here you can find anything from ugly jerseys, old hats, military gear to ruby rings, Russian babushka dolls and books.
127 Long St. Closed on Sundays. (MyCiTi Longmarket)

9. Night Cycle. Join the Moonlight Mass, a casual night bicycle ride. Rent, borrow or steal a bicycle and join this ride on the next full moon. Cyclists meet under the Green Point roundabout at 21:00. The route changes but always seems to end at a bar somewhere. (MyCiTi Stadium)

10. Set the clock. Every day, bang on the minute (pardon the pun) the Noon Gun fires. At exactly 12:00, Cape Town's oldest tradition repeats itself. Drive up through the colourful Bo-Kaap district to see two of the world's oldest cannons faithfully perform their duty and enjoy a breath-taking view over Cape Town.

11. Creative coffee mornings
. Celebrate creativity with coffee and a short talk. Get to know the artistic people living and working in Cape Town. You will be introduced and listen to a 20-30 minute talk about someone's creative journey. Afterwards you can chat and mingle. See for the venue and date of the next event.

12. Come chit-chat at PechaKucha night.12 people have only 20 seconds to show each of their 20 slides about something they love. The audience chat, you join in discussions and meet new weird people. Every first or second Tuesday of every other month from 20:00 tot 22:00 at The Assembly, 61 Harrington Street.

13. Read
. You can do it in your room, but better even to do it outside. Get cosy on a park bench or lounge at a library. The Centre for the Book is housed in a historic Edwardian building near the Company Gardens. Poetry readings, book launches, writing workshops and children's readings are hosted here. The facilities are being renovated and will reopen in May 2013.

While waiting for the Centre of the Book to open, you can sit in the outside garden of the Kloof Street Library. 122B Kloof Street (MyCiTi Buitensingel, quite a walk uphill)
Browse any of the bookshops in the city and sit for some stolen moments with an interesting book.

Connect for free and read your emails at one of the many cafés in the city. Wi-Fi speed varies from superfast to stone-age.

14. Market it. At the mall, naturally! Century City Natural Goods Market is set on the huge stretch of grass next to a 16ha wetland and bird sanctuary near the Canal Walk mall on the N1. Free activities include a jumping castle, train rides and live music. Sundays from 09:00 - 14:00.

Play in Hout Bay. Bay Harbour is the new Hout Bay market located in an old (clean) fish factory. Over 100 stalls sells anything from handmade cushions to Tunisian chickpea rotis.  Listen to live music or buy snacks for a picnic on the beach. Friday 17:00 - 21:00 and Saturdays and Sundays from 09:30 - 16:00.

Neighbourgoods Market. Gourmands, welcome to heaven. Speciality traders sells food, wine and fresh produce; from Cape Malay curries, handmade chocolate to boutique beers. Saturday 09:00 - 14:00. 373-375 Albert Road (Old Biscuit Mill), Woodstock

Garden market.  The City Bowl Market in Gardens is a mix of Belgian waffles, Chinese noodles, vegan cheese, antique clothes and jewellery. Add some locals and good coffee and you experience Cape Town at its best. For free. Saturday between 9am and 2pm. 14 Hope Street (MyCiTi Gardens)

Market at the Waterfront. The new Market on the Wharf is a permanent food market, with a demonstration kitchen, bookshop, bar and play area for kids. Wednesday to Sunday 09:30 - 19:30. (MyCiTi Breakwater)

15. Free Music. Listen to African and local music. Musicians regularly perform at restaurants and pubs in the city bowl. Mama Africa, Karibu, Marco's African Place, Thuthuka Jazz Café are some of the spots that feature music on their menus. Entrance is free, but you are expected to dine.

De Waal Park Sunday concerts. On Sunday afternoons from 15:00 this park is packed with children and dogs as families gather for free concerts during summer. (MyCiTi
Government Avenue, quite a walk uphill.)

Harbour sounds. The amphitheater at the V&A waterfront has regular live shows featuring local acts. Saturday and Sunday afternoons. At Hout Bay harbour's market in Hout Bay there is free live music during the market's trading hours.

16. Massage your soul. Visit some of the many art galleries in the city. Cape Town is the World Design Capital for 2014 and South Africa's creative talents are on display around town: not only in galleries, but in restaurants, shop interiors, clothing designs, home ware, dress style and even cooking. Genres and media ranges from contemporary art, sculpture, photography and recycled materials to comic and installation art.

17. Give freely. Volunteer. Plant a tree. Greenpop has tree planting days every Wednesday and is always looking for energic volunteers. Email
Wash a dog, brush a cat. Volunteers at the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) can attend a volunteer orientation session, held once a month.
Email Jane August at .

Read to a child. Help2Read helps disadvantaged children who struggle to read. Volunteer readers work on a one-to-one basis with children and reading sessions usually last half an hour. Contact the Cape Town office at

18 Taste. Gone are the days of sampling sad sausages and miniature pieces of crumbled cheese in supermarkets, now you can taste some wine and beers at restaurants around town. Sample sizes might not enough to save you from dehydration, but enough to encourage you to sit and enjoy some good nosh and a few tunes.
&Union in the centre of town has free wine tastings every Tuesday and Thursday at 18:00 and live music on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Booking essential. 110 Bree St. (MyCiTi Longmarket)

Tjing Tjing, the funky rooftop bar on Longmarket Street hosts free wine-tastings every Wednesday evening from 17:00 to 19:00. Come hang with a cool crowd of locals and visitors. (MyCiTi Longmarket) .

Caroline's Fine Wine Cellar is a classy wine shop selling the best South African and international wines.  They have daily free tastings. Open from 09:00, closed on Sundays. 62 Strand St. (MyCiTi Castle)

Taste some more Bacchus juice at Wine Concepts on Kloof. Free tastings are on Monday - Friday from 16:00 - 19:00 and Saturdays 12:00 - 15:00. Closed on Sundays. (MyCiTi Michaelis)

19. Back to the past. Although most museums charge a nominal entrance fee, entry is free on certain commemorative days. Phone ahead to check opening times and 'free' days.

Entry to the Social History Centre in Church Street is free. See a collection of ceramics, furniture, coins and textiles from over the world.

Cape Town Holocaust Centre (free) is open from 10:00 till 17:00, but closed on Saturdays and Sundays. (MyCiTi Government Avenue) Entry to the somewhat macabre but interesting Cape Medical Museum in Green Point is free, but a donation is welcome. See the traditional medicine display. (MyCiTi Stadium)

20. Park off. Lounge around in any of the city's parks. The Company Gardens has a tea garden, many flowers and animals. De Waal Park is dog-friendly, while the Green Point Urban Park has an outdoor 'gym', an interactive display and a biodiversity area with 300 local plant species. (MyCiTi Stadium)

Check out Elefant tours for more interesting holiday ideas.
Read more on:    travel south africa

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