33 Interesting Facts About Cape Town (2024)

Cape Town is renowned for its harbour, natural environment in the Cape Floristic Region, and well-known sights such as Table Mountain and Cape Point. It is one of the world’s most culturally diverse cities, a melting pot of people, cultures, and cuisines.

Some interesting facts about Cape Town will be fun to know. Apart from being South Africa’s capital city, Cape Town is worth learning about for its variety of interesting facts.

Interesting Facts About Cape Town

1. Residents refer to Cape Town affectionately as “The Mother City.” There are numerous reasons for this: being the first South African city to establish a refuelling station for Eastbound ships, being South Africa’s first metropolis, and so forth.

2. Table Mountain is regarded as the city of Cape Town’s most famous feature. The level plateau (about 3 kilometres) from side to side, surrounded by spectacular cliffs, is the city of Cape Town’s primary tourist attraction. Table Mountain is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is part of the Table Mountain National Park.

3. Cape Town is occasionally referred to as the ‘Tavern of the Seas,’ because the city’s port is considered to be one of the busiest shipping lanes in the world.

4. Zeitz MOCAA is Africa’s largest art museum. Additionally, it is the world’s largest museum devoted to African art and its diaspora. The museum, which spans 6,000 square meters over nine levels and features 100 gallery spaces, is a must-see.

5. Cape Town has the highest concentration of Blue Flag Beaches in South Africa. The Foundation for Environmental Education (FEE) awards the Blue Flag certification to beaches and marine environments throughout Europe, Africa, Oceania, North America, South America, and Asia.

6. Cool Runs The Toboggan Family Park is Africa’s only toboggan track. These toboggans do not operate on typical snow and ice. Rather than that, they travel on a stainless steel track.

7. UNESCO has designated this floral kingdom as a World Heritage Site. What makes it extraordinary is that it is the world’s smallest and richest acknowledged floral area. This kingdom contains 9600 plant species, over 70% of which are unique to the globe. The honey buchu, peninsula snapdragon, and Good Hope satin flower are just a few of the species.

8. Another amazing fact about Cape Town is that, on December 3, 1967, surgeon Christiaan Barnard conducted the world’s first heart transplant on a 53-year-old South African grocer named Lewis Washkansky; he received the transplant from a 25-year-old woman named Denise Darvall, who died in a vehicle accident.

9. Have you ever heard of the MCQP (Mother City Queer Project)? It’s one of South Africa’s largest themed events. Not only that, it’s one of the largest annual lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) events in Cape Town. It occurs each December and attracts thousands of people from all around the world.

10. The Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town’s most iconic landmark, used to have a sea view. It is the oldest colonial structure in South Africa, having been constructed between 1666 and 1679. Originally, the structure served as a fort and a welcome port for sailors passing around the Cape. The star-shaped structure’s entrance was located at the water’s edge, with waves lapping against its entryway (this led to the removal of the entrance). Today, the castle serves as a ceremonial station for South African Defence Force Cape units.

11. The Lion’s Head is a Cape Town mountain located between Table Mountain and Signal Hill. The myth dates back to the 17th century when the Dutch dubbed the peak Leeuwen Kop (Lion’s Head) and Signal Hill Leeuwen Staart (Lion’s Tail), both of which resemble a sitting lion or sphinx.

12. In 2014, the “Mother City” amassed a slew of incredible honours. Cape Town was named “The Best Place to Go” for that year by the prestigious New York Times. Additionally, it was ranked second on Travel and Leisure’s list of the top vacation spots. According to the New York Times, the city is “a place to reflect on liberty and the creative life that ensued.”

13. Bartholomew Dias, a famed explorer, named the Cape Peninsula the ‘Cape of Storms.’ In 1858, a violent storm struck the shore, destroying 30 ships. Later, it was dubbed the Cape of Good Hope due to the promise of a sea route to the East it afforded colonial powers.

14. Robben Island is a small island located in Table Bay, approximately 12 kilometres off the Cape Town coast. It is perhaps most well-known for its political detainees. Nelson Mandela himself was imprisoned here for 27 years. Additionally, the island housed leprosy patients, as well as the psychologically and chronically ill. At first, lepers were allowed to leave the island. However, following the passage of the Leprosy Repression Act in 1892, lepers’ travel was restricted. During WWII, the British used Robben Island as a training and defence base.

15. African Penguins, also known as Jackass Penguins and Black-footed Penguins, are located exclusively on Africa’s southwestern coast. In the early 1980s, just two breeding pairs of African Penguins arrived on the mainland near Cape Town and remained forever. Today, it serves as their habitat, with thousands of penguins frolicking.

16. The Victoria & Alfred (V&A) Waterfront in Cape Town is located on the Atlantic coast. It is the point where the city meets the sea. The V&A Waterfront is home to more than 450 retail establishments, fine dining restaurants, the Cape Wheel of Excellence, the Two Oceans Aquarium, and a variety of markets. All of this attracts more than 23 million tourists annually.

17. Cape Point Nature Reserve, commonly known as Cape Point, allows visitors to stand on Africa’s farthest southwestern point, where the Benguela and Agulhas currents converge.

18. Adderley Street, once the city’s core and economic hub, has a fascinating history. According to historical accounts, the road was initially constructed completely of wooden blocks. By the early 1900s, the street had grown so congested that city planners paved it with wood to drown out the noise created by innumerable wagons, carts, and horse hooves. It was eventually covered in tar to create the road we know today, but not long ago, construction workers unearthed pieces of these wooden tiles, which can still be found near the street’s top end.

19. South Africa’s wine business is world-famous. Just west of Cape Town sits the oldest wine business in the world, with one of the world’s longest wine roads. Route 62 covers an approximate distance of 850 kilometres and terminates in Port Elizabeth. Simon van der Stel, the Governor of the Cape, built the renowned Groot Constantia Wine Estate in 1685. Cape wines were first made in 1659.

20. Despite being one of the world’s youngest languages, Afrikaans is the most widely spoken in the Western Cape.

21. The city appears to be a spring of youth. According to the 2011 National Census Report, almost half (43.2%) of the Western Cape’s population is under the age of 25.

22. When the South Easter blows up Table Mountain, it comes into contact with the colder air at the summit, resulting in condensation. Soon, a dense mist forms, which the locals refer to as the “Table Cloth.” It’s a breathtaking sight, and well worth witnessing.

23. The Cape Town Cycling Tour is an annual bike race that is typically 109 kilometres (68 miles) in length. It is the world’s largest individually timed cycle race, with up to 35,000 riders competing.

24. Cape Town is blessed with some of the most incredible roads in the world, weaving their way through the mountains and affording breathtaking sea views. Chapman’s Peak Drive, Signal Hill Drive, Victoria Road, Boyes Drive, and Simon’s Town to Cape Point are just a few of the routes that will take you through Cape Town’s grandeur.

25. Cape Town is a historically significant city in South Africa. It was here, in the Mother City, that the first European colonists arrived in South Africa—heralding the start of the South African slave trade. It was the home of possibly the world’s most famous political prisoner—Nelson Mandela—who was imprisoned on the minuscule Robben Island in Table Bay. Here are a handful of the historical milestones that helped shape Cape Town into the city it is today.

26. Table Mountain was not a mountain nearly 300 million years ago, during the Karoo Ice Age. It stood at sea level—but beneath were layers of sandstone over a granite base. The pressure exerted by the underlying lava combined with the ice to solidify the top layer, resulted in the characteristic flat slab that exists today. As the continents ripped apart and crashed, the city’s prominent landmark was gradually thrust upward, eventually reaching a height of a kilometre overlooking the harbour.

27. Would you believe the Table Mountain dates back nearly a century? Previously, the only way up the mountain was on foot, and only the most daring—or foolish—had made it to the summit. On 4 October 1929, following two years of tough and perilous labour, the first Cable Car chugged its way to the summit, carrying excited and undoubtedly frightened passengers. It has been improved several times since then, and the ascent to the top is now a breeze.

28. Long before the first Europeans arrived, the Khoisan people called Table Mountain and the surrounding area home. They referred to the city as Hui!Gaeb and they were skilful and industrious people with unsurpassed knowledge of the local wildlife and plants. Additionally, they gave Table Mountain its initial name: Hoerikwaggo, which translates as “Mountain in the sea”.

29. After circumnavigating the Cape by ship in the late 1400s, it was the Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias who became the first European to set eyes on what is now Cape Town. However, Jan van Riebeeck, a Dutch colonist, was the first European to set foot on its soil in 1652. He was appointed by the Dutch East India Company (VOC) to create a supply depot for ships travelling between Europe and India.

30. Soon after Van Riebeeck founded the supply station, the VOC recruited slaves from Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia to labour on the plantations that supplied fruit and vegetables to passing ships. This brought the Islamic faith and wonderful Cape Malay food to our warm coastlines.

31. Cape Town has been flung back and forth between two of the biggest colonial powers of the time, the British and the Dutch since it was originally colonized in 1652. For the first century and a half following the colony, the Dutch were in command. Britain captured the colony in 1795, only to surrender it to the Dutch in 1803. Three years later, the Cape returned to British control, where it remained for the next century and a half. South Africa gained independence in the early 1900s, but it took another 90 years for the first democratic elections to take place.

32. One of Cape Town’s oldest traditions is still going strong, shocking visitors at precisely noon each day. An antique cannon atop Signal Hill is fired, eliciting a deafening boom throughout the CBD. It was initially intended to alert traders of approaching ships, indicating that it was time to drag their products down to the harbour. There has been a firing of the gun since 1806. A second gun is always on hand in case the first one doesn’t work. According to legend, the gun failed only once during those two centuries—when a spider interfered with the remote transmission.

33. District Six, a once-thriving creative hotspot on the outskirts of the city, gained notoriety for all the wrong reasons. During the 1970s, the then-apartheid government relocated over 60,000 residents to places outside the ‘white’ city borders and bulldozed the lively neighbourhood’s houses.



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