Cape Town Travel Guide

A Tapestry of History, Culture, and Natural Splendor

Dynamic, beautiful, exciting, and beguiling, Cape Town is one of those places that travelers want to stay in. The city is peppered with fine restaurants, theatres, museums, and art galleries, while the surrounding areas boast encounters with penguins, whales, and baboons. Meanwhile, the world’s most idyllic vineyard is less than 30 30-minute drive away, and the coast allures surfers and beach babes, who’d rather sunbathe and swim than sip Sauvignon Blanc. And sitting amid it all is the ever-visible and mighty form of Table Mountain – indeed, this city caters to all.

Cape Town’s Deep-Rooted History

Cape Town’s history extends to around 40,000 BC when the San people first settled in South Africa. By AD 500, Bantu-speaking tribes had arrived from West Africa’s Niger Delta, and indigenous tribes held control until the 17th century.

However, the first historical mention of Cape Town occurred in 1488, when the Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias sailed to the Cape from West Africa. Then, in 1497, Vasco de Gama sailed past what we today know as Cape Town on his journey to find a direct route to Asia from Europe; in fact, it was a Portuguese explorer, Antonio de Saldanha, who coined the name Table Mountain, or Taboa da caba, for the city’s most famous geological phenomenon.

The Dawn of European Settlement

Yet it was not until 1652 that the first Europeans set foot on land in the Western Cape. Jan van Riebeeck, an employee of the Dutch East India Company, arrived with a small contingent of explorers to establish a base for the company’s ships traveling to the West Indies. The first settlers, marveling at the climate and fertile growing conditions, soon planted a range of European crops, and their new home grew at an astounding rate.

Indeed, by 1688, Cape Town’s reputation had attracted Huguenot (protestant) settlers looking to escape persecution in their native France. With their arrival came a wealth of viticultural expertise, which was quickly put to good use by the region’s nascent wine industry. By the mid-18th century, Cape Town was South Africa’s most prosperous settlement, with a thriving wine industry finding a welcome home in the European markets.

Wars and Colonial Conflicts

Sadly, the first of many European conflicts would engulf Cape Town in 1780 when France and Great Britain went to war. As an ally of France, the Netherlands attracted a small contingent of French troops sent to Cape Town to defend it against the British, although they left in 1784. Nonetheless, widespread colonial settlement of South Africa continued in the early 19th century, with the British finally annexing the Cape in 1806.

Tensions soon erupted between the British, the native Zulus, and the Boers (descendants of the Dutch settlers) in the 19th century. The Zulus were eventually defeated, but relations between the British and Boers remained fragile, at best. The Boers defeated the British during the first Anglo-Boer War but were ultimately defeated in the Second Boer War in 1902.

In 1910, a new era dawned for Cape Town after the Union of South Africa was created, a historic predecessor to the Republic of South Africa created in 1961. The outbreak of the 1st and 2nd World Wars did not directly affect Cape Town’s citizens; instead, the city would be defined by the onset of apartheid after the Afrikaner National Party won the election in 1948.

Apartheid Era and Its End

During the apartheid era, the South African government attempted to categorize everyone into one of four major groups – Black, Colored, Asian, and White. These arbitrary and contentious classifications were used to regulate where and how people could live and work; apartheid endured until the early 1990s when the new president, FW de Klerk, set about dismantling apartheid and Nelson Mandela became president of a newly united and optimistic South Africa in 1994.

Cape Town remains one of this great continent’s most inspiring and hopeful cities today. It’s also a city that is easy to fall in love with and hard to leave: a heady mix of vibrant culture, dynamic food and drink scene, diverse architecture, and breathtaking natural beauty. Above all, Cape Town is a cultural melting pot, full of people with fascinating stories to tell and a warm welcome to share.

  • Cape Malay Style Curry
    Cape Malay Style Curry

    Gastronomy and Wine

Nearby Wine Regions

  • Stellenbosch

    Stellenbosch: A historic South African wine hub with stunning landscapes, rich history, and world-class vineyards, epitomizing Cape Winelands' elegance. Read more


  • District Six Museum

    This fascinating museum guides visitors through the story of District Six, a once multicultural neighborhood that was uprooted by forced evictions during the apartheid era in the 1960s and 70s. An essential part of any Cape Town itinerary.

    Find out more

  • Table Mountain National Park

    Cape Town’s most iconic symbol, the park stretches from the flat-topped Table Mountain to Cape Point. Yet, for most visitors the main attraction is, of course, reaching the top of the Mountain itself, which can be easily reached by the Table Mountain Aerial Railway, which operates every 10 minutes in high season.

    Find out more

  • Robben Island

    Used as a prison by the Dutch East India Company right up until 1996, Robben Island is a must-visit part of the Cape’s history. Today it is a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserved as a memorial to those, including Nelson Mandela, who was incarcerated there.

    Find out more

  • Cape Winelands

    The Boland (upland) stretching inland and upwards from Cape Town isn’t the only wine-growing region in South Africa, but it is certainly the most beautiful. A wealth of fantastic wines, restaurants, hotels, cultural attractions, and more awaits.

More information

If you would like us to customize an exclusive luxury tour, contact us and let us know your travel plans. We offer luxury food and wine tours for private groups of a mininium two guests. In addition, all of our private, chauffeured tours are available year-round upon request.

Cellar Tours Private Luxury Food & Wine Tours

Cellar Tours

Welcome to Cellar Tours, the premier Luxury Travel Specialist since 2003. Our goal is to provide you with the ultimate food and wine vacation experience, with exclusive Mercedes chauffeured tours that showcase the best of local cuisine and wines.

Our team specializes in crafting bespoke, custom-designed vacations, events, and incentives tailored to your unique tastes and preferences. Travel is not just about seeing new places - it's about creating unforgettable memories and indulging in the finer things in life.

As members of Slow Food, OTAVA (Travel Agency Association in Spain), and the IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals), we promote sustainable tourism and support local communities. We work closely with top-rated hotels, restaurants, and wineries to provide you with the highest level of service and attention to detail.

Whether you're planning a romantic getaway, a family vacation, or a corporate retreat, let Cellar Tours be your guide. With our passion for food and wine, extensive knowledge of local culture, and dedication to exceptional customer service, we're confident we can exceed your expectations.

Contact us today to start planning your dream vacation – we can't wait to hear from you!

Recommended by