You can have plenty of fun in this South African coastal town for nearly free.
South Africa’s currency is in the throes of a steady decline—and coupled with the strengthening dollar, that means Cape Town has everything you need for a budget-friendly holiday. But even if you’re really strapped for cash, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the city for nearly free.
Saturday: Exploring Cape Town’s History
Begin your day with a budget breakfast at Truth, one of Cape Town’s best coffee shops—it has a cult following for its funky industrial interiors. An open-faced avocado sandwich will set you back about $2.83; wash it down with a flat white for $1.82. A filling breakfast for less than five dollars? Not a bad start.
Next, head up the block to the District Six Museum for a history lesson. This neighborhood was once a thriving multicultural hub until apartheid uprooted countless families; at the museum, their stories are retold through intimate exhibits that re-create the past. A stop here is a must for understanding the context of what South Africa has had to overcome in the past 21 years since independence, and admission is a mere $2.18.
By now you’re probably eager to learn more about Cape Town’s complex past as you tour (and affordable guided walking tours are also on offer), so why not download a homegrown app to help you with that? VoiceMap offers GPS-guided audio tours around the world; local offerings include Slavery in the Cape ($1.99) and the Company’s Garden ($1.99).
When you’re ready for a break and a bit, head to St. George’s Mall, a pedestrian promenade lined with lively stalls selling everything from artwork to scarves. This is where you’ll find Mariam’s Kitchen (101 St. George’s Mall), a humble local “takeaway” selling simple, hearty, home-style cooking with local flair—the steak salomie will fill you up and only costs $3.56.
Sunday: Experiencing the Sites
The Bo-Kaap neighborhood is an Instagrammer’s delight, a riot of postcard-worthy houses on Signal Hill. Strolling streets lined with yellow, hot pink, and turquoise homes is free, of course—just be respectful of the people who live there—but be sure to pop into Rose Corner Café (100 Wale Street) to try a local favorite: koesisters are Cape Town’s answer to the doughnut, and here the syrupy confections are $0.22 apiece.
Cape Town’s most magnificent sites aren’t likely to break the bank: a hike won’t cost you a dime, after all. While Table Mountain is the most obvious contender, it can be grueling for beginners, and you might be tempted to take the cable car back down—and at $9 each way, you’ll end up blowing your budget. We recommend hiking neighboring Lion’s Head instead: it’s an easier and quicker trail, and the views are just as sublime.
For meals, you can easily splurge on several and still stay within budget. For one of the best burgers in Cape Town, head over to Bree Street, where a whiskey-barbecue burger and fries at the popular IYO Burgers comes in at only $6.10. Afterward, experience Bree Street’s bar culture: pop into the divey Door 221, where the cocktails are $3.63, or Mother’s Ruin Gin Bar, where a gin-based drink like a Marmalade Tea is $4.21. Have ‘em both—you can afford it.