View of Lion's Head from our hotel balcony with the sun setting

Cape Town, Mother City of South Africa

Giant Yellow Picture Frame with me in foreground and Table Mountain in the center of the frame at V & A Harbor

Landing at the Cape Town airport is the beginning of a lifetime travel experience to South Africa. A sign on an archway at the airport greets you with the saying, “Welcome to the Mother City”.

There are two theories to this nickname. The city is the oldest in South Africa and the mother of modern South Africa.

A second theory is that a local newspaper termed the city to be the only city that is a ‘metropolis’ which is derived from the Greek word ‘metros’ and ‘polis’ meaning mother and city.

Another nickname for the city is “Tavern of the Seas”. Cape Town was a refreshment and refueling stop on the Spice Route. Here, sailors could unwind after being at sea.

View of Lion's Head from our hotel balcony with the sun setting
Lion’s Head from Our Hotel Balcony

Upon arriving in the city center, I notice that Lion’s Head and Table Mountain dominate the city, Lion’s Head with its lion image and Table Mountain with its smooth top jutting up from the city floor and providing a commanding presence.

This city has an abundance of charm and history along with pristine beaches making it warrant its title of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.

On a first day of a South African trip after spending the night in Cape Town, I start out with my friends on a 14,000 step walk as we explore the waterfront. The waterfront area is clean and modern with a myriad of shops and restaurants as well as a commanding view of Table Mountain.

The best way to see a city is to walk, and I recommend you do just that. Saunter down Waterkant Street boulevard towards the Victoria & Albert Waterfront.

Large rhino sculpture along the V & A Waterfront painted in black and white swirls
Black and White Rhino on Waterfront

Painted rhinos adorn the pathways by the waterfront. Which will be the favorite? It’s hard to say which was mine. At the waterfront, I see a giant yellow picture frame for a photo op where I put yourself in the frame that surrounds a view of Table Mountain in the background.

The Alfred Mall Shopping Center located next to the Alfred Basin is home to shops brimming with crafts as well as delicious restaurants. I stop to purchase a small

Small Kissi Stone Bowl with Giraffe and Tree
Kissi Stone Bowl

bowl made of kissi stone at the African Trading Port at the Alfred Basin. This stone is mined, carved by hand to the shape of an animal or a bowl, smoothed and painted. Very intricate work.


The Watershed is the highlight of the area for shopping featuring 365 local brands of high-end goods in a loft-like industrial space. I find

Watershed Mall, home to original artisan's work from South Africa
Watershed Mall at V&A Waterfront

wood sculptures, shoe designers, clothing, textiles, and furniture makers. There is even an elephant sculpture made from flip flops. I couldn’t resist the Mille Collnes Kichana Wrap, a wrap designed with the Kichana (meaning comb) design as part of the Swahili collection. The beauty and creativity of this 100% cotton wrap envelops me in an elegant garment that represents Africa.

I take the time with my friends for some sparkling wine and a cappuccino with a charcoal croissant

My friend, Sandi, at Paul Patisserie French Bakery
Paul Patisserie French Bakery & Restaurant Charcoal Croissant

filled with chocolate and caramel mousse at Paul Patisserie French Bakery & Restaurant inside the Victoria Wharf Shopping Center.  The croissant’s flavors will sated our need for something divine.

Next, I journey to the top of Table Mountain where you can see the city and the

Table Mountain in the Background
Table Mountain in the Background

Atlantic laid out below. Table Mountain is home to the widest variety of flowers and other plant life in the

Cape Town City Hall with Mandela statue on balcony
Cape Town City Hall with Mandela Statue

world. It is named one of the New7Wonders of Nature.

After the walk to Table Mountain and its magnificent views, I check out the city center and its legislative center. Look very closely on the balcony under the shadow of the building to see a statue of Nelson Mandela in front of City Hall. This

balcony is where he made his speech when he was released from prison in 1990. Nelson Mandela is a country hero and graces all the paper money in South Africa because of his work eliminating apartheid.

On a nearby corner, I reflect on the Iziko Slave Lodge that held up to 9,000 slaves. The slaves were owned by the Dutch East India Company. In addition, these people were also the slaves who worked for the government and built the city. Slaves came from South Asia and Southeast Asia as well as Africa. Those slaves privately owned lived with their owners.

Next, I head to the Bo Kaap district, an area of many styles of architecture with

Pastel Colored Homes in Bo-Kaap District
Pastel Homes in Bo-Kaap District

brightly painted pastel homes along cobblestone streets. The Bo Kaap district was established by the Dutch during spice trading days in which the Cape Malays (or Cape Muslims) who are descendants of enslaved, political exiles, and prisoners were brought to Cape Town by the Dutch East Indian Company. In fact, a lot of South Africa was settled by the Dutch. While houses were on lease from the Dutch colonists, they could only be painted white. Once slavery was lifted and those homes could be purchased, the owners painted them bright colors to signify their independence.

For a flavor of South Africa, we dine at Marco’s African Place. The food is true South African fare. Marco’s offers Malay curry, pap (porridge of maize meal), ostrich, and pureed pumpkin soup. Marco, the chef, was the first Black chef

Marco's African Place Restaurant with bold African colors in background of musicians who played during dinner
Marco’s African Place

to open a restaurant in Cape Town in 1989. We let ourselves go by dancing to music of a marimba band that plays on wooden xylophones and listen to a charming vocalist.

The Black Sheep Restaurant Asparagus with Pea Puree
The Black Sheep Restaurant Asparagus with Pea Puree

As a possibility for the day, the Cape Peninsula day trip offers the experience of the scenic Cape Point and the penguins at Boulders Beach. Instead, I buy a ticket for the hop on, hop off  City Sightseeing Red Bus that includes the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway with astounding views in all directions of the city. Along the way on the bus, our guide points out the pristine beaches and luxury homes of those who either vacation or live with clean sandy beach access.

For dinner, I try the upscale elegant restaurant, The Black Sheep, with a seasonal food menu displayed on a chalkboard. The menu is eclectic with Indigenous, North African, Asian—just a few cuisines available.  Fresh local ingredients abound on the menu like the asparagus in a pea puree. An exotic cocktail made to perfection was something I couldn’t forego.

Cape Town is home to so much natural beauty with both history and sophisticated shops and restaurants. It is no wonder it is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world.




2 thoughts on “Cape Town, Mother City of South Africa”

  1. This article paints a wonderful picture of the history and charm of Cape Town. This would be a wonderful guide for anyone planning a visit there — so much to do and see — and eat!

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