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Africa, Cape Town, City of Cape Town

7 free things to do in Cape Town

Cape Town has been making headlines repeatedly over the past few years, winning awards left, right and centre for being the best city in the world or the best holiday destination. And it's easy to see why. Its unbeatable combination of city, mountain, sea, winelands and great weather has us hopping on a plane again and again. And the best news? There's plenty to do in the city that's completely free. Check out our favourite free things to do in Cape Town.

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Sure, it may cost a little more to fly out to Cape Town than some other destinations, but UK holidaymakers are always pleasantly surprised by how affordable things are once they're in the city. This is just one reason why Cape Town is one of our most popular destinations in Africa. And while you'll need to pay at most of the region's biggest attractions, there are loads of things to do in Cape Town that are absolutely free of charge.

Gorgeous beaches, buzzing food markets, mountaintops with the best views - these are just a few of our top free things to do in Cape Town. Read on to discover them all.

1. Hike up Lion's Head

Standing at just over 2,000 feet, Lion's Head is one of our favourite viewpoints in all of Cape Town. Best of all, it's completely free to head up the peak; a journey to the summit and back can take around two hours, but allow extra time for simply enjoying the summit. It's actually a firm favourite with locals, who make the climb regularly for sunrise and sunset (headtorch recommended!).

You'll need reasonable fitness to hike Lion's Head, and there's a route that involves chains and ladders, as well as one without. If hiking is not your thing, simply drive up nearby Signal Hill (also free) and enjoy a different but equally beautiful view over the city.

2. Visit a market

Cape Town is home to a huge variety of markets. Some of these are running every day, all year round, while others are a weekly or monthly event. They're all completely free to enter and almost all of them are so much more than just a market: expect music, food, artisanal goods and souvenirs. Neighbourgoods Market, Bay Harbour Market and the Watershed at the V&A Waterfront are our top picks.

3. Go to the V&A Waterfront

The V&A Waterfront is a destination within itself and - the best news - it's free to visit. This is the historic harbour area of the city and it's filled with attractions: a shopping mall that houses a wing just for big luxury brands, an aquarium, market, restaurants and the new, ultra-modern Silo District, where you can get your art fix at the Zeitz MOCAA. The V&A is also the launching point for Robben Island tours - a must for anyone wanting to know more about the country's past.

4. Spend a day at the beach

I say this as a local - yes, the water is freezing, but any Cape Town holiday needs to feature a lazy day at the beach. Firstly, they're free to visit and secondly - Cape Town has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world!

Camps Bay Beach is an all-round favourite, thanks to the strip of cafes, restaurants and bars right behind it. But there are plenty more: Big Bay, Clifton Beach (#1-4), Llandudno, Noordhoek and Muizenberg are all fantastic choices for a beach day. Boulders Beach, home to its world-famous penguins, is another lovely beach, but you need to pay a small entry fee for this one.

5. See the colourful beach huts at St James Beach

One of the most popular spots for grabbing a photo worthy of Instagram, the colourful beach huts at St James Beach are free to visit. A walk through the underground railway tunnel brings you onto the white-sand beach, which can sometimes feel like a hidden gem if there aren't too many people around. If you fancy exploring more, there's a tidal pool and plenty of rock pools to enjoy too.

6. Drive out to the wineries

Cape Town is a short drive away from some world-renowned wine regions. A 45-minute drive brings you to the wineries of Stellenbosch while an hour brings you to Franschhoek's vineyards. Most wineries are free to visit, and some even allow you to do wine tastings for free too.

🏴‍☠️ Pirate tip: For the most budget-friendly wine tasting experiences, drive two hours out to the beautiful Roberston Wine Valley. It's a local favourite and almost every winery here offers free tastings.

7. Attend the monthly First Thursdays event

On the first Thursday of every month, locals leave work and head to Cape Town's CBD for the wildly popular First Thursdays event. From 5-9PM (and later), the city's participating art galleries keep their doors open late, while the bars and restaurants create specials just for the night. Visiting the art galleries and exhibitions are free, while you'll have to pay for food and drink. But the vibe is like no other; it feels like a street party with people checking out one gallery after another.

Other free things to do in Cape Town

  • Go on a free walking tour of the CBD.

  • Get your Instagram shot in front of the brightly coloured houses of the Bo-Kaap.

  • Skip the cable car and climb up Table Mountain instead.

  • Take a lengthy stroll along Sea Point's promenade.

  • Have a dip in one of Cape Town's many seaside tidal pools.

  • Attend free events like Pride and Cape Town Carnival.

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