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  • Browse our catalogue of Bed and Breakfasts and specialist boutique hotels in Cape Town.
  • Options range from small independent hotels in Cape Town to family-run guest houses in the surrounding hills and countryside, many with swimming pools and beautiful views.
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Cape Town Visitor information

Cape Town, or Kaapstad in Afrikaans, is the second-most populous city in South Africa after Johannesburg. As the seat of the National Parliament, it is also the legislative capital of the country.

Cape Town is located at approximately the same latitude as Sydney and Buenos Aires and equivalent Los Angeles in the northern hemisphere. Table Mountain, with its near vertical cliffs and flat-topped summit over 1,000 m (3,300 ft) high, and with Devil's Peak and Lion's Head on either side, together form a dramatic mountainous backdrop enclosing the central area of Cape Town (the City Bowl). Many tourists visit Cape Town's beaches. Though the Cape's water ranges from cold to mild, the difference between the two sides of the city is dramatic: beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very cold water due to the Benguela current, which originates from the Southern Ocean, whilst the water at False Bay beaches may be warmer by up to 10 °C (18 °F) at the same moment due to the influence of the warm Agulhas current.

The city has several notable cultural attractions, including the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town. Part of its charm is the fact that the Port continues to operate and visitors can watch ships enter and leave. The annual Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known as Kaapse Klopse, is a large minstrel festival held annually on 2 January or "Tweede Nuwe Jaar" (Afrikaans: Second New Year). Competing teams of minstrels parade in brightly coloured costumes, performing Cape Jazz. The Cape Winelands and in particular the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek are popular day trips from the city for sightseeing and wine tasting. Whale watching is also popular: Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales are seen off the coast during the breeding season (August to November) and Bryde's Whales and Killer Whale can be seen any time of the year.

Getting around Cape Town

Cape Town International Airport serves both domestic and international flights. The Shosholoza Meyl is the passenger rail operations of Spoornet and operates two long-distance passenger rail services from Cape Town: a daily service to Johannesburg via Kimberley and a weekly service to Durban via Kimberley, Bloemfontein and Pietermaritzburg. These trains terminate at Cape Town railway station and make a brief stop at Bellville. Three national roads start in Cape Town: the N1 (Cape Town to Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Zimbabwe), the N2 (Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban) and the N7 (Cape Town to the Northern Cape Province and Namibia).

History of Cape Town

It is unknown when humans first occupied the area before the first European visits in the 15th century. The earliest known remnants in the region were discovered at Peers cave in Fish Hoek and date to around 15,000-12,000 years ago. There is no written history from the area until it was first mentioned by Portuguese explorer Bartolomeu Dias in 1486. Vasco da Gama recorded a sighting of the Cape of Good Hope in 1497. In the late 16th century, French, Dutch, Portuguese, Danish and English ships regularly stopped over in Table Bay en route to the Indies, trading tobacco, copper and iron with the Khoikhoi in exchange for fresh meat. In 1652, Jan van Riebeeck and other employees of the Dutch East India Company were sent to the Cape to establish a way-station for ships travelling to the Dutch East Indies.

The settlement grew slowly during this period: the labour shortage prompted the authorities to import slaves from Indonesia and Madagascar and many of these became ancestors of the first Cape Coloured communities. Under Van Riebeeck and his successors as VOC commanders and later governors at the Cape, an impressive range of plants was introduced to the Cape, in the process changing the natural environment forever. Some of these, including grapes, cereals, ground nuts, potatoes, apples and citrus, had an important and lasting influence on the societies and economies of the region. During the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars, the Netherlands was repeatedly occupied by France, and Great Britain moved to take control of Dutch colonies. Britain captured Cape Town in 1795, but it was returned to the Netherlands by treaty in 1803. British forces occupied the Cape again in 1806 after the battle of Bloubergstrand, but in the Anglo-Dutch Treaty, Cape Town was permanently ceded to Britain in 1814. It became the capital of the newly formed Cape Colony, whose territory expanded very substantially during the 1800s.

The discovery of diamonds in Griqualand West in 1867, and the Witwatersrand Gold Rush in 1886, prompted a flood of immigrants to South Africa. Conflicts between the Boer republics in the interior and the British colonial government resulted in the Second Boer War of 1899–1902, which was won Britain. In 1910, Britain established the Union of South Africa, which unified the Cape Colony with the two defeated Boer Republics and the British colony of Natal. Cape Town then became the legislative capital of the Union, and later of the Republic of South Africa.


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