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8 Unusual Things to Do in Cape Town You Cannot Miss

8 Unusual Things to Do in Cape Town You Cannot Miss

Cape Town is a place where there are so many things to do, places to eat, and day trips to take. I’ve visited twice and even lived there as an expat so I can confidently tell you that the list is never-ending! 

On your first visit I definitely recommend doing all the most popular things to do in Cape Town, but if you have some spare time in your South African itinerary or visiting once more, here are the lesser-known things to do in Cape Town.

1. Watch a Movie on a Rooftop Trailer Park at Grand Daddy

The Grand Daddy Hotel has an iconic quintessential Cape Town vibe and prides itself on its fun and energetic city center location and atmosphere. They’re very popular for their Rooftop trailer park where you can book to spend the night in one of seven individually themed trailers all the way from the United States. 

There are so many quirky things to see around this hotel including the oldest operating vintage elevator in all of Cape Town. Top off your visit with a movie under the stars at their famous Pink Flamingo Rooftop Cinema which provides blankets and snacks for the ultimate cinematic experience.

Woman opening an Airstream trailer on a rooftop in Cape Town, part of an unconventional urban accommodation experience, perfect for travelers looking for unusual stays.

2. Hike to the Abandoned Zoo

Today, the former Groote Schuur Zoo remains largely abandoned after its closure sometime in the 1970s. Located near the University of Cape Town, the entrance to ‘The Lost Zoo’ is quite easy to find and visit. You can see the exact location here.

You can see all of the old animal exhibits that used to house a wide range of animals including lions, emus, crocodiles, and more.

Woman exploring the graffiti-adorned ruins at former Groote Schuur Zoo, Cape Town, offering a unique experience for those seeking unusual things to do in Cape Town.
You can get into abandoned enclosures

3. Eat at Mzoli’s Meat

Nothing says South Africa like a Sunday braai. Mzoli’s Meat is an establishment that comes from a humble background but if you visit it now you’ll be met with great food, service, and an ambiance that is internationally famous.

South Africa is well known for its exotic game meats, and anyone who visits will leave with the images and scents of the bustling steakhouses and their giant portions. If you’re feeling curious and would like to sample some game meats, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to do so.

Some of the popular local game meat delicacies include Ostrich, Springbok, Warthog and Impala, just to name a few. With mountains of smoking sausage, beef, and chicken and friendly faces all around, you’re guaranteed to mingle with the locals and enjoy authentically cooked meats. It’s become a popular hangout in Cape Town endorsed by famous faces such as TV chef Jamie Oliver.

It’s a truly rustic experience at Mzoli’s Meat, where you buy your meat from the butchery and take it to the grill to be cooked up in an incredible secret marinade. The space is usually packed with people, so you have to come early if you want a seat but many people are happy to stand and still have a good time.


4. Visit Local Shebeen

If you don’t know what a Shebeen is, it was traditionally an illicit bar or club run by strong entrepreneurial women that sold locally made alcohol and beers. These days you can visit legal Shebeens in Cape Town‘s townships, although they are much tamer than they were historically.

Although they are now licensed by the government and do sell mainstream beers along with their homemade brews, they still retain a lot of the rustic charm and lively rhythms that made them such a prominent part of people’s lives during a time when freedom was limited.

The most authentic way to visit is to ask around among the locals you meet for suggestions of where to go or ask them to take you to somewhere they know. I had the most memorable experience doing it that way and definitely think this experience in itself is one of the many great reasons to visit South Africa

If you don’t meet any locals or are too nervous to go alone, you can take an organized tour to visit townships, but I honestly think you’d miss out on a lot of the experience as you’d likely be treated like a tourist from a giant tour bus. It’s also important to note that not-so-reputable tours can also be considered slum tourism so pick your guide wisely. 

Three people sitting at table filled with typical South African food and drinks at a local Shebeen in Cape Town, an unforgettable experience for travelers looking fo unique things to do in Cape Town.

Recommended Tours:
Half-Day Tour Through Cape Town’s Townships
Half-Day Guided Township Tour


5. Watch Sunset at Tidal Pools

There are around nineteen different Tide Pools in Cape Town for you to visit on a hot summer day where you can just relax and take in one of those breathtaking African sunsets. 

Tide pools are safe from strong waves and anything dangerous like sharks which makes them perfect for the whole family. Plus, most of them are easily accessible off the main road so you’ll find plenty of space all around to have braais and picnics.

Simply type “Tidal Pools” into google maps to see the locations of each one.

Tourist enjoying the tranquility of a secluded tidal pool in Cape Town, with the waves of the Atlantic Ocean crashing in the background, a hidden gem among the city’s coastal attractions.

6. Greet the Seals at Hout Bay

The famous Mr Brown the seal was Hout Bay’s friendly resident seal for 22 years. While he is unfortunately no longer with us, he’s was a free, wild seal that befriended local fishermen and began coming to shore when he felt in the mood for a snack. 

While you can no longer visit Mr Brown, there are sometimes other seals that frequent the bay. Note that you may have to wait a while, I waited for an hour

Do beware for safety reasons not to approach all random seals. We knew that Mr Brown was friendly (although he did get excited and chase you around!) but most seals are not.


7. Go To a Local Cinema

You might have heard Gran & Gramps reminisce about their back-in-the-day trips to the bioscope. Now, you can relive their nostalgia in what is arguably the coolest, most unique, and independent art-repertory cinema in South Africa

The curiously named Labia Theatre on Orange Street is where you can still sit on the terrace and sip a drink from the licensed bar (or take your own into the cinema) whilst watching your movie.

The building on Orange Street was opened by Princess Labia in May 1949 as a theatre for the staging of live performances. Nowadays, it’s an old-fashioned movie house attracting lovebirds and hipsters for its retro décor and the chance to take in a movie that’s slightly more affordable than the prices you’ll pay at the commercial cinemas. Visit their website for their popular movie ticket and meal combos.

Quaint Labia Theatre nestled amidst lush gardens in Cape Town, offering an offbeat cinematic experience and a cozy ambiance for movie enthusiasts looking for unusual things to do in Cape Town.
Source: CapeTownETC

8. Meet Pigcasso

Not only is this pig the cutest fat pig you’ll ever see but she is also the world’s only painting pig

You can meet Pigcasso at the Farm Sanctuary in Franschhoek just outside of Cape Town, where she lives happily after being saved from a slaughterhouse in 2016. You can either rent a car and drive yourself here or take an Uber. 

Her paintings are sold all over the world and she is changing the way the world thinks about farm animals and the agricultural industry.

Femi

Monday 25th of September 2023

Mr. Brown the Seal and Pigcasso are delightful surprises on your list.

Waiting for an hour to see Mr. Brown, the friendly seal, sounds like a small effort for a chance to connect with such a charming creature. Your advice about being careful with other seals is really thoughtful – sometimes excitement can make us forget to be cautious. And Pigcasso, the world's only painting pig, is not only cute but also creative! Her story is heartwarming.

It's the perfect guide for those looking to explore beyond the usual tourist spots. Thanks for sharing these unique experiences, and I can't wait to try them out on my next visit to Cape Town!

Cheers, Femi.

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