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Cape Town
Cape Town

No other South African city combines the heart stopping beauty with the historical importance as Cape Town. This chic waterfront city with Table Mountain towering above it, is known for its Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, and is defined by elegant Cape Dutch buildings, big whitewashed gables, often a thatch roof, and shuttered windows and imposing monuments to Britain's imperial legacy. In the Bo-Kaap neighborhood the call to prayer echoes from minarets while the sweet tang of Malay curry wafts through the cobbled streets. And everywhere, whether you're eating outdoors at one of the country's best restaurants or sipping wine atop Table Mountain, you sense that this is South Africa's most urbane, civilized city.

The city has several notable cultural attractions. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is one of the city's most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Part of the charm of the V&A, as it is locally known, is that the Port continues to operate and visitors can watch ships enter and leave. The V&A also hosts the Nelson Mandela Gateway, through which ferries depart for Robben Island. It is possible to take a ferry from the V&A to Hout Bay, Simon's Town and the Cape Fur Seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands. You can also tour Cape Flats and Khayelitsha, mostly black townships.

Cape Town's historical streets and buildings are a major draw for tourists. Cape Town's transport system links it to the rest of South Africa; it serves as the gateway to other destinations within the province. 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 popular amongst tourists: 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. The nearby town of Hermanus is known for its Whale Festival, but whales can also be seen in False Bay. Heaviside's dolphins are endemic to the area and can be seen from the coast north of Cape Town; Dusky dolphins live along the same coast and can occasionally be seen from the ferry to Robben Island.

Cape Town stands guardian to the Cape of Good Hope, where the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean meet. Cape Point is the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula. The city is surrounded by culturally rich areas: from Boulder Beach known for its colonies of African penguins, crayfish fishing Simon's Town, the prestigious Winelands producing some of the world's best wines, the carpets of flowers in the surrounding mountains and in the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, you can never tire of exploring this area. Many travelers visit Cape Town's beaches, which are also popular with local residents. Due to the city's unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very cold water from the Benguela current which originates from the Southern Ocean. The water at False Bay beaches is often warmer. Both coasts are equally popular, although the beaches in affluent Clifton and elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast are better developed with restaurants and cafés, with a particularly vibrant strip of restaurants and bars accessible to the beach at Camps Bay. Boulders Beach near Simon's Town is known for its colony of African penguins.

Cape Town is noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, which combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany and France, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street. The annual Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known by its Afrikaans name of Kaapse Klopse, is a large minstrel festival held annually on January 2 or "Tweede Nuwe Jaar" (Afrikaans: Second New Year). Competing teams of minstrels' parade in brightly colored costumes, either carrying colorful umbrellas or playing musical instruments. The Artscape Theatre Centre is the main performing arts venue in Cape Town.