Best way to explore the Waterfront - Free Waterfront Walking Tours

THERE are two ways to best explore a city – whether you are a local or a tourist. One is from the upper deck vantage point on a famous red City Sightseeing tour bus; the other is by walking.

Intrepid travellers might well set off armed with Google Maps, but having a knowledgeable guide at your side to explain the points of interest along the way is a valuable asset. City Sightseeing offers three walking tours in Cape Town – all free. Two depart and return to Stop 5 in Long Street, visiting Bo-Kaap and historical places in the CBD, and a third has just been introduced at V&A Waterfront. Look out for the accredited guides with their bright red umbrellas.

The V&A walk heads across the road from the ticket office, through a parking garage, and emerges on the doorstep of the former South African Rugby Museum. Sadly, this has closed permanently but at the very least, you can get an elevated view of the Waterfront, and the spectacular Cape Wheel.

Image – Bianca Coleman

The first main stop on the walk is at the foot of the colourful steps which lead up to the façade of the Somerset Hospital, which opened in 1864 and is a provincial heritage site. The original hospital was in nearby Chiapinni Street, founded in 1818 and named after Lord Charles Somerset, the governor of the Cape Colony who gave land for the construction. The Chavonnes Battery was used as an isolation and convalescent wing; it’s located on the opposite side of the Waterfront and is included as a point of interest later on the walk.

Image – Bianca Coleman

From these steps, you ascend a slight hill (we should mention comfortable walking shoes are recommended, and sun block – even in the winter months) to The Lookout event venue, and also where the Oranjezicht City Farmers Market takes place every Saturday and Sunday. Detours into this and other landmarks on the walk can be made if the whole group is in agreement; otherwise, make a note to come back when time permits.

As you stroll along the coastline, you’ll be rewarded with a stunning view of Robben Island and the Cape Town Stadium, before ducking through the side of the five-star Table Bay Hotel to emerge back on the quayside. Here, any number of harbour cruises and helicopter flips can be booked and can be very tempting. Stick with the walk…there’s more to come.

Image – Bianca Coleman

You’ll get to see the Cape Wheel up close, for example, and be treated to musical performances by buskers. Don’t miss the opportunity to make some photographic memories with Table Mountain in the background. It’s in this precinct you’ll find the aforementioned Chavonnes Battery, but do note the pedestrian swing bridge to the Clock Tower and Silo districts is closed until June 17, 2019. Alternative routes are in place.

Outside the Food Market, in Nobel Square, you’ll see the statues of South Africa's four Nobel Peace laureates: the late Chief Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, and former presidents Nelson Mandela and FW de Klerk.

As you reach the end of the walk, you’ll see the Robinson dry dock in the Alfred Basin, the oldest operating dry dock of its kind in the world dating back to 1882. After checking out the jetty from which the City Sightseeing harbour cruise departs, and all the big fat seals sunning themselves on specially-constructed decks, morning walkers will be rewarded with a loud surprise: the firing of the Noon Gun from Signal Hill.

Image – Bianca Coleman

All the walks are free, but tips are welcome. The V&A walks depart at 10.30am and 3pm daily, and take about 90 minutes. For more information, go to