3 Days In Cape Town: Itinerary For The Budget Traveler

A travel itinerary for 3 days in Cape Town, South Africa. Perfect for budget travelers!

Cape Town, South Africa is a colorful, diverse, and energetic city. 

There are lots of different areas of the city offering fun activities and beautiful sights. 

You can relax on the beach or surf in the waves. You can hike mountains, see penguins, learn history and culture, and eat and drink all you want. 

Cape Town is modern, yet authentic. The locals are insanely friendly and helpful, and there are lots of incredible hostels for budget travelers. 

I spent 1 week in Cape Town and still couldn’t cover everything because there is SO MUCH to do. 

But most travelers don’t have the luxury of staying in one place for over a week. 

Especially in South Africa, which is such a large country filled with beauty, you’re going to want to explore as much as you can in the time you have. 

3 days in Cape Town is a good amount of time in the city. You can hit all the best Cape Town attractions without feeling too rushed. 

So to help budget travelers plan their stay, here is my ideal 3 days in Cape Town itinerary!

For more recommendations, check out my Ultimate Cape Town Budget Travel Guide.

3 days in Cape Town itinerary travel
A sunrise hike up Lions Head Mountain is one of the best things to do in Cape Town.

3 Days In Cape Town Travel Itinerary

When you arrive in Cape Town, you’ll have to sort out a few things before you start exploring. 

Here are my quick recommendations for transport and accommodation:

Transport in Cape Town

Renting a car is the best way to explore Cape Town. Some of the best attractions lie far outside the city center, so it’s more convenient to have a car. 

There is plenty of street parking in Cape Town. 

You can rent a car from the airport, or browse online to set something up for when you arrive. 

Accommodation in Cape Town

As my blog is geared towards budget travelers, I’ll only recommend one type of accommodation in Cape Town: hostels!

There are so many highly-rated and cheap hostels in Cape Town. 

I personally stayed at the Cat and Moose Backpackers Lodge and I loved my stay here. 

A dorm bed costs 124 Rand (9 USD) per night. The rooms are not fancy, but the beds are comfy and there is a fully-equipped kitchen. 

I loved this hostel because I met a few really nice people here, some of whom were locals.

I even met friends to hike Table Mountain and Lions Head with, which is great because the locals told me to never hike alone in Cape Town. 

Browse Hostelworld for more affordable Cape Town hostels!

3 Days in Cape Town Itinerary: Day 1

For Day 1, I recommend exploring the city center. 

If you’re staying in Cat and Moose Backpackers, or any other centrally-located hostel, you can walk to most of your destinations today!

Save some gas money, get some exercise, and get ready to explore central Cape Town on foot. 

table mountain hike
Start your 3 days in Cape Town with a scenic hike up Table Mountain.

Morning: Table Mountain

Table Mountain is, without a doubt, one of the best things to see in Cape Town. Even if you only have 3 days in Cape Town, this massive mountain needs a place in your itinerary.

The entire Table Mountain national park is full of greenery and wildlife. And the views from the top of the mountain are absolutely amazing. 

If you’re feeling fit and love hiking, I recommend hiking Platteklip Gorge.

This is the most direct route, and though it is steep, it can be done in 1-2 hours

You’ll have to drive or take an Uber from your hostel to the Cable Car station at the base of Table Mountain.

Then follow signs to Platteklip Gorge from there and start hiking!

Say the hike up takes 2 hours, and you want 1 hour at the top, then 1 hour to descend. So the entire Table Mountain experience should take around 4 hours if you’re hiking.

If you’re not into hiking, you can take the Cable Car. This is a much easier and quicker way to reach the top of Table Mountain.

Check out this website for the prices and hours of the Cable Car.

Afternoon: Bo-Kaap & Charley’s Bakery

Bo-Kaap

After returning home from Table Mountain, it’s time to continue exploring Cape Town. 

Walk over to Bo-Kaap, the Instagram-famous neighborhood of brightly colored buildings. 

Formerly known as the Malay Quarter, the area used to be a segregated section of the city. Check out the Bo-Kaap Museum to learn more about the area’s history.

bo kappa Cape Town South Africa
The rainbow colors of Bo-Kaap are captivating.
Charly’s Bakery

After soaking in the rainbow hues in Bo-Kaap, head to Charly’s Bakery

A local friend introduced me to this place, and I’m so happy he did. 

A 20-minute walk east from Bo-Kaap lies this tiny bakery filled with the most beautiful and delicious treats you could ever imagine.

I spent my birthday in Cape Town, and after hiking Table Mountain we came to Charly’s Bakery to indulge in fudge brownies, cakes, cookies, and cupcakes. 

It was such a sugar overload, but it was worth it. 

Evening: V&A Waterfront 

The Victoria and Albert Waterfront is one of the busiest areas of Cape Town. All the tourists congregate here to eat, drink, and shop. 

It’s a very commercialized area, but it’s nice to walk along the waterfront, window-shopping and people-watching. 

The best part of the V&A Waterfront is the Victoria and Albert Food Market

This indoor market hall is packed with food stalls selling every delicious thing imaginable.

From full meals to light snacks to desserts, this is a great place to come for a late lunch or early dinner. A full meal costs around 100 Rand (7 USD). So eating out at the market is cheaper than a restaurant.

The food market is open from 10am to 6pm

The Waterfront has some nice views, even though it’s pretty commercial and touristy.

3 Days in Cape Town Itinerary: Day 2

On your second day in Cape Town, head down to the Cape Peninsula. You’ll need your car today, or you can take public transport or a guided tour. 

Today is going to be filled with beautiful coastal views, so bring a fully charged camera.

Morning: Muizenberg Beach

If you only have 3 days in Cape Town, you probably won’t have time to visit every single one of the city’s stunning beaches. 

But Muizenberg Beach is a must!

A 30-minute drive south of the city center brings you to Muizenberg, a quiet beach town. 

The little town has some nice trendy cafes for grabbing a coffee and some breakfast. 

There are also a few surf shops for booking surf lessons or renting surf gear. 

Muizenberg Beach has a long strip of white sand that stretches on for 20km. This is a great spot for surfing, swimming, and just enjoying the laid-back beach vibes. 

Here you can also find the famous row of colorful beach houses that is often shown in photos (like the featured image for this article!)

Afternoon: Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony and Cape of Good Hope

Boulder’s Beach Penguin Colony

From Muizenberg Beach, it is a 25 minute drive along the coast to reach Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. 

If you’re an animal lover, Boulder’s Beach might just be the highlight of your 3 days in Cape Town itinerary. 

This beach is famous for its Penguin colony! It costs 152 Rand (10 USD) to enter. 

Once you enter the Penguin Colony, you’ll walk along a small wooden boardwalk which will bring you up close to the little beach where the penguins hang out. 

You can’t leave the boardwalk of course, as you have to let the penguins be. 

But it is fascinating to watch the penguins splash in the waves and sunbathe on the sand. This was one of my favorite Cape Town attractions!

3 days in Cape Town itinerary penguins
African penguins are so cute!
Cape of Good Hope

Boulder’s Beach is on the east side of the Cape Peninsula. So after leaving the penguins behind, you’ll continue driving down the peninsula for 30 minutes until you reach the Cape of Good Hope. 

This rocky headland is the tip of the Cape Peninsula. The area consists of biking and hiking trails, picnic areas, scenic views, and an abundance of nature. 

It costs 303 Rand (20 USD) to enter. 

If you don’t have a rental car, there are also lots of affordable guided tours that combine the Cape Peninsula with Boulder’s Beach. 

Most tours cost between 50 and 100 USD and include your transport to and from the city center. Most tours will also include your entrance tickets in the price. 

Evening: Chapman’s Peak Drive

After exploring the Cape Peninsula, take the scenic route back to the Cape Town city center. 

Drive up the western side of the peninsula, passing through the small beach towns of Scarborough and Kommetjie

You’ll eventually reach Chapman’s Peak Drive. This coastal road has a toll of 50 Rand (3 USD), but the fee is worth it. 

The views of the ocean-side mountains and cliffs are breathtaking. 

Chapman’s Peak Drive is full of winding roads and massive cliffs.

3 Days in Cape Town Itinerary: Day 3

On your third day in Cape Town, you’ll be finishing up with more of the best attractions near the city center. 

You can also choose to further explore the nearby beaches, or take a day trip to the nearby wine region. 

Either way, be sure to make the most of Cape Town on your last day!

Morning: Lions Head at Sunrise

Even if you already hiked Table Mountain on the first day of your Cape Town itinerary, I still recommend doing this hike as well. 

Hiking Lions Head at sunrise was one of my favorite memories from my whole 2 months in South Africa. 

It’s an easy hike and takes about 1 hour if you’re reasonably fit. The last part of the hike is very steep and requires a bit of climbing, but it’s do-able for most people. 

Leave your hostel 1 hour before sunrise, drive to the Lions Head carpark, and follow the easy trail that winds around the mountain. 

The sunrise views over Cape Town are unforgettable. At the top of Lions Head, you also get a magnificent view of Table Mountain. 

If you love nature, hiking, and great views, you should 100% include the Table Mountain AND Lions Head hikes into your 3 days in Cape Town. And both hikes are FREE!

lions head 3 days in Cape Town travel itinerary
The view of Table Mountain from the top of Lions Head is stunning!

Afternoon: Explore the Beaches or Wine Tasting Tour

Your entire Lions Head adventure should only take about 2-3 hours. So you have the entire rest of the day for fun activities!

Wine Tasting

If you are interested in a wine tasting tour in South Africa, Cape Town is one of the best places to do this.

The famous Stellenbosch wine region is only 1 hour away from the city center. 

Click here for more info about Stellenbosch wineries and a map of the area.

Full of rolling green hills, charming farms, and rustic wineries, Stellenbosch is a lovely day trip from Cape Town. 

If you’re driving yourself, just pop into any winery you see and ask for a tasting. You’ll taste around 5 wines and pay between 30 and 60 Rand (less than 5 USD).

A guided tour of the wine region is another great option.

It’s more expensive than exploring Stellenbosch on your own, but if you want to drink lots of wine, book a tour so you don’t have to drive afterward.

Cape Town Beaches

If wine-tasting isn’t up your alley, you could also spend the afternoon exploring more of Cape Town’s local beaches. 

Camps Bay Beach and the Clifton Beaches are only a 10-minute drive away from the city center. 

They are both beautiful, so having a nice picnic on the beach is another fun way to spend your last afternoon in Cape Town.

Beaches are also free, so if you’re tight on money this is more affordable than wine tasting.

Evening: Kloof Street or Long Street 

For the last night of your 3-day Cape Town itinerary, head to the liveliest and most fun streets in town. 

Long Street and Kloof Street are right next to each other. Both streets have lots of great bars, pubs, restaurants, and cafes. 

Have fun eating, drinking, chatting, and enjoying the local nightlife. 

Just remember to be smart while exploring Cape Town at night. Don’t walk around alone at night, keep your car doors locked, and don’t bring too many valuables out with you. 

Cape Town is relatively safe and I didn’t have any problems here. But muggings and theft are still common and lots of travelers have some bad experiences. 

So just be smart and stick with a good group of people and you should be fine!

☼ ☼ ☼

Thanks for reading this 3 Days In Cape Town Itinerary!

Here are a couple more important travel tips for South Africa:

☼ Use Skyscanner to find an affordable flight to South Africa! Check out How To Find The Cheapest Flights Abroad for more tips on finding cheap flights.

Get Travel Insurance! From going on safaris, to hiking in dangerous spots, to exploring rural areas, it is important to have medical and emergency coverage. I found an affordable travel health insurance plan on Squaremouth Insurance and they fully reimbursed me for an accident I had in South Africa. Read more about it here!

☼ As an American citizen, I did not need a visa to visit South Africa for 2 months. But if you’re from any other nationality, I’m not sure what the visa requirements are. Check iVisa.com to verify visa requirements before your trip!

To read about more of my adventures in South Africa, check out these articles:

How To Visit The Drakensberg Mountains On A Budget

Jeffrey’s Bay Photo Diary

Learning Permaculture in the South African Forest

Volunteering In The Wild Coast, South Africa

How To Do An African Safari On A Budget

Volunteering On A Chicken Farm Outside East London, South Africa

This post may contain affiliate links. Read more about this in my About Me page!

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