Undoubtedly the most memorable and striking sight in Cape Town is the majestic natural wonder of Table Mountain, dominating and making a splendid backdrop from almost everywhere that you look in the city.
It’s flanked by Devil’s Peak to the east, the Lion’s Head and Signal Hill to the west, and the Karbonkelberg to the southwest. Further along are the Twelve Apostles, running south along the coast (through small beach-side suburbs like Clifton). (The best view of them is from a sailboat – there are various operators which you can book from the V&A Waterfront, like the Tigresse catamaran – (021) 425 5457.)
Table Mountain looks for all the world as though its maker has sliced off the top of the peak, hence the name the Dutch arrivals gave it -- the best view, and the classic picture postcard, is from BloubergStrand, north east along the coast from V&A, where you can get a great photo across the Atlantic Ocean (just don’t try dipping in your toe – it’s direct from the Antarctic!) of the flat top, whether it’s a clear day or the famous "tablecloth" of clouds is shimmering on the peak.
Assuming it’s not, head up on the revolving cable-car to the top (105pp return) for a cracking panorama over the city -- you can hike up (there are apparently 350 routes up, though it’s not an easy endeavour and can only be undertaken with expert advice, i.e., through the Mountain Club of South Africa or Friend’s of Lion’s Head) but the rotating cable car is quite entertaining in itself. Once at the top, the level summit is 3km long (east-west) and its highest point is 1086m (Maclear’s Beacon, which the astronomer Sir Thomas Maclear erected in 1843 as an experiment more accurately to measure the circumference of the earth) – you are asked to stick to the paths and not to feed the dassies (hydraxes) which live up there. Most entertaining is to wander along the set paths though the fynbos (literally fine bush) of local shrubby undergrowth, including species and protea. There are various birds and the occasional tortoise lurking around. Make sure you take up your binoculars for the excellent views of Cape Town below.
Signal Hill can be accessed by car and gives a good alternative view (especially of the city lights by night or of the sunset – it’s popular for locals for picnics or "sundowners"). The Lion’s Head is also a dramatic sight – it was originally the site of the cannons which announced the entry of ships into Table Bay (since moved into town).