Understanding the Seasons in Cape Town
Cape Town enjoys a temperate Mediterranean climate, with warm, dry summers and cool, rainy winters. Since South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, its summer is the opposite of Europe and North America—when New York is snowed under, Cape Town basks in sunshine, and New York’s sultry summer temperatures coincide with snow sprinkling the top of Table Mountain. The most popular months for a Cape Town holiday are mid-summer months (December through February), when temperatures peak. But Cape Town’s famously fierce southeasterly wind also blows during this time. In general, the spring and autumn shoulder-season months offer the best of both worlds: great weather, plus uncrowded beaches and tourist sites, with lower prices.
Visiting Cape Town in Winter (June-August)
Most visitors avoid the Mother City in winter—Cape Town’s coolest and rainiest months, when downpours can put a damper on tourist activities. Still, with mild daytime temperatures averaging in the low 60s Fahrenheit, and rains often relegated to sporadic showers, winter can be a pleasant time to visit. This is also a great time for foodies to browse the indoor markets, explore the nearby Cape Winelands wineries, and eat at fireside-friendly, world-class restaurants (many offering excellent winter specials). This is also whale-watching season, when migratory whales arrive along the coast east of Cape Town. In addition, with the rains, the surrounding countryside is at its lushest.
Temperatures: 52°F–72°F (11°C–22°C)
Rainfall: 9–10 days per month on average
Hours of daylight: 10
Cape Town is relatively free of tourists during winter months, with hotel occupancy and room rates at their lowest during June and July. This is the best time of year for budget-minded travelers to save big on lodging and take advantage of special offers at restaurants and other venues.
Visiting Cape Town in Spring (September-October)
Considered one of the two best times of year to visit Cape Town (autumn is the other), spring offers the best of all worlds: great weather and low shoulder-season prices without the summer crowds. Temperatures are rising, with daytime highs typically hovering in the mid-70s Fahrenheit, although some days can still be cool (especially in September). Rainy days are fewer- expect plenty of clear blue skies! Plus, the landscape bursts into colorful blossom at this time. This is also the perfect season for outdoor enthusiasts to hike atop Table Mountain or to head northwest to witness the spectacular coastal blooms.
Temperatures: 63°F–84°F (17°C–29°C)
Rainfall: 5–8 days per month on average
Hours of daylight: 12–13
Despite the pleasant temperatures, the surge of summer visitors has yet to arrive. Hence, you can take advantage of the relatively few tourists at top venues. By October, hotel rates begin to rise in preparation for the summer high season, but finding good deals is still pretty easy, especially if you book a few months in advance.
Visiting Cape Town in Summer (November-February)
High season arrives in November, when travelers from around the globe are drawn by Cape Town’s sprawling sun-drenched sands and satisfyingly warm and cloudless rain-free days. If a beach holiday is on your horizon, there’s no better season for basking and swimming (although note that the waters surrounding Cape Town are chilly, even in summer). Just be prepared to share the beaches with plenty of like-minded others. Summer temperatures average daytime highs in the mid- to high 70s Fahrenheit, although some days can soar into the high 80s. However, fierce southeasterly “Cape Doctor” winds frequently lash Cape Town like a whip during summer (the winds usually die down during February). Hence, this is prime season for kite-surfing (a popular activity, especially at world-renowned Blouberg Beach), but outdoor enthusiasts may be disappointed to find Table Mountain blanketed in thick clouds.
Temperatures: 63°F–84°F (17°C–29°C)
Rainfall: 3 days per month on average
Hours of daylight: 13-14
December and January are the peak months for both international visitors and domestic travelers (these months coincide with the local school holidays). Hence, hotels are overflowing. Reservations are essential several months in advance, particularly during Christmas and New Year's. Don’t expect to find any bargains, as everything is at its most expensive. However, things begin to ease in February, when visitors head home, there’s room to lay out your towel on the more popular beaches, and prices begin to drop (along with the “Cape Doctor” wind).
Visiting Cape Town in Autumn (Mar-May)
Autumn, for many travelers, is another “just right” season. The high summer temperatures fall, with average highs typically in the delightful low- to mid-70s Fahrenheit (but be prepared for some days to be quite cool, especially into May, when a warm jacket is definitely needed). Days are usually crystal clear through April, when the first rains hint at the approach of winter. By May, you’ll be wise to pack a rainproof jacket. Autumn is considered a fabulous time for hiking. For wine-lovers, there’s no better time: the Cape Winelands are ablaze in fall color, and the annual wine harvest is underway (some wineries even welcome visitors to help in gathering grapes).
Temperatures: 59°F–80°F (5°C–27°C)
Rainfall: 2–4 days per month on average
Hours of daylight: 11–13
The autumn shoulder season offers a triumvirate of pluses: great weather, relatively few travelers, and lower prices.
Events and Festivals in Cape Town
Below, you'll find some of the most important festivals and events in and around Cape Town. Consider planning your trip so that you can attend one.
January 1-2 - Cape Town Minstrel Carnival
To celebrate the New Year, the city bursts into song and dance with the raucous Cape Town Minstrel Carnival (or Kaapse Klopse). More than 10,000 costumed, banjo-picking musicians and dancers parade through the streets in colorful minstrel costumes and white-painted faces. This extravagant pageant has its origins in the early years of colonization, when slaves were allowed one day’s freedom to celebrate among the colonists.
Mid-January - Cape Town Jazzathon
The V&A Waterfront resounds to cool riffs at this free 4-day festival of jazz music featuring top contemporary South African performers.
Mid-February - Cape Town Electronic Music Festival
Cape Town rocks as it showcases the best of South Africa's burgeoning and bold electronica music scene, from jazz-tinted stylings and hot dance floor forces to ethereal live sets and shows.
Late February - Stellenbosch Wine Festival
The annual 3-day, family-friendly Stellenbosch Wine Festival draws thousands of wine-lovers to the Coetzenburg Sports Grounds. Adults can sample from hundreds of award-winning local wines. Plus, there’s plenty of local grub, and entertainment for all ages includes live music from popular South African artists.
Late February - Constantia Fresh Food and Wine Festival
This decade-old festival has evolved to become one of South Africa’s most prestigious wine events. Top chefs prepare gourmet foods to accompany wines offered by several dozen local and international wineries. Craft beers and live music are also on the menu. It’s hosted at Buitenverwachting Wine Farm, in the heart of Constantia, in South Africa’s oldest wine region.
Late February - Design Indaba
Spanning architecture to visual art, this convention of creativity at the Artscape Theatre or Cape Town International Convention Centre showcases a cross-spectrum of design arts, including fashion and media, by the nation’s top talent. It screens free films and hosts live entertainment.
Mid-March - Cape Town Carnival
An extravagant and exuberant celebration to rival Rio’s, this kaleidoscopic carnival features the Rainbow Nation’s own interpretation with more than 2,000 costumed performers, musicians and moving floats. More than 50,000 revelers throng Green Point’s famous Fan Walk for the parade, followed by a wild party showcasing some of South Africa's hottest musical talent.
Late March / Early April - Cape Town International Jazz Festival
Now in its third decade, the city’s celebrated annual jazz fest is the largest music event in sub-Saharan Africa, and one of the world’s top jazz festivals. A star-studded line up of local and international artists performs at the Cape Town International Convention Centre (CTICC) at the foot of Table Mountain. Snagging a ticket isn’t easy: they sell out the instant they go on sale. A free concert is also held in Green Market Square, downtown.
Early April - Stellenbosch Wine Festival Cape Town
Launched in 2019 as an offshoot of the long-running Stellenbosch Wine Festival, this 2-day event at the V&A Waterfront features live music, delicious fare from fish ‘n’ chips to gourmet charcuterie platters, plus wine tastings offered by dozens of top Cape Winelands estates.
Late July - Cape Town Fashion Week
Held on the V&A Waterfront, this 3-day event lets African designers and top models strut their stuff and help shape the hottest trends. It also includes Xperience AFI—a showcase of urban culture, art, music and creative photography.
Early August - Stellenbosch Fine Wine and Food Festival
Considered to be South Africa’s premiere wine and food festival, this ultimate culinary showcase is hosted by Stellenbosch Wine Routes to promote talented winemakers and top chefs. The nation’s gourmet capital becomes a rendezvous for food and wine lovers to savor wines made from grapes grown exclusively in the Stellenbosch region.
Late September - Hermanus Whale Festival
This annual festival celebrates the return of the southern right whales to the coastal waters of Southern Africa with events, activities, and entertainment intended to create awareness on how to protect whales and marine wildlife. It’s held at Hermanus, a 90-minute drive east of Cape Town.
Mid-October - Stellenbosch Craft Beer Festival
Sudsters pack their picnic blankets and head out of Cape Town to the Cape Winelands to savor craft brews at this bi-annual event at the Jan Marais Nature Reserve. It has a fully-equipped kiddies’ area with activities.
Late October - Cape Town International Kite Festival
Hundreds of colorful and creatively configured kites from around the world soar above Zandvlei, near Muizenberg, to raise awareness of mental illness and generate funds for the Cape Mental Health Society. The festival includes kite contests and workshops plus entertainment.
Late October - Cape Town Diwali Festival
The spectacular, fun-filled Cape Town Diwali Festival, held by the Hindu community, features dance performances, fashion shows, music, plus a signature fireworks display to end the evening, all intended to showcase the splendor of Indian culture.
Late October - Franschhoek Art Festival
Cape Town’s bohemians flock to Cape Winelands for a weekend spent admiring artworks and enjoying exhibitions at Franschhoek’s many art galleries and studios, as well as many wine estates.
December - Observatory Festival of Arts
This 3-day festival offers a multi-cultural showcase for South African artists and musicians to display their creativity at open studios throughout the city, and at a large festival market that includes a dedicated kids’ zone.
Mid-December - MCQP (Mother City Queer Project)
Africa’s biggest bisexual, gay, lesbian, transgender and queer party sashays into Cape Town Stadium as attendees doll up in outrageous fancy dress for an equally spectacular carnival.
Conclusion: What is the best time to visit Cape Town?
As you may have figured from the above information, choosing the right time to visit Cape Town depends on your tolerance for sun and/or rain, whether you’re an indoors or outdoors person, how "crowd-tolerant" you are, and whether you’re a budget traveler or unphased by high-season prices.
If your desire is to explore the outdoors and Cape Town’s stunning nature, the best times are South Africa’s spring and autumn months. If budget considerations are your priority (or if you hate the crowds of the most popular months), head to Cape Town in its winter months (but be sure to pack some warm clothing and rain gear). If you’re intent on a beach vacation, then follow the sunshine of summer.