Cape Town is one of my favourite places on Earth. We spent a year and a half here not too long ago and I always look forward to coming back. There is a huge variety of things to do and see in Cape Town and for those of us with pounds, dollars or euros in our pockets, it is a remarkably affordable place to take a holiday.

However, the first thing that strikes most right-thinking people when they land at Cape Town's international airport and head towards Table Mountain, is the state of the shanty towns lining the N2. It is always a shock that surrounding this jewel of a city are such acres of human misery existing cheek by jowl with some of the most privileged people in the world. The poverty is grim and can't be ignored (at least it shouldn't be). Despite their desperate living conditions, the majority of the people of these ‘informal settlements' constructed of corrugated iron and cardboard are incredibly warm, friendly and proud. Of course, there are those to whom tourists (and wealthier Capetonians) are prey and precautions must be taken. Signal hill and other more out of the way spots are a mugger's paradise and carjackings are a grim reality.

That said, here are some of the things our family like to do when here. Given the favourable exchange rate we get to the rand, eating out in Cape Town is not expensive and the food (and service) is fabulous. I have rarely had a bad meal here. When I lived here, I felt it my very pleasurable duty to sample as many as possible of the wonderful restaurants this town has to offer. Some favourites here for anyone heading out this way are, in no particular order: Baia at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront which has the most fantastic seafood. It is not cheap by South African standards but a good bet for a special occasion. In Constantia (and at Mouille Point), Theo's serves great steaks and ribs. Another place in Constantia, Constantia Uitsig do lovely lunches and dinners in a pretty vineyard setting. A popular chain and a favourite with the kids is Primi Piatti offering great cheap pasta and pizza and in our opinion, the world's best milkshake.

The V&A Waterfront has lots to offer. Wander around the renovated harbour past the colourful street entertainers as you decide on a place to eat. Alternatively, the huge shopping mall and undercover craft market have plenty of temptations of their own. The Two Oceans Aquarium is also located at the waterfront and is well worth a visit – dive with the sharks, as Neil did, if you're feeling brave.

Cape Town has lots of interesting and thought-provoking museums, tracing its long and chequered past. The District Six museum stands out as one such place. Table Mountain is the great heart of the ‘ Mother City ' and the rotating cable car ride to its top is a big hit with kids but can get rather crowded. The views are fabulous though, including that of Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was kept prisoner for 27 years.

Heading out of Cape Town, Franschhoek is an easy drive with lots of little restaurants and galleries and of course vineyards. Chapman's Peak drive is stunning and very winding – although there are plenty of places to stop and pull over to check out the view. Another day trip is to Cape Point via Simonstown and Boulders Beach , home of some rather stinky penguins. At Cape Point you can ride the funicular to the top and gaze out at the point where some say the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet – beware the baboons though!

In our kids' opinions, however, Ratanga Junction is THE place for a great day out and at about a quarter of the price of Legoland, its lack of crowds and fun rides for all ages, I think they have a point.