A local’s guide to Cape Town, from new hotel openings to edgy art galleries

Published April 19, 2023

14 minutes read

This post was produced by National Geographic Traveller (UK).

There are a couple of things you right away observe when showing up in Cape Town. The very first is Table Mountain– an universal, flat-topped massif raising up above the Atlantic coast, covering itself around the city, commanding whatever with assuring strength.

The 2nd is that the city centre itself is reasonably little, spread out throughout a simple handful of blocks. This density is less by style and more a physical requirement. Cape Town began as a midway station for Dutch and Portuguese spice traders on their method around the southern idea of Africa to India in the 1600 s. Ideally put, it emerged sandwiched in between the sea which big massif.

To grow, the city needed to spill out into areas beyond the foothills of Table Mountain. Each has actually kept its own unique character, while staying indelibly part of the city. There’s Observatory’s cooled hippy vibes; just recently gentrified Woodstock; the beach resort feel of Camps Bay; the drowsy coffeeshops of Sea Point; and the cultured bohemia of Hout Bay– all within simple reach of the centre.

The other thing you can’t assist however discover is the lived truth of its occupants. Cape Town is still coming to grips with a history of partition, financial challenge and rumours of continuous federal government corruption. There’s the universal loadshedding (routine scheduled power cuts originating from bad facilities) and Covid-19 has actually left brilliant scars in the tourist market, from which it’s still recuperating.

For much better or even worse, little of this filters to the visitor’s experience. The city stays continually popular with global visitors, and for excellent factor. Individuals are unflappably friendly and inviting, excited to share and flaunt their city’s incredible natural charm.

That appeal is woven into the city’s DNA. Highways wind around the foot of Devil’s Peak, and the Atlantic Ocean shows up from essentially every street corner. A 10- minute drive from the centre and you’ll be tumbled out on Clifton Beach’s grainy white sands, while the Eden-like green hills and distinct plants of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden are ripe for expedition on the other side of the mountain. You can take a 40- minute walk from the stores and dining establishments of the hit V&A Waterfront to soak yourself in Sea Point’s tidal swimming pool, prior to heading to Camps Bay for sundowners at a beach bar. And it’s all within the soothing shade of Table Mountain, naturally. Constantly reassuringly, unassailably there.

What to see and do

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: Sprouting throughout the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, this arboretum is overruning with native plants, consisting of a collection of uncommon proteas, the nationwide flower. From November to April, the gardens end up being genuinely unmissable when, every Sunday, South African and global music acts play into the sundown in among the world’s most stunning settings. sanbi.org/gardens/kirstenbosch

First Thursdays: On the very first Thursday of monthly, the city’s busiest streets in the City Bowl, East City and Silo District are locked off to traffic and Cape Town develops into the perfect variation of itself: walkable and available. Galleries, dining establishments and bars remain open up until late, motivating individuals to spend time the city centre after work. Anticipate window-rattling efficiencies from artists and DJs, food stalls and a basic street celebration ambiance. first-thursdays. co.za

Zeitz MOCAA: Located in the stylish Silo district of the V&A Waterfront, this first-rate gallery and museum is house to a remarkable collection of art from all over Africa– the biggest of its kind on the planet. Turning momentary exhibits sit along with a devoted long-term collection in this previous grain silo, now a multi-floor bastion of art and style. zeitzmocaa.museum

Table Mountain: Somehow, you never ever rather get utilized to the sight of Cape Town’s a lot of renowned landmark towering above the City Bowl. While you can raise among its numerous routes in 3 to 5 hours, the cable television vehicle to the top offers perhaps much better views through its 360- degree glass walls. Watch out for the dassies (cute rodent-like mammals) that survive on its slopes. tablemountain.net

District 6 Museum: District Six was a cosmopolitan neighborhood at the foot of Table Mountain that defied the federal government’s efforts at social partition. Apartheid’s Group Areas Act designated it a whites-only location in 1966, resulting in its 60,000 non-white occupants being forced out and spread throughout the barren Cape Flats while their previous houses were bulldozed. This museum honours the neighborhood with setups and exhibits, in addition to poignant directed trips by previous locals. districtsix.co.za

Woodstock Street Art Tour: Woodstock utilized to be among the rougher parts of town, however has actually been revitalized with the opening of areas like The Old Biscuit Mill food and craft center, hip distilleries and art galleries. The very best method for visitors to check out the area’s prodigious quantity of street art and graffiti is to walk trip. Guides with JUMA Art Tours offer important context and insight into the neighborhood. jumaarttours.co.za

Where to go shopping

The Neighbourgoods Market: On weekend early mornings, head to Neighbourgoods Market in The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. The waft from Ethiopian pancakes, Philly-style cheesesteaks and Cape Malay curries battle in the air, while craftsmens offer whatever from rooibos-tea-infused natural chocolate to modern riffs on standard shweshwe skirts. neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za

The Book Lounge: Cape Town’s finest independent book shop is the best location to search for some vacation reading. Sunshine inclines in through substantial windows, dancing amongst the high racks. There’s a big variety of African and South African literature, along with routine book launches for regional authors. booklounge.co.za

Watershed Market: This market in a transformed storage facility inhabits a dazzling area at the V&A Waterfront. The focus is on South African and pan-African style, with around 150 traders offering jewellery, crafts, clothes and charm items. While surfing, make certain to make the effort to speak with the suppliers and hear their stories. waterfront.co.za

Where to remain

Future Found Sanctuary: The possibility at this sanctuary in Hout Bay is full-spectrum health, from food to physical fitness. It’s got first-rate centers however the genuine draw is the agrarian area. Trigger on an early morning walking to a waterfall, roam the premises under the frangipani trees or simply sleep beside the swimming pool. futurefoundsanctuary.com

The Winchester hotel: This grand dame is now even grander after a comprehensive remodelling. Found in a prime beachfront area opposite Sea Point’s Promenade, the century-old structure has actually been upgraded to contemporary store requirements while maintaining its exceptional bone structure. Do as the residents do and work your method through a bottle of white wine on the sun-soaked balcony. newmarkhotels.com

Dorp hotel: Dorp has a lofty area at the top of Signal Hill and uses unequaled views of the city. The ambiance is extremely friendly, thinking about how grand everything appearances. There’s a wonderfully off-kilter visual in its cluster of Georgian-style structures, with classic furnishings and lots of plants inhabiting the hotel’s intense, light-filled areas. dorp.co.za

Where to consume

Sonny & & Irene: A great addition to the city’s breakfast scene, this cafe-bakery in Sea Point nimbly straddles the line in between kitsch and stylish. The palette is blush pink and emerald green, with flamingo styles appearing on pillars and plants spilling from golden pots. The green pea pancake with poached eggs, marinaded feta and tomato relish is suggested. sonnyandirene.co.za

Upper Union: In an age-old heritage structure simply off Kloof Street, this brand-new bar/restaurant/hotel has actually made a huge effect with its meal dining design. The menu is filled with regional touches like Karoo lamb and Boland cheese. The design has an unique art deco ambiance, with a deep green and gold combination. upperunion.co.za

Salsify at the Roundhouse: Salsify’s tasting menu is vibrant and pioneering, however what really sets it apart is the deft level of restraint with premium regional components such as abalone and South African Wagyu beef. Opt for the ‘Gem’ red wine pairing to sample uncommon vintages while being impressed by the wrap-around Atlantic views given by the uplifting Camps Bay place. salsify.co.za

After hours

The Art of Duplicity: While the theatrics of speakeasy bars (concealed entrances, secret passwords, produced exclusivity, and so on) might not be for everybody, this locations goes beyond the dispute with outstanding beverages and dazzling bartenders. Its boho-vintage appearance is midway in between a factory packing dock and a French boudoir– all artfully mismatched furnishings, elaborate drape and low lighting. There’s likewise live jazz on weekends. 170120 co.za

The Waiting Room: A stalwart on Long Street in the pulsing heart of the city, The Waiting Room is a cooled roof bar and club that hosts regional bands and DJs. The elbow-to-elbow dancefloor inside can be a sweaty affair, making the roof balcony with its radiant lanterns and comfortable seating a much-needed reprieve when you require to rest your feet. instagram.com/waitingroom.ct

The Armchair Theatre: This occasion area in Observatory has actually stayed among Cape Town’s finest areas for live music, funny and theatre. It got a lick of paint in a current restoration, however the ambiance is still appealingly grungy, with little area in between the phase and audience. There’s likewise karaoke, if you seem like getting the mic yourself. ourarmchair.co.za

Three regional choices

Sea Point Promenade: This 3.5-mile sidewalk wends from the V&A Waterfront, previous trendy Mouille Point, and winds up near Sea Point Swimming Pool. On weekends, all of Cape Town appears to be on the boardwalk. Joggers, dogwalkers, households– they’re all here, misted in the spray from the Atlantic striking the sea walls. In some way, it constantly feels sunnier here than anywhere else in the city. capetown.travel/ the-sea-point-promenade

Cosy Corner: Elbow your method through the after-work crowd at this Wynberg organization, which is the location to choose Capetonian unhealthy food of the greatest order. It appears like a British oily spoon, however gives off peri-peri and deep-fried samosas. Attempt Cape Malay essentials like the magnificent Gatsby (a beast of a sandwich filled with chips, masala-fried steak, fried egg and cheese). cosycornertakeaway.co.za

Muizenberg Flea Market: Despite its stunning setting on the Muizenberg beachfront, this stretching market is quite a regional haunt, filled with weak stalls offering knick-knacks, pipes devices, standard crafts, clothes, handcrafted toys and whatever else under the sun. When you get starving, treat on a regional favourite– fresh pineapple on a stick cleaned with chilli salt.

How to do it

Free Walking Tours Cape Town utilizes skilled guides to take groups on 1 1/2- hour themed strolls, with choices consisting of the Historic City Tour, Apartheid to Freedom Tour and the Bo Kaap Tour. Reservations aren’t needed for groups of less than 10 individuals. freewalkingtourscapetown.co.za

Intrepid Travel likewise provides a five-day Cape Town and the Winelands travel plan, consisting of meals, lodging and activities from ₤923 per individual, omitting flights. intrepidtravel.com

Getting there and around

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic fly continuously from Heathrow and Gatwick. Typical flight time: 12 h.

Use a leased cars and truck or Uber to navigate daily, while conventional taxis and shuttle bus are great for airport transfers. Parking on the street needs interactions with ‘vehicle guards’ who will anticipate a suggestion. MyCiTi buses are normally more secure and more dependable than traditional buses and minibus taxis, while criminal offense can be an issue on Metrorail trains. Prevent public transportation in the evening for security.

When to go

Cape Town has a Mediterranean environment, with hot, dry summertimes with typical temperature levels of as much as 28 C in January. Winters are damp and cool. Late spring (October– November) is especially enjoyable, as it avoids the blistering temperature levels and seasonal crowds of high summertime. From the start of December to the end of February, the city gets especially hectic with South Africans from other parts of the nation taking their yearly beach breaks.

More information

The Rough Guide to Cape Town, the Winelands & & the Garden Route. RRP: ₤1399 Buckingham Palace, District Six, by Richard Rive. RRP: ₤ 8.95


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