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Cape Town

Cape Town

Trip Plan Tags: 
Africa + Middle East,
Cape Town,
South Africa

First trip to Africa



Nightlife in Cape Town

Capetonians are always game for a party. For some five-star glamour, visit the Mount Nelson Hotel's Planet and Champagne Bar, known for its cocktails (try the rose martini) and visiting celebrity clientele. The Bascule Whisky Bar at the Cape Grace has over 450 whiskies to try—and a prime setting. Grab a table on the quay overlooking the yacht marina for a sundowner with a view. On Long Street, the arty student crowd hangs out at Jo'burg while Gallery Café at the Urban Chic hotel is a sexier alternative. On the Atlantic Seaboard, join the locals at La Med for sundowners or have a drink at the unpretentious The Sand Bar overlooking Camps Bay beach.

Cape Town's biggest party is The Mother City Queer Project, held every December, a fancy dress party (open to gay and straight alike) that has people going in teams and planning their outfits weeks in advance ( Past themes have included "Out in Africa." Café Manhattan and Bronx Action Bar are two of De Waterkant's well-known gay bars.


Victoria & Alfred Waterfront

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is an enormous pedestrian mall on the water, with wonderful views of Table Mountain. It's a tourist favorite, with boat trips around the harbor and lots of designer stores and outdoor cafés. Stop at Cape Union Mart for outdoor gear like hats and windbreakers and the Carrol Boyes Shop for pewter cutlery and accessories.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 9 am to 9 pm, Sundays 10 am to 9 pm.


Gardens Neighborhood

For Capetonians wanting to live in the city, Gardens is a sought-after address (one shared by the five-star Mount Nelson Hotel). It's a leafy neighborhood close to the buzz of the city center, and home to a great mix of trendy bars, shops, and restaurants—most of them lining Kloof Street. A leisurely stroll here will introduce you to antiques and vintage boutiques, as well fine food and wine shops. Melissa's Food Shop is where locals lunch, and Heartworks across the streets sells southern African crafts. Look out for Magda van der Vloed's handbags and wire brooches, as well as embroidered teddy bears made by a women's collective. If you're seeking great finds for the home, step into Lim for cutting-edge local design, including weathered wood sculptures, crocheted mohair, and leather ottomans. Continue down Kloof Street and you'll eventually hit Long Street, which is crowded with bars, clubs, and restaurants as well as book, music, and fashion stores.


Green Point Neighborhood

Green Point is a trendy neighborhood on the slopes of Signal Hill, overlooking the V&A Waterfront. The locals here like to see and be seen, and you'll find plenty of delis, cafés, bars, and restaurants. An easily walkable area and a good place to explore is De Waterkant, a neighborhood within Green Point made up of narrow, often cobbled streets lined with terraced houses dating back to the 1700s. If you visit only one shop in De Waterkant, it should be Africa Nova, for contemporary arts and crafts. The shop is a riot of patterns and colors, with quirky ceramics, pink chairs made out of recycled plastic, and delicate silverwork by Nic Bladen. Hungry for a snack? La Petite Tarte is a snug French patisserie that serves divine tarts and quiches.

See + Do

Table Mountain National Park

Cape Town's most famous landmark is Table Mountain, a flat-topped mountain that stands 3,563 feet above the city. It has two mountains on either side, Devil's Peak and Lion's Head, as well as a small hill called Signal Hill. The city center nestles within the circle formed by these mountains and the sea. Eighteen million visitors have taken the revolving Table Mountain Aerial Cableway to the top. The cars run every ten minutes and will lend you a better understanding of the city's layout. The mountaintop is flat and easy to explore, but for an adrenaline rush, try the world's highest commercial rappel, with Abseil Africa. Hikers do walk up the mountain face, and it looks easy from the cable car; however, we recommend this be done with a guide, as visitors regularly get stuck after underestimating the mountain or taking a wrong turn. Reserve a guide through the Cape Town Tourism office.

See + Do

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, South Africa

Rhodes Drive
Newlands, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 799 8783

Located a ten-minute drive from central Cape Town, this modern Eden is devoted to indigenous plants, and you'll find about 5,000 of South Africa's botanical species here. There is also a fragrance garden, and a medicinal garden featuring plants used by Khoisan healers. The lawns, streams, and winding paths are a magnet for children, so if you're after some peace and quiet, then avoid the lower slopes, which are inhabited by stroller-pushing mothers, and head for the wilder upper slopes, with their great view over the city. The gardens are at their peak when covered in spring flowers in September and October. There have been some muggings, so don't walk alone in the park's deserted areas. Two hiking routes also begin in the gardens: Skeleton Gorge and Nursery Ravine. It takes up to three hours to get to the top of Table Mountain along these routes, and the hike is strenuous, so consider going with a guide (bookings can be made through the Cape Town Tourism office, 27-21-762-0687).

Open daily 8 am to 7 pm.

See + Do

Constantia Wine Route

You don't need to go far to find vineyards around Cape Town—there are five in the Constantia valley, a 20-minute drive from the city center. Groot Constantia is the oldest wine-producing estate in South Africa, though the tastings here can be overwhelmed with busloads of tourists, so you might continue up the Main Road to Buitenverwachting. The restaurant is closed during the month of July, and the picnics are only available in summer (November to April), but the tasting room is open regardless, and free. Klein Constantia is literally up the road, and here you'll find the estate's award-winning nectar, Vin de Constance, a dessert wine popular in the courts of Europe for centuries. If you're short of time, head straight to Constantia Uitsig. The John Platter Wine Guide (an invaluable reference if you're interested in SA wines) always give its grapes high marks, and the three restaurants (including La Colombe) are some of the Cape's finest.


Haiku, South Africa

50A Burg Street, Cape Town Centre
Cape Town 8001, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 424 7000

The steamed dumplings alone warrant a visit to this Asian tapas joint in the center of Cape Town. Some of the best dumplings are the spinach and creamed cheese and the prawn. The dishes are meant to be shared, though each person must order at least three selections. Peking duck is the house specialty and arrives with a basket of feather-light moo shu pancakes. Irritatingly, Haiku has two sittings, at 6 pm and 9 pm, but parking is easy at the Mandela Rhodes House garage just opposite.

Open Mondays through Saturdays noon to 3 pm, dinner seatings at 6 pm and 9 pm daily.


Jardine Restaurant, South Africa

185 Bree Street, Cape Town Centre
Cape Town 8001, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 424 5640

Jardine quickly made a mark on the Cape Town dining scene with Scottish chef George Jardine's focused, unfussy food. The menu has a number of tasty winners, including the beet and horseradish tart with pickled vegetables and a double herbed antelope loin. There's also a five-course tasting menu that changes daily. Reserve a seat at the window for a fabulous view of Table Mountain or a table next to the open-plan kitchen to see Jardine in action. A small bar and lounge downstairs cater to the drinks crowd.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 7 to 10 pm.


La Colombe, South Africa

Constantia Uitsig, Spaanschemat River Road
Constantia 7848, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 794 2390

For a sublime French dinner, head 20 minutes out of the city to the Constantia winelands to one of the city's most beautiful wine estates, Constantia Uitsig. It's always hard to get a table at La Colombe, one of Constantia Uitsig's three restaurants (Uitsig and the River Café are the other two), because the food is superb and the service excellent. It's the kind of place where a shared starter is presented on two plates, diners are escorted to the bathroom, and rose petals are strewn over the table to celebrate a special occasion. The è la carte menu changes every couple of days, and appetizers might include king crab, home-cured salmon, and salmon caviar. For entrees, try the catch of the day, such as kinglip with prawn and asparagus risotto, or gemsbok (oryx) carpaccio.

Open daily noon to 2 pm and 7 to 9 pm.


Mama Africa, South Africa

178 Long Street, Cape Town Centre
Cape Town 8001, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 426 1017

Mama Africa caters shamelessly to tourists, and many Capetonians look down their nose at it. Nonetheless, it's a lot of fun. The zany design includes a vast chandelier of broken Coke bottles and faux-mud walls. The bar is not your typical elbow parking lot: It's shaped like a snake. Friendly servers dish up vast portions of African food, such as hunter's stew with springbok, okra, and pumpkin. There is energetic live music most nights (jazz, marimba, African), sometimes enticing patrons to get up and dance—a great way to work off the delicious samosas.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 7 to 11 pm.


Paranga, South Africa

Shop 1, The Promenade, Victoria Road, Camps Bay
Cape Town 8005, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 438 0404

On the sunset strip of the Camps Bay beachfront, Paranga attracts a glam crowd of scantily clad sun worshippers and after-work partyers. Some conduct trysts in the intimate back booths; others sprawl on the terrace's comfy couches. The chic interior features sandy tones, hand-blown glass vases, and brightly colored candle holders. Everything in the place is carefully selected, from the high-quality wine glasses to the handsome waitstaff. The eclectic selection of international and local dishes—everything from steak to sushi to Karoo lamb chops—is boldly flavored and dramatically presented. The bar boasts South Africa's most extensive Champagne list.

Open daily 9 am to 10:30 pm.


Salt Restaurant and Bar, South Africa

Ambassador Hotel, 34 Victoria Road, Bantry Bay
Cape Town 8005, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 439 7258

Salt's location, poised on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Bantry Bay, is spectacular; ask for a table at the window to get the benefit of a glorious view through the floor-to-ceiling windows. The food is not as impressive as the view, but the sauté of squid, chorizo, butter beans, tomato, parsley, lemon, and garlic is deliciously hearty. Since you don't get the benefit of the view at night, come instead for lunch.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 12:30 to 10:30 pm.


Ginja, South Africa

121 Castle Street, Bo-Kaap
Cape Town 8001, South Africa
Tel: 27 21 426 2368

Tables are hard to get at Ginja, an intimate restaurant serving international fusion food close to the V&A Waterfront. This spot has no ocean or mountain views—think instead of a rather urban location with a narrow alley that leads to the front door. But once inside, it's the perfect spot for a romantic dinner, with low lighting and loads of ambience. (You have to walk through the open kitchen to the bathroom, so the energy in chef Mike Bassett's kitchen can be observed firsthand.) A reservation is essential; if you can't get a table, resist the offer of one at Ginja's sister restaurant, Shoga, upstairs (the kitchen crew and menu are different). For starters, try the Around the World Spoons appetizer, where dishes such as baby squid with Italian ricotta are served up in one delicious mouthful. The menu changes regularly, but a standout staple is the rack of lamb that's marinated in a Chinese barbecue sauce and filled with a spicy, curried apple chutney.

Open Mondays through Saturdays 7 to 10:30 pm.

Information may have changed since the date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.