4 February 2020 by Rui Ribeiro
Cape Town is one of the world's leading cities: a multicultural metropolis where visitors can enjoy world-class shopping, dining and entertainment at the bustling V&A Waterfront, bask on sun-kissed beaches and explore the natural wonders of the Table Mountain National Park. And that's not all. On the doorstep, there are the award-winning Winelands of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch while just down the coast, visitors can swim with penguins and watch whales play in the Southern Ocean swells. Here, Wexas specialist Rui Ribeiro takes a look at the very best places to stay, eat, drink and explore in South Africa's Mother City.
Cape Grace, Cape Town
Where to stay in Cape Town
With an abundance of hotels spread throughout the city, it's hard to know where to begin. So when it comes to choosing your Cape Town accommodation, it's the location that may ultimately help you decide. Here we take a look at a small selection of our favourites, each one reflecting a very different side to the city.
This elegant five-star hotel enjoys a wonderful location in the less-touristy area of the V&A Waterfront, known as the West Quay, alongside the glittering waters and millionaire's yachts of the harbour and the imposing profile of Table Mountain. Take time to enjoy a drink a the popular Bascule Bar, a comfy lounge bar set right on the waterfront, which carries a selection of more than 500 whiskies from around the world.
Superior Room, Cape Grace
For those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre, but still have access to the city's many attractions, The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa, located just 12 miles from the city centre and sandwiched between the mountains and Atlantic Ocean, offers the best of both worlds. Walk the wilderness trails of the beautiful Table Mountain National Park, dine al fresco on the very edge of the Atlantic Ocean, and, at the end of a long day exploring the delights of Cape Town, take time to relax in the hotel's spa, which was voted the best in Africa at the 2012 Travel + Leisure World's Best Awards.
Sea View Room, The Twelve Apostles Hotel & Spa
Set among the restaurants and boutiques of Cape Town’s exclusive Victoria & Albert Waterfront, this luxurious One&Only offering enjoys a truly privileged setting. Not least for its spectacular views of Table Mountain itself, taken in by the opulent rooms and fine-dining restaurants. For city-centre relaxation, there's the likes of the superb spa island and the gorgeous infinity pool.
One&Only Cape Town
Eat & drink in Cape Town
Cape Town and the nearby Winelands are awash with restaurants, and, like anywhere else, they range from the exceptional to not so great. So to make life a little easier, we've selected a few of our favourites; the very best, taste bud-tantalising eateries to help you make the most of your mealtimes in what is arguably South Africa's culinary capital.
Dining at Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek, Cape Winelands
Azure at the Twelve Apostles
Even if you decide not to stay, it's still worth making the detour out to the Twelve Apostles Hotel for dinner at the wonderful Azure Restaurant. Fine dining and even finer views make this place a Cape Town classic.
Blues Restaurant & Bar, Camps Bay
Blues Restaurant & Bar offers beachfront dining at its best. This Camps Bay institution has been serving delicious food to the fashionable folk of Cape Town's coolest seaside spot for more than 25 years, and they've got both their menu and service down to a fine art.
Rueben's at the One&Only
For those who like their chefs to come with a big side dish of celebrity, Rueben's at One&Only Cape Town is the place to go. The multi award-winning head chef Reuben Riffel, who rose to fame after opening his debut restaurant in nearby Winelands town of Franschhoek, is one of South Africa's best-loved and highly regarded chefs. His latest restaurant at Cape Town's One&Only hotel in the heart if the V&A Waterfront, offers selection of tantalising tasting menus and sumptuous a la carte offerings, which blend exciting local flavour combinations with imaginative and skilful cooking techniques.
The Test Kitchen
Since moving to South Africa from England via Asia in 2006, British-born chef Luke Dale-Roberts has been making some serious waves on Cape Town's restaurant scene. After a four-year stint as executive chef at La Colombe restaurant on the Contantia Uitsig wine estate, he opened The Test Kitchen in the up-and-coming suburb of Woodstock, just round the bay from the V&A Waterfront. Since then, the restaurant, which seats just 65 guests, has set the standard for creative cuisine in Cape Town.
Just a decade ago, South Africa had no café culture to speak of whatsoever. Move forward ten years however, and a new breed of coffee shop is springing up throughout the country, and with Cape Town leading the way, this proliferation of high quality coffee outlets, such as the steam-punk inspired Truth Coffee, means that cool, quirky cafes, serving rich, locally roasted beans and menus bursting with imaginative caffeinated concoctions are now the rule, rather than the exception.
Camps Bay cocktails
There's nothing quite like a cocktail, craft beer or glass of locally produced, award-winning wine to round off a day's sightseeing, and after exploring the many sites of Cape Town, where better to sip on a sundowner that at one of the many stylish bars located along the palm-lined beachfront stretch of Camps Bay.
Explore Cape Town
Cape Town is famed for its natural beauty, diverse culture, fine wines and celebrated restaurants. It's also a city made for outdoor living, with a host of adventure activities right on its mountain-framed doorstep. Discover our top picks of things to do in the city below.
Table Mountain cable car
Short but sweet, the five-minute cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain offers spectacular 360° views over the city, ocean and surrounding peaks. Enjoy the peace and quiet of this remarkable setting, taking in the vast array of unique flora and fauna from a series of paths and viewing platforms as you peer down from the summit of Cape Town's most iconic natural landmark. For more adventurous souls, and depending on the weather, there's also the chance to abseil down afterwards (advance bookings and a head for heights are essential).
Cable Car, Table Mountain
Always a popular and poignant place to visit, Robben Island Museum will take on even further significance in 2014 with the 50th anniversary of Nelson Mandela's incarceration in 1964. Tours take three-and-a-half hours, including two half-hour ferry rides across Table Bay and serve as a chilling reminder of the price paid for freedom in the new, democratic South Africa that we know today.
Spend a day at the beach
Cape Town is a beautiful city, surrounded by spectacular coastline and some truly stunning beaches. For gourmet sunset picnics and the chance to mix it up with some of the city's most affluent locals, Clifton Beaches, around a ten-minute drive from the city centre, are your best bet. For a totally different vibe, head to Llandudno Beach, 20 kilometres south of the city. Don't worry, this gorgeous stretch of sand has little in common with its Welsh namesake, but is a popular spot with the locals and a good place to try your hand at surfing and body boarding - if you can handle the icy chill of the Atlantic. If you're after something really secluded, the tiny, boulder-flanked Beta Beach, just ten minutes from the city, is well worth considering. It's absolutely perfect for a day of uninterrupted sunbathing and maybe even a swim - the waters here are calm and tend to be few degrees warmer than some of its larger Cape Town counterparts.
Visit a penguin colony
A visit to Boulders Beach, located in False Bay between Fish Hoek and Cape Point, offers the unforgettable chance to spend the day in the company of a breeding colony of African Penguins. In 32 years, the colony has grown from just two breeding pairs in 1982 to more than 3,000 birds today. The adjacent beaches offer the chance to swim in close proximity to the penguins, as well as view them from a series of boardwalks and platforms, which have been erected on neighbouring Foxy Beach. Boulder Bay is part of the Table Mountain National Park so there is a charge of R35 for adults and R10 for children.
Immerse yourself in Cape Town's art & shopping scene
Cape Town is fast becoming South Africa's creative capital, a fact demonstrated by its status of World Design Capital 2014, as well as an explosion of galleries and contemporary art spaces, which are popping up across the city, especially in the Woodstock district, which is fast becoming a home from home for the city's avant-garde and bohemian communities. Then, for shopping, from designer boutiques to street traders dealing in traditional antiques and handicrafts, Cape Town has a myriad of shopping options. Spend a morning exploring the quirky design stores and antique shops along Kloof Street, before heading to the city centre favourites of Long Street and Greenmarket Square, where you'll find a varied selection of stores and market stalls trading in tacky souvenir-style curios to handmade garments and high-end African art.
House in Woodstock, Cape Town
Explore the Cape Winelands
South Africa is renowned for its world-class wines, and many of the vineyards that produce the country's best-loved varieties are just a stone's throw from Cape Town. While its ideal to spend a few days staying in the heart of the wine region itself, if you're short on time it's still possible to get a taste of the Cape Winelands on a long day trip from the city. Most tours will visit a number of different wineries in the towns of Paarl, Franschhoek and Stellenbosch and include tastings at each, with the chance to try a number of different reds and whites including Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chiraz, Merlot and many more.
Take a walk on the wild side
While the vast, wildlife-rich expanses of the Kruger National Park offer arguably South Africa's best game viewing, there are also a number of superb private reserves within a short drive of Cape Town. The best known of these is Aquila Private Game Reserve, just an hour-and-a-half drive from the city, where its possible to see rhino, lion, cheetah, wildebeest, zebra, giraffe, ostrich and baboons. For those determined to see the fabled Big 5 (elephant, rhino, buffalo, lion and leopard), Fairy Glen is just an hour from Cape Town and can be easily reached on a comfortable day trip. There are also chalets available if you prefer to stay overnight.
Rhinos, Kruger National Park
Gateway to the Garden Route
Beyond Cape Town, running east along the coast to Port Elizabeth, the Garden Route is South Africa's most popular self-drive. Begin with a few days exploring the best of the Mother City before making your way to the Cape Winelands and on to Hermanus, the world's whale-watching capital. From there you'll take in the pretty coastal towns of Knysna and Plettenburg Bay, or head inland to the spectacular mountain landscapes of the Klein Karoo, home to some of South Africa's most dramatic scenery. Finish your tour with a Big 5 safari at one of the spectacular Eastern Cape game reserves near Port Elizabeth.
Aerial view of Knysna, Cape Winelands