History, hikes and great sandwiches in the legislative capital of South Africa
Walking the streets of Cape Town makes you feel like a world resident. You’ll hear different languages everywhere you go — South Africa has 11 official languages and dozens of dialects. Its diversity, history, nature and lekker food will be sure to surprise you and keep you entertained, whether you’re here for a short stay or decide to take up residence.
Cape Town is home to incredibly good food in every price range. One of the most famous spots is the Test Kitchen, which was named the best restaurant in Africa in 2016. The waiting list is extensive, so consider yourself lucky if you get a table. For a totally different (but also fun) dining experience, head to Codfather. The restaurant allows you to choose your fish at the counter, and it will be prepared for you to perfection.
Ferdinando’s is a very hidden spot in the Woodstock area. It is owned by an Italian expat who makes a great potato and rosemary pizza. The young Captonian crowd loves to go out, not only at night but also during the day on weekends. Bay Harbour market is a small market with a good mixture of food and crafts, with fish and chips available next door at Fish on the Rocks. Be careful while you’re eating — seagulls know the place as well.
The most famous market is Neighbourgoods in the Old Biscuit Mill. Local artists, chill vibes and delicious food make it a relaxed spot to hang out. Your best option for breakfast the next morning is the trendy Truth Café, known for their cold brewed coffee.
Another highlight are the vineyards in and around Cape Town. The pristine villages of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek offer great wine tastings, as does the area of Constantia within the city. Constantia Glen offers a perfect, intimate experience. Be sure to make a reservation, since they only show a small number of people around every day.
To understand the country and its people, you have to get in touch with its history. A great place to start is Robben Island, where “Madiba” (Nelson Mandela) spent the majority of his 27 years of incarceration. Tickets sell out fast, so be sure to book in advance. For more context and history, add on a visit to the District Six Museum, where you can gain an understanding of the county’s history of Apartheid.
Cape Town’s most iconic natural sight is Table Mountain. If you’re in good shape, it takes about two hours to hike to the top. Alternatively, you can take the cable car up, although it may have long lines during peak times.
If you’re up for a challenge, hike Skeleton Gorge instead. The 3.8 mile route allows opportunities for you to hike through woods, climb a waterfall and discover a hidden spot for a swim. At the end of the hike, the soil suddenly vanishes in place of white sand, and around the next corner you will find a beautiful lake to help you cool off.
There are plenty of other attractive spots to enjoy the surrounding nature. One of them is the Botanical Garden in Kirstenbosch, where you’ll find one of the richest varieties of plants in the world. It’s also home to a sunset concert series during the summer.
Travellers in Cape Town are spoiled for choice when it comes to beaches. The most famous ones are the city beaches — Clifton and the Malibu-esque Camps Bay Beach. If you opt for Camps Bay, head to Café Caprice to watch the sunset.
Locals tend to prefer Llandudno, a hidden beach surrounded by some of Cape Town’s most expensive villas, or the surf town of Muizenberg. If you really want to get away from the crowds, try Scarborough Beach. On your way back into town, wind along the cliffs on Chapman’s Peak Drive — one of the most scenes drives you will ever have.
If possible, plan to be in Cape Town for the first Thursday of the month, when all the galleries stay open late. Locals and tourists alike gather downtown to see the latest exhibitions.
There are plenty of excellent spots to stay in Cape Town, from the exquisite 12 Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay to the Once in Cape Town Hostel on lively Kloof Street. But if you’re looking for something a little different, head to the Grand Daddy Hotel. In addition to the comfortable guest rooms you can opt to stay in your own vintage Airstream caravan on the rooftop of the hotel, which is also a venue for open air cinemas. A big update to staying there is you don’t have to worry about tickets. You can just sit in front of your Airstream and watch the movie from there.
These are just a few of the incredible places this city offers. Keep a smile on your face, greet the people with a typical “howzit” and the Mother City will make you want to come back soon.
Written by Davud Malekzadeh
Headline image by Denis Mironov/Shutterstock