Now the Northern Hemisphere winter’s coming, it’s time to start thinking about the right Southern climes to hit up to keep the heat alive. Cape Town is a good first call, with its mountains, beaches and multicultural city life. There’s a lot more to it than Table Mountain and the waterfront: scratch below the surface and you’ll discover a vibrant arts community, drinks scene and world-class chefs experimenting without the pressure of pandering to the Michelin gods.
There’s a bolthole for every budget in Cape Town. Low-key travellers who still want style should book a room at the design hostel 91 Loop, in the heart of the Central Business District (CBD, for a truly unique experience, opt for a bed in one of their pods). On nearby Long Street, Grand Daddy Hotel is equal measures chic and OTT, with colourful rooms and old-world glamour. If that sounds too trad for you, spring for an Airstream suite on their rooftop trailer park. Ellerman House, out in Bantry Bay might not be super central, but it’s the most elegant spot in the city, with a great contemporary art collection, Slim Aarons vibe pool and a killer wine cellar.
In the posh Gardens neighbourhood (around the corner from Kloof Street’s trendy restaurants) there’s the elegant Cape Cadogan, set in a Georgian-style heritage home that underwent a sleek makeover last year. If money is no object (and rubbing shoulders with celebrities is a priority), the swankiest address in town is the One&Only at the V&A Waterfront. Bonus: it’s home to the only Nobu in Africa.
The city is rapidly building a reputation as one of the most dynamic dining scenes on the planet. A good place to start is by paying respects to the empire of chef Luke Dale-Roberts — his Test Kitchen (fine-dining tasting menu) and Pot Luck Club (casual shared-plates) are always guaranteed winners, but his newest opening, the chic Shortmarket Club, is all the rage at the moment. Or try out dim sum bar, Beijing Opera, which is ‘noirwave’ singer Petite Noir’s favourite spot in his home city.
Another sure bet is a grazing tour of Bree Street, Cape Town’s hottest restaurant strip, which seems to have a new opening nearly every week. Some local favourites: Culture Club Cheese for a menu heavy on – what else? – fromage; Charango for Latin American fusion; and Bocca for Italian fare with top-notch wine.
When the weekend rolls around, Capetonians converge on one of the city’s hip markets. Choose from Neighbourgoods in the artsy Woodstock district, Oranjezicht City Farm Market at the Waterfront, or the Bay Harbour Market in seaside Hout Bay.
While South Africa is synonymous with great wine, Cape Town’s cocktail and craft beer scenes are no less formidable. Crawl through the CBD and start on the somewhat seedy Long Street — for years the epicentre of Cape Town nightlife — with a visit to the garishly yellow Beerhouse, which has 99 craft beers on tap. Then stroll down Loop Street to the Village Idiot for a raucous vibe and delicious South African braai (BBQ) to pair with your cold brew.
House of Machines, on Shortmarket Street, is a café/menswear boutique/motorcycle shop by day and a popular bar with live music by night. Next door, Outrage of Modesty is an intimate cocktail spot serving up unexpected combinations like pineapple sage and green apple with honey vinegar. End your night on Bree Street, where Mother’s Ruin is a specialist bar with nearly 100 varieties of local and international gins.
When in Cape Town, do as the Capetonians do: spend plenty of time outdoors, being active. The weekly Greenpoint Urban Park run takes off at 8am sharp on Saturdays — it’s a great way to explore the city on a scenic 5k circuit. If you can’t get going quite that early, head to the Seapoint Promenade anytime for a jog, ride or stroll. And you’ll want to be overlooking the city for spectacular sunsets, so hike up either Table Mountain or neighbouring Lion’s Head (if you go with Table Mountain, you can cruise back down in the cable car).
If you don’t want to break a sweat, go relax on Clifton beach, see street art in Woodstock, or head to the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden for plants and live music. And if you’re in town in the early part of the month, don’t miss First Thursdays — the entire CBD feels like a block party, with galleries and shops staying open late.