I VISITED Africa’s favourite Riviera town recently and can happily click ‘like’ along with the rest of the online travel community. However, as I lived there for a good chunk of my student life, I reckon I can offer insight into what makes the city so bloody spesh at the moment. Like most great cities, there’s too much to see in one short visit, so hopefully this breakdown helps.
Nature: Warm and fuzzy to sharp and scary
Cape Town is a like that ‘hug in a mug’ advert on telly; the city centre wrapped in the arms of a big mountainous embrace, with sandy beaches and the two oceans lapping at the edges.
A five minute walk (or cable car ride) can transport you from the centre of a buzzing metropolis, deep into a raw and unique National Park.
The Table Mountain reserve alone is a world natural heritage site with its own ecosystem and legions of endemic fauna and flora. It’s possible to spend a week just hiking around this unspoiled coastal paradise in the sunshine, or if you like your nature in movable portions, there are sharks, seals, whales, penguins and even lions to play with.
Unmissable natural things
- Go up Table Mountain walk or in the cable car
- Visit Kirstenbosch botanical gardens
- See the penguins at Boulders Beach
People: Don’t worry be happy
People from other SA cities often bemoan how ‘sleepy’, ‘hippy’, or downright ‘little village’ Cape Town can be. But for holiday-makers, this is the real pay dirt.
When you get to Cape Town, take a pen and spell ‘Ch-i-ll O-u-t’ across your knuckles. (Yes…it fits) Nobody in Cape Town is here to hurry, worry, or even change the world in even the tiniest little way.
This is not to say there isn’t creativity, diversity and strife here – totally the opposite – music, art and manic vibes flash and flicker across every street corner; different cultures buzz off each other with an audible static. Oh and Capetonians party like Hugh Hefner & Lady Ga Ga’s love children.
So there are beaches, mountains, wines, heavenly bodies… stress? No thanks.
Experience true Cape Town culture
- Visit Madame Zingara Theatre of dreams: Madamzingara.com
- Go to Green Market Square and visit the bars of Long Street in the city centre
- Experience Cape Town township life through Coffeebeansroutes.com
Consume: Shop munch and gulp.
Australian Times readers may well have experienced sun bleached vineyards in Oz, but steeped in Dutch history and offering world class wines, the Cape wine experience is totally different and totally worth it!
Our favourites are Boschendal (which dates back to 1685 – Boschendal.com) or pretty much any wine route in Franschoek.
Whilst searching for a contemporary African experience, we discovered ‘Gold’ restaurant on Bree St, and really dug the djembe drumming, big smiles and African food: Goldrestaurant.co.za
If taking advantage of the strong Aussie dollar in glam fashion stores is your thing, happy puppies you’ll be. However, a little digging will unearth companies such as ‘Streetwires’ who sell original and very cool African wire sculptures: Streetwires.co.za
Cape Town’s best shopping areas
- Waterfront is worth a visit: Waterfront.co.za
- Cavendish Shopping: Cavendish.co.za
- Cape Quarter: Capequarter.co.za
Going Out: A night in the life of a Capetonian
Capetonians are a pretty friendly bunch and we started our first night meeting a few on Clifton 3rd beach over sundowners.
The whole crew headed up to La Med for a cocktail or two, then back to our respective crash pads, for a quick change and on to a burger at Royale Eatery in Long Street at 10.30: Royaleeatery.com
Most of the city bowl joints are within walking distance, such as Ricks Cafe American, where our night turned epic. There were least two or more clubs that flashed past in that loose neon way that they do, but the landing spot was Voom Voom club in Loop St, where they played decent funk to shake dem tanned bodies to breaking point.
Good night venues
- St Yves, stylish cocktail: Styves.co.za
- Opium, cigar bar: Opiumbars.com
- Café Caprice, eat and be cool: Cafecaprice.co.za
- How long to stay: Stay at least a week; justify that air ticket.
- Flights to Cape Town: You can pick one up for £500+vat in advance.
- Where to stay: We stayed at the fabulous Silvermistmountainlodge.co.za
- Cost of a beer: ZAR20 (about £1.80)
- Safety tips: Don’t go to townships unless guided, stick to built up areas.
- Taxis /transport: Taxis are readily available, about ½ price of UK.
- Currency ZAR (South African Rand): On average ZAR11 – £1