Illustration by louise haugaard nielsen for Bungalow5
Cape Town is spectacular.
In Cape Town you’ll find a dynamic mix of culture, language and heritage. From the magnificence of the beaches (mind the water is freezing) and mountains to the high quality of the wines, from the history of Bo-Kaap to the significance of Robbon Island, and from stories of slavery to Nelson Mandela’s first steps of freedon, Cape Town makes true the cliché that there is something for everyone. One of the most common mistakes I hear people say, is how dangerous they think it is. And yes, you will have to take your precaution, but tell me one place in the world where you don’t have too.
Cape Town is an easy self-drive destination, so for longer stays I do recommend hiring a car. Booking your carFor shorter stays or if you are planning to drink, use Uber.
I just can never get enough of this city. So, I’ve compiled a list of some of my absolute favorite things to do when I am in Cape Town. This guide is a working process, so I will update it accordingly, and please feel free to let me know your thoughts.
Panama Jacks – There’s something authentic about eating seafood while surrounded by the goings-on of a working, commercial habour. It isn’t fancy, but it’s the place to be if you have a hankering for fresh shellfish.
Clarke’s – Hipsters flock here for their famous burgers, but also try out their stuffed omelette. Sit at the white marble counter for best view of kitchen.
Il Leone – Simply great Italian. Great for dinner before going out on town.
Giovannis – Where you go get dinner if you can’t be bothered to cook – wether it’s for 1 or for a dinner party for 10
The Black Sheep – A favourite for early weekday dinners or Saturday lunches watching the passing traffic in Kloofstreet.
Cafe Paradiso – Great for brunch on Sundays or lunch throughout the week. Get a table outside.
Hallelujah – Sublime asian food, bubbly & cocktails. Set in over-the-top California-minimalism
Bungalow – Great for a burger over lunch on the water. Very Hamptons. Hands down the best place in town for sundowners. Reservation for dinner is needed. Very hip crowd.
The Power & The Glory – Neighbourhood cafe & bar for hipsters.
Jason Bakery – Those hankering after chef Jason Lilley’s famous croissants and oven-fresh bread get their fix here – pop in and discover why he’s known as ‘Captain Bread’.
El Burro – for mexican
Maria’s – Lunch or early evening on the square. On a wind-free day it’s sure to be booked out. Go for a shared mezze platter and a couple of bottles of wine.
The Stack – great new brassarie with a french twist in Gardens. And good for pre-cocktails too.
The General Store – healthy lunch with a limited number of seating. Very busy around noon.
The Round House – outdoor seating with great views located on the side of Lion’s Head mountain. Reservations recommended, you can rock up early for a table around lunch without though.
Jarryds – Best breakfast in town. Expect a line for a table. Worth the wait though.
If you’re looking for some great local gifts that doesn’t fall into the craft category, look no further than Bree Street. Missibaba, the local luxury leather goods designers is always a good call, or swing by Frazer Parfum for some natural perfume. If you’re feeling adventurous, head out to the Woodstock Exchange, just down the road is the Old Biscuit Mill, where many great young designers have set up shops, especially go on Saturdays where there is a great market, including food. For mainstream stores go to the Waterfront Mall, right next to the mall by the habour you’ll find the Watersheed, a big selection of local craftmanship stores – don’t forget to pick up some of the beautilful South Africa pottery Odeon. If you are looking for interior design, Weylandts, is my favorite.
Yours Truly – younger crowd with a hipster vibe. Good coffee and free wifi. The one on Kloof Street is my favorite.
Tamboers Winkel – smaller local coffee shop, good prices and outdoors seating. Good breakfast too – and free wifi.
Loading Bay – good for coffee, but also a great breakfast. In connection with the shop is a Aesop store.
Babylonstoren – This is my favorite. This is a organic farm in Franschhoek and has several restaurants for which it produces food. It’s amazing to go walk around the actual farm (pick lots of things and eat them as you go…but don’t let them catch you). The two restaurants are quite different. Babel is upscale, though not too expensive, and Green House is very casual. I recommend Green House, which has a rotating choice of fresh juices depending on what is seasonal and the best salads. It’s one of those places you go for at least half a day and is very worth it. Remember to visit their farm shops and if time, book time at their spa and spend a couple of hours by their pool.
European aristocracy couldn’t get enough of the sweet Constantia wine in the 1800s, so much so it was immortalized in prose by Hugh Johnson, Charles Dickens and Jane Austen. Visit Klein Constantia for a taste of the modern revival of this dessert wine, Vin de Constance. Quality, not quantity, it the ethos at this estate.
The aptly named Delaire (‘from the sky’) is positioned at the highest crest of the Helshoogte Pass, combining incredible views with its award-winning wines. A contemporary wine lounge makes the perfect spot for tastings, or take a turn around the estate gardens to view the impressive collection of South African sculpture. Lunch at one the superb estate restaurants, followed by a treatment at Delaire Spa, completes your experience.
One of the top responsible tourism destinations, Spier produces delicious, easy-drinking wines. Danes might recognize the name, as Spier is widely sold throughout all Coop stores. Set aside a day to visit the estate, as you’ll want to take advantage of all there is to do. Lunch at farm-to-table restaurant Eight and enjoy a leisurely sampling in the tasting courtyard before a tour of the historical Manor House. Do book a Segway tour of the massive grounds – if you are lucky you might run into on of the owners farmer Angus, you’ll recognize him as the one without shoes.
Hiking in Cape Town is an absolute must. Remember to be cautious, always go early (by early I mean no later than 6AM), put on sunscreen (and bring extra if it’s a long hike) and bring water.
Lion’s Head – probably the most popular. It is pretty easy and for everyone. Towards the end it can be a little bit scary and tough for non-fit people. Great hike for sunrise.
Table Mountain – there is a bunch of hikes up table mountain for you to do depending on the time you have:
1 HOUR: Start at Kloofneck Corner and follow the trail up the stairs. This hike will not get you to the top, but is good for a quick run in the morning.
2-3 HOURS: Platerklip Gorge is the most famous one, and the one EVERYONE does. It will take you anywhere between 50 min. – 2 hours, depending on how fit and fast you walk. It is pretty much stairs/steps all the way to the top of Table Mountain. Go very early. Start no later than 6AM, as it will get very crowded later. Either run down same way again, or walk across the mountain top and take the cable car down (R145).
4+ HOURS: Skeleton gorge + Nursery ravine hike. My favorite. Start early, as this route will get hot as soon as the sun hits the mountain. Walk up nursery ravine, hike through the forest and make time atop the mountain for a dip in the beautiful dam, and then either cross the mountain to the cable car (allow at least 1 hour extra for the hike) or walk down Skeleton gorge.
Cape Point, Chapman’s Peak for a gorgeous drive, A walk through Bo Kaap, Kalk Bay (lots of great antique shops), Stellenbosch and Franschhoek for wine, any of the following beaches: Noordhoek, Clifton, Camp’s Bay, Llandudno.
There is never shortage of room with a view in Cape Town. Wheter you are looking for a view of the mountain, the sea, the vineyard or a cityscape, you will find that Cape Town accommodation is well appointed. For unmatched luxury, either try any of the beautiful five-star hotels throughout the city, or do as I prefer, book a home via Iconvillas – I have stayed at quite a few of them incl. Palmkloof Penthouse and North.