Cape Town

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Table Mountain

Why go to Cape Town?

Cape Town is a beautiful contradiction

Cape Town is a contradiction in terms - and a beautiful, fascinating one at that. It’s the southernmost city on the African continent and one of the major destinations in South Africa, which is officially a Third World country, yet it's largely about First World, cosmopolitan pleasures. That’s not to say that poverty doesn’t exist, that’s a fact throughout Africa, but the ‘pretty city’ has a sheen about it that’s thoroughly beguiling.

Summer in the city

Our summers are long and mild and stretch from September through to March (arguably the mildest month of the year). Spend your days hanging out on the beach or visiting wine farms then pop to a pavement café for a bite to eat or possibly a club where sun-kissed party people strut their stuff till the wee hours. If you’re from the northern hemisphere, you’ll laugh at the locals who swear it’s ‘freezing’ on a 16C winter’s day – for you, our winters are incredibly mild and you’ll love that there are plenty of sunny days in the peak winter months (June, July, August) too.

It has a rich history

Officially discovered by the Dutch in the 1600s (though of course indigenous people were living here for much, much longer), the city was first a Dutch colony and a convenient pit stop for the spice traders en route to the east. Later we came under British rule. Independence came after that and as has been well documented – democracy, after a long period of Apartheid based politics. A visit to The Castle of Good Hope will give you a good idea of how far our city by the sea has come.

You’ll love our spicy mix

The chequered past of the Mother City, as she’s known, has resulted in a fascinating melting pot - seen in our citizens who range from European descendants to members of various indigenous black groups and those of mixed race who are descendants of slaves. The result is a melange of language, food and culture that is utterly fascinating and makes for a unique experience for any visitor. I’d also recommend  Cape Town Township Tours for a better understanding of how a large majority of the city’s residents live.

A cultural melange awaits

Where else in the world can you wander into a spice store and write down a recipe for a Malay curry from a fourth-generation local, then make your way to a traditional African market featuring wares from all over the continent and perhaps factor in a visit to a chic boutique to pick up something by a local fashion designer, then sip on a cappuccino from an Italian coffee shop? Here, that’s where!

It’s a gourmet grand tour

Three of the San Pellegrino World’s 100 Best Restaurants are situated in the Cape. That’s pretty impressive when you consider our relative infancy in the culinary world. You’ll love the attention to local and seasonal ingredients, how seafood features so strongly on many menus and, if you’re a carnivore, you’ll love our quality meat. Oh, and did I mention our wines? You’re spoilt for choice with world-class wines in our neck of the woods and when you see the prices of both food and liquid offerings, you’ll be thrilled. Find out more on my Cape Town caf├ęs and restaurants page.

It’s crammed with natural wonders

Outdoor enthusiasts, beach bums and adrenaline junkies, you’'ll feel right at home. You’re never more than 20 minutes from the beach or the mountain - visiting  Table Mountain Aerial Cableway is a must and I’d also recommend an afternoon under the trees at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens . Our beaches do us proud – visit Camps Bay Beach if you’re on the Atlantic Seaboard side or St James for a quiet paddle in warmer waters. If adventure is your thing, nothing will get your heart racing more than an up close and personal experience with our resident Great White Sharks (see Shark diving for more information).

Our art is cool

If you’re a contemporary art aficionado or have a thing for craft, you’ll get a kick out of the places that champion our local talent. The suburb of Woodstock on the outskirts of the city has become its arty heartland and a wander to the many galleries situated here is a must if art is your thing. From a craft perspective sure there are curios on every street corner but be sure to visit stores like Heartworks and Africa Nova where you’ll find handmade items with a contemporary edge produced by local craftspeople and artists.

Value for money

Good for you, not so great for us is the fact that the rand is relatively weak compared to other major currencies in the world. And, when you consider the quality of our hotels, shops and restaurants, the city is a value for money choice par excellence. For an all-in-one shopping experience, be sure to visit Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and for edgy wares you'll find plenty to whet your appetite on buzzing Long Street. And don't forget the diamonds - our diamonds are world famous at rock bottom prices too.

There’s plenty of space to sleep over

Cape Town was a host city for the FIFA World Cup in 2010 so there has been a major drive recently to up the number of hotel beds in the city. There are a number of excellent smart spots to lay your hat, like the ever-elegant Cape Grace Hotel and the city’s Grande dame the Mount Nelson Hotel but smaller boutique offerings are also proving their mettle. I was impressed with a recent visit to the sophisticated Manna Bay in the City Bowl and if out-of-the-box is what you’re after then pocket friendly art hotel Daddy Long Legs is a must. You can see more of my hotel recommendations on my Cape Town hotels page.

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Cape Town Hotels

Price fromRating (out of 5)
1. Cape Grace Hotel
£238
4.6
2. Dock House Boutique Hotel & Spa
£176
4.6
3. Steenberg Hotel
£176
4.5
4. One & Only Cape Town
£246
4.5
5. Mount Nelson Hotel
£230
4.5
See all expert-rated Hotels in Cape Town

Cape Town Restaurants

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. The Test Kitchen
Expensive
4.9
2. La Colombe
Expensive
4.6
3. Nobu
Expensive
4.5
4. Wild Woods
Mid-range
4.5
5. Kitima
Mid-range
4.3
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Cape Town Things to do

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
Free
4.3
2. Table Mountain Aerial Cableway
Mid-range
4.2
3. Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens
Budget
4.2
4. Kalk Bay
Free
4.2
5. Spier Estate
Free
4.1
See all expert-rated Things to do in Cape Town