When to go to Cape Town
The best time to visit Cape Town
It may be situated at the tip of Africa but Cape Town’s climate is actually Mediterranean - with long, hot summers and mild (by European accounts anyway) winters. Being based in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are opposite to those up north - our summer starts in mid to late October and ends in April (hotel rates regard high season as December 15 to April 30) while winter starts in May, with July and August being the rainiest months.
Summer - hot sunny days and long cocktail hours
Summer is when the city wakes up and its residents come out to play and by December it’s full blown ‘silly season’ in our city - with restaurants filled to the brim, traffic jams along Victoria Road in Clifton and Camps Bay and cocktail hour starting whenever you want it to. December 16 is a public holiday here and after that, a large majority of us South Africans are on holiday until the first week of January (our annual ‘builders’ holidays) so you can expect to be making the most of things with plenty of locals from all around South Africa too. Days are hot (up to 30°C) and nights balmy but beware, the prevailing South Easter is at play at this time of year and it can get windy.
If you’re determined to make the most of your beach time despite the wind, a rule of thumb is that the four Clifton beaches are almost always wind free and when swimming - the Atlantic Seaboard beaches are almost always lapped with icy waters while False Bay’s are comparatively warmer. Used to the snow at Christmas time? I guarantee you’ll have a very merry time sipping our local bubblies and noshing down on crayfish come Christmas Day.
Autumn - a great time to get outdoors
Officially autumn starts in late March and I think this is one of the nicest times of year. You can expect clear skies, the occasional broiling day but also days of cooler weather to take the edge off things.
If crowds aren’t your bag - come after Easter (the weather should still be mild) but the hordes should have gone home and hotel prices will be better. With the leaves turning, this is also a good time to make the most of the outdoors - day hikes will be much more pleasant and trips to the Cape Winelands with the vines resplendent in gold and russet colours is a feast for the senses.
Winter - wet but mild, with hotel bargains galore
We’re a lily-livered bunch in our neck of the woods and we tend to start whining when the temperature drops below 16°C (and it can go down as low as 0°C on the iciest evenings) but in reality our winters are really mild. Wet, but mild. When the North Westerly wind blows it rains and rains, but winter, especially on the False Bay side of the Peninsula, where I live, brings with it glorious sunshiney windless days. It’s a good time to make the most of these days, take a drive along Chapmans Peak Drive, a long stroll on Noordhoek Beach or an al fresco lunch in the winter sun at a Cape Wineland's restaurant.
The ‘secret’ of this season is that this is one of the most cost effective times of year to come to Cape Town. You are certain to find hotel and restaurant bargains galore - with some of our top chefs offering prix fixe menus at a fraction of their usual costs and many of the quality hotels offering 'stay for three and pay for two' specials.
If you're a surfer, the surf is seriously good too - there's no need to pack your boards when you fly out either as there are numerous places in the city where you can hire the necessary equipment.
Spring - see the region in bloom
By September the weather’s starting to heat up again and while it’s notoriously fickle, you’ll still have a lovely time in the fairest Cape. Further afield (around a two hour drive away) lies the West Coast region, famous for its wildflowers that bloom this time of year. If you’ve got time I’d really recommend a day trip to this neck of the woods, the shows of flowers are spectacular but if not, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, with its thousand-strong repertoire of indigenous plant species offers a similar sight on a smaller scale.