Whether you like things laidback or love a late night party at a jampacked club, Cape Town will entertain you
Whether you're a liadback sundowners type person or prefer a big night out, our city has something to offer you. Of course, there are new laws in place now so you'll be hardpressed to find somewhere with a license to go after two or three am, so do what the locals do, head to a beach bar late afternoon and let the evening's mood dictate where you end up.
Shake it up
One of the city’s sexiest cocktail venues is The Grand Café and Beach (Granger Bay Road, off Beach Road, Granger Bay; 021 425 0551; www.thegrand.co.za) adjacent to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront - the owners have created a ‘beach’, popped loungers, day beds and tables and chairs on the sand and it’s fabulous. It’s mostly wind free, there’s a cool crowd, great cocktails and crispy gourmet pizzas too. You can also take a seat in the vintage glam restaurant if sand between your toes is not your thing.
The newest all-day dining and cocktail venue to open on this stretch of the Atlantic Seaboard is Sotano (121 Beach Road, Mouille Point; 021 433 1757) - the designer space serves up classic cocktails to laidback DJ tunes from early afternoon to an equally laidback designer crowd. The city’s A-listers call Caprice (37 Victoria Road, Camps Bay; 021 438 8315; www.cafecaprice.co.za) in Camps Bay their local and Sunday evenings sees things hot up here with sundowners turning into a full blown party that goes on until the early hours.
Value-for-money cocktails can be found at Pepper Club (The Promenade, Victoria Road, Camps Bay; +27 21 438 3174; www.pepperclubonthebeach.co.za) in Camps Bay - you get the view for free. For genteel G&Ts and great bar snacks head for Planet at the Mount Nelson Hotel (Friday night is its most popular night) and for great deals Vista Bar at the One & Only Cape Town in the Waterfront serves up fabulous specials.
You may not get a sunset view at Polana (Kalk Bay Harbour, Kalk Bay; 021 788 4136; www.harbourhouse.co.za/polana) in Kalk Bay on the other side of the mountain but its position right on the rocks with the waves splashing against the windows when the tide is up is pretty spectacular and weekend nights are something of a party, with live music. I've popped in there for a 'quiet' drink with my fiancée (in fact, it's where we first got to know each other) and left at an impoilte hour after an impromptu descent into dancing until the early hours.
Clubs to visit while in Cape Town
If you’re in the mood for a night on the town, head for Long Street for a chance to bust some moves on the dance floor. 121 (121 Castle Street; 021 422 2175; www.121castle.co.za) in nearby Castle Street is a sexy, contemporary-styled space with an upstairs couch-lined section for lounging and people watching. One of the most popular clubs in Cape Town is Chrome (6 Pepper Street; 083 700 6078/9) where R&B and Hip Hop heads get down on the dance floor - the VIP lounge is well worth blagging your way to get into.
For serious deep house, head for Deluxe (Unity House, corner Long and Longmarket streets; 021 422 4832) and expect to get sweaty. If you’re stuck for something to do on a Saturday night, join the city’s party folk at The Fez Bar & Club (11 Mechau Street, Foreshore; 021 419 7000; www.vaudeville.co.za) which has been going for years and is still going strong in its new incarnation. For an intimate down and dirty dance and drink experience the ironically-named Joburg Bar (218 Long Street; 074 1928 177) on Long Street is most certainly suitable and if old school 1980s tunes (that is ‘music with words’) are for you, you’ll love Deco Dance (120B Main Road, Sea Point; 079 608 9855; www.decodance.co.za) in its new Sea Point underground premises. Dress up for the occasion, shake it with the city’s thirtysomething party people and invariably a hen night or two.
The hottest new venue to open in 2010 is Trinity - labelled a superclub, it’s still small by international standards but it’s well styled and features a suitably supped up crowd and sound system too. It's bound to give @mospheer (Corner Castor and Pollux roads, Lansdowne; 082 407 5081; www.atmospheer.com), where the international DJ’s head for local gigs, a run for its money. Also in the southern suburbs is Tiger Tiger (The Atrium, 103 Main Road, Claremont; 021 683 2220; www.tigertiger.co.za) - where a mostly student and twentysomething crowd lift the roof with their hands in the air dance floor antics.
All that's jazz in Cape Town
South African jazz is the result of a myriad cultural influences, from its earliest days in the ‘50s when African American culture was first embraced in South Africa and when American sailors brought their music of choice ashore in the city. Add in Asian influences from the rich history of Malay music makers and you have a unique sound, celebrated in clubs throughout the city.
One of the longest standing jazz venues in the city is the ever stylish West End (College Road, Rylands; 021 637 9132; www.superclubs.co.za), jazz greats have been wowing grateful audiences for years and it’s a first port of call for many a visiting saxophonist or piano performer.
Marimba (CTICC, Heerengracht, Foreshore; 021 418 3366; www.marimbasa.com) at the Convention Centre is a beautifully designed space built with performance in mind - you can dine while you listen to the sounds of their live acts. A new spot that’s opened up shop in the city is The Rainbow Room (Mandela Rhodes Place, Church Street; 021 422 1418; www.therainbowexperience.co.za) is another supper club scenario where a swish crowd clink crystal glasses before settling down to moving live performances.
Locals in the know say that the performances at Swingers Jazz Club (1 Wetwyn Road, Lansdowne/Wetton; 021 762 2443) is the real Cape Town deal where the different influences on Cape Town sound can be seen live in action. For those who think of jazz as a pleasant background deal (and to be honest I’m in this camp), then head for the Winchester Mansions (221 Beach Road, Sea Point; 021 434 2351;www.winchester.co.za). This charming hotel on the Sea Point beachfront overlooking the promenade is well loved for its jazz brunches where you can enjoy light and lovely jazzy tunes while enjoying a slap up hotel breakfast.
Serious jazzheads (tens of thousands of them) from around the world descend on Cape Town at the end of every March for a weekend of mellow music and authentic vibes at The Cape Town International Jazz Festival (CTICC, Heerengracht, Foreshore; 021 422 5651; www.capetownjazzfest.com).
More expert advice on Cape Town
For suggestions on where to stay in Cape Town, see my Cape Town Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Cape Town page.
Read my overview on Cape Town nightlife.