Nightlife in Cape Town: cocktails, clubbing and jazz

by vickisleet

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; 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; 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; 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; 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; 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; 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; 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;, 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; - 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;, 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; 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; 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; 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;

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.


I am a freelance lifestyle journalist and editor, and write for the likes of Time Out Cape Town, Eat Out, Eat In, Food & Travel UK and British Airways Horizons amongst others.

I also edit a blog that regularly features exciting places to see in Cape Town. I have been writing for a living for the past ten years, prior to which I was involved in the food industry.

I’m a born and bred Capetonian and though I’ve lived and worked overseas and have travelled to many different cities, there is certainly no place like Cape Town AKA the Mother City – a place I like to call ‘the Mama of all Cities’. And when you see the plethora of breathtaking beaches, taste the new world wines, dine at the world class restaurants and bed down in some of the top notch hotels, I’m certain you’ll agree.

In recent years, Cape Town’s become a design and shopping hub too, so once you’ve sipped some local wines, scraped your plate clean, dusted the beach sand off your feet and popped up to the top of Table Mountain –spend some time at some of the city’s contemporary art galleries and interesting independent craft and design shops and see if you can find the perfect memento of your Cape Town trip. I thank my lucky stars daily that my work involves seeing, tasting and testing in the city’s shops, restaurants and hotels – and I love sharing my discoveries.

My Cape Town

Where I always grab a coffee/tea/hot chocolate: While the Vida é Caffe dark hot chocolate really does it for me (and if I drank coffee I’d probably join the ranks of regulars who’re hooked) I’m a Melissa’s The Food Shop hot chocolate gal through and through. They’re a milky confection of melted chocolate-hazelnut paste and the perfect accompaniment for a me-time magazine-filled morning.

Books for inspiration: Quivertree Publishing’s Hot Afro is a visual feast of many a South African (many of them Capetonian) home and offers eye candy and insight into local style.

Where to be seen this summer: Built for the FIFA World Cup held in 2010, the three-kilometre long fan mile takes people from the central business district to the magnificent Cape Town Stadium and its park-like surrounds - from here it’s a short stroll to the six-kilometre long Sea Point Promenade, where locals and visitors alike take in the sparkling Atlantic views, indulge in ice creams, join impromptu soccer games on the lawns or eye out the 'Walking the Road' statues installation currently based here.

The most breathtaking view: Unless the weather’s terrible or you have a really good excuse, going up to the top of Table Mountain is a must. Take the easy route up and down via the cable car or if you’re fit, the Platteklip Gorge hike will take around two hours - either way the views of the city and the Cape Peninsula are spellbinding.

My favourite stroll:  On the Atlantic Seaboard side, the Sea Point Promenade with its blue rinse grannies walking their dogs, bronzed adonises sweating up a storm on their daily jogs and mums pushing their charges in their buggies, there's never a dull moment and did I mention the beautiful sea views on this kilometres-long stretch? On the other side of the mountain is the Muizenberg-St James catwalk - a shortish catwalk with breathtaking views of False Bay. if i'm in the city for a meeting - if I have time, a leisurely stroll through The Company's Garden always has a restorative effect.

Best spot for some peace and quiet: I love Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens with its neverending rolling lawns, mountain vistas and sights of the city is one of the city's most well loved gems. Take a blanket and a book and spend an afternoon snoozing under a tree.

City soundtrack: do yourself a favour, pop into any music store and buy a copy of a Freshly Ground CD - their Afro fusion sound is uplifting, heartwarming and a true indication of our beautiful rainbow nation. You'd do well to buy a copy of the latest Goldfish CD too - you'll love the electro jazz that's taking these talents all over the world.

Shopaholics beware: If protecting your plastic from bargains, one-off finds and must-have buys is a priority, don’t even think about venturing to Long and Kloof Streets. The two interconnecting arteries wind through the city virtually up to the mountain - on Long you’ll find edgy clothing boutiques, designer sneaker stores and pavement cafés teeming with well-heeled twenty and thirtysomethings (try out Royale Eatery & Royale Kitchen for the best burgers in town and some great people watching). Stroll up Kloof Street and stop in at smart lifestyle boutiques like, Nap and Lim and make sure you take a look at Heartworks for cutting edge crafts by local talents.

Don't leave without: visiting the top of Table Mountain, you'll kick yourself if you don't. Trying dried meat biltong or a sweet and syrupy koeksister (a doughnut type delicacy), braving our chilly Atlantic waters and having fish and chips at Hout Bay harbour. Gifts? When I travel overseas I always take an animal or two made by a local craftsmen out of recycled plastic and they never fail to illicit a charmed response.