After two spectacular months in South Africa, here is my first of three Insider Guides to South Africa – this first one of the city of Cape Town…with tips from locals I met.
With beautiful Dutch Cape architecture, the iconic Winchester Mansions offers a classic Cape Town experience; a vintage feel yet with plenty of contemporary styling. Once a historic apartment building, the hotel offers spacious Atlantic and mountain-view guest rooms. There’s a smart pool area, a spa and an on-trend bistro, bar and restaurant called ‘Harveys’.
Cape View Clifton
Cape Town’s beaches at Camps Bay and Clifton Bay are legendary. Uber luxury homes clad the hillsides overlooking the bays, making these the most exclusive and desirable neighbourhoods of the Mother City. Cape View Clifton is an exceptionally stylish boutique guest house, allowing visitors to experience the millionaire lifestyle of Clifton Bay in an informal, friendly environment. Expect exquisite accommodation; a gym; fabulous pool deck; and of course that view – a stunning outlook to the ocean where you might even spot a few whales!
One & Only Cape Town
The V&A Waterfront is Cape Town’s leisure hub, with a tourist selection of bars, restaurants, shops and entertainment venues – it’s the place where visitors and residents alike come to relax and socialise. At the heart of the V&A, with wonderful views to Table Mountain, is the upscale One & Only resort. Ideal for families, the hotel has an award-winning spa, a relaxed brasserie-style eatery by South African chef Reuben, as well as a ‘Nobu’ restaurant.
Abalone House & Spa
This welcoming boutique Guesthouse has a gloriously eccentric and eclectic interior design aesthetic – a blend of indulgent decadence and vintage charm. Found in the rather pretty seaside village of Paternoster on the Cape West Coast, it’s admittedly not in the Cape Winelands but makes for a romantic and thoroughly different type of place to stay just a few hours’ drive from the wineries and Cape Town. Greeted by Hotel Manager Leigh with champagne and oysters, I knew this was going to be a special place.
The in-house Reuben’s restaurant serves an enjoyable, unpretentious menu of dishes like compressed pear and blue cheese salad, and comforting slow braised oxtail with parmesan potatoes. The adjacent Healing Earth Spa offers holistic treatments. Chances are you’ll be so relaxed you won’t want to leave– except to walk along the wild and unspoilt beaches.
SEE & DO:
City Sightseeing Cape Town
Admittedly, hardly an ‘insider tip’ but taking one of these hop-on, hop-off red double decker buses is a great way to get a perspective of the Mother City and her surroundings.
The city’s botanic gardens make a great pace to take a picnic, enjoy a walk, or just relax and take in some of the most beautiful views in the city, especially from the new Centenary Tree Canopy Walkway.
Considered the essential tourist visit, this drawn-out, somewhat poorly facilitated half day island & prison tour attempts to share insights into the inmate lives of the political prisoners from Namibia and South Africa of the apartheid era, including Nelson Mandela’s ‘long walk to freedom’. Expected a more moving experience – instead it just felt crowded.
Table Mountain Cableway
Touristy without doubt, and busy in high season yet these rotating cable cars offer a vertiginous and exciting climb to the top of the iconic Table mountain – a truly beautiful place, rich in flora and fauna, with, of course, exceptional views.
South African Jewish Museum
Opened by Nelson Mandela in 2000, it offers a compelling experience with creative interactive presentations – probably one of the city’s most interesting museums.
Pot Luck Club
Found on the top floor of the trendy Old Biscuit Mill, this has to be one of Cape Town’s coolest places to eat. Urban design, including an open plan kitchen, makes for a striking loft style environment where Head Chef Wesley Randles follows in the footsteps of his mentor, Luke Dale-Roberts creating tasty, creative, great –value sharing plates that make eating out a truly fun and social affair.
Old Biscuit Mill Market
In the heart of Cape Town’s hip Woodstock neighbourhood is where on Saturdays you can find one of the city’s best markets. Get their early and enjoy a world-class street food breakfast to set you up for a morning’s shopping at the myriad of ‘indie’ traders.
Devil’s Peak Brewing
South Africa is equally in love with beer as it is with wine, and here you’ll find some fine craft beers, as well as tasty burgers and light bites.
The Blue Café
An authentic, heritage neighbourhood café, a place to relax and meet the locals.
Now found on the Silvermist Lodge organic wine estate in Constantia, this internationally recognised restaurant will impress. Head chef Scot Kirton creates exquisite dishes that seduce the eyes as much as the palate – look out for the excellent value lunch menu. This is a must-visit.
The Test Kitchen
One of the top restaurants in the world, this relaxed and unpretentious place is the latest showcase of Luke Dale-Robert’s culinary creativity. Plan ahead and make a reservation, as this centre of gastronomic innovation is popular with locals and visitors alike.
One of the great joys of Cape Town is the city’s creative aesthetic. This downtown, all-day breakfast and lunch place will captivate you with its whimsical design and delectable, unfussy dishes served in an unpretentious style.
Watershed at V&A Waterfront
Sometimes one might forget, but Cape Town is very much an African city and there’s probably no better place to find creative and artisan African products than at the super-stylish new Watershed centre.
Often referred to as Cape Town’s hippest street, its home to plenty of cool independent retailers, bars and restaurants that reflect the city’s creativity.