Bucket list destination:
Destination guide for Cape Town
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa
One of the most beautiful cities in the world, Cape Town is a melting pot of diverse cultures and ideologies with a fascinating past. While it attracts visitors year-round, the city is at its most seductive in summer when locals and tourists come out to play.
It offers dramatic landscapes, glorious beaches of golden sand, and a kaleidoscope of multicultural entertainment attracting everyone from outdoor adrenaline junkies to nightlife-loving party animals.
But where Cape Town truly excels is in its culinary adventures, with world-class restaurants and street markets to explore, alongside terroir-driven wines from the nearby Cape Winelands.
In the shadow of Table Mountain lies the business district and neighbourhoods of the colourful ‘City Bowl’ – though the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is the city’s main hub for shops and restaurants.
Along the coastline from the Waterfront are the picturesque coastal suburbs and idyllic beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay.
The Cape Winelands, including gourmet capitals Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, lie an hour’s drive inland. The other wine region of Constantia is just 20 minutes away.
When to go
Cape Town is a year-round destination – but depending on what you want to do.
It’s is busiest in summer, particularly in December and January when South Africans are on holiday and many international travellers seek the sun. It’s at its most alluring in February and March when it’s less crowded but still buzzing and sunny. This is a great times for outdoor pursuits and anything involving swimming and beaches.
In winter, known as the Green Season, cold fronts with heavy rain are the norm with crisp, clear days in between, ideal for sightseeing. It might not be beach weather, but it’s a great time to secure value-for-money discounts on everything from accommodation to restaurants. This is a great time if you’re coming for Cape Town’s food, art and museums.
Getting there and away
Cape Town International Airport is situated just 20 minutes’ drive from the city centre, and offers direct air links to North America, Europe, Asia and regional destinations. Public buses link the airport to the city, while e-hailing and private taxis available are freely available at the terminal.
For something really special to start (or end) your trip, turn your airport transfer into a jaw-dropping helicopter flight. You can alight at the V&A Waterfront, Winelands and other points from the airport with Silvercross Helicopters.
Cape Town’s CBD, including the V&A, is compact, making walking and cycling around easy. But most of the key sights are further afield, and with limited reliable public transport hiring a car is your best bet. Hiring a car doesn’t have to be boring. Cape Cobra Hire has classic car rentals, specialising in open-top sports cars.
Reputable taxi companies and e-hailing services are safe and reliable, and better for short city trips. Drinking and driving is not tolerated, so consider a guided tour or chauffeur for exploring the Winelands.
Bike and Saddle, Southern Africa cycling specialists, offer guided cycling tours of Cape Town, and bike rental (with delivery at pre-agreed drop-off points).
Where to stay
Picturesque Camps Bay, Bantry Bay and Clifton are the city’s top addresses for upscale local life and glamorous beaches. If shopping, culture, restaurants or nightlife are your thing, then stay close to the V&A and Green Point, or in the ‘City Bowl’ (which includes trendy suburbs like Gardens and Higgovale).
If you’re coming for wine and scenery, considering basing yourself in beautiful Constantia, still close enough for jaunts into the city. Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, while appealing to serious foodies and wine lovers, are both about an hour from the city.
Where to eat or drink
Bree Street in the city centre is a vibrant gourmet boulevard of wine bars, coffee shops and restaurants that’s best discovered on foot. The extensive coastline means there’s no shortage of sea-view eateries serving up fresh seafood. The winelands – Constantia and Stellenbosch – are peppered with outstanding restaurants serving exceptional food – in gorgeous al fresco settings inspired by Cape Dutch Architecture.
Where to shop
Wander the length of Long, Bree and Kloof streets to discover an array of local fashion and design boutiques. There’s a thriving art scene in Woodstock, with galleries and design hubs like the Old Biscuit Mill.
In Kalk Bay, about 30 minutes from the city, you’ll find boho-chic antiques, vintage and collectable shops rubbing shoulders with art galleries such as Kalk Bay Modern.
Local shopping aficionados Blue By You offer personally escorted shopping to the best shops, galleries, jewellers and craftspeople.