A super-quick guide to Cape Town

A super-quick guide to Cape Town

Relaxing tidal pools, art from across Africa and mega-sandwiches are all to be found in this truly buzzing city


Cape Town calling / Image: Tobias Reich/Unsplash

Richard Holmes

It’s really not hard to fall in love with Cape Town, a city brimming with pavement cafes, idyllic beaches and historical sites. Throw in World Heritage Site Table Mountain – slap bang in the centre – and you’ll soon see why this is the most popular tourist city in Africa. With Mediterranean charm and no shortage of authentic local colour, you’ll certainly want to spend a week discovering South Africa’s ‘Mother City’.

Cape Town from the dizzying heights of Table Mountain / Image: Adobe Stock

Rocky mountain high: explore Table Mountain

It’s impossible to ignore Table Mountain, the kilometre-high sandstone massif that sprouts from the middle of South Africa’s legislative capital. The easiest way to the summit is a ride on the scenic Table Mountain Aerial Cableway, but if you’re determined, you can clamber up Platteklip Gorge to the summit. For something more sedate, discover the endemic fynbos vegetation at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens, also a perfect spot for a picnic.

Multicoloured construction in Bo Kaap

Colourful culture: discover the Bo Kaap

The brightly painted houses of the Bo Kaap district may be perfect for a quick snap for the ’Gram, but spend some time here and you’ll discover the rich heritage of the city’s Cape Malay community. Walking tours, homestays and restaurant visits offer a fascinating insight into this colourful corner of the city. If you’re here at New Year’s, look out for the festive Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year) street parades in the city.

Zeitz MOCAA / Image: Getty Images

Art and about: tap into Africa’s creative spirit

Cape Town has cemented its position as Africa’s capital of contemporary art and holds the world-class galleries to show for it. Start at the remarkable Zeitz MOCAA in the waterfront Silo precinct, where the reinvention of historic grain silos by designer Thomas Heatherwick is as striking as the art within. In the Constantia Winelands the Norval Foundation is equally memorable, or trawl the smaller private galleries dotted across the city, such as Everard Read and WHATIFTHEWORLD.

A sublime salad waiting to happen at Oranjezicht City Farm Market

Picnic capers: hit the market

Locals love a good market and, happily, they’re not in short supply. The standout is surely the Oranjezicht City Farm Market in Granger Bay, where you’ll find a cornucopia of fresh produce alongside a rustic food hall of micro-kitchens dishing up local and global plates. Another favourite is the Neighbourgoods Market in the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock. It’s busier, draws a younger crowd and gets seriously festive on Saturday mornings.

Eats at Bouchon Bistro

Have a bite: Cape Town’s gourmet boulevard

You’ll never go hungry in Cape Town, the city often dubbed Africa’s culinary capital. Arguably the heart of it all is on Bree Street in the city centre, where you’ll find Spanish-style tapas at La Parada, superb burgers and craft beer at Clarke’s, and wonderful French-style cuisine at Bouchon Bistro. Also, don’t miss The Bailey by acclaimed restaurateur Liam Tomlin, whose three-story castle of cuisine includes a patisserie and champagne bar, elegant bistro, and rooftop whisky bar.

Alfresco bathing with a view at Dalebrook tidal pool / Image: Adobe Stock

Take a dip: plunge into a tidal pool

Pack your bathing costume and head for one of the city’s 19 seawater tidal pools. Built right on the shoreline, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of a bracing saltwater dip, without worrying about any wildlife encounters. Dalebrook and St. James on the False Bay coastline are hugely popular with locals, while the wide Camps Bay tidal pool is ideal for a sundowner dip. Entrance is free.

The Gatsby smash in all its glory / Image: Courtesy of Cape Town Tourist Board

Street food: it’s a Gatsby smash!

Don’t leave town without a bite of Cape Town’s most famous street sandwich. The Gatsby roll – a distant cousin to a New Orleans po’boy – can be filled with anything from calamari to sausage, but the classic comes crammed with spicy steak, hot chips and salad. A half is big enough for two and a full house could feed a football team. Super Fisheries in Athlone claims to have made it first, but locals swear equally by Mariam’s Kitchen in the city centre.

A life-affirming sunset at Camp Bay / Image: Adobe Stock

Say yes to sundowners: where to hang with the locals

Love a great sunset? You’ve come to the right place. With the city slipping into the ocean all along the glamorous Atlantic Seaboard, there’s no shortage of great sundowner spots. To feel the powder white sand between your toes, head for the glamorous beaches of Clifton 4th or Llandudno, while the chic beach bars of Camps Bay bring plenty of Miami vibes. Local secret? Seek out the granite outcrops above Bakoven beach or take a wander on the Sea Point Promenade.

The Constantia Valley

Sip the vine: fine wine in Constantia

Not enough time to visit historic Stellenbosch and glamorous Franschhoek? A 15-minute drive from the city centre will you land in the country’s oldest wine-producing region. The Constantia Valley is home to some of the most storied names in South African wine, turning out stellar cool-climate whites and elegant reds that speak to the coastal terroir and granite soils. Head for Klein Constantia to sip on the iconic Vin de Constance, Steenberg for Cap Classique sparkling wines and Constantia Glen for impressive Bordeaux-style reds.