South Africa’s largest cities each offer unique culinary charms: Johannesburg has steakhouses, and Durban is great for Indian food, but Cape Town is where all of the country’s diverse cultural influences collide. On top of that, a relaxed outdoor lifestyle, mild weather and easy access to the Winelands makes Cape Town an ideal place to visit.
Chef Luke Dale-Roberts packs European, Asian and African influences into small plates at The Pot Luck Club, where the menu is divided into bitter, salty, sweet, sour and umami categories. Can’t get a reservation? The less-formal Chefs Warehouse & Canteen offers a daily menu of small plates that parades fresh, vibrant flavors into a light but satisfying meal. Go for lunch or an early dinner, as it closes at 8 pm. For something heartier, head around the corner to Dale-Roberts’s latest venture, The Shortmarket Club, where well-thought classics like beef tartare are offered alongside more creative items like a parmesan miso waffle. The retro-Victorian Kloof Street House retains a worldly bent, with dishes like lamb shoulder and tagine, but ostrich fillet and kingklip (a local fish) remind you that you’re still in South Africa.
Four Hour Getaway
A drive down the Cape Peninsula offers dramatic views, picturesque towns and a touch of wildlife. Historic Simon’s Town is home to the Boulder Beach Penguin Colony, while animals like baboons, ostriches and zebras wander the Cape Point Nature Reserve. After a visit to the lighthouse for a breathtaking view across False Bay, take the winding Chapman’s Peak Drive back to Cape Town. If you time it right, stop for sunset and cocktails along the beach in Camps Bay.
A stroll down Kloof and Bree Streets takes you past many of the city’s top drinking spots. For wine, Publik Wine Bar highlights the natural, boutique producers of the Cape. Chalk & Cork offers a similar selection. Grab a picnic table outside and sip a Chenin Blanc while you bask in the Mediterranean climate.
Capetonians have taken to gin in a big way. Start your night with a jazzed up gin-and-tonic at The “Secret” Gin Bar, which is hidden in a courtyard behind a chocolate shop. If gin’s not your thing, the Orphanage Cocktail Emporium offers a wider range of spirits and an easy rationalization to order one more, as a portion of profits support the St. Francis Children’s Home. For a more down-to-earth night, The Shack is all about cheap beer, pool and late-night snacks like cut-to-order fries.
Traditional African crafts are everywhere, but for more contemporary design, head to the Woodstock neighborhood and the Old Biscuit Mill. The Imiso ceramics studio applies ancient African scarification designs to its pots. De Waterkant also has a number of great shops like Africa Nova, which offers textiles, jewelry and more. If you can’t avoid the touristy V&A Waterfront but still want a bit of cool, the stalls at The Watershed host a wide range of merchants. Protect your head from the sun with a flashy cap or fedora from JK Millinery.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden provides a beautiful introduction to the diverse plant life of Western Cape; 70 percent of its species aren’t found anywhere else. The Boomslang walkway, installed in 2013, provides a treetop-level view.
For a grander bird’s-eye view, hike or ride the gondola up Table Mountain. The gondola’s best around lunchtime, when lines are shorter. If you like your view with a shot of adrenaline, float out over the city with a tandem paraglider from Lion’s Head, the hill adjacent to Table Mountain.
For a look into South African history, Robben Island makes for a moving visit. It’s the site where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Former political prisoners lead the tours.