With easy access to a variety of surrounding wine regions, it’s well worth your time to examine Cape Town’s vibrant food, wine and coffee culture. Sheltered by Table Mountain and cooled by an Atlantic breeze, the small inner city has a surprising selection of excellent, culturally diverse restaurants with inspired wine lists. There’s a passion for wine here, fueled by the area’s world-class options available at affordable prices. Within day-trip distance of Cape Town’s central business district (CBD), you’ll find Stellenbosch’s tropical Chenin Blancs, Constantia’s crisp Sauvignon Blancs, Franschhoek’s full-bodied reds and the renegade producers of the Swartland, who are making wine in a style all their own. —Natalie Roos
Where to Dine
The best Cape Malay cuisine is served in the homes of locals. The Bo-Kaap Cooking Tour, a walking tour of the colorful neighborhood followed by a cooking lesson in the kitchen of local “auntie” Zainie, is a great way to experience traditional cuisine and customary hospitality. Find an energized vibe with on-point Mexican fare at El Burro in Greenpoint. Small plates inspired by street food across Asia are a highlight at Hallelujah in Kloof Nek. Authentic Mediterranean food from Love Thy Neighbour on Bree Street is a secret that’s worth discovering. La Colombe in Constantia and Cape Town hotspot The Test Kitchen are world-renowned and equal in terms of food and service, though it’s easier to get a reservation at the former.
Where to Stay
Based in Cape Town, you’re just a short drive from incredible adventures. For views and luxury, The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa won’t disappoint. Closer to town, the exclusive Ellerman House boasts a world-class South African art collection. Even more central is The Mount Nelson, where high tea is a must. The new Silo Hotel is the hottest spot in town, and offers stunning vistas in the Waterfront precinct.
Check out unique activities on the Airbnb Experience platform—current options include heading to the Winelands for lunch with a winemaker or running up Table Mountain with a photographer. A visit to the District Six Museum will walk you through the social injustice and forced removals that occurred there in the second half of the 20th century, while Zeitz MOCAA is a celebration of contemporary African art.
You’ll be amazed how far your money will take you in South Africa. Quality wines can retail for as little as $4 at a winery. Prepare to splurge, and bring extra luggage for your souvenirs.
Where to Taste
To try something unusual, head to Publik wine bar in Cape Town. There, you can taste boutique and limited-edition wines you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Additionally, many wineries are a short distance from the bustle of city center. In Noordhoek, Cape Point Vineyards is in an ideal spot for long days in the sun. Stunning vistas and gorgeous grounds are open for guests to enjoy a picnic (packed baskets available for purchase) alongside their delicious wines. Take a trip along the Constantia Wine Route to enjoy eight of the region’s wineries, like the historic Klein Constantia estate and its Vin de Constance sweet wine, and Beau Constantia, where views, wine and exceptional food are combined at the Winelands iteration of Bree Street’s popular Chef’s Warehouse.
When to Go
March and November, the months that precede and follow the main tourist season, are best for mild weather and less traffic.
The beauty of South Africa’s wines is in the diversity of offerings. Stellar examples of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir can be discovered in Elgin and Hemel-en-Aarde. Big Cabernets or Bordeaux-style red blends are at home in Stellenbosch, particularly in Simonsberg-Stellenbosch and Jonkershoek Valley. Fans of Shiraz and Rhône-style blends will find plenty of world-class wines in Franschhoek and the Swartland, while bubbly aficionados should consider any farm that makes a traditional Méthode Cap Classique sparkling wine. Be sure not to overlook two of the country’s signature grapes, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. Chenin Blanc can be expressed in a range of styles, from dry to sweet and just about everything in between. And while it can be polarizing, today’s Pinotage is a far cry from the bottlings of yore. Both are worth an opportunity to charm you and your palate.
Local in the Know
There are plenty of shops, wine bars, activities and nature-centric tourist stops like Table Mountain park and Boulders Beach around Cape Town. But David Cope, owner of Publik wine bar and the Alphabetical wine brand, suggests a day trip to the Swartland wine region to visit the Wine Kollective in Riebeek Kasteel. “Filled with the best of the region, and some hard-to-get wines from cult producers like Sadie, Badenhorst and Mullineux, owner Anton [Espost] is also always on hand with amusing anecdotes and stories,” he says. He recommends then popping across the road to the Royal Hotel, where a range of gin and tonics are served on the hotel’s expansive veranda.