Cape Town has one of the most beautiful settings of any city in the world, but what is there to do beyond stare at the view? Will Hide explores
Sittings on the shores of Cable Bay, sandwiched between the sea and the scenic slab of Table Mountain, Cape Town has a location that any city in the world would envy.
It’s the gateway to South Africa’s stunning wine regions and the Garden Route, but before clients drive off, make sure they make the most of the city.
She may be blessed with natural good looks, but Cape Town dresses well too, with the Rainbow Nation’s colourful design, art and crafts all on show. And those with an interest in South Africa’s turbulent past can see the scars of apartheid, either presented in the District Six museum or written into the city’s geography, where wealthy neighbourhoods abut poor townships.
We’re entering South African summer, and Virgin Atlantic’s seasonal service has started again for the 13th year running. Flying daily from Heathrow until April, the airline expects to bring more than 31,000 UK tourists to Cape Town during the season.
So, it’s even easier than usual for clients to get there, but what should they do once they arrive? We’ve sketched out a two-day programme for them below.
09.30: Try to arrive on a Saturday so you can take the 10-minute drive or cab ride to the edgy, but up-and-coming suburb of Woodstock for the weekly Neighbourgoods Market in the converted Old Biscuit Mill (neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za).
It’s a collection of shops and food stalls that open every Saturday morning and draw a large, laid-back crowd. You can grab a coffee and an omelette or a crêpe, sit on straw bales to catch up with the locals, and browse the dozen or so art galleries and handicraft stores. Afterwards, wander along Albert Road to see the Woodstock Foundry and a few minutes further on, the new Woodstock Exchange, both are mixed-use spaces comprising artists’ studios and shops.
12.30: Grab an early lunch at Superette in the Woodstock Exchange. It’s a trendy diner that does fresh salads and substantial sandwiches with fillings such as pork belly, or chicken, bacon and pesto. It’s a good place to watch the world go by. (superette.co.za)
13.30: Visit the District Six Museum at 25 Buitenkant Street, (districtsix.co.za). In the 1960s, District Six was a vibrant, mixed area of Cape Town, but then the apartheid government decided only whites could live there.
So buildings were torn down and the non-white inhabitants were removed to forlorn outlying areas known as the Cape Flats, where many still remain today. Even more so perhaps than Robben Island, this museum highlights the very real and cruel personal impact that apartheid had on thousands of ordinary people.
15.00: If it’s sunny, hit the beach at Clifton, which is divided into several sections separated by rocky boulders: 3rd Beach is popular with lads in Speedos checking out other lads in Speedos; while 4th beach attracts the toned and beautiful; and 1st and 2nd are popular with families. One thing you’re unlikely to be doing at any of them is swimming – even on a hot summer’s day the water is freezing cold.
If the weather’s not playing ball, join the throng of Capetonians at the V&A Waterfront Mall (waterfront.co.za). If retail therapy is your thing you’ll enjoy this decent collection of shops, bars and restaurants under one roof, with souvenirs and South African fashions to take back home.
Otherwise, take the ferry to Robben Island for a tour of the infamous spot where political ‘troublemakers’, including Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned. Some tour guides are ex-prisoners.
19.00: Time for dinner. Meat-lovers should head to Carne SA at 70 Keerom Street where the Italian-South African owner gets 80% of the produce from his own farm east of Cape Town. You can’t go wrong with a steak, but opt for the delicious Karoo lamb (carne-sa.com),
Alternatively, try an evening’s jazz safari where you’ll go into musicians’ homes, eat with their families and then they’ll play for you in their front rooms. Rhythm doesn’t get more personal. (coffeebeanroutes.com)
23.00: End the day with a nightcap at cool and intimate new venue Orphanage at 227 Bree St, (theorphanage.co.za) or if it’s a balmy evening, enjoy rooftop caipirinhas at Tjing Tjing at 165 Longmarket Street, (tjingtjing.co.za).
09.00: Hop in your hire car and drive half an hour down the M3, around the back of Table Mountain, to the seaside suburb of Kalk Bay for creamy scrambled eggs at the chilled-out Olympia Cafe at 134 Main Road. If there’s a queue, write your name on the chalkboard just inside the door to ‘book’ a table.
A good alternative is Knead in Muizenberg, which is part cafe, part surf shop (kneadbakery.co.za). When you’re done, follow the road round the coast, past the former British naval base at Simon’s Town, to see the colony of cute penguins (pictured) at Boulders Beach (sanparks.org).
11.00: It’s then a short drive onwards around False Bay (look out for whales in the spring) to Cape Point at the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve (capepoint.co.za) – not actually Africa’s most southerly spot but pretty spectacular nonetheless.
12.30: Head back north and cut across to Scarborough for a walk on the beautiful windswept beach, a popular place for kitesurfing, before taking scenic (and scary, if you don’t like vertical cliff drops) Chapman’s Peak Drive. Continue on after stopping to take photos looking out over the ocean, and you will find yourself…
13.30: …at the Chapman’s Peak Hotel (chapmanspeakhotel.co.za) on the edge of Hout Bay, just in time for calamari and chips on the balcony.
15.00: Choose between action and relaxation this afternoon. Head back to Camps Bay, and for the latter, simply hit the beach and top up your tan. For something a little more exciting, hit the heady heights of Table Mountain.
The view from this Cape Town icon is as good as the view of it. A direct walk up the Platteklip Gorge route takes about two hours, but most people opt for the shorter six-minute trip by cable car, which leaves from the Tafelberg Road, a short drive inland.
19.00: Try sundowner cocktails with the beautiful people at Cafe Caprice at 37 Victoria Road followed by dinner at the unpretentious Codfather restaurant at 37 The Drive, Camps Bay, (codfather.co.za) where you can tuck into oysters, sushi or good old fish and chips.
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