CAPE TOWN, SOUTH AFRICA: This city has a rough mountain range that drop sharply into a glittering sea, white beaches lapped by a chilly Atlantic and a cool urban edge; hip bars, world-rated restaurants, design-shops, excellent art galleries and an natural beauty. Cape Town has an inbuilt advantage with its ocean setting at the corner of a continent, watched over by mighty Table Mountain.
The Dutch built Castle of Good Hope in 1666 followed by the French, who improved the winemaking skills. The English left Georgian mansions before refugees from all over Africa made their way south to seek fortune in the shadow of the mountain. Cape Town has always been the most cosmopolitan city in Southern Africa.
See. The ride up on the Table Mountain Cableway takes five minutes. A rotating cabin and walkways at the top, offers some of the best views. You haven’t truly understood the variety of Cape Town until you have climbed to the top of Table Mountain and seen the city sprawled below. July to November is the time when whales migrate to calve, providing the best land-based whale watching.
Robben Island is the most symbolically place in South Africa, home to Nelson Mandela who was imprisoned there along with other political prisoners. Now a living museum and insight into the country’s past.
Waterfront. The locals hate it, but tourists flock to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront providing a variety of treatments and products, from rugby museum to art, shopping and entertainment, posh hotels and luxury apartments, bars and restaurants and guided tours with stories of the people and events that led to the birth of Cape Town. Check out the Craft Market, and then nab a harbour side table at Bascule bar (West Quay) for a seafood salad and watch seals play among the yachts.
The beach. It’s usually too chilly to swim in the sea where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet. But Camps Bay, Africa’s answer to Miami Beach, is an upmarket mix of perfect sands, Art Deco beach houses and hip restaurants. Take a seat under a sun-umbrella at Blues, the best place to look at the sunset over a plate of calamari and a glass of crisp Sauvignon in hand. Blues opened its doors in 1987 and has been recently renovated.
Wine and fine dining. No visit is complete without at least one full day exploring some of the surrounding wine-carped valleys, superb produced wine and some of the best and most affordable fine dining in the world. This city offers excellent value for money and new discovery.
I visited Stellenbosch, South Africa’s second oldest town located in the heart of the Wineland, lined with shady oaks and white-washed buildings. Wine from this famous wine-producing region 40km west of Cape Town, is on wine lists all over the world. Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Chenin Blanc are all planted here.
Our fine dining took place at the Lanzerac Wine Estate. The Terrace Restaurant offers casual dining overlooking the Manor House, the ideal setting for those seeking a more casual yet equally tempting menu of delectable meals and sumptuous wines. Room rates from 115 euro per person during off-season.
Cape Point. Hiring a car is the easiest way to visit the rugged rocks and sheer cliffs of Cape Point, 60km southwest of Cape Town. There are the most spectacular viewpoints to the isolated and peaceful beaches. Ride the Flying Dutchman funicular up to the viewing point below the old lighthouse, taste world-class cuisine and enjoy the spectacular panorama over False Bay from the Two Oceans Restaurant famous for its seafood.
Annual events. The Cape Minstrel Carnival takes place on January 2 every year and is a highlight of the city’s calendar. The Cape Town Festival in March is an electric cultural event that brings the best of South African and international artists to the people, all for free. Two Ocean Marathon, known as the world’s most beautiful marathon, takes place over the Easter Weekend.
The future. Crime is an ongoing concern, but note that most incidents occur away from tourist areas. Take the usual precautions and don’t flash your wealth, don’t visit no-go zones and don’t walk when there are no other people around. Don’t let your credit card out of sight and keep a close eye on how it is handled.
It may be one of the world’s biggest producers of diamonds, gold and platinum, but more than 40 per cent of its population lives below the poverty line. To some it felt like faith in Nelson Mandela was the only thing holding the country together until he passed away in 2013. What the future holds was difficult to find among those we met in Cape Town.
”It will take a generation to find out what will happen, but the younger generation is definitely looking forward, rather than back”, one of our guide said. It’s time to explore the city’s history at Robben Island and the District Six Museum.
Click large photos Cape Town
Make it Happen!
Touch Down: BA and Virgin Atlantic fly direct to Cape Town from Heathrow, London. South African Airways and domestic airlines such as Mango and Kulula offer flights between major cities. There are car rental at all airports and car hire starts at around 20 euro per day. Flight time from London to Cape Town is about 12 hours.
Stay: I stayed at the central City Lodge and paid 80 euro for a double guest room. The legendary Grand Daddy Boutique Hotel has 32 rooms in a 19th-century building in the city’s creative Long Street hub. Both luxury and superior rooms are equipped with either a king-size bed or two single beds. Room rates from 150 euro. Granddaddy.co.za
Eat: A well-prepared local meal can be a highlight of a trip. Many restaurants specialize in the cuisine of the continent. Don’t miss the opportunity to sample a tasty ostrich burger or a crocodile steak. Food lovers will surely appreciate that there’s something for everyone to enjoy in Cape Town.
Play: The Wineland tours are a genuine attraction. In spring the vineyards burst into life, in summer the grapes are gathered (January-March). Harvest festivals usually take place towards the end of the season, around February.
Mini Guide: You can visit Cape Town pretty much any time of year, with peak season falling between December and early January. The temperate winter starts in May or in June. October and November is time for the best deals – especially if you book early. Currency: South Africa Rand (ZAR) Wi-Fi: Most hotels, guest lodges and coffee shops offer free Wi-Fi. Tourism office: Cape Town Tourism on the corner of Burg and Castle Streets. Capetown.travel Most South Africans are familiar in English. Taxi services are restricted to private, metered taxis.