T+L's Definitive Guide to Cape Town

T+L's Definitive Guide to Cape Town

Courtesy of City of Cape Town
Courtesy of City of Cape Town
Edgy boutiques. Independent galleries. Forward-thinking restaurants, each more innovative than the last. There’s never been a better time to visit Cape Town.

Lay of the Land

City Bowl: Cape Town’s commercial heart is home to trendy neighborhoods such as Gardens, De Waterkant, and Bo-Kaap, filled with stylish cafés and colorful cottages.

Clifton/Camps Bay: White-sand beaches border the city’s ritziest area, where cocktail bars spill out onto the shore.

Constantia: Known for its rolling vineyards, Constantia is just a 20-minute drive south from downtown.

V&A Waterfront: Fashion boutiques and live-music venues line this historic landmark, also a gateway to nearby Robben Island.

Woodstock: Design shops and galleries make up the artsy suburb of Woodstock, a hub for Cape Town’s creative set.

Getting Around

Taxis are easy to hail. Rent a car to reach the Winelands; many wineries are accessible off Route 62.


Seven hotels that top our list, from the latest openings to the classics.

Cape Grace: Located on a private quay, Cape Grace is a magnet for Hollywood royalty (Ryan Reynolds and Beyoncé have both been spotted here). Rooms are done up with whimsical chandeliers made from dangling delft saucers, botanical prints, and traditionally forged iron lamps. $$$$

Ellerman House: You’ll find plenty of discreet charm at this Edwardian, mountainside retreat overlooking the Atlantic. The main mansion has stark-white balustrades and sweeping patios that look out onto terraced gardens. Take a tour of the hotel’s art gallery, built into the bluff. $$$$

Kensington Place: In-the-know travelers love this eight-room town house in the foothills of Table Mountain. The interiors are ultracontemporary (white-on-white bedding; slick leather couches; hot-pink pillows), with tasteful accents such as original South African artwork. $$

Mount Nelson Hotel: The 1899 colonial-style structure is showing its age, but a recent renovation has given the storied hotel new life: updated Oasis wing rooms are decked out in plush red sofas and paintings by local artists, while chef-led tours bring guests to the coastline to forage for the night’s dinner. $$$

One&Only Cape Town: The postcard-perfect views of Table Mountain and Adam Tihany–designed rooms (bright geometric textiles; parquet flooring; freestanding soaking tubs) have made this V&A Waterfront hotel a new favorite. $$$$

Taj Cape Town: You can’t get more central than the Taj, just steps from Parliament and St. George’s Cathedral. Inside, old meets new: elegant Heritage rooms—tufted headboards; original mullioned windows—in two restored landmark buildings offset the more modern Tower wing, with floor-to-ceiling windows and private balconies. $$

Villa Zest Boutique Hotel: It’s all about the 1970’s at this new Bauhaus-inspired building in leafy Green Point: vintage Polaroid cameras and Panasonic Toot-a-Loop radios line the hallways, while rooms are decorated in mod egg chairs and shag rugs. $$

Hotel Pricing Key
$ Less than $200
$$ $200 to $350
$$$ $350 to $500
$$$$ $500 to $1,000
$$$$$ More than $1,000


Our favorite one-of-a-kind boutiques across Cape Town.

Heath Nash: The 35-year-old owner of this open studio in Woodstock is a champion of sustainability, repurposing items such as milk cartons and galvanized wire into decorative art. We love the colorful lampshades, made from hundreds of hand-cut plastic flowers.

House of Machines: Equal parts men’s outfitter, motorcycle shop, café, and bar, House of Machines caters to various whims (and tastes). Try one of the small-batch bourbons, then shop for a pair of house-brand jeans and watch the mechanic at work.

Mungo & Jemima: Come here for a carefully chosen selection of feminine-yet-sophisticated women’s wear and accessories—bold pleated skirts; patent-leather brogues—by emerging South Africa–based designers including Coppelia, Margot Molyneux, and Selfi.

O.Live: Rupert Smith and Warren Matthee’s rustic-chic local housewares shop is an aspiring decorator’s dream. You can find everything from textured ceramics to ribbons, natural soaps, and vintage porcelain tea sets.

Olive Green Cat: You’re unlikely to leave this jewelry boutique empty-handed. Philippa Green and Ida Elsje turn out avant-garde treasures—embellished cuffs; rings with diamonds suspended in resin—that make a statement.

See + Do

Three ways to get your culture fix.

Whatiftheworld Gallery: Woodstock’s first art space, which participates in major fairs like Frieze New York and Volta, in Basel, Switzerland, showcases the city’s newest generation of contemporary artists. The highlights: exhibitions by local painters such as John Murray and international multimedia talents including renowned illustrator Olaf Hajek.

District Six Museum: This former Methodist church was a shelter for anti-apartheid protesters during the Sixth Municipal District’s 1960’s fallout. Today the museum hosts a diverse range of works, from South African photography and fine art to living documents (street signs; books; audio recordings), that are a chilling narrative of the city’s past.

Table Mountain: A 10-minute ride from downtown brings you to the base of Cape Town’s landmark Table Mountain, named for its distinctive flat top. An aerial cableway whisks sightseers to unbeatable views of Cape Peninsula and beyond; more-adventurous types can reach the summit via a three-hour hike from the base up Platteklip Gorge with outfitter Abseil Africa.


Here, six places to sample Cape Town’s ever-evolving “rainbow cuisine.”

Carne Sa: Braaiing (grilling) is a national pastime in South Africa, and no one does it better than this locavore steak house (the meats are sourced largely from owner Giorgio Nava’s ranch in the Karoo). You can’t go wrong with the free-range lamb, braaied over coal, or the 24-month-aged, grass-fed sirloin. $$

Grand Café & Beach: The ocean-facing tables and outdoor cabanas at this beachside hangout are perennially packed with stylish Capetonians. What to order: café classics such as smoked-trout salad and flatbread pizzas. $$

Neighbourgoods Market: On Saturday mornings, the city’s hipster bread makers and charcutiers gather at this collection of high-end artisanal food stalls in Woodstock. Pick up pastries, coffee, and crêpes, then grab a seat at one of the communal wooden tables. Or stock up for a picnic.

Pot Luck Club & Gallery: Chef-owner Luke Dale-Robert’s low-key tapas spot is the coastal port’s most buzzed-about restaurant. An airy, loftlike dining room decorated with contemporary art sets the backdrop for his creative dishes, prepared in an open kitchen. Don’t miss the pork belly with red cabbage and apple slaw. $$

Roundhouse: When restaurant designer—and jet-setting foodie—Adam Tihany comes to town, he stops in at this onetime Dutch East India Company guardhouse hidden on Table Mountain. The draw? An artful six-course tasting menu (rib eye ornamented with onion petals; beet carpaccio served with pickled eggplant and shimeji mushrooms) $$$

Test Kitchen: Pot Luck Club & Gallery’s sophisticated older sister made its debut three years ago with an ambitiously innovative concept. Ingredients such as ginger and yuzu are pickled and poached to intensify their essence, while dishes are presented in unexpected ways: biltong (cured meat) is topped with plum-cured foie gras; langoustines come alongside smoked quail and a corn-and-miso velouté. $$

Restaurant Pricing Key
$ Less than $25
$$ $25 to $75
$$$ $75 to $150
$$$$ More than $150

Explore the Winelands

Some of South Africa’s best vineyards are a short drive from the center of Cape Town. These four are worth the detour.

Twenty minutes south of the city, the 450-acre Groot Constantia is one of the country’s oldest wine estates, known for its high-quality blends.

From there, make your way east to Fairview, just outside the historic town of Paarl; book a private tasting of the winery’s single-vineyard bottlings paired with Fairview’s own goat-milk cheeses.

In the nearby Franschhoek valley, Babylonstoren produces fruity Viogniers and Chardonnays.

Moving north, rocky landscapes line the coast—don’t miss Tierhoek, whose high altitude and breezy conditions contribute to the intense flavors in its Chenin Blancs.

Local Take

Get the scoop on the city from these three Capetonians.

Brad Armitage

Restaurant entrepreneur and co-owner of the House of Machines

“On summer mornings you can find me catching surf breaks at Horse Trails, near Big Bay, before returning to town for a bacon croissant and fruit salad at Jason Bakery. My family and I often pack up the car and go swimming in the rock pools at Bakeoven Beach, probably Cape Town’s best-kept secret. I love to watch the lights come up on Table Mountain at dusk. For the greatest view, head to Tjing Tjing, one of the city’s few rooftop bars, and order a negroni.”

Ishay Govender-Ypma

Food blogger at foodandthefabulous.com

“For a sneaky weekday brunch, I go to Hemelhuijs ($$), where chef Jacques Erasmus combines seasonal and classic ingredients like salmon with daikon radish. The freshly squeezed fruit juices served in tall jars are a must. Kalk Bay is a wonderful place to bring out-of-towners; be sure to have lunch at Harbour House ($$$), which looks out over the waterfront. The Orphanage cocktail emporium is a favorite for late-night drinks; the tapas are equally outstanding.”

Luvo Ntezo

Head sommelier at the One&Only Cape Town hotel

“After an early run along the seafront, I recharge with breakfast at Giovanni’s Deliworld (103 Main Rd.; 27-21/434-6893); get the ham-and-cheese ciabatta sandwich with a cappuccino. On my days off, I’ll put the top down on my convertible and drive out toward Stellenbosch to visit small but quality wineries such as Bizoe Wines, Grangehurst Winery, and Rainbow’s End. Along the way, I recommend stopping for a bite at Terroir ($$) at Kleine Zalze farm, known for its Shiraz.”


Beyond the City


Cape Point: You’ll pass Boulders Beach, home to a colony of African penguins, before reaching the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve. The view from one of the peninsula’s highest points is unparalleled.

Hout Bay: A scenic, cliff-hugging drive leads to this picturesque harborside town. Stop by the late-19th-century Chapmans Peak Hotel for lunch and order the fried calamari.

Scarborough: An hour outside central Cape Town, this seaside village draws urbanites seeking a quiet weekend escape. Stroll the boardwalk that runs along the beach—if it’s windy, you’ll have only kitesurfers for company.

For more on Cape Town travel, check out T+L's Guide to Cape Town.

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