How to take a World’s Best trip to Cape Town.
Cape Town is sometimes labeled the least african of African cities—which, depending on who’s doing the labeling, is said with enthusiasm or disparagement. But whatever you think of the must-see destination, post–World Cup Cape Town radiates a palpable hum of cool thanks to the rise of local, cutting-edge artists. The city’s finest style hour takes place every Saturday morning at Woodstock’s Neighbourgoods Market, where stands sell silk-and-leather sandals, biltong (Afrikaans beef jerky), and chèvre frais cheeses from Franschhoek. The trio behind the shopping epicenter also opened Whatiftheworld Design Studio, a retail space in East City and a gallery in Woodstock that showcase designs by young South African talents. The studio is close to Heritage Square, where you’ll find Caveau Wine Bar & Deli, whose menu spotlights regional dishes (dukkah-rubbed ostrich) and global fare (seared tuna in citrus sauce). Whether you have two days or two weeks, you’ll want to augment Cape Town’s under-the-radar spots with luxury services, such as those at Table Bay hotel, on the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, or the renovated Cape Grace: either can arrange yacht tours, wildlife excursions, and strolls to the beaches of the Cape of Good Hope reserve.
Cape Town Affordable Tip: The best hotel for visitors looking for a design immersion is the 33-room Grand Daddy. On its leafy rooftop are seven suites set in converted Airstream trailers. Doubles from $174.
Cape Town Family Tip: The KidsOnly program at One&Only Cape Town offers place-specific activities ranging from ostrich-egg painting to African dance performances. For teens, there are chaperoned movie screenings at the nearby Victoria & Alfred Waterfront. Doubles from $735, kids’ club complimentary for children and teens.
Cape Town: World’s Best Scorecard
No. 6 city overall
No. 1 city in Africa + Middle East
Cape Grace W. Quay Rd., Victoria & Alfred Waterfront; 27-21/410-7100; capegrace.com; doubles from $786.
Caveau Wine Bar & Deli 92 Bree St., Heritage Square; 27-21/422-1367; caveau.co.za; drinks for two $7.
Neighbourgoods Market Old Biscuit Mill, 373-375 Albert Rd.; neighbourgoodsmarket.co.za; Saturdays 9 a.m.–2 p.m.
Table Bay Quay 6, Victoria & Alfred Waterfront; 27-21/406-5000; suninternational.com; doubles from $436.
Whatiftheworld Design Studio 11 Hope St.; 27-21/448-1438; designstudio.whatiftheworld.com.
Whatiftheworld Gallery 208 Albert Rd.; 27-21/448-1438; whatiftheworld.com.
Table Bay Hotel
Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel
Since 1899, this pink-faced colonial beauty—just a stroll away from the Company Gardens—has been the reigning queen of Cape Town’s hotels. Originally built by a shipping magnate to host wealthy Europeans, “The Nellie” today is operated by Belmond and hosts celebs like Richard Gere and Paris Hilton. The property includes nine acres of sweeping lawns and rosebushes, burbling stone fountains and swimming pools; the 209 high-ceilinged guest rooms are sophisticated aeries, decked out in white and cream–colored damask, dark-wood antique furnishings, and (in many cases) dramatically canopied or swagged beds. Colonial-era tradition is observed during afternoon tea service in The Lounge, while modern-day decadence abounds at the new (opened in 2008) Librisa Spa.
One&Only Cape Town
Grand Daddy Hotel
Blending the work of contemporary local designers, the Grand Daddy Hotel is best known for its rooftop trailer park: seven vintage Airstream trailers, each designed with a different theme—for instance, the “Ballad of John and Yoko” includes a host of musical instruments, while “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” has a bear suit, and old-fashioned rocking chair, and three different-sized bowls. The 26 standard guest rooms are more classic, although they do incorporate South African motifs like aloe-print headboards. The hotel also has a Mediterranean restaurant, a rooftop cinema, and two cocktail bars (including one on the roof).