Eric Nathan / Alamy
Sarah Khan
August 18, 2014

Afro jazz, electronica, funk, and rock 'n' roll—there's a thriving live music scene in Cape Town, with venues as varied as the beats. The annual Cape Town International Jazz Festival brings celebrated global greats to the Mother City for a weekend every March/April, and in the balmy summer months the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden becomes a postcard-worthy concert venue, hosting a weekly series of shows by talented South African stars like Johnny Clegg and Freshlyground (you may remember the latter from Shakira's 2010 World Cup anthem, “Waka Waka It's Time for Africa”). But if you are looking for a musical night out any time of year, here are five picks for Cape Town's top live-music venues. They’re cozy and intimate, and host a rotating roster of up-and-comers and area favorites that might even break through to the global spotlight soon—and you can tell everyone you knew them when.

Piano Bar

Stepping into this dimly lit lounge is like stepping into an atmospheric jazz bar in Manhattan's West Village, all swank sophistication and stylish patrons, and the eponymous piano presiding over the room. There are free performances any night of the week, and great cocktails and food to boot—be sure to top off your night with one of their creative ice cream flavors, ranging from cardamom to bacon marmalade.

The Crypt

I'm willing to wager that you've never been to a jazz venue quite like this one before. As the name suggests, this lounge is actually, quite literally, set in a crypt, a subterranean space beneath Cape Town's historic St. George's Cathedral. Stop by for a show and small bites like Caprese salad, grilled prawn skewers, and vegetable spring rolls. 

Assembly

A former warehouse converted into one of Cape Town's edgiest concert spaces, Assembly is where to go for a rotating host of international artists and DJs, with a strong focus on electronica. Whether you’re there to see a local star or a household name, you’re guaranteed a good time at this District 6 spot.

Straight No Chaser

This speakeasy-style bar on Buitenkant Street evokes a bygone era, when drinks were strong and jazz players reigned supreme. Formerly known as the Mahogany Room, Straight No Chaser's cozy stage hosts two sets a night, and serves craft beers, local wines, and hard liquor. If you’d like to stop by, call ahead—reservations are imperative.

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