A formerly unremarkable area of Cape Town is becoming a playground for the city’s creative set.

By Mary Holland
January 09, 2017
View of Table Mountain
Tom Parker

It wasn’t long ago that many Capetonians steered clear of the city’s Victoria & Alfred Waterfront and surrounding Foreshore. The area served as both industrial shipping hub and tourist magnet, trading in souvenir bric-a-brac, sightseeing harbor cruises, and Cinnabon Stix.

That perception changed with the news of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, which is scheduled to open this September in a former grain silo that’s been overhauled by London architect-of-the-moment Thomas Heatherwick. The museum will house one of the world’s largest collections of contemporary African art, much of it from the holdings of Jochen Zeitz, the owner of Kenya’s Segera Retreat and former Puma CEO. It’s Cape Town’s missing element: a cultural anchor to complement the city’s natural beauty and stellar food and wine scenes. “It’s an icon of the confidence we feel about being African, about our place in the world,” says Mark Coetzee, executive director and chief curator.

Left: Sunset at the V&A Waterfront. Right: Colorful houses in the nearby Bo-Kaap neighborhood.
Tom Parker

Soon, visitors to Cape Town—which was named one of Travel + Leisure's Best Places to Travel in 2017—will have a hotel option that befits the changing neighborhood: the Royal Portfolio Collection’s sleek, 28-room Silo Hotel (doubles from $850) opens next month on the top seven floors of the Zeitz mocaa’s repurposed silo. Its bright, lofty rooms have traditional furnishings—tufted chairs, crystal chandeliers—with pillowed-glass windows that lend a futuristic note.

Even in advance of the mocaa’s arrival, the area is becoming a haven for African artists and makers. This May, a Cape Town design group will open Guild, a gallery and shop that features work by African artists like Burkina Faso’s Hamed Ouattara, who transforms salvaged metal into housewares. The neighboring Watershed marketplace carries goods from more than 150 artisans (such as Pichulik’s rope-and-bead statement jewelry and Africa Nova’s patterned textiles) in a warehouse-like space. On Saturday mornings, hungry shoppers can stop at the Oranjezicht City Farm Market for local produce, freshly baked breads, and small-batch cheeses.

Left: Cape Town’s new Silo Hotel. Right: A necklace from Pichulik, in the Watershed marketplace.
Tom Parker

The adjacent Foreshore has become a dining destination, capturing the attention of residents with its global fare. “Capetonians are adventurous, and they know their food and drink,” says chef Giles Edward. After a decade working at Michelin-starred restaurants in London, Edward moved home last year and opened La Tête (entrées $8–$24), a nose-to-tail restaurant in a 1930s Art Deco building on Bree Street. It’s one of the city’s most fearless kitchens, making dishes like kidney pudding and ox hearts with fries. A few blocks away is the General Store, a tiny timber-fronted café offering fare like za’atar-spiced lamb and French toast with thyme-roasted plums. And over at Bardough, baker Jason Lilley’s new bar-cumbakery, the menu of sandwiches includes the “dawgzilla,” a brioche roll with grilled octopus, chorizo, and shakshuka. “The Waterfront has always been tourist-driven—it was never a draw for locals,” Lilley says. “It’s exciting to be one of the pioneers of a developing area.”