The first wines appeared in South Africa back in 1659—and ever since, booze has flown freely throughout the Western Cape. Cape Town's proximity to the picture-perfect Cape Winelands (the region begins less than an hour away) combined with its burgeoning craft beer scene make it ripe for a bevy of world-class bars. You’ll find lively beerhouses, under-the-radar wine bars, and chic rooftop lounges across the city, but mainly clustered in the Central Business District. Many are within walking distance of each other, making for a festive evening of pub hopping. My friends and I never tire of walking the length of Long Street, lined with traditional Victorian and Cape Dutch buildings and overlooked by wrought-iron balconies. This buzzy artery is the hub of the city’s nightlife, and is bumping with a vibrant cross-section of revelers — grungy college kids to sophisticated sybarites — till the wee hours. Here are five Cape Town bars that are solid favorites with the locals.
Read T+L’s Cape Town Bar Guide for more Cape Town ideas.
Grab a seat at this rooftop lounge, not unlike a well-appointed attic with its mismatched leather chairs and vintage-photo wallpaper, for cheers-worthy tapas (risotto balls, cheesy quesadillas, pork-belly skewers), and inventively-named cocktails like the Porn Star (vodka, vanilla, lime, passion fruit, champagne) and Asian Persuasion (rum, honey, lime, mint, chilli). The views of Longmarket Street are just as memorable.
Orphanage Cocktail Emporium
Step back in time when you slip into this old-world bar on Bree Street, where Dickens is king. Exposed-brick walls, worn wooden floors, waistcoated-bartenders, flickering oil lamps on low tables, and a menu filled with nods to famous literary orphans all are tributes to the Victorian era. Fans of the famous Brit will love the Oliver’s Twist: chamomile-infused vermouth with Ciroc, apricot, and orange.
Beerhouse on Long
Don't let the shocking neon yellow splashed over the once-elegant Victorian exterior of the Beer House stop you from going in—this recent addition to Long Street, Cape Town's main nightlife drag, is well worth a visit. There are 99 bottles to choose from, ranging from English Bitter to Boston Lager to Devil's Peak Silvertree.
Weinhaus & Biergarten
Now reborne as Weinhaus & Biergarten, this Bree Street pub is, as the name suggests, a wine bar and beer garden, complete with an unpretentious vibe and regular live-music acts. On a summer afternoon, relax at an outdoor table and wash down a prego or brat with an unfiltered amber.
Publik Wine Bar
This hip new watering hole opened in a subterranean space occupied by the well-known Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants—think the Pat LaFrieda of Cape Town—last November, making for a most unusual butcher-meets-wine-bar combination. The wine list is stocked with lesser-known, indie labels that deserve wider recognition, and rotates daily. Ask your server to match your cured olives and charcuterie to the best glass of the day.