While Cape Town may be situated at the bottom tip of Africa, it certainly deserves to be on the top of every wander-lusting traveller's list. The 'Mother City' is like no other, with its mix of European and African influences, magnificent scenery and sunny climate. If you're still not convinced, check out these 10 reasons why you need to go and experience it for yourself...
1. South African Sunshine
If you're looking to get away from the dull weather, Cape Town is a great spot for catching some rays. The Capetonian summer is our winter, but even winter in the Cape is pretty mild with temperatures never dipping below double digits during the day and sunshine always abundant. Average summer temperatures are in the mid-twenties and the sun is very rarely not seen in the sky. Cape Town temperatures can get up to 30 in the height of the summer but typically a sea breeze can make it more comfortable, with higher temperatures inland and in the winelands.
2. Foods from the Western Cape
From freshly caught Atlantic and Indian Ocean seafood to locally reared beef and seasonal fruit and vegetables, the great variety of delicious food on offer is second to none. All western tastes are catered for, from pizza to curry, vegan to fine dining. Specialties include seafood and prawns, calamari and fish like the local kingclip are typically found on most menus. The local farms of the Western Cape supply succulent cuts of beef and game like Kudu, as well as seasonal vegetables like asparagus, beetroot and artichoke, keeping the kitchens of Cape Town’s restaurants freshly stocked with mouth-watering fresh produce.
3. The Cape Winelands and Wine Tasting
The wines produced in the winelands around Cape Town are fantastic, reminiscent of great new world wine-producing areas like Hunter Valley in Australia and Napa in California. Stellenbosch and Franschoek are the two best-known wine producing areas, with fantastic reds like Pinot Noir and Pinotage, as well as delicious, crisp whites like Sauvignon Blanc. A vineyard tour and wine tasting is a must here! Sparkling wines match most champagnes and are a fraction of the price. Crisp South African lagers like Castle and Wyndhoek are also available at most bars and restaurants, together with a burgeoning craft beer scene.
The current favourable exchange rate to the pound and euro, combined with the low cost of living, make South Africa a very cost-effective holiday destination. A nice breakfast of eggs & bacon, or something healthier like granola with fruit might set you back about 60 Rand - the equivalent of about €4. A cup of coffee will average 20 Rand or €1.25. Lunch for two in a beachside restaurant would cost between 100 and 150 Rand or between €6 and €10. Dinner with wine for two might cost between 400 and 500 Rand or €25 to €32. As the cost of living is lower and the means of production are cheaper, this feeds through to much cheaper food, drink and service prices when compared to home.
5. Scenery of the Western Cape
Everywhere you turn in Kapstadt and its hinterland there is a dramatic backdrop of beautiful, breathtaking scenery. Spectacular views can be enjoyed from the winelands on the southern side of Table Mountain to the dramatic horizon of Table Bay and the Atlantic seaboard, including Signal Hill and Lion's Head. Further south along the coast you can experience the magnificent rugged sandy beaches of the Cape Peninsula and Chapman's Peak, where you can catch a glimpse of whales coming around the Cape. Coming back around the eastern side of the peninsula, overlooking False Bay, you will also come across the entertaining penguins on Boulders Beach and the stunning vista from the ‘Republic of Hout Bay’, so called because of its isolation and independent-thinking residents.
6. Local Cape Town Events
If you have time and are lucky enough to be in Cape Town while a big event is on, I thoroughly recommend experiencing real South African sporting or musical culture. The leafy southern suburb of Newlands is home to two of Cape Town’s main stadiums, one for the cricket and one for rugby. Both sit right next to each other with Table Mountain always visible in the background, providing an atmospheric backdrop to the sporting battles. South Africans are very passionate about their sport so I’d recommend trying to catch an international rugby test match or the local Top 14 team, the Stormers, play in the unique and noisy atmosphere of the Newlands Stadium. Alternatively, a one-day international next door at the Newlands Cricket Ground, replete with its old school architecture and lazy grass embankment overshadowed by Table Mountain looming in the background, is a memorable experience even if you’re not interested in the game. If sport is not your bag, then maybe try a concert at the Rondebosch Botanical Gardens, where you can experience the magical open-air musical atmosphere on the side of Table Mountain.
7. Cape Town Restaurants
While Cape Town’s food has always been top notch, its restaurants are now garnering worldwide recognition as some of the best in the world. The Test Kitchen in Woodstock is listed in the Top 50 Restaurants of the Year, and La Colombe and Aubergine are both highly rated and Michelin-starred. Many Cape Town restaurants feature a traditional braai (or barbecue) where cooked meats like boerewors sausage, steaks and game are cooked. South Africans even have their own National Heritage Day called Braai Day, where the tradition is for the whole family to celebrate the Rainbow Nation by taking a day off to eat and drink outdoors with family and friends – a bit like St Patricks Day, but sunnier!
8. Capetonian Beaches
Cape Town is also famous for its beaches. If you fancy a lazy day in the sun then you are spoiled for choice in Cape Town. Probably its most well-known beach is Camps Bay, a sleepy beach suburb at the far end of the Atlantic Seaboard. It's beautiful fine sand and emerald blue sea is mesmerising and the main road parallel to the shoreline features many good bars and restaurants to slay your thirst and whet your appetite. If you like the seaside but don't fancy sitting on the beach all day, Cape Town boasts a fine promenade which can be walked or cycled to from the V&A Waterfront past Mouille Point Lighthouse and on to Seapoint and Bantry Bay. Between Bantry Bay and Camps Bay lies Clifton's four secluded but popular beaches, separated by small rocky headlands. While the water on the Atlantic side can be chilly, the Indian Ocean side's beaches are so warm during the summer, its like jumping into a bath! Muizenberg and Fish Hoek are popular options and only a short drive from Cape Town.
9. Shopping in Cape Town
If you like to do a spot of shopping on holidays, then Cape Town is great for souvenirs and well-known brands alike. The V&A Waterfront is a focal point for tourists with its many hotels, restaurants and bars, and is the point where excursion boats will take you out to Table Bay. It also boasts a fantastic shopping centre, featuring every designer brand you can think of including H&M, Burberry and L’Occitane. Green Market Square and its environs around the Central Business District (CBD) are great for South African fashion stores as well as market stalls for South African souvenirs. If you're looking for unique purchases or gifts, you can also try the fashion boutiques and interior stores scattered along Bree Street, Kloof Street or the antique stores in Kalk Bay.
Did I mention the prices? Well, I think they’re so good they deserve to be mentioned again! With a favourable exchange rate, prices for food and drink are outstanding. You can eat out like a king relatively inexpensively compared to similar restaurants back home. From Michelin-starred restaurant to small family run cafes, wine vineyard restaurants to beach bars, Cape Town is a great place to indulge yourself without being too burdensome on the wallet!