Cape Town (or the Mother City as its lovingly referred to by locals) is an intoxicating blend of natural landscapes and eclectic, dynamic venues. Surrounded by white-sand beaches and anchored by the jagged granite mountaintops above, it’s easy to fall in love with this city for its beauty alone. But beyond the lush gardens, beaches and sprawling vineyards lies a cultural melting pot of warehouses-turned-markets, exceptional dining, crafty pop-up shops, and a whole lot of history. South Africa’s oldest city is full of excitement and energy.
Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s best-known neighborhoods due to its colorful row houses and cobblestone streets, but there’s more to this highly photographed area than meets the eye. An architectural blend of Cape Dutch and Cape Georgian styles can be found here, along with the oldest house in the area that’s still in its original form, which is now home to the Bo-Kaap Museum. Stop in for a deep dive into local Islamic heritage and culture before taking some snaps of the photogenic area.
For a centrally located hotel with some serious character, you’re sleeping at Gorgeous George. Comprised of two carefully restored buildings that were connected back in the 1940s, the property seamlessly blends Art Deco and Edwardian architecture with modern, industrial elements (including brass, steel and concrete) to create a space that feels lived-in yet refined. Thoughtfully designed by Johannesburg’s Tristan du Plessis, the 32 guest rooms, restaurant, rooftop, pool and bar celebrate contemporary African design by showcasing locally made furniture, custom artwork, and a hand-selected mix of local and international treasures. (For another great hotel in Cape Town, perhaps try The Silo Hotel.)
Located on the V&A Waterfront, The Watershed is an absolute treasure. The converted warehouse has become somewhat of an incubator for small businesses over the last several years, offering a home to artists, designers and entrepreneurs. On the ground floor, you’ll find a retail market with 150+ pop-up shops featuring impeccably designed textiles and clothing, local arts and crafts, hand-carved furniture and more, while the floors above serve as a co-working space called Workshop17, which is used by many as office space and is also open for day use.
Visitors are spoiled by choices when it comes to Cape Town beaches, but while most people flock to the more mainstream enclaves of Camp’s Bay and Clifton, our suggestion is Beta Beach. This small-but-mighty beach is situated between two boulders, creating the perfect cove-like setting that delivers gentle waves, an abundance of sunlight, and killer views of Cape Town’s precious landmarks like Lion’s Head and the Twelve Apostles. Be sure to get there early though, because high tide means less beach for the taking.
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
Consistently ranked among the best botanical gardens in the world, Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is the kind of place you want to spend time—and lots of it. Set against the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, the hundred-plus-year-old garden (est. 1913) has 2,500 species of native plants and is part of the Cape Floral Region, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There’s much to see and do here, but the highlight reel goes something like this: explore the trails, hike up Skeleton Gorge, soak in the views from the canopy walkway, and end with a picnic on the seemingly endless lawns. If you’re lucky, you may catch a sunset concert featuring local musicians or a movie under the stars at the open-air cinema.
The Pot Luck Club
The Old Biscuit Mill is a Cape Town classic. Located in the heart of Woodstock, the 19th century factory now serves as the cultural and culinary hub for the neighborhood, and the city for that matter. While the Saturday market is the area’s main draw, there’s something special tucked away on the 6th floor, in the building’s old silo: The Pot Luck Club. The tapas-style restaurant by Luke Dale-Roberts has panoramic views of the Cape Town skyline and is modeled after a traditional pot luck dinner, with a plate-sharing menu that’s divided into five categories: salty, umami, sweet, sour, sweet ending. The Pot Luck Club is the casual, more affordable sister restaurant of The Test Kitchen, and is not to be missed.
A visit to wine country is mandatory when visiting South Africa, and it just so happens that the oldest winemaking region in the Southern Hemisphere is just 30 minutes from the city center in Constantia. The Constantia wine route takes you through rolling hills, green pastures and vineyards as far as the eye can see. Each wine farm has a different landscape and offers a tasting so you can sample a little bit of everything, from light and fruity whites to sweet dessert wines. Two of our favorites are Beau Constantia for the most awe-inspiring views, and Klein Constantia for its signature dessert wine, Vin de Constance. Local tour companies like Explore Sideways offer highly-curated food and wine experiences and can handle all of the logistics so you can enjoy responsibly.