Table Mountain provides the dramatic backdrop to the city, with its vine-covered hills basking lazily under the sun, and white beaches fringing its Indian and Atlantic shores. It’s a heady mix that makes for an exciting place to live, work and play, inspiring innovation and nurturing the city’s evergreen restaurant, bar and arts scenes.
“For many, Cape Town is the gateway to Africa and it is undoubtedly one of the continent’s best and most livable cities,” says Blake Gowar, founder of The Constantia Wine Tour, which specializes in tasting trips around Constantia, Cape Town’s oldest wine region. “The scenery is exquisite, our neighborhoods are thriving, there’s opportunity for adventure and, of course, the chance to raise a world-class glass or two at the end of the day.”
Morning: Rise and Shine
Take to the sky to see why Cape Town has earned its rightful place alongside Sydney, New York and Rio de Janeiro when it comes to spectacular cityscapes.
City Bowl is the heart of Cape Town, sitting in a natural amphitheater that sits between the ancient sandstone walls of Table Mountain and sparkling azure waters of the Atlantic. There’s no better way to view the city than from above, as you take off in a helicopter from the V&A Waterfront, and the natural beauty of the Cape comes into view.
NAC Helicopters offers a range of trips ranging from a 12-minute flight over the Green Point Stadium, past Robben Island and the Twelve Apostles mountains, to a 40-minute flight down to Cape Point, with epic views of the region’s lush wine estates and the curves of Hout and False Bays, where you may even see a whale surface in the blue.
Back on terra firma, wander the diverse arts and craft stalls inside the Watershed on Dock Road, explore the continent’s largest collection of contemporary art at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA), and look out for Cape fur seals soaking up some sun in the harbor.
Afternoon: Set Sail on the Atlantic
Catch a cruise from the V&A Waterfront for a relaxing, wind-powered exploration of Cape Town’s coastline. Yacoob Yachts offers daily 60-minute sails on the 40ft Ameera catamaran, with the chance to spot wild dolphins offshore, while sister yacht, Tigresse, heads out for 90-minute sunset tours, as passengers sink sparkling wines from the Cape.
Evening: Roar up Lion’s Head
The 90-minute hike to the top of the city’s Lion’s Head peak is another hot spot for watching the sun drop. In summer, start out from the car park at 6.30pm to get to the top by eight, while in autumn and winter, hikers should aim to summit between 6pm and 7pm. Choose the left route for a gentler climb, or go extreme with chains and ladders on the right route – whichever you choose, the 360-degree views from the 2200ft peak will be worth it. The hike is popular on the night of the full moon, too, but go with a guide.
The five-star 15 On Orange Hotel, Autograph Collection, in Gardens provides an urban oasis for the night, with its leafy, green lobby, bright contemporary rooms and suites, an open-air pool and deck, and eye-popping Table Mountain views. In the hotel restaurant, executive chef, Tamsyn Wells, serves seasonal dishes, “with a focus on flavors and simplicity.” Oh, and do your post-hike legs a favor by not taking the stairs – there are gold velvet upholstered chairs in the elevators for you to rest in as you ascend.
Morning: Visit Robben Island
Grab an early bite at the hotel, or go local at Arnolds on Kloof Street, a 10-minute stroll away. This Cape Town institution is a gem of a neighborhood joint, serving hearty and healthy breakfasts and zingy Bloody Marys to kick-start the day. Head to the V&A Waterfront and catch a boat to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Robben Island, where former President of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, spent 18 of his 27 years of incarceration, before the fall of apartheid. Tours are best booked in advance online and last around 3.5 hours, including the return ferry trip across Table Bay. The Robben Island Museum highlights places of interest, such as the limestone quarry where Mandela – who called it the prison on Robben Island his “university” – was put to work for up to 13 hours a day. Former inmates guide visitors through the prison which houses the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s cell, recounting moving tales of their own time inside, and Mandela’s journey to freedom.
Afternoon: Jump off the Table
Pick up one of Cape Town’s legendary, foot-long, shareable super-subs, known as a Gatsby, to fuel an afternoon abseiling from the city’s iconic Table Mountain. Buckle up for a safety briefing, then drop off the top, which is almost 3300ft above sea level, admiring the sweeping views of Camps Bay, the Twelve Apostles mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.
Evening: Play Woodstock
Watch the sun go down over the Mountain with a glass of Stellenbosch Chenin blanc from the pool deck at 15 On Orange Hotel, before exploring Woodstock - one of Cape Town’s oldest neighborhoods, reborn as a vibrant, urban village. Historic buildings, warehouses and abandoned breweries have been repurposed as hip, industrial restaurants and bars, and among the best is The Pot Luck Club, housed on the top floor of the silo at The Old Biscuit Mill.
Owner and chef, Luke Dale-Roberts – who runs celebrated sister restaurant, The Test Kitchen – offers sharing plates that play to the five basic tastes: salty, sweet, sour, umami and sweet. You could stick to one, but step out of your comfort zone and dinner will be as exciting as the 360-degree views from your table.
Keep the intrigue going with a nightcap at the Art of Duplicity, a jazz bar and speakeasy in a secret location, only revealed when you make a reservation. No matter how long you spend in this city, there will always be another surprise to uncover.
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