Home to golden beaches, a burgeoning cultural scene, top-quality wines and Table Mountain, it’s time to seek out some much-needed sunshine, says Francesca Hool
Why go? Lapped by Atlantic waves and shrouded by the looming shadow of Table Mountain, Cape Town is South Africa’s oldest and most cosmopolitan city. Its natural beauty captivates the imagination and the abundance of artistic talent is echoed in its colourful streets. Food is incredible here and you won’t fail to be impressed by the culinary show and insanely low prices.
The pound is strong against the South African rand and with the balmy, idyllic January climes, there’s no better time to visit.
What to do The key to cracking Cape Town is to rise with the sun. Take a paddle around the coast with Kaskazi Kayaks kayak.co.za and you’ll get the best views of Signal Hill and Lion’s Head with birds of paradise and Heaviside’s dolphins keeping you company. After breakfast, hop in a cable car up Table Mountain tablemountain.net before heading over to Robben Island robben-island.org.za to visit Nelson Mandela’s prison cell. If swimming is in order, hit Clifton’s 4th Beach for divine relaxation. Loungers and umbrellas cost $6 for the day. Saunter through the brightly coloured Cape-Malay neighbourhood of Bo-Kaap, then amble downtown to stylish Bree and Wale streets and seek out the secret gin bars (try 64 Wale St in the Commune.1 art gallery commune1.com for size). On the first Thursday of each month first-thursdays.co.za explore the most unique cultural attractions as art galleries, museums and stores open late.
Where to stay? Whether it be restored Cape Dutch architecture or contemporary treehouse-style pods, there is an array of top accommodation that brims with character. The 12 Apostles Hotel and Spa 00 27 21 437 9000, 12apostleshotel.com offers awe-inspiring surroundings for a peaceful stay. Rooms here are airy and elegant. Committed to conservation, Pod 00 27 021 438 8550, pod.co.za embraces a cocoon-like ambience. Huge, decadent suites come equipped with plush beds, sunbathing patios, terraces or plunge pools. Ellerman House 00 27 21 430 3200, ellerman.co.za is a Cape Edwardian mansion in Bantry Bay, with impressive grounds, a well-stocked champagne cellar and brandy lounge. Not open to the public, an air of allure and exclusivity pervades. La Grenadine Petit Hotel 00 27 21 424 1358, lagrenadine.co.za offers guests a rustic France-meets-South Africa oasis. The magnificent 19th-century farm is nestled in a garden full of old pomegranate, guava, olive and avocado trees. With only five rooms, it’s a fruitful sanctuary.
Where to eat and drink? Top-drawer red grape and charred steak aren’t the only delicacies Capetonians enjoy. The city boasts a food scene filled with finesse and flair. Markets with fantastic local produce take place every Saturday, including Oranjezicht City Farm ozcf.co.za at Granger Bay and The Old Biscuit Mill theoldbiscuitmill.co.za in Woodstock. For fine dining, multi award-winning Luke Dale-Roberts rules the roost with his restaurant The Test Kitchen 00 27 21 447 2337, thetestkitchen.co.za set in hip Woodstock. It sports an open-plan kitchen and serves the likes of smoked lamb and barley with toasted ginger wafer and liquorice-cured Wagyu biltong. Got a seafood craving? The CodFather 00 27 21 438 0782, codfather.co.za remains a Camps Bay institution. Slightly more romantic is Mulberry & Prince 00 27 21 422 3301, mulberryandprince.co.za which offers contemporary Capetonian cuisine in a cool yet cosy blush velvet interior. Order the ricotta dumplings followed by lamb ribs with raw honey and spices. If it’s drinks you’re after, head to Outrage Of Modesty 00 27 21 422 2902, anoutrage.com a tiny bar where spirits are made in-house and branded bottles don’t exist.
Time running out? Visit Babylonstoren farm 00 27 21 863 3852, babylonstoren.com for a different take on the Cape. Examine beautiful botany, hit the spa or sip grape under the gourde trees.
Trip tip Transport can be tricky here. Avoid local taxis and catch a MyCiti bus myciti.org.za or an Intercab intercab.co.za and if you’re hiring a car, be sure that you tip the car guards at least 5ZAR (30p) to watch over it while you are parked.
Currency is the South African rand. Time is two hours ahead of GMT. Flight time is approximately 9.6 hours from Dubai. The cost to carbon-offset is $19.06. For more details visit climatecare.org
Emirates Airlines flies three times each day from Dubai to Cape Town emirates.com
The Official Cape Town Tourist Guide is brimming with practical information and tips for getting around. goto.capetown
You Can’t Get Lost in Cape Town by Zoë Wicomb (Pantheon, $8.50) is a work of fiction exploring the experience of coloured citizens in apartheid-era South Africa.