TNT’s definitive guide to the mother of all African cities
No offence but you look like you need a break. If you’re looking for blazing sunshine, we have a suggestion: Cape Town. We may be entering winter here in Blighty but temperatures in South Africa’s favourite city are currently in the mid seventies…
But there’s more to the Mother City than merely ridiculously warm weather. Cape Town – arguably one of the most beautiful cities on the planet – also has awesome mountains (take a bow the iconic flat topped Table Mountain), world class Western Cape wines, brilliant beaches, excellent surf spots and mythical animals including the Big Five and Great White Sharks.
What’s more, reaching the Rainbow Nation is about to become easier than ever: as of 24 November, British Airways will fly from London Gatwick to Cape Town three times a week, while Thomas Cook will commence its seasonal flights from 15 December.
Sure at 11.5 hours, it’s a relatively long flight (swallow some sleeping pills and you’ll be none the wiser), but on arrival you’ll find that you have no jet lag to contend with. And conversely getting there is actually the easy part. Take it from TNT: the hardest part will be coming back…
Table Mountain (www.tablemountain.net) should be your first introduction to the city (and the likelihood is that it will be covered by its familiar barrister’s wig of white cloud). You could take the cable car to the 1,085m summit but, if you’re after some exercise, lace up your hiking boots and hit one of the 900 trails to the top where you’ll be rewarded with arresting views. The optimum time to make the climb/crawl (delete as appropriate) is the early morning when the crowds are thinner and the climate kinder.
Ticked off Table Mountain? Venture to the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront (www.waterfront.co.za) – one of Africa’s most visited sites owing to its restored wharfs and warehouses that are choc full of attractive shops and eateries. Due to open in September 2017 is the much buzzed about Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (www.zeitzfoundation.org) which will showcase works by local artists such as sculptor, Stefan Bloom. Until then, view the V&A as the gateway to Robben Island (www.robben-island.org.za) – home to the infamous prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated, along with over 3,000 political prisoners, during their fight to end Apartheid. Visitors are shown around this UN World Heritage Site by ex-political prisoners who work alongside former wardens making it the best demonstration of reconciliation.
Back on the mainland, make for the District Six Museum (www.districtsix.co.za) to learn how the segregationist laws implemented in the 50s, forcibly removed more than 60,000 black South Africans from the district after it was declared ‘a white area’.
THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Passionate about penguins? Then make a beeline for Boulders Bay which boasts over 3,000 penguins – plus pods of dolphins and colonies of seals. If you want to get up close and personal with whales though, you’ll need to head 60km east of Cape Town to Hermanus (www.hermanus.co.za) where – if lady luck is on your side – you’ll be able to see these majestic mammals splashing about in the Atlantic Ocean. Staying in Hermanus, thrill seekers can get their adrenaline going by signing up for a shark diving adventure with Shark Diving Unlimited (www.sharkdivingunlimited.com) who can count the likes of Leo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt as fans. Run by Mike Rutzen – one of the few people in the world to free dive with great whites – it’s a spine tingling experience for sure…
Beaches more your bag? Camps Bay (www.campsbaytourism.com) is the place for some serious people watching – the locals all look like models – while Clifton has four beaches each with their own distinctive personality.
Cape Town’s restaurant scene is on fire. Every week a new restaurant opens – particularly in the CBD District which has undergone something of a recent renaissance. New hotspots include Ash Restaurant where the emphasis is on charcoal cooking and The Sneaky Sausage (www.thesneakysausage.com) – a German beer hall serving, as the name suggests, German staples such as sausages plus pretzels and beer.
Of course no visit to Cape Town would be complete without trying a few traditional Cape Malay dishes. The Africa Cafe (www.africacafe.co.za) is a good place to get acquainted with African cuisine: guests can get stuck into 15 different dishes including bobotie (curried lamb or beef mince), biltong (dried meat) and malva (a divine sponge dessert).
Want to take advantage of the fantastic climate and eat al-fresco? Any of the restaurants overlooking Camps Bay should fulfil your criteria. For post dinner drinks, look to La Med (Glen Country Club, Victoria Road) – a perennially popular sundowner spot. Alternatively try Outrage of Modesty (www.anoutrage.com), a new CBD bar whose Biltong Blazer cocktail is garnering rave reviews.
Shopaholics will be in seventh heaven here. Clothes and shoes in the stores that line lively Long Street are not only a steal but their quirkiness is a refreshing antidote to chain stores, that dominate the British high street. For innovative keepsakes, try Greenmarket Square while the Pan African Market (76 Long Street) is also a good place to head for traditional handicrafts: think beadwork dolls, toys made from recycled tin cans and wire sculptures.
When you’re ready to taste the liquid of life, take a short drive to Stellenbosch (www.stellenbosch.travel) and Franschoek (www.franschhoek.org.za) – two postcard pretty towns renowned for their remarkable wines.
Other good day trips include Kalk Bay – a charming fishing harbour that’s home to enough art and antique shops to decimate your baggage allowance – and teensy, tiny Simon’s Town.
For more information on Cape Town, visit www.capetown.travel
Words: Kaye Holland