Cape Town: Get an appetite for Africa

City Slicker: Cape Town - This modern gem has great beaches, mountain views, and no jet lag. James Litston offers tips for new and returning visitors

Why visit?

When it comes to show-stopping locations, few cities can compete with Cape Town. Its winning combination of Atlantic coastline and mountainous backdrop means it sits alongside Sydney and Rio de Janeiro as one of the world's most geographically gifted cityscapes.

The dominating presence of Table Mountain bestows a unique sense of place, while the city's urban attractions are complemented by beautiful beaches and an interior filled with wildlife and wineries. The favourable exchange rate and negligible time difference also offer a competitive edge, providing excellent value and zero jetlag. And, with the summer season now kicking off in earnest, it's a great time to go.

Physical attributes aside, Cape Town is also an incredibly dynamic city that's constantly evolving. Although the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront shopping and entertainment complex remains the obvious tourist hub, attention is gradually spreading inland to several inner-city districts where the appeal is edgier and considerably more authentic. Foremost of these is the industrial neighbourhood of Woodstock which, over the past few years, has emerged as one of Cape Town's coolest quarters. Every weekend, the city's movers and shakers descend on this area to explore its cafés, art galleries, design shops and food market. Change is afoot in the city centre, too, where the Long Street area is experiencing its own renaissance, with new cafés and an upbeat nightlife scene.

What's more, two recent announcements have pushed Cape Town into the spotlight. In October, it was officially awarded the title of World Design Capital for 2014, while last month Table Mountain was nominated as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature. Expect the resulting events and celebrations to draw ever more attention to Africa's most cosmopolitan city.

Dont miss...

The views from Table Mountain

Return trips on the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway (tablemountain.net) cost R195 (£15). Or go after 6pm for the half-price Sunset Special (valid until 29 February).

Lion's Head

Enjoy the same views for free by hiking up this vertiginous peak for a great vantage point over the city and Table Mountain.

A day-trip to Robben Island (robben- island.org.za)

A trip around the island prison where both Nelson Mandela and the current President, Jacob Zuma, were incarcerated during the apartheid era is a poignant tour. Trips depart from the V&A Waterfront.

Greenmarket Square

Go souvenir hunting at the colourful arts and crafts market with its wooden carvings, beaded jewellery and ostrich-leather handbags (Mon-Sat, 9am to 4pm).

Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden (sanbi.org)

This stunning collection of indigenous plants is set on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. Their dramatic setting makes the gardens all the more beautiful.

Boulders Beach

Go for close encounters with the famous colony of African penguins, followed by lunch at the Brass Bell in nearby Kalk Bay (brass bell.co.za).

A foodie tour with Coffeebeans Routes (coffeebeansroutes.com)

To discover bobotie, koesusters, daaltjies and other unusual (and hard to pronounce) delicacies from Cape Town's ethnic mix. Price R795 (£61) per person.

What's new

Woodstock

Like a cross between London's Shoreditch and Borough Market, this rundown, industrial neighbourhood is fast becoming a favourite weekend hangout. Trendy Capetonians flock to The Old Biscuit Mill to graze on local and regional foods at the Neighbourgoods Market (Saturdays, 9am to 2pm), or pick up designer homewares and other knick-knacks from the excellent, independent boutiques found here. There are more shops, cafés and galleries talong nearby Albert Road.

Details: theoldbiscuitmill.co.za

Queen Victoria Hotel

Cape Town's newest hotel opened in April, bringing a healthy dose of boutique chic to the busy V&A Waterfront. The 35 stylish bedrooms offer a contemporary take on classic design, with crystal chandeliers, etched-mirrors and a peaceful colour scheme that's sharp and elegant. Downstairs, the triple-height foyer with its spiral staircase provides plenty of wow-factor, while the food and Table Mountain view at the restaurant, Dash, are to die for.

Details: newmarkhotels.com

Wine & Dine

High tea amid the colonial grandeur of the Mount Nelson Hotel is a Cape Town institution, but a more recent innovation is the Wine & Dine dinner series in the hotel's redesigned Planet restaurant. Events are held on the last Friday of every month and they feature a seven-course degustation menu with wine pairings hosted by regional producers. At just R395 (£30) per head, it's absurdly good value.

Details: planetbarandrestaurant.co.za

Ellerman Contemporary Art Gallery

This private gallery is for the exclusive enjoyment of guests staying at Ellerman House, Cape Town's most distinguished hotel (though it can be viewed by appointment). Set in terraced gardens overlooking Bantry Bay, the gallery houses a rotating collection of contemporary paintings, sculpture and installations from established and emerging South African artists. Another 300-odd works by such celebrated artists as John Meyer and Pierneef are displayed in the main house.

Details: ellerman.co.za/art

Green Point Park & Biodiversity Garden

The 2010 Fifa World Cup may be over, but its legacy lives on. Green Point Park, lying in the shadow of Cape Town Stadium, was completed in February and features a Biodiversity Garden with more than 300 species of native plants. The vegetation is now becoming more established and so the gardens are coming into their own, providing a popular and free amenity for residents and visitors. Signs invite visitors to touch, smell and learn about particular plants, while metal sculptures and brightly beaded, decorative animals add a light-heartedness touch to the place.

Compact Facts

How to get there

South African Airways (0844 375 9680; flysaa.com) flies daily to Cape Town from London Heathrow. Return fares start from £806. Rooms at the Queen Victoria (newmarkhotels.com) cost from R3,745 (£284) per night, including breakfast. B&B at Ellerman House (ellerman.co.za) costs from R4,500 (£341) per night.

Further information

South African Tourism (southafrica.net); Cape Town Tourism (capetown.travel).

Insider Secret

German de la Melena, Restaurateur (escapecaffe.com)

Enhance your caffeine fix with the best cheesecake in town at Escape Caffé. It must be the only café in the world that's run by a Nobel Peace Prize winner [Lameen Abdul-Malik].

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
On set of the Secret Cinema's Back to the Future event
filmBut why were Back to the Future screenings cancelled?
News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Lewis Hamilton walks back to the pit lane with his Mercedes burning in the background
Formula 1
Arts and Entertainment
The new characters were announced yesterday at San Diego Comic Con
comic-con 2014
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
No Devotion's Geoff Rickly and Stuart Richardson
musicReview: No Devotion, O2 Academy Islington, London
News
i100
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
News
i100
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    C++ Software Engineer - Hounslow, West London - C++ - to £60K +

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Pension, Healthcare : Deerfoot IT Resources Limite...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Visitor Experience volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary role: Old Royal Naval College: To assist the Visitor Experien...

    Telesales Manager. Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Day In a Page

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

    The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

    What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

    Inside a church for Born Again Christians

    As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
    Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

    Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
    Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

    Incredible survival story of David Tovey

    Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride