Let your hair down in South Africa’s top party town. Ian McCurrach offers a guide

The scene

The Mother City turns into party town after dark when locals, savvy tourists and business travellers alike jump-start their evenings by making the pilgrimage to Signal Hill to watch the sun go drop down beneath the creamy Atlantic.

Go armed with some nibbles, glasses and a bottle of Cap Classique (the excellent local sparkling wine) and savour the sunset that casts a golden glow over one of the world's most geographically dramatic cities – there are few places where you can go from beach to city centre to wild mountaintop in less than a few minutes flat?

The highly favourable exchange rate, currently nearly 15 Rand to £1, makes it possible to dine out and party here like royalty for a fraction of the price at home. And with only a one-hour time difference there's no jet lag, so once the business day is done you can get out and enjoy yourself.

Driving is the only way to go and street parking is a cinch – simply pay R5 (40 pence) to the security patrols who watch over your vehicle. Despite the reported high crime rate, Cape Town can seem comfortingly safe.


Cruise along to Camps Bay (keeping your eyes peeled for Table Mountain's Twelve Apostle peaks tapering into the distance) and savour the cocktails at Café Caprice at 37 Victoria Road (00 27 21 438 8315), the chic lounge bar of SA rugby bad boy James Small. This is the place to pose with a Manhattan while checking out the rest of the sleek, tanned bodies swaying to the hip live DJ beats. For a delightfully different time-warp in the early evening affair, pull up a leather armchair at Planet Champagne Bar in the Mount Nelson Hotel at 76 Orange Street (00 27 21 483 1000; www.mountneslson.co.za). Graham Viney gave Cape Town's grande dame hotel bar a refreshing makeover recently and it is now inhabited by beautiful people intent on networking. Situated in the gentrified Cape Quarter, Tank at 72 Waterkant Street (00 27 21 419 0007; www.the-tank.co.za) has been open four years but is still one of the "in" spots in town. The well-heeled and mature crowd ensures a sceney hotspot.


To savour the catch of the day with breathtaking views over the Atlantic wend your way to Wakame at 1st floor, corner of Beach Rd and Surrey Place (00 27 21 433 2377; www.wakame.co.za), for melt-in-the-mouth sushi and seafood at its finest. Currently closed it reopens on 3 September. Savoy Cabbage, at 101 Hout Street (00 27 21 424 2626; www.savoycabbage.co.za), serves up gourmet cuisine (heavy on game and seafood) in a good-looking concrete, glass and brick setting. Located in a two-storey building in the trendy Bo-Kaap neighbourhood, Ginga, at 121 Castle Street (00 27 21 426 2368), features world-fusion fare on the ground floor, while upstairs Shoga produces gourmet pizzas in a bistro atmosphere. Over in Camps Bay, Blues at The Promenade, Victoria Road (00 27 21 438 2040; www.blues.co.za) offers Californian-Mediterranean fusion cooking in a contemporary eaterie synonymous with spectacular Camps Bay views.


Cape Town encompasses both conventional and a more experimental arts scene. For tickets and up-to-the-minute listings visit www.computicket.co.za. Most major performances, opera, theatre and ballet are housed in the Artscape Theatre Centre at DF Malan Street (00 27 21 421 7839; www.artscape.co.za).


A posse of new promoters guarantees a vibrant clubland. Local dance music producers (Platform, Nano, African Dope, Algorythm et al) mix with visiting international DJs and artists and the results are eclectically electric. Venues come and go, so check with the local paper Cape Argus (out on Fridays) for the latest one-off parties. Firm favourites include Chilli & amp; Lime at 23 Somerset Road (00 27 21 421 3755).