The stunning setting of Cape Town makes it one of the most beautiful cities in the world, says SARAH WILSON
South Africa’s breathtaking landscapes are legendary, but Cape Town tops the lot with miles of unspoilt coastline and dramatic ocean set against the spectacular backdrop of Table Mountain. It’s a city with many vantage points where you can take in the majestic harbour, the pretty architecture of the pink and orange Cape Dutch houses that lead up to beautiful Signal Hill and the mountainous outcrop of Lion’s Head (if you’re brave, try paragliding from here for the most breathtaking views of all). The centre of town is vibrant yet the lifestyle here is so relaxed. The landscaped Company’s Gardens in the very heart of the city is one of the best places to experience this laid-back approach to life.
Compact for exploring, the centre around Long Street, Bree Street, Kloof and De Waterkant is buzzing and packed with interesting stores, artisan coffee shops and galleries. This combination of nature, wildlife, heritage and culture means Cape Town is now up there at the top of many people’s must-visit list. It’s also very affordable for British tourists at the moment, who will find the pound goes a long way.
FOOD AND DRINK
If you’re a fan of curry you’ll love the food. Cape Malay cuisine is unique, mixing African traditions with those of the slaves from Indonesia and Malaysia. Try the curry-filled bread called ‘bunny chow’ at Mariam’s Kitchen.
Barbecues or braai are big too – at Belthazar they serve African game including ostrich, springbok and crocodile, and claim to be the ‘biggest wine by the glass bar in the world’, with 250 different kinds available.
Go for cocktails at the Cape Grace Hotel. Try a Bushveld Mule with whisky, bitters, fresh lime and house-made ginger beer. Sit outside and enjoy the stunning views of Table Mountain and the harbour.
About an hour’s drive from Cape Town, Franschhoek is known as South Africa’s gourmet capital. Set among oak trees in pretty gardens, The Greenhouse Restaurant
at Babylonstoren serves picnic-style food such as wood-fired bread and handcrafted cheeses.
Don’t go home without trying other specialities including biltong (beef jerky), bobotie (baked spiced mince topped with egg custard) and boerewors (spicy sausage).
SIX MUST DOS
1. Winelands tour
Western Cape offers tasting tours and vineyard restaurants with accommodation, so you can turn it into a mini-trip. Cape Route 62 is the longest and the Stellenbosch route the oldest. Visit the Spier Wine Estate, which dates back to 1767, or the Nederburg Wine Estate.
2. Table Mountain
Take the rotating cable car, which gives you a 360-degree view and takes ten minutes, but factor in queuing time in high season. You can hike to the summit but it’s tough. At the top, enjoy stunning views over Cape Town and beyond, including Robben Island.
3. Langa township
For a truly unforgettable experience, book a walking tour of the city’s oldest townships, meet the people who live there and discover the history of how they came to settle in Langa. Book lunch at Lelapa for traditional township food.
4. The beach and coastline
Cape Town’s Atlantic seaboard is known for its unspoilt beach, dramatic views and awesome sunsets, and Clifton and Camps Bay are only a short MyCiTi bus ride away. For the warmer waters of the Indian Ocean, head east to False Bay while Boulders Beach is home to penguins.
5. Whale watching
Just south of Cape Town is Hermanus, the perfect place to see southern right whales from June until November. You don’t even have to go out on a boat as they come in just a few metres from the shore. If you’re lucky, you may see humpbacks or even killer whales and their calves at play.
6. Robben Island
A symbol of human rights, expect to be moved at this prison that played such a key role in South African history. It was a place of incarceration long before apartheid and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll be guided around the prison by a former political prisoner.
BIG FIVE SAFARI
A trip to Africa isn’t complete without a safari to see ‘The Big Five’ – lion, leopard, elephant, rhino and buffalo. There are various ways to do this, but it’s probably best to avoid those game reserves that feel a little bit like a UK safari park, with animals ‘placed’ in their natural habitat. Expert Africa has a number of self-drive options from the city including Cape Mountain Zebra Self-Drive Safari, which stops at four different destinations including the Bushmans Aloof Wilderness Reserve in the Cedarberg Mountains and the Grootbos Private Nature Reserve. Costs from £1,920 pp for 15 nights, two sharing. expertafrica.com
WHERE TO STAY
The Blue House: Colonnaded mansion in tropical gardens located in a secluded spot just a 15-minute walk from the centre of Cape Town. Brightly decorated, you can lounge on your own private balcony. A superior double room costs £118pn. thebluehousect.com
One&Only: Treat yourself to a luxury stay at one of Cape Town’s leading hotels. With stunning views of either Table Mountain or the marina, fancy dining and big rooms. oneandonlyresorts.com
Ellerman House: This classic boutique hotel is a ten-minute drive from the centre of Cape Town and is known for its stunning views of the ocean and private gardens. With 11 rooms and two suites, it’s perfect for quiet nights by the beach. Rooms from £55pn. ellerman.co.za
CURRENCY South African rand (ZAR)
TIME DIFFERENCE GMT +2
VISA Not needed
CLIMATE Cape Town has cool, wet winters and hot summers. The average temperature in February is 23°C, which is the hottest month of the year and also when it’s least likely to rain. JABS Diphtheria and hepatitis A. Other vaccines to consider include cholera, hepatitis B, rabies, tetanus and typhoid. See nhs.uk/conditions/travel-immunisation.
GETTING THERE British Airways fly daily to Cape Town from Heathrow. You can fly with Virgin Atlantic and South African Airways with a stop in Johannesburg or Emirates with a stop in Dubai. Return from London to Cape Town travelling this month costs from £805. TRAVEL WITH CHILDREN There are new requirements for those under 18 entering, transiting or departing the country. See southafricahouseuk.com/visas.
GETTING AROUND Walk or hop on and off MyCiTi buses.
TO FIND OUT MORE Visit uk.southafrica.net