10 reasons Cape Town is the best city in the world

There’s no shortage of places to spend your holiday budget, but then there’s also no city on earth quite like Cape Town. Here are our top 10 reasons why Cape Town is the hottest city to visit this year…

1: The mountain

Let’s get this one out the way first. Table Mountain defines Cape Town. Locals give directions by it, the city is shaped by it, and tourists can’t help but admire it from all angles. If you don’t ascend it, by foot or by cableway, you’re missing out.

2: The ocean

Contrary to popular belief there’s only one ocean – the Atlantic – around Cape Town, but with water on three fronts the big blue defines the city as much as the mountain. Swim in warm False Bay, get glamorous on the beaches of Clifton or admire it from the plentiful scenic cruises leaving the V&A Waterfront.

3: The city

Few African cities have a downtown city centre as cosmopolitan as Cape Town’s. Markets, cafés and pedestrianised streets throng with tourists and locals day and night. Leave the car behind and take a walk.

4: The Test Kitchen

The full gourmand menu at The Test Kitchen – the best restaurant in Africa, and Number 28 in the world – will set you back R1,200. Sound like a lot? Consider this: a similar dinner at Number 29 on the list, Tokyo’s Nihonryori RyuGin, will sting you for R3,700.

5: The food

Speaking of food: Cape Town is the culinary capital of the continent, no question. You’ll find buzzy city centre bistros and chic seaside eateries, cult dive bars and laidback pavement cafés. You’ll never go hungry here.

6: Past and present

Cape Town lives its history. The working harbour that gave birth to the city remains an integral part of daily life, while the Company’s Garden that fed the earliest sailors survives to this day. From the District Six Museum to the colourful streets of the Bo Kaap there’s no shortage of living history to discover.

7: Designed in Africa

Home to the annual Design Indaba, a world-renowned design conference, you’ll find incredible design and products across the city. Pan African Market offers Afro-centric goods from the continent, while the Watershed at the V&A Waterfront precinct showcases top local designers. Also look out for Imagenius, Heartworks and Stable.

8: Arts, Cape

Cape Town will soon be home to arguably the finest art gallery on the continent, when the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (MOCAA) opens at the V&A Waterfront precinct in September 2017. A dramatic architectural conversion by starchitect Thomas Heatherwick has made a fine home for Africa’s leading collection of African artworks.

9: ‘The Prom’

Few cities in the world embrace their ocean setting as well as Cape Town does. The Sea Point Promenade is the place to join the locals in admiring the big blue. This five kilometre promenade is filled with locals throughout the week, and gets especially busy on weekends.

10: Green spaces

Aside from Table Mountain, Cape Town prides itself on its abundance of green spaces. The Company’s Garden is the city’s (much smaller) answer to Central Park, while the likes of Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden and the Green Point Urban Park make wide open spaces easily accessible.

Want more reasons? Just keep surfing this site!

10 Reasons to Love Cape Town

All About Cape Town asked local experts why they love their city. From beautiful beaches and dream surf conditions to foodie finds and art galore, Cape Town’s got it all.

1. ITS BEST-IN-THE-WORLD BEACHES

Cape Town: One of the best places to be a beach bum. Clifton isn’t only the best beach in Cape Town, according to nature and hiking guide book author Fiona McIntosh, it’s among the best in the world. Read more

2. TASTE THE CULTURE

Cape Town has a fascinating, multi-faceted heritage – and food is a great way to start exploring the diverse cultures that make up the city’s character. Sit down to eat with a Cape Malay or Xhosa cook and hear a story. Cape Town cuisine is an unusual mix of umngqusho (a corn and bean stew), pickled fish, melktert (milk tart), ulusu (stewed ox tripe), bobotie (mince curry with a savoury custard) and koeksisters (knotted pastries soaked in syrup). Iain Harris, whose company Coffeebeans Routes runs a cuisine route in Cape Town, chats to us about the link between food and culture. Read more

3. IT’S A FANTASY-LAND FOR FOODIES

Cape Town is often called the culinary capital of South Africa – and there’s an almost endless line up of eateries to keep your taste buds tempted. Take for example, The Foodbarn in Noordhoek Village, which serves a delectable menu of award-winning, French-inspired food. Executive chef, co-founder and author Franck Dangereux has made Cape Town his home and his creations offer us a celebration for your taste buds – so he’s perfectly placed to explain just what makes the flavours of Cape Town so distinctly unique. Watch the video 

4. THE COOL COFFEE SHOPS

Coffee culture in Cape Town is evolving at the speed of light, or should we say, with the energy you get from a triple-shot-fair-trade-sourced espresso. New coffee shops pop up all the time, and Cape Town city centre’s foodie strip Bree Street recently welcomed a new coffee kid to its trendy block. Introducing Folk Coffee Anthropology. Read more 

5. YOU CAN SURF (ALMOST) 365 DAYS A YEAR

With an unbeatable landscape, two oceans and a wind factor from any direction that almost guarantees epic waves, Cape Town is a surfer’s dream destination. Just ask pro big wave rider Matt Bromley. Watch the video

6. ITS OLD AND NEW WINE (AND WINEMAKERS)

Cape Town is kingdom of wine, with plenty of seasoned bards in the wine industry as well as a host of up-and-coming young winemakers. Respected wine judge and certified Cape Wine Master Winnie Bowman tells us that the young ones are well worth seeking out, and recommends three to start with. Read more

7. THE MEN IN GREY SUITS (AKA GREAT WHITES)

Cape Town is one of only three places in the world where you can cage dive with great white sharks. Shark-diving pro Broqc Maxey from Shark Explorers explains why no trip to Cape Town would be complete without coming face to face with these powerful predators… Watch the video

8. IT HAS SERIOUS JAZZ SWAGGER

Cape Town’s got swagger – jazz swagger, that is. With a freestyle jazz jam on almost every night of the week, a lowdown is needed. Enter saxophonist and session musician Claire de Cock on what’s hot. Read more

And for the ultimate Cape Town jazz experience, there’s the Cape Town International Jazz Festival (1-2 April 2016 ). As one of the largest music festivals on the continent, this event is a drawcard for jazz lovers from across the globe. Find out why…

9. THE SUPER-SMART STREET ART

Stories must be told. Cape Town creatives use a range of mediums to tell those from the city dwellers – none more vibrantly than local street artists. Take a tour with Martin Lund, one of the artists livening up Cape Town’s wonder walls… Watch the video

10. IT HAS PLENTY NATURAL HIGHS

Cape Town’s natural beauty is awesome … and edible! With our abundance of edible plants and two coastlines dishing up plenty of sea-salted treats, this is the perfect place to forage for food, says Roushanna Grey, founder of Veld and Sea, an organisation that runs courses to teach people how to forage for foods from the natural environment. Read more

2 pop-up design stores with staying power

Present Space and Fabricate started as pop-up design emporiums in Cape Town malls, and soon became permanent fixtures – proving that quality local design can hold its own amongst commercial brands.

Cape Town is not short of high-end shopping malls, but with the vibrant design community growing from strength to strength and a host of new designers emerging each year, good quality, local design is becoming more and more accessible.

This was one of the core values set out by Cape Town as World Design Capital 2014: to make good design that’s proudly South African readily available to everyone.  Present Space and Fabricate are doing just that. Both started out as pop-up stores, but have retained their presence and become permanent fixtures at the respective malls they’re located in.

Present Space, at the Lifestyle on Kloof centre in Kloof Street, is beautifully curated with warm, golden lighting washing the shelves packed with locally-designed products. The mainly monochrome aesthetic consists of homeware and lifestyle goods, such as Sugar & Vice and Zana, lighting by The Artisan and ceramics by Elsa Burger, as well as some jewellery and fashion accessory designers. Present Space pride themselves on representing close to 100 young South African design brands and are passionate about the abundance of local talent in Cape Town.

Likewise, Fabricate in the Gardens Centre, Cape Town’s oldest shopping mall, is a champion of local design, and markets itself as a gift emporium. Their range of products extends across the design disciplines of jewellery, home décor, accessories and other gifting goods. Look out for intricate prints and artworks by Lauren Fowler, Dayfeels and Artymiss, amongst others, as well as bespoke paper products by Chandler House. Their home décor and accessories side include wood items by Milkshed and The Ark, and cork and copper accessories by Leg Studios.

Both of these local design emporiums stock a vast range of products and you’ll be spoilt for choice if you’re looking gifts or accessories that capture the vibrancy and talent of Cape Town’s design scene here.

3 Cape Town half marathons you just have to run

From September to April you’re likely to find a race in or around Cape Town every weekend. But every runner — even casual weekend warriors — should try these three Cape half marathons at least once.

1. The Two Oceans Half Marathon: Undoubtedly the biggest and most anticipated half marathon in Cape Town, the Two Oceans Half Marathon attracts 16 000 runners each year – and those are just the ones who manage to secure an entry. The half marathon, which has been run since 1998 and always takes place over the Easter weekend, doesn’t actually take runners alongside either ocean;, although you might catch a glimpse of False Bay from the top of Edinburgh Drive.

Southern Cross Drive, which you’ll hit about halfway through the 21.1 kilometre race, is quite tough, but the sheer number of runners means that there’s a limit to how quickly you can plod up the hill anyway. Given the congestion, you’re not likely to run a personal best, but the festive atmosphere and phenomenal support along the way more than makes up for it.

2. The Gun Run: With a field about half the size of that of the Two Oceans, the Gun Run is still festive, but – barring the first couple of kilometres – not as annoyingly congested. The race, which is organised by the Atlantic Athletic Club and was first run in 1992, originally started at 09H30 so that the Noon Gun fired from Signal Hill marked the cut-off. These days, the Cape Field Artillery signals the start and end of the race with the firing of a battlefield gun.

For the most part the Gun Run, which takes place in October, is relatively flat, making it a fun and easy first half marathon. The hill on Kloof Road is fairly taxing, but you are rewarded with stunning views of the ocean and a fairly easy descent into Camps Bay. The last few kilometres, along the Atlantic coastline, are mostly flat and picturesque. Water stations compete for a “best table” prize, so the vibe is always great.

3. The Cape Peninsula Half Marathon: The Cape Peninsula Marathon, which is organised by Celtic Harriers, was first run in 1964 with 19 runners. The full marathon starts in Cape Town and finishes at the Naval Sports Field in Simon’s Town. The half marathon starts in Bergvliet – adjacent to the halfway mark in the marathon – and the two routes quickly merge.

Except for a few hills as you make your way into Simon’s Town, this is a pretty flat route and the fact that you run much of it along the coastal road makes it an enjoyable one. The full marathon usually attracts a big crowd running qualifying races for the Two Oceans Ultra Marathon, so the mood at the finish is festive. Once you’re done, you can simply catch a train back to the start with the other runners.

3 great kiteboarding instructors in Cape Town

You’ve got to start somewhere, and the best way to learn the basics is with a few lessons. A good kiteboarding instructor will not just teach you the techniques — they’ll pass on the right attitude. Here are my top three instructors around Cape Town.

1. Dimitri Panagiotibis

WindChasers, Langebaan

“It’s absolutely vital to go for lessons for the simple reason that safety should be your absolute top priority,” says Dimitri Panagiotibis, who has been teaching since 2002. “Getting into the water safely is as important as having the skills. It’s not something that you learn on your own.”

WindChasers kiteboarding school has been around since 2004. It is one of only two International Kiteboarding Organisation centres in South Africa and was the first kiteboarding school to use radio communication to teach (in 2006). And it’s based in Langebaan — a great location for kiteboarding.

2. Bruce Gonlag

Best Kiteboarding School, Table View

Bruce has been a kiteboarding instructor for 12 years. He learned to kiteboard in England, and teaching others is something that has come quite naturally to him. “Having battled my way through it myself, I found myself spending more and more time helping other people on the weekends,” he says. “That’s when I learned about the qualification and after I completed it I became an instructor.” He hasn’t looked back since!

3. Lewis Crathern

High Five, Sunset Beach

If you prefer something a bit more social and fun, then this is the school for you. High Five is essentially a set of three neighbouring beach houses in Beach Boulevard that offer accommodation and a gateway to the many adventure sports in Cape Town. “Last night we had a huge barbecue,” says Lewis Crathern, who runs the kiteboarding school, “and we’re all about the good vibes.” He recommends group sessions to start with, because they’re cheaper and can be more fun.

3 great local breweries to visit for craft beer tastings

While you’ll find top-notch craft beer at bars and restaurants across Cape Town, it’s always cool to go to the source for a beer tasting at a local craft brewery. Lucy Corne, a respected beer judge and author of South African beer guide Beer Safari, shares a few of her favourites.

The Taproom at the Devil’s Peak Brewing Company is the go-to for craft brewers, because the beer is good, the food is good and it’s a very cool space. It ticks all the boxes. They’re always open and they have food available.

The Riot Factory at The Palms Centre in Woodstock is also very good, but they’re not open very often.

Another good venue in Woodstock is the Brewer’s Co-Op, which was started by about 15 brewers who all clubbed together and bought the brewing equipment.

The brewers have a schedule where they can each use the facilities to brew their own beers, and they’re all available on tap, so there are loads and loads of beers to try.

You can expect up to 20 beers at a time, and because they really just want people to sample their beer they keep it really affordable.

3 half marathons worth heading out of the city for

While Cape Town has its fair share of magnificent half marathons, there are at least three in the surrounding areas that are worth travelling to for a day trip or a weekend getaway.

1. The Safari Half Marathon: This half marathon, first run in 1988, takes you through the little town of Wellington, about an hour’s drive from Cape Town, and the surrounding farmlands. You spend a fair amount of the race on gravel roads and many of the local farmworkers and their children come out to support you. There is something really special about running through this beautiful part of the Cape when the morning is still fresh and full of promise.

The half marathon is always run on the first of May – a public holiday – and it is late enough in the year that it doesn’t start too early. As the name suggests, the race is sponsored by Safari dried fruit, so the goodie bags come filled with tasty treats.

2. The Vital Winelands Half Marathon: By November the days can get scorching hot in Stellenbosch (a 40-minute drive from the city centre), so this half marathon starts very early, which means that if you are making the trek from Cape Town you should leave home at around 03h30! Thankfully, the beautiful scenery — you spend some time running through farmland – compensates for that early start.

This half marathon was introduced after the Winelands Marathon had been run for 19 years. The two races converge at the 32 kilometre mark in the marathon, and both finish at the Eikestad Primary School. With over 4 000 runners crossing the finish line, there is a festive atmosphere at the end. That said, the support along the way is not spectacular, and there is a fairly long (and hilly!) stretch of the race where you have to run on the shoulder of a busy highway.

3. Knysna Half Marathon: One of the most popular half marathons in South Africa, the Knysna Half Marathon in Knysna, a solid six hour-plus drive up the Garden Route, is the perfect excuse for a weekend away! This hilly half marathon starts in the heart of the Knysna forest. Because it is run in the middle of winter, it can be pretty darn cold, so there is a tradition of runners wearing warm clothes and blankets at the start. These items, which are discarded at the start and along the route, are donated to less fortunate members of the community.

The Knysna half marathon is not easy. It kicks off with a gradual 2.5 kilometre hill, followed by a long stretch of undulating jeep track. Later, as you descend into Knysna, you are faced with a gruelling, quad-killing downhill, but the views are amazing. Because everyone is staying for the weekend, and the half marathon forms part of the Knysna Oyster Festival, everything post-race is one big party.

3 must-try wine festivals in the beautiful Robertson valley

Looking to enjoy some of the best Cape wines, while soaking up gorgeous country scenery? Dax Villanueva, the writer behind popular Cape Town food, wine, travel and lifestyle blog Relax-With-Dax, gives the low-down on three special wine festivals to try in the Robertson valley.

Many people associate the Robertson valley (two hours’ drive from Cape Town) with the Wacky Wine Weekend, which is a crazy wine festival with over 10 000 attendees. But Robertson also has some other amazing wine festivals that are much calmer!

The Robertson Slow festival is all about doing very special things in small groups on various local wine estates. Booking in advance is essential so that the organisers can cater properly for all attendees.

Robertson also hosts Wine on the River, which happens on the Goudmyn farm on the edge of the Breede River. It’s beautiful on the river and festival goers can take a cruise on the river or, if you prefer dry land, you can take a tractor-ride through the vineyards. Many wineries take part in the Wine on the River festival and there is an array of great food options, making it a very special day. Robertson is about two hours away from Cape Town so it’s a good idea to book some accommodation nearby.

3 old-school steakhouses that serve a great slab

South Africans love their red meat and there’s no shortage of great steak restaurants in Cape Town. Here are a few local favourites worth a visit…

You’ll never struggle to find a great slab of red meat in South Africa and even though Cape Town is known for its cosmopolitan globetrotting cuisine, it is also  home to a number of top-notch old-school steakhouses.

In Cape Town’s southern suburbs the locals speak of one particular steakhouse in reverential tones: The Hussar Grill.

The Hussar first fired up the grills in 1964 and today the service and offering is as dependable as the retro gilded doors that open on to Main Road in Rondebosch.

Consistency is the watchword here and you won’t find foams, jus or fancy cooking; only solid cuts of meat at decent prices. There’s a charming old-school feel to the décor, and the service is unfailingly friendly. A rump steak with chips and onion rings is the default order for most locals, but also look out for special cuts and game meats on the chalkboard.

For something a little more stylish, try the Butcher Shop & Grill opposite the Mouille Point lighthouse. This trendy Johannesburg-based brand has quickly built up a fan base thanks to its upmarket décor and wide-ranging menu. Prime cuts are aged for up to 40 days, ensuring top quality meat, and with two wine cellars on site you’re assured of a great wine to go with your meal.

Down the road the V&A Waterfront shopping and entertainment precinct is filled with great restaurants, but if you fancy a steak Belthazar is your best bet. With the feel of a New York grillroom it’s a distinctly upmarket experience – with prices to match. There’s a good range of seafood on offer as well, but it’s the steaks you should be looking at. Fillet, rump, sirloin and T-bone can all be ordered in portions to suit your appetite, but the daily selection of game meats is most popular.

Belthazar also impresses when it comes to wine. Aside from boasting one of the best wine lists in the city you’ll also find over 200 wines by the glass.

3 of the city’s best captive wildlife experiences

When you think of a city, a ragged-tooth shark or an African rock python probably aren’t the first things that come to mind. But then you might not be thinking of Cape Town, where you can get up close to wildlife right in the city at animal parks and sanctuaries. Don’t miss these wildife encounters.

1. The Two Oceans Aquarium: Situated in Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront precinct, the Two Oceans Aquarium gives a glimpse of what you might see should you go diving in one of the nearby oceans. In addition to an exhibit of sea creatures from each of Cape Town’s oceans — the warm Indian (east coast) and chilly Atlantic (west coast) — the aquarium also features a predators exhibit, a penguin exhibit, a lush kelp forest and a touch pool for the kids. Time your visit so that you can witness the frenzy of activity at feeding time. Or take the opportunity to go diving in the predator tank with the sharks — no cages, just you, a dive instructor and a few ragged-tooth sharks.

2. World of Birds: In Hout Bay, only 20-kilometres from Cape Town’s city centre, you will find the largest bird park in Africa. The aviaries here house more than 3 000 birds of 400 different species, including falcons, pelicans, goshawks, herons, kites, owls, vultures, eagles, flamingos, swans and ibises.

More than just a bird sanctuary, the World of Birds is also home to a motley collection of mammals, including baboons, meerkats, mongooses, porcupines, foxes, marmosets and racoons. The Monkey Jungle, a large walkthrough enclosure that houses 38 squirrel monkeys, allows you to be in direct contact with these inquisitive little primates.

3. Imhoff Snake Park: Roughly 40-kilometres from Cape Town’s city centre, in Kommetjie, you will find the Imhoff Snake Park. A reptile sanctuary and rehabilitation centre, the park is home to a variety of local and exotic reptiles. In addition to crocodiles and alligators, you’ll get to see a 3.5-metre-long yellow anaconda, a rattle-snake-eating Californian king snake, a Mozambican spitting cobra and an African rock python. Kids — and their curious parents — can interact with some of the less dangerous snakes.