4 top student spots in the university town of Stellenbosch

A 20-minute drive from Cape Town’s city centre, Stellenbosch is primarily a student town, playing host to a wide, vibrant array of clubs and bars catering largely to the hundreds of 20-year-olds who populate it. Here are a few to check out.

Aandklas is, arguably, the centre of Stellenbosch nightlife. A club with an extensive range of events every night of the week – from typical college-style foosball and beer pong to Thursday quiz nights. The rest of the week is dedicated to a wide range of events, with live music on Tuesdays and pumping parties from Monday to Saturday.

Bohemia restaurant and bar incorporates a relaxed bohemian vibe. Primarily a live music venue, Wednesday finds it packed to the rafters with students as they demonstrate their support for whichever local musician is booked for the night.

Just down the street is Die Mystic Boer, an alternative club that plays music out of the mainstream six days a week, with Fridays being trance nights.

Nu Bar, a fresh upmarket club, features top DJs six nights a week, while every last Thursday of the month is Afrikaanse musiek aand (“Afrikaans music night”), ideal for those wanting to get to the root of Afrikaans music culture.

All roads lead to The Shack: the city’s after-party club

The Shack isn’t the coolest club in Cape Town, but this late-night venue is always interesting…

The Shack may not be the prettiest building in town, but you won’t find a friendlier bunch of real people! The regular crowd is extremely mixed, from students to musicians to young professionals and even the odd refugee from a cocktail party over on the fancier side of town. In fact, a common Cape Town expression is that after a certain time of night, “all roads lead to The Shack”.

With five bars to choose from, even on a busy night service is usually good. Each bar is different and play different music depending on the tastes of the bar staff, each of whom gets to play DJ.

Apart from the bars, The Shack features pool and foosball tables, an outdoor area and a kitchen that serves consistently delicious food, including pizza, burgers, stuffed pita, awesome chilli poppers and the most unique fried chips in town.

Only a short cab ride from central Cape Town, The Shack shares a city block with its neighbour Mercury Live, one of Cape Town’s most popular live music venues. This makes it perfect for combining music with an after-party!

Yes, things can get messy at The Shack, but the regulars and visitors wouldn’t want it any other way.

The Shack is open till 4am, seven days a week. It open at 12pm from Monday to Friday and 6pm on the weekends. It offers a unique experience and is well worth a visit.

Bascule Bar: where whisky connoisseurs unite

Wondering where in Cape Town you can go for an extraordinary tipple? Then you simply have to experience the Cape Grace Hotel’s upmarket Bascule Bar, the haunt of whisky enthusiasts old and new.

Bascule whisky, wine & cocktail bar offers visitors a collection of over 500 whiskies and South African wine. While the wine list is extensive don’t let it fool you, because this fine Cape Town establishment prides itself on its selection of whiskies above all else, with a collection of Irish, Scottish, American, Japanese and many more.

Consistently striving to bring new ways of enjoying whisky to the fore, they have an entire cocktail menu dedicated to premium whisky cocktails. Indulge in a signature Rooibos Blazer or Bushveld Mule and experience whisky like never before.

Beyond its extensive whisky menu and excellence in service, what really sets Bascule Bar apart from is its location at the V&A Waterfront: make yourself at home at one of the outside tables and enjoy your single malt while enjoying the view of luxury yachts anchored in the international marina. On a chilly day you can settle inside at one of the low tables in front of the bar or near the fireplace.

Bascule Bar also offers two types of hour-long whisky tastings – a Shared Experience for R350 and a Sommelier’s Choice for R1 000 per person – from Saturday to Thursday. Memberships are also available upon enquiry.

Cape Town’s gay nightlife is always alive on ‘the pink strip’

Most of Cape Town’s gay clubs are clustered in Sea Point, a suburb neighbouring the city centre and a stone’s throw from De Waterkant ‘gay district’. It doesn’t matter if you’re a girl who likes boys, who like boys who like girls, who like girls…expect to party till the sun comes up.

On Sea Point’s Somerset Road lies an area of clubs and bars that Cape Town affectionately refers to as “the pink strip”. Start off the night at Beefcakes Burger Bar, which offers a range of entertainment all week from spectacular drag performances to fabulous dinner theatre to choreographed male performers —  there’s something for everyone at this restaurant and bar.

The men’s-only Amsterdam Action Bar and the ever-popular Café Manhattan offer the best in cocktails, light meals and are also great places to kick off your evening.

A few metres away is the upmarket Crew Bar, which boasts many shirtless bartenders, roomy dancefloors and DJs playing the best in commercial music.

Beaulah Bar is another regular on the pink strip and is usually brimming over the weekend with ladies and men who love to boogy to the DJs’ hip-shaking tunes.

The most extravagant event on the gay calendar is the Mother City Queer Project (MCQP), which takes place in mid-December and is the biggest and oldest gay event in Africa. People come from all over the world to experience this themed event, where over-the-top costumes are the order of the day and the more revealing the better!

Clubbing in Cape Town: a survival guide

Going out on the town in Cape Town is generally safe but, like anywhere in the world, there are some do’s and don’ts you need to know before you hit the town.

Don’t drink and drive

Like much of the rest of the world, South Africa has a strict drink-driving policy. Unfortunately its public transport services are not as world class! If you do plan on drinking make use of a taxi service, of which Uber has the best reputation. Promo codes available in some Cape Town clubs and bars can make your Uber trips even cheaper.

Beat the queues

Clubs all over the world hold the queues outside for as long as they can, just to make it seem vibey inside, and Cape Town is no different. But with cheaper entry prices before a certain time, getting there early can bring down your costs for the night and make sure you beat the queue. Don’t drink too much early on, though, because Cape Town clubs only really get going around 11pm!

Take your ID

Never leave home without your proof of identity. Being bounced from a club or bar in Cape Town is never fun.

Form a wolf pack

If you can, going out in a group is clever, not only for a good time but also because there is safety in numbers especially when adventuring to different clubs and bars on the same night.

Watch your drinks

Ladies (and gents too), be sure to watch your drinks. While generally safe, spiking of drinks can and does occassionally happen.

Stay clear of ‘friendly gents’

The Long/Loop street nightlife is the liveliest in town, but it’s also synonymous with stolen cellphones and friendly gents on the street offering all sorts of substances you can’t get at the 7Eleven (we’re talking drugs, the illegal kind). If someone comments or compliments you on an item of your clothing, tell them to get lost and keep walking!

Keep an open mind

It’s highly recommended that you head out with an open mind because Cape Town has so much to offer. From Bob’s Bar and Shack, where dress code is non-existent, to clubs like ERA and Shimmy Beach Club where what you wear definitely matters, you’ll find a place that suits your nightlife style.

Everybody’s talking about Alexander Bar. Here’s why…

If you’re looking for a spontaneous, social night out in Cape Town where you’re not sure who you might befriend or where the night might take you, Alexander Bar is just the ticket.

Chances are you have seldom (if ever) encountered a place quite like Alexander Bar. Merging theatre and style with conversation and drinks, it is divided into two sections – the downstairs bar area and the upstairs theatre that hosts anything from live music and comedy to poetry readings.

The downstairs bar exudes old world charm and is generally filled with people from all walks of life. But Alexander Bar’s real conversational piece is the antique rotary dial telephone on each table that you can use to call the bar to order your drinks — or to call people sitting at other tables. Strange? Not at all! This encourages people to interact and strangers to get to know one another without ever having to leave their tables. The choice is yours.

Enhanced by the subtle musical styles of multiple genres from classic jazz to soul and world music, Alexander Bar is buzzing seven days a week. Their kitchen, open until midnight, serves up gourmet delights; try the Bratwurst Sandwich, the Baron of Bree, or perhaps one of their staple charcuterie or cheese boards.

Head to the Cape Grace Hotel to savour single malts

If you love your whisky and want a glamorous location to sip and savour your favourite single malts while in Cape Town, look no further than the Bascule Bar at the elegant Cape Grace Hotel in the V&A Waterfront—the shopping and entertainment complex on Table Bay, right next to the city centre.

The world’s rich and famous may prefer to book a suite upstairs or park their private yachts in the marina outside, but all you’ll need to step inside the Bascule Bar at the Cape Grace Hotel in the V&A Waterfront precinct is a love for great whisky.

The Bascule Bar is heaven for malt connoisseurs and is home to arguably the largest collection of whiskies in Africa.

That means the voluminous menu of whisky, whiskey and bourbon stretches to over 450 bottles, flown in from Kentucky to Speyside to Japan.

Tutored tastings and “flights” of whiskies are a wonderful introduction to the world of whiskies, but the excellent menu will also guide you through the finer points of malt whisky: why a bourbon is different to a single malt, and how an Islay compares to a Lowland malt. Vatted, single malt, cask strength…the well-trained barkeeps are happy to talk you through the terminology too.

It’s a cosy spot with sleek leather couches and private corners, ideally suited to sipping your way through a single malt or three. If you plan on becoming a regular, consider joining the Bascule Whisky Club. As a member you’ll receive a personalised crystal tumbler, and the privilege of storing your private collection in a private locker in the Bascule cellar.

Hip and happening: where to hang with Cape Town’s coolest

Want to check out the trendiest spots in Cape Town but not sure where to go? Follow the hipsters to these three bars and lounges…

The effortlessly cool kids of Cape Town will tell you that The Power and the Glory on Kloofnek road is the only place to be day or night. The establishment is split into two sections: one with long tables and the other, a bar area known as Black Ram. Whether it’s a quick coffee before work, a cold craft beer in the afternoon, or their famous Pickle back shots in the early hours of the morning, you’re guaranteed a great time.

Also on the coolest list is The Village Idiot on the corner of Loop and Waterkant Streets. Capeown locals come here to unwind after a long day, enjoying a tasty jug of mojitos and popular boerewors burger on the wraparound balcony.

But perhaps the jewel in the hipster crown is Yours Truly on Kloof Street. Boasting a concise day and night menu and above-average speed Wi-Fi, Yours Truly has quickly become the coolest spot for freelancers, students and tourists alike. It has also been known to host popular live music acts on Sunday afternoons. Don’t forget to visit their upstairs bar to grab a gin and tonic and soak up the sun on their terrace on a windless afternoon.

My favourite top-notch bars and lounges in the Mother City

Jessica Ross, Deputy Editor of House and Leisure, one of South Africa’s leading design and interiors magazine, has an eye for the finer stylings and ambience of Cape Town’s premium establishments, She points us in the direction of the city’s most sophisticated nightime venues.

The ornate Victorian theme of Tjing Tjing bar is evident from the moment you enter, with plush velvet bar stools, edgy illustrations by local artist Jade Klara, and a deep blue and white palette that reigns. Warmer evenings are best spent on the rooftop space, where one of Tjing Tjing’s top-notch cocktails go down easy with the sun. Evenings here are sophisticated yet relaxed so you’ll be as comfortable in jeans and a t-shirt as you would in a chic cocktail dress (or suit and tie).

De Waterkant is a vibrant hub filled with cool spots that beg a visit when in Cape Town, and Piano Bar is a great spot from which to take in the area’s vibe. It’s got just about everything you’d want from an upmarket night on the town: well-made cocktails, an extensive wine list, live jazz music and swank interiors. Dress sharp to get into swing with the lively ambiance.

Winding down the evening is easy when you’re seated in the chicest lounge in town, and the Mount Nelson hotel’s upmarket cocktail bar, the Planet Bar, is famous for their vodka Martinis, which go down well with one of the delicious bites from the tapas menu. It’s all about elegance at the Planet Bar, but that doesn’t make it austere, so think upmarket style in a laid-back setting.”

Outrage over the trendiest Cape Town cocktail

Don’t be surprised if you walk right past the doorway to Outrage of Modesty – (arguably) the hottest cocktail bar in Cape Town at the moment. A smartly dressed bouncer with a subtle earpiece is the only indication that you’ve arrived at this trendsetting bar on Shortmarket Street.

In the finest tradition of speakeasy-style cocktail bars (London’s The Blind Pig comes to mind) there’s little fanfare above the doorway of Outrage of Modesty. That’s left to the glasses of those lucky enough to get a seat inside. Reservations are essential here, with just 24 seats at the bar and the cosy leather banquettes.

At the bar, Australian mixologist Luke Whearty is the genius behind the groundbreaking cocktails on offer, creations that infuse local flavours and native ingredients with global trends and techniques. Luke and partner Aki Nishkiura are the duo behind Singapore’s acclaimed Operation Dagger, and bring a similar maverick approach to the cocktail menu here.

It’s a menu that encourages adventure. Rather than listing the ingredients of each cocktail, expect to be met by just the dominant flavour profiles: “Berry and the Bee”, for instance, bursts with wild blackberry and the perfume of fennel pollen. Gin, the base spirit, is infused with wild pelargonium, a plant commonly found in the mountains around Cape Town.

The cocktail list is the highlight here, of course, but there’s also a captivating selection of local and French wines on offer. It’s primarily a spot for pre-dinner drinks or late-night cocktails, although there is a small menu of upscale bar snacks: cured olives and fermented carrots, for example. If you’re feeling wealthy, the lobster tails in wasabi aioli won’t disappoint.

Outrage of Modesty redefines the notion of a bar, and has made the locals sit up and realise that a cocktail doesn’t have to be another gin martini. Whearty has weaved his magic here, and you’d do well to book a seat at the bar.