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.

Aces ‘n’ Spades — the most rock ‘n’ roll club in Cape Town

The shots are plentiful and the nights are long at Aces ‘n’ Spades in downtown Cape Town.

The neon pink lights of Aces ‘n’ Spades catch your eye before the red velvet ropes of the entrance do. A large bay window allows you to see inside the club before you’ve even entered. On balmy summer nights the cream of Cape Town’s nightlife sit on barstools on either side of this window; chatting, smoking, drinking.

Inside, Aces ‘n’ Spades exudes a pure rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic with framed pictures of classic rock ‘n’ roll musicians scattered across the walls. The marble-topped bar stretches down the length of the club and is stocked with a variety of craft beers and premium tequila. At the end of the bar sit two leather booths that have housed rock ‘n’ roll royalty and which can be hired for the evening.

Wednesday nights are for rock ‘n’ roll karaoke, when people from all walks of life come together to sing classic songs from the ‘60s right through to the present day, while Thursdays are reserved for live music events. Fridays and Saturdays feature different DJs who attract locals in throngs. Entrance is always free, unless it’s special occasion or special event.

Whether it’s an early-evening drink or an all-night party extravaganza, you’ll find what you’re looking for at Aces ‘n’ Spades.

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.

Dress down on the town: clubs with relaxed dress code

If you’re looking for a laid-back night out in Cape Town, these clubs have a very relaxed dress code.

Looking for a place to kick back, have a beer and listen to some good music without having to get all dressed up? Visit The Village Idiot on Loop Street in your jeans and t-shirt for a relaxing meal and cocktail in one of their stylish leather booths, or on the wrap-around balcony.

Sgt Pepper Eatery on Long Street is known for its exceptional pizzas and weekend buzz, featuring underground DJs spinning the best in classic rock, commercial and indie music. Expect smoke, noise and general rowdiness. Remember that these clubs cater primarily to students and casual clubbers, so be prepared.

Make your way to The Waiting Room on bustling Long Street, above Royale Eatery, for a relaxed evening on the balcony overlooking the city lights, or inside on the comfy couches listening to a mixture of hip-hop, break beats or funk, depending upon the music style of the night.

Afterward, hop across the road to bars Jo’burg and Marvel, where you’ll experience the best in central African music that pumps until 04h00 with a bunch of locals all looking to have a good time, no matter what you’re wearing.

Dress your best for a night of premium clubbing

These premium clubs are the cream of nightlife in Cape Town and demand a certain dress code.

Think chic, stylish and classy. You’re headed for a premium night out in Cape Town and you should look the part. Don’t be afraid to don heels and that little black dress you save for special occasions break out the suit trousers and dress shirts — even a tie isn’t going too far. Leave the jeans and sneakers at home, as clubs like these prefer a more sophisticated appearance:

Coco on Loop Street has a basic cover charge of about R50 and drinks are always a bit more expensive than your average Cape Town club, with high-end bottle service and private booths.

Era, also on Loop Street, is open on Friday and Saturday nights only. The age restriction is 21 for ladies and 23 for guys, proof of identity is essential and their dress code is strict.

Jade Champagne Bar and Lounge on Main Road, Greenpoint, is one of the few top-end clubs with no cover charge, but age restrictions vary so make sure you keep a form of identification on you just in case.

Asoka on Kloof Street is another smart venue that is lavish and vibrant and boasts the oldest olive tree in Cape Town in its courtyard. Tuesday, Friday and Saturday nights are the busiest, when entrance is free. Indulge in one of their signature cocktails.

Laugh your way to good health in Cape Town

Ever felt the urge to giggle during a yoga class? Of course you have. But it is usually frowned upon. At Laughter Yoga you get to giggle, chortle and cackle as much as you want. In fact, it’s encouraged. Social laughter clubs are about as fun and crazy as they sound…

I grab a piece of imaginary dental floss and carefully insert it into one of my ears. I pull it out the other ear and floss the negative thoughts out of my head as I walk around the room. Laughing maniacally.

I am not alone. And we are not in a mental asylum. I’m in a Laughter Yoga class getting in touch with my playful inner child. The name Laughter Yoga is a bit of a misnomer because, aside from some yogic breathing (pranayama), there is little actual yoga involved.

The laughter coach takes the class through a series of playful exercises that begin with fake laughter and frequently end in the real deal. At first it is pretty awkward — Warrior Pose will seem like a breeze after you’ve chanted your way through the Ho-Ho-Ha-Ha dance — but once you’ve got over your insecurities, you might even find yourself giggling uncontrollably.

The exact exercises differ from one class to the next, but the principle is the same: fake it until you make it. Conceived in 1995 by Dr Madan Kataria, a physician from Mumbai, Laughter Yoga is based largely on the principle that your body cannot differentiate between fake and real laughter, and thus the physiological and psychological benefits are the same.

Sound like a bunch of mumbo-jumbo? Perhaps, but there is science to back this up. Researchers in the field of gelotology, which studies the effect of laughter and humour on the body, have found that in addition to making you feel good, laughter reduces the levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and epinephrine, can relieve physical pain, may reduce the risk of heart disease, and bolster the immune system.

Since Dr Kataria, known as the ‘Guru of Giggling’, launched his first Laughter Yoga class in a public park over two decades ago, the practice has spread to more than 60 countries. Laughter Yoga is now practiced in schools, hospitals, old-age homes, and companies around the world. There are also free social clubs that anyone can join for a good old giggle.

Get giggling in the Mother City

In Cape Town, you’ll find regular events at the end of each month at the Kagyu Buddhist Centre for World Peace and Health in Kenilworth. The 60-minute sessions, which involve laughter exercises, deep breathing, laughter mediation and guided relaxation, are followed by tea. Although social laughter clubs are free, there is a small (R20) fee to cover the use of venue.

There are also a number of other social laughter clubs run by laughter coaches around Cape Town. You can find their details here.

Music for the masses at these top dance clubs

If you’re itching for a night of reckless abandon accompanied by a soundtrack of quality dance music, Cape Town’s city centre offers many options and they’re all within walking distance of each other.

At the upper end of Long Street (the city’s main nightlife drag) you’ll find Fiction DJ Bar, home to Cape Town’s best underground and non-commercial dance music. There is an age restriction of 21 for every event night other than Tuesdays, which features the club’s longest running student night, Untamed Youth. Thursday nights feature drum ‘n’ bass while weekend nights range between DJs playing house, techno and bass music. The venue comprises two floors, with two bars, one dancefloor and balconies overlooking Long Street.

Vice City is situated on a side street around the corner from Fiction. The basement-like dancefloor area creates the sense that you could be in a club in any city in the world. Thursday nights host psy-trance while Friday is for techno and Saturday for house.

Era on Loop Street is Cape Town’s premium clubbing experience, so expect to pay a higher cover charge than at the other dance clubs. You pay for the experience as well as the entertainment. Open on Friday and Saturday nights only, the venue features two dancefloors. You enter on the lower level and are greeted by a tunnel-shaped dancefloor with a ceiling adorned with L.E.D light strips that move to the pulsating rhythm of the techno played on this floor. The upstairs Groove Bar hosts an array of house music DJs and is also the smoking-friendly dancefloor. Each floor has a bar with efficient and friendly staff. Both floors have bathrooms — take note that  the upper level facilities are unisex. The age restriction is 21 for ladies and 23 for guys, proof of identity is essential and their dress code is strict.

Across the road from Era, COCO is a decadent nightclub run by experienced members of the local dance music scene. It caters to deep house, hip-hop and commercial music lovers. The venue offers VIP experiences and premium bottle service. The dress code is strict, there is a cover charge and entry into the club is discretionary — don’t even try coming here in flip-flops.

My top live music venues in the city

DJ and live music lover Angela Weickl recommends a diverse mix of live music venues in Cape Town’s city centre

Recreating the comfort of home, while showcasing talent from across Cape Town and beyond, The Waiting Room on Long Street offers the best location venue to experience live acoustic music on Tuesday and Wednesday nights. The intimate space, scattered with armchairs and couches, creates a relaxed setting for audiences more inclined to listening than rump shakingdancing. That said, there are nights when the energy is so contagious that chairs are pushed aside and the dancefloor is opened up for a bout of midweek revelryboogie.

Housed in an old warehouse, The Assembly on Harrington Street in District Six is the largest music venue in Cape Town. The venue’s capacity alone qualifies it as the destination for any local or international band with a large following too large for its counterparts (but not quite large enough to fill stadiums!). Although the venue places a lot of focus on electronic music, the live music contingent of line-up ranges from pop to rock and includes metal, too.

An institution within Cape Town’s city bowl realm, Mercury Live and Lounge remains is thea venue that has launched many an iconic local music career. Large enough to meet the needs of bands with avid big followings, the space club is designed to not feel cavernous on intimate nights, but is also works for conducive to sweaty mosh pits and euphoric fist- pumping crowd anthems.

If your music taste is more discerning, The Crypt jazz restaurant is an ideal choice. Situated deep within Cape Town’s St George’s Cathedral, the venue hosts an array of live jazz music from Tuesday to Saturday nights, the only venue in the city that holds this claimto do so.

Shimmy Beach Club: a slice of Ibiza at the tip of Africa

For the finest, top-rated clubbing experience in Cape Town, Shimmy Beach Club is always a good bet.

Situated on South Arm Road at the V&A Waterfront, with an elegant 220-seater restaurant, two meeting rooms and a private beach, Shimmy Beach Club is one of the most versatile venues in Cape Town. It can go from hosting a full-blown rock concert to an all-day electronic feast for the senses with the greatest of ease.

Open Monday to Saturday from 11h00 to 04h00 at the latest, with their kitchen closing at 23h00, Shimmy Beach Club is framed against Cape Town’s iconic Table Mountain and divided into several sections: The Shimmy Lounge, Restaurant Deck, Pool Deck, Lounge Deck, Whiskey Room, VIP Room, Shimmy Beach and the Children’s Play Area.

Come summer, Shimmy Beach Club is transformed into the ultimate premier beach venue owing in part to their “Summing Calling” weekends, which feature top rated local and international DJs spinning the best electronic and house music to a captivated, sun-kissed audience.

From Goldfish Submerged Sundays to their annual Day Of The Day extravaganza, Shimmy Beach Club is a slice of Ibiza at the tip of Africa. It’s also the only club in Cape Town that has its own mobile App available to download — get it so you don’t miss a beat.

The Barleycorn Music Club: Cape Town’s acoustic institution

For more than 30 years, the Barleycorn Music Club has provided a showcase opportunity for Cape Town’s aspiring – and established – acoustic musicians.

What started as a folk music club in the South African coastal city of Port Elizabeth in the 1970s has become one of Cape Town’s favourite music establishments, where live music lovers can relax in a true “listening” environment to some of the best original music around.

Every Monday night the not-for-profit Barleycorn Music Club presents at least four acts. The events are run by a hard-working, committee of volunteers who take it in turns to host shows, which keeps things fresh and interesting. There are no hard-and-fast rules about who plays, but it is usually a mix of  established acts supported by newcomers.

The shows feature a mix of touring and local Cape Town acts and are generally acoustic-based, although “electric” acts are welcome, as long as melodic delivery is prominent in the act. While no specific genres are turned away, death metal and gangsta rap fans should probably seek their entertainment elsewhere. Testament to the pedigree of the Barleycorn is that many a South African household name got their start here. David Kramer recorded his first album, “Bakgat” at the Barleycorn. Other well-known artists to have played here are Freshlyground, Flat Stanley, Amampondo, Steve Newman and Tony Cox, to name but a few.

Popular annual events to look out for are the Barleycorn Music Festival in March, as well as the popular Barleycorn Songwriter’s Competition, open to all and hosted in August.

The Barleycorn Music Club is now based at the Villager Rugby Club, 11 Lansdowne Road, Claremont, Cape Town. Shows are held every Monday at 20h00.