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.

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Borage brings global bistro cuisine to Cape Town

With a stint in the kitchen alongside Heston Blumenthal under his belt, chef Frank Marks knows a thing or two about cooking, and his casual Borage Bistro is shaping up to be one of the go-to restaurants in Cape Town.

Borage Bistro likes to tick all the boxes. At the foot of the tallest building in Cape Town the express breakfasts and gourmet sandwiches appeal to the hungry office-workers who scuttle by on their way to their desks.

But for food-loving travellers with a little more time on their hands, this Cape Town restaurant offers wonderful bistro-style dining that will encourage you to linger.

The triple-volume space has a rather industrial feel to it, but plenty of Nordic wood and long banquettes make it somewhat cosier. The open kitchen at one end allows you to keep a close eye on the brigade of chefs at work.

Chef Frank Marks runs a tight ship and it shows on the menu, where some dishes help this restaurant blur the line between bistro cuisine and fine dining. The lunch menu hints at what the kitchen is capable of, but rather visit for dinner to taste superb bistro food in Cape Town.

A traditional steak tartare ticks the right boxes when it comes to balancing parsley, capers, gherkins and onion; and the pork belly is a crowd-pleaser served with buttered mash and fresh vegetables. Chef Marks has a way with duck, though, so don’t miss the seared duck breast enlivened with Brussels sprouts and sprouting broccoli.

The plating is generous and the service is warm. Not many tourists venture to this part of town come evening but the adventure is richly rewarded with one of the more interesting restaurants Cape Town has to offer.

Take a bite of Cape Town’s culture on this food tour

If the old dictum “you are what you eat” is true, then Cape Town 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.

“As soon as you’re looking at food, you’re looking at history and how people came to be here … You can do a lot of unpacking of how the city came to be and who built it.

Cape Malay food can be found everywhere in the city, and that says a lot about the power of Islam and who has been living in the city historically. There’s so much Cape Malay food in the Bo-Kaap (the neighbourhood directly above the city bowl) because of where people who live there have come from and what brought them here, and how identity persists through food. Their ancestors (slaves during the colonial era, mostly from Malaysia, India, Java and Bengal) brought their food over here. It was a connection to back home, and it was an establishment of their identity here in the Cape.

But the central business district is hardly representative of the diversity of food and culture in Cape Town. For example, if you really want to experience township food, it is almost impossible to experience it in the city centre. You literally have to go to the townships (the areas outside of city centres where non-white people were forced to live during apartheid, the system of enforced racial segregation that ended in 1994).

One of the interesting myths around township food is that everybody’s just eating meat. In fact, if you look carefully, vegetables are the most accessible and the kinds of vegetable dishes that people prepare are pretty wild.

The Cuisine Route food tour we offer is really trying to explore traditional food in Cape Town, so it is mainly looking at isiXhosa and Cape Malay foods, with some gaps in between where perhaps you’ll go to Bean There to sample an organic single origin coffee or to a little pan-African eatery. We are trying to use food as a medium to explore the city quite widely.”

The Big 5 of Biltong in Cape Town

Spicy, smoked or chewy: it’s a tough call naming just one winner of Cape Town’s coveted biltong prize – after all, it’s a matter of personal taste, innit? We’ve picked five of the better-known brands to chew your way through…

1. Biltong by J&M

With biltong bars all over the country, J&M has become a household name since its humble beginnings in a Sea Point butchery in 1942. They’ve got a wide range of tasty treats in beef, ostrich, chicken or game meats, including biltong, droëwors and snapstix. It’ll take you days to sample the different varieties…

2. Kleyn Begin

Based in Melkbosstrand, this local Halaal-certified company is routinely named manufacturer of the “best biltong” in the Western Cape. Their hand-cut dried meat delicacies are only available through wholesale orders but owners Anton and Naomi Kleyn guarantee the freshest and prime-cut meats around.

3. Chops Biltong Bar

These family-owned meat makers take pride in their local roots. They opened their first shop in the False Bay town of Fish Hoek in 1994 and have since grown their reach to the Southern Suburbs of Plumstead, Constantia and Steenberg, and across the bay to Somerset West. You’re likely to spot their traditional or “silverside” biltong (with a strip of fat on the side) at flea markets, or if you’re lucky enough, the catered “VIP” boxes at Newlands Stadium when you’re watching cricket, or another big game. They come in plain, chilli, chutney and pepper flavours.

4. Famous Kalahari Biltong

Feeling game? Try Famous Kalahari’s kudu, ostrich, eland, gemsbok or springbok offerings. This company has biltong bars in Wellington, Sunningdale, Bellville, Worcester and Kraaifontein.

5. Fisherman’s Biltong

Try something a little unconventional – fish biltong or “bokkoms” as the local fishers call it. Hout Bay Fisherman’s Wharf is a great place to have a first taste of Fisherman’s Biltong, or try the tuna biltong at Woodstock Fisheries at 250 Victoria Road.

Editor’s note: Ja, ja, we know, we haven’t included a bunch of lekker biltong spots here (we only promised five!). Don’t hate – just go onto our Facebook page and tell us where you get the best biltong in Cape Town! Click here