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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How to get to the top of Table Mountain by foot

There is no easy hike up Cape Town’s iconic mountain, but if you are fit and fairly strong you can take one of several well-trodden paths to the top.

The most heavily used path on Table Mountain is the one up Platteklip Gorge, the deep nick in the flat top of Table Mountain that is visible from downtown Cape Town.

The path, which starts about a kilometre and a half beyond the Lower Cable Station on Tafelberg Road, is so popular that it’s nicknamed Adderley Street (after the main street in Cape Town city centre) by the locals. It’s incredibly steep and direct and there is no shade other than in the narrow section at the top, so don’t underestimate it. However, the route is easy to follow and thus provides a good, safe ascent or descent, particularly in bad weather. Take water and be prepared for some knee jarring on the descent. The route is about two and a half kilometres long and will take about 90 minutes one way (probably a bit quicker if you’re coming down!)

The Skeleton Gorge path, which starts in the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, is steep but shady, well-marked and of only moderate difficulty. There are several ladders over some very steep sections, which can become slippery when wet. This was the favourite ascent of Field Marshall Smuts, a keen mountain walker, so the final trail on this route is known as the Smuts Track. The route is approximately four kilometres long and will take about two hours one-way.

There’s no shade on the popular Kasteelspoort trail, but it affords incredible views. To get there, park at the top of Theresa Avenue on the Rontree Estate in Camps Bay, then follow the concrete jeep track up until it divides. The start is not well marked but is fairly obvious: stay on the main track, which goes right, and continue up for about 100 metres until you can see a green signpost on the contour path above you. Leave the jeep track at this point and take the narrow path directly up the mountain to the signpost – you will see the cairn marking the way just after a big rock on the left. The signpost directs you over the contour path and up – a distance of three kilometres, about 90 minutes to the top of the trail.

Note that the Skeleton Gorge and Kasteelspoort trails go to the top of the lower, southern plateau of Table Mountain, often called the “back table”. It will take another 60 to 90 minutes from the top of these trails to get across to the upper cable car station on the ‘front table’.

Shoot the breeze at these city centre pool bars and lounges

Want to flex your pool skills and quench your thirst – but not sure where to find the best tables in the city centre? Cape Town boasts a number of inviting venues with great pool and willing partners. Try these four for starters…

When it comes to pool bars, Stones is the staple franchise establishment where you can enjoy a few games at one of their plentiful tables without worrying about overstaying your welcome. Check out the one on Long Street when you’re in the city centre.

Rafikis on Kloof Nek Road has been around for more than a decade and attracts Cape Town locals and visitors in equal numbers. Rafikis also has the most welcoming staff who monitor your every need on the 35-metre long balcony. Its solitary pool table is located away from the hustle and bustle of the main bar area, so you can enjoy a private game without too much fuss.

Neighbourhood on Long Street has long been a place the chosen hang out for students and young professionals on any day of the week. A room with a pool table and foosball table is adjacent to the bar area, with comfortable couches and ottomans.

The Shack on De Villiers Street is a late night institution in Cape Town, but is also famed for its upstairs pool tables, flanked by wooden bars. The fuller the bar gets here, the more likely you are to be challenged by someone looking to take over your table. There are also two foosball tables in the adjacent Luna bar, where competitions heat up daily between players.