At the tip of the African continent, Cape Town is far from, well, everywhere. Fortunately, though, the city boasts plenty of charms to make the long flight more than worth the effort. Be a coffee connoisseur by morning, an art expert by midday, a beach bum by afternoon and a food and wine aficionado by evening. In Cape Town, anything is possible…

Sights and attractions

Sights and attractions in Cape Town

If you’re pressed for time, there are a clutch of can’t-miss sites to prioritise. It’s hard to find a corner of Cape Town where you can’t catch a glimpse of Table Mountain, but don’t just gawk at it – hike one of the many trails or take a cable car to the top for panoramic views over the city and ocean. To understand more about the city’s troubled past and Nelson Mandela’s legacy, take the ferry to Robben Island for a powerful tour of the erstwhile prison, given by a former inmate. For another lesson on apartheid and its debilitating effect on communities, visit the District Six Museum, a moving tribute to a neighbourhood torn apart. Then head across town to the predominantly Muslim enclave of Bo-Kaap, which has become one of Cape Town’s top tourist attractions for its collection of historic mosques and its colourful houses painted in splashy neon hues. And be sure to schedule at least half a day for a scenic circuit around the Cape Peninsula, with stops at the seaside town of Kalk Bay, the penguin hangout at Boulders Beach, Cape Point and the Cape of Good Hope, and the spectacular coastal Chapman’s Peak Drive.

Art and culture

Art and culture in Cape Town

With the eagerly anticipated opening of the Thomas Heatherwick-designed Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, Cape Town is rapidly gaining attention as a booming hub for modern art. The bohemian Woodstock district has been at the forefront of the city’s creative revolution – Whatiftheworld, Stevenson Gallery and Goodman Gallery are all stalwarts, while Woodstock’s back alleys have been transformed into an open-air gallery of sorts with vivid street art murals. The city centre is also attracting big names in the country’s art world, many of whom show at Worldart, AVA and Gallery MOMO. Big concerts, shows and musicals often make their way to Artscape and the Baxter Theatre Centre, while the Fugard Theatre, set in a historic building off Buitenkant Street, is a popular venue for smaller productions and cultural festivals. For a whistle-stop tour of the area’s cultural heritage, the atmospheric African Dance Theatre show runs through the history of African music in just an hour – its skilled dancers, rousing drum beats and traditional costuming popular with visitors.

Food and drink

Food and drink in Cape Town

Cape Town is the capital of South Africa’s buzzing food scene, and together with the nearby Winelands, the region boasts a sweeping majority of the country’s top restaurants. Fans of fine dining should book well in advance for the refined fare at chef, Scot Kirton’s La Colombe or Margot Janse’s Tasting Room in Franschhoek, but feel free to leave that tie and jacket at home: attitudes and attire are both fairly relaxed in these parts. Singular restaurants with a laser-sharp, tunnel-vision focus are also popping up across the city ­– Bacon on Bree, Culture Club Cheese and IYO Burgers all specialise in exactly what their names suggest, and have drawn cult followings for their niche menus. Cape Town also boasts a vibrant market scene on the weekends; graze on everything from halloumi kababs and ostrich burgers to tuna biltong at local favourites like Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock, Oranjezicht City Farm Market at the V&A Waterfront, or the Good Company Farmers’ Market at the Company’s Garden. But before you embark on a tasting tour of the city, kicking off your day with a caffeine boost; with more than 150 independent roasters spread out across the city, you can’t walk a block without finding yourself at an achingly cool coffee shop. Truth, Rosetta Roastery, Haas, Tribe, Deluxe and Origin have all amassed their own diehard devotees.

Shopping

Shopping in Cape Town

Most shoppers wind up at the V&A Waterfront, where you’ll find everything from Gucci and Louis Vuitton to H&M and Topshop. But if you’re looking for evidence as to why Cape Town was anointed World Design Capital back in 2014, you’ll want to look beyond the mega-malls. Close by, the Watershed design market features stalls from both established and up-and-coming African talents, from fashion to accessories to housewares and art. The streets of the Central Business District (CBD) are also home to plenty of chic independent boutiques: browse Merchants on Long and Mungo & Jemima on Long Street, Stable and Issa Leo on Loop Street, and South African Market, KLûK CGDT and Missibaba on Bree Street. Popular weekend markets are also a great spot to discover burgeoning South African designers – Neighbourgoods Market in Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill and Bay Harbour Market in Hout Bay are a good place to start.

Unique to Cape Town

Unique to Cape Town in Cape Town

While Cape Town’s architecture oozes charm aplenty, what sets the city apart from any other ex-colonial outpost is its spectacular scenery – and outdoors-loving Capetonians capitalise on their natural bounties at every opportunity. Hikers will never tire of climbing conical Lion’s Head or mighty Table Mountain (though the wise will recuperate from the steep climb up the latter with a return trip on the cable car); sunbathers are spoiled for choice with scenic strands like Clifton, Llandudno, Noordhoek and Muizenberg; and joggers love hitting the Seapoint promenade or Greenpoint Urban Park for a run. And Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, on the slopes of Table Mountain, is a prime setting for a picnic – or, come summer, a stunning backdrop for a rotating roster of open-air concerts and movie screenings.

Day trip

Day trip in Cape Town

The pretty Winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are only 45 minutes and an hour east of Cape Town respectively, and more than merit a quick jaunt out of the city. Meander through the oak-shaded lanes of Stellenbosch’s picture-perfect city centre, with stops at Schoon de Companje for breakfast and De Warenmarkt, a sleek indoor food market, for a snack, then head out for tastings at Delaire Graff or Tokara, two popular wine estates flanking the scenic Helshoogte Pass. Franschhoek has a distinctly French flavour to it, and a spate of new openings at one end of the village’s main drag – chic new boutique hotel Leeu House and a lively microbrewery Tuk-Tuk among them – are adding contemporary flair to the historic town.

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