Wednesday, 2 June 2010

An insiders guide to Cape Town

The 'Mother City' is one of the world's most unspoilt and dramatic cities. The city is built around the unique and imposing Table Mountain and is renowned the world over for its' relaxed vibe. The city's numerous stunning beaches contribute to a relaxed and healthy lifestyle that is conducive to the fine weather in Cape Town's summer months. Many of these beaches are renowned for surfing and kite surfing, whilst the Clifton and Camps Bay beaches are more sheltered and ideal for sun bathing and sun downers.


Cape Town is unique in that the city sits at the watershed of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. This means that the city's beaches vary considerably both aesthetically and in terms of water temperature. The ritzy beach suburbs of Camps Bay, Clifton and Llandudno provide locals and tourists with beautiful spots for sun bathing, swimming and socialising. However, the water is very cold here, being on the Atlantic coast, and most are very unsheletered - a problem when it is windy! Sunset beach and Big Bay are the pick of the other Atlantic beaches, these beaches are near the suburb of Tableview - a 15 minute drive to the West of the city centre. Whilst you there you would do well to check out the kitesurfing - call the contact number here for equipment hire, lessons and accomodation.
Further East from Llandudno Cape Town's warmer Indian Ocean beaches can be found in False Bay. The pick of them in terms of scenery is Long Beach. However, this is a 30 min drive from the city centre - although this could be combined with the most scenic drive in Cape Town - Chapman's Peak drive - each car has to pay a small toll charge but it is well worth it! This is the first thing I would recommend a tourist to do in Cape Town it is incredible!

Muizenberg, in the warm False Bay, is 20 mins on the highway from the city centre. This is the best beach for beginners and a great place to buy or hire a board as well. However, watch out for sharks - Great Whites are often spotted in False Bay. Muizenberg is the safest spot for sharks in False Bay thpugh as during office hours there are shark spotters so listen out for the siren and paddle fast if it goes off!Long Beach is another very nice warmer surf spot and well worth checking out. Llandudno can produce beautiful fast and hollow waves when the conditions are right, but is for intermediate - advanced surfers and can be exceptionally cold! Although this is my favourite beach to surf in Cape Town watch out for some lary locals! Glens Beach is another exceptional break near trhe city beaches of Clifton and produces nice clean waves in the right conditions. Sharks also don't tend to be nearly so prevalent on the Atlantic side so that's an added bonus of surfing Llandudno or Glens - cold though! Wetsuit definitely required!

Cape Town's restaurants and local wine are world class and excellent value for the Western tourist. The city's African and European influences ensure that a wide range of cuisine can be found throughout. I will be posting a restuarant special soon...but for starters check out Beluga in Greenpoint great sushi and modern european food.

Arts and Culture
The city is a hotbed of cultural activity and a wide variety of galleries and museums can be found within the centre of the city and in the more bohemian area of Woodstock. The Apartheid museum is exceptional, Robben Island is obviously also a fscinating trip. I will be posting a more detailed blog in the near future about some of my favourite contemporary African art galleries within Cape Town.

Walks and National Parks
World renowned national parks and the Kirstenbosch botanical gardens are also within easy reach of Cape Town's city centre. The Kirstenbosch gardens is one of the most serene and stunning gardens I have ever been to and the evening concerts there are unmissable. Table Mountain is also definitely best walked up rather than cable car - unless you're on a tight schedule. A shorter walk that is great for sunset would be up the Lions Head on the Eastern side of the city centre. The Cape Point National Park is also well worth a visit - there are some very unspoilt beaches and beautiful views - but you will need a car.

The world renowned Cape wine regions are all very accessible from Cape Town. The beautiful town of Franschoek is only 40 mins away and is very close to the student town of Stellenbosch. This area produces excceptional wines, the best of which are blends, in stunning countryside. Try the following:
'Rustenberg is the most beautiful wine estate I have ever been to' (Mark Savage, Master of wine, Savage Selection)

Closer to Cape Town the plush, leafy suburb of Constantia, which sits behind Table Mountain, also has a number of high profile wine estates that are well worth a visit. Klein COnstantia being the pick of the bunch:
I will be posting a more extensive wine region post in the near future.

Bars and Nightclubs
Long Street is the main drag in the city centre with a plethora of bars. This place will be pumping for the world cup. For a more pretentious, beach vibe head to Caprice in Camps Bay on Saturdays or Sundays. La Med in upmarket Clifton is also a beach bar which can have a great atmosphere and incredible Atlantic Ocean views.
If you're in Newlands head to The Forresters' Arms (Forries) which is a great pub with a good beer garden and reasonable food.
Observatory is a bohemian, studenty area which has some great laid back bars and is my favourite place to go for a few drinks in Cape Town. Best to just have a walk aorund and pop in where ever you fancy. DO NOT leave anything in view in your car though otherwise you will have your car window smashed! The same goes for Long Street as well!
Clubs are not great in Cape Town...Cheval is a decent club in the city centre that can have good music - usually has and upmarket and pretentious crowd. Tiger Tiger is the place to go in Claremont - the student area of Cape Town - cheesy music and young crowd.
I will do an in depth post on Cape Town nightlife here soon! For the World CUp check out live music every night at Cool Brittannia festival!