Cape Town, South Africa

The oldest city in South Africa, this patch of the world also experiences one of the highest numbers of sunshine hours a year. Mind you, you may want to banish all thoughts about how you look in a bikini, as eating and drinking in Cape Town is world-class and wonderfully inexpensive. The city’s cosmopolitan personality and welcoming spirit is best experienced among the lively cafés, bars and vibrant boutiques of Long and Kloof streets and the Cape Quarter, while Camps Bay is the bustling holiday strip where sun-worshippers flock to its white beaches by day, and crowds fill the bars for the local tipple, a sundowner, at dusk. Once you’ve had your fill of the surf, there is no shortage of excitement on turf – from animal-watching on safari or sampling the fruits of the winelands. And as it is only two hours ahead of GMT, European visitors can delight in escaping any jet lag.

Areas in Cape Town

When to go

Cape Town is a fantastic year-round destination, but March until May is when the sun and the wind are at their most enjoyable. If you plan to travel here during the school holidays, which are in January, be sure to book your hotel well in advance.

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Getting there

  • Planes

    Flights take 11.5 hours from London; Virgin | BA | South African Airways fly direct. Cape Town airport is a 30-minute drive from the city centre and there is a half-hourly bus service into town: On the way home you can use the comfortable airport lounge for R140 and enjoy one last glass of South African wine. It's also wise to have your luggage wrapped in plastic at the airport | especially if flying via Johannesburg where things notoriously go missing in transit.
  • Trains

    Public transport around Cape Town isn’t fantastic. There are mini-bus taxis and slow trains from certain parts of town, but you’re better off driving; see automobiles.
  • Automobiles

    Hiring a car to drive is easy and cheap (particularly if you’re British: they drive on the left side of the road) | although you need to book cars well in advance as they get booked out. It’s worth noting that it is South African law to carry your international driving license at all times. Also | some driving tips: at roundabouts there are four-way stops where whoever gets there first | leaves first. And minibus taxis have right of way – let them go ahead.
  • Taxis

    For rides such as from the city centre to the Waterfront, try Rikki's Intercity (+27 (0)21 418 6713) minibuses, otherwise hail cabs in the street or ask your hotel to arrange one.

Deserted dunes

Deserted dunes

If you like your beaches powder soft and free of people, seek out Oudekraal Beach between Llandudno and Camps Bay in the Western Cape. If it’s naturists you’re keen to be among, Sandy Bay even invites you to strip off. Like most Cape Town beaches, the water along here is chilly, but think of it as refreshing. If that still sends shivers, the water on the False Bay coast is a fraction warmer than on the Atlantic side. You should only swim in areas designated by the lifeguards. Over to the east of Plettenberg Bay, Nature’s Valley has a huge, jaw-droppingly gorgeous stretch of sand, which you may well have all to yourself.

Find out more about Cape Town's beaches
Boutique wineries

Boutique wineries

Stray 10 miles south of Cape Town's city centre into the leafy cloud-cloaked hillside suburb of Constantia and follow the historic wine route past 17th-century manor houses. Rosé, white, red and bubbly win awards for some of the smaller winemakers, but the cooler temperatures here make it especially ideal for sauvignon blancs to flourish. We say, seek out under-the-radar labels, such as the small batches produced by Beau Constantia.

Find out more about Beau Constantia
Cape Town

Cape Town

Cradled by mountain and sea, this cosmopolitan city is as adept at treating visitors to beach action as it is a buzzing nightlife. March until May is when the sun and the wind are at their most enjoyable. If you plan to travel here in January when it’s their school holidays, be sure to book hotels well in advance.

Find out more about Cape Town
Health and wellness in Cape Town

Health and wellness in Cape Town

Cape Town is fast becoming a favourite destination to pop to for some serious beautifying. Not only is express cosmetic surgery a speciality, but it’s also a hub for holistic medicine. A short drive from Victorian-exterior country-style homestead Schoone Oordt in historic Swellendam, is the new Rainforest Day Spa. Applying a natural approach to health and wellness and first-class botanical products has helped made Rain the darling of New York City sybarites too – and they’re a tough crowd to please. To get a pampering truly in cahoots with nature, hit the thatched Wellness Spa at Etali in Madikwe; here you can enjoy an African ritual in soundtracked by elephants at the waterhole and weaverbirds on the window. Meanwhile, at the Bush Spas at Singita Sweni and Singita Lebombo, monkey oranges are the stars of the show – they rub these dried exotic fruits on your pressure points.

Gourmet dining

Gourmet dining

Dinner in Cape Town doesn’t have to be an extravagant affair, still, if you wish to dress up and have a real taste of Capetonian gastronomy, Kensington Place suggests a visit to the White Room at Dear Me. Meanwhile, to flaunt Asian flair in small plates, chef-of-the-moment Luke Dale-Roberts has recently opened The Pot Luck Club & Gallery as a spin-off of The Test Kitchen in a former factory in the Woodstock quarter. On the Garden Route, stop at The Grand Café & Rooms for some laid-back lunching. 

Find out more about dining experiences
A wealth of watersports

A wealth of watersports

Camps Bay is a 15-minute drive from downtown Cape Town, a lively stretch of Atlantic seaboard that is definitely no secret. But the way to dip into all the action is with a stay at Atlantic House is an amble from Camp’s Bay. Have a go at sea kayaking – also known as surf ski paddling. Adventurers will also love kloofing – also known as canyoning – where guides take you up into the mountains and you dive through waterfalls, off cliffs and down canyons. Not for the faint hearted.

Find out more about Atlantic House