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Few cities can boast such a setting as South Africa’s Cape Town: flanked on one side by the majestic Table Mountain National Park, and undulating yellow-sand beaches on the other, a lesser city might be dwarfed by its surroundings. But Cape Town has an energy all of its own, with myriad neighbourhoods to explore – each like a village in itself – and on its outskirts, acres of rolling vineyards, making some of the best wines in the world.
Which is to say, it is the perfect place to spend a summer – or, indeed, a British winter, when South Africa is at its warmest. The months of December to February are when the tourists arrive – seeking the country’s abundantly sunny days and temperatures reaching up into the thirties – but choose the months before and after for a more peaceful stay. As for where, the ever-changing city offers plenty of hotels for all sensibilities: from hip downtown hideaway Gorgeous George, to the flashy wraparound views and art-filled rooms of the towering Silo Hotel.
The latter comes with the advantage of being above one of the city’s defining cultural institutions, the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Arts, a vast temple of modern African art in a converted grain silo right on the city’s Atlantic waterfront. The gallery – which puts a focus on modern South African art, as well as art from the African diaspora – has caused an art scene boom in the capital, with new galleries emerging monthly, particularly in the city’s Woodstock district (stop by STEVENSON, a joint-owned gallery which primarily displays art from rising talents in the region). Just outside of the city is the Norval Foundation, a primal, hangar-like structure in the dusty landscape beneath the Table Mountain National Park, displaying 20th- and 21st-century art and sculpture, much of which prompts the viewer to contemplate the country’s fractured history.
Most of the city’s energy, though, is found on its coastline: Camps Bay, in the shadow of the Twelve Apostles, is perhaps Cape Town’s most famous beach and comes lined with bars and restaurants to while away sunny days (if windy, head north to Clifton beach, which is more sheltered). Divert from the beach slightly and head upwards to The Lawns at the Roundhouse for lazy lunches with views from above. Elsewhere, Harbour House remains one of the city’s best places to eat – choose from one of its two locations, the buzzing V&A Waterfront or a more idyllic spot at Kalk Bay, with floor-to-ceiling views of the Atlantic ocean.
It is worth exploring further outside of the city’s centre, too. Take the 45-minutes-or-so drive out towards Cape Point – pausing to see the Cape’s famed African penguins at Boulders Bay en route there or back – a rugged cliff-top spot 200 metres above sea level offering expansive views of the country’s Atlantic coastline. Further still, take a day to explore the outlying wine country – Stellenbosch is about an hour’s drive from Cape Town, home to numerous vineyards and opportunities to taste the region’s distinct wines. We recommend the Seven Sisters Winery – made up of Chardonnay and Shiraz vineyards – run by the women of the Brutus family.
But perhaps the best way to see Cape Town is from above, whether taking the cable car up to the top of Table Mountain or hiking up Lion’s Head, a smaller (but no less impressive) peak, you will be rewarded with the city’s finest vistas of land and sea – proof that Cape Town is probably the most beautiful city on earth.
Begin your day at Lily’s on the Mouille Point ‘Golden Mile’, where you can enjoy their extensive breakfast menu on the ocean-facing deck.
There are myriad galleries opening across Cape Town, though most visitors will be drawn to the monolithic Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Arts, a good place to begin your exploration of the city’s buzzing art scene.
Begin to make your journey along the undulating coastline towards Cape Point, pausing at the breezy Noordhoek Farm Village for lunch at one of their many eateries en route.
Cape Point is one of South Africa’s most arresting vistas, giving panoramic views of the country’s rugged Atlantic coastline.
Head back to the city via a visit to Cape Town’s most beloved residents: a colony of African penguins which settled at Boulders Beach in 1982.
End your day at one of the city’s most serene eating spots, Harbour House at Kalk Bay, where the dining room looks straight out to the Atlantic sea.