Outside GO's Guide to Cape Town
Outside GO's Guide to Cape Town
Your insiders-only guide to the beating heart of South Africa
South Africa is one of the most popular countries in all of Africa, and with Cape Town as its beating heart, it's easy to see why. The "Mother City" is an epi-center for active tourists and history buffs alike; those who want to immerse themselves in local culture before lunch and climb to the top of an iconic landmark for sunset. Go wine tasting in Stellenbosch, meet the local penguins on Boulders Beach, and stroll along the famous waterfront. The options in Cape Town are immense. We take out the guesswork with our top recommendations for where to stay, dine, and play to make sure all that's left for you to do is enjoy.
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WHERE TO STAY
These could be the coolest digs below the equator.
GO VOTED: Best Boutique Crash Pad
Located in the leafy Cape Town suburb of Higgovale, Kensington Place is defined by quietude just outside the heart of the bustling city. Table Mountain looms overhead, while views of Cape Town below add to the peaceful ambiance. There are just eight spacious suites at Kensington, each filled with luscious textures and contemporary details. With a dedicated team on hand to answer your every whim and question during your stay, you'll feel expertly equipped to take on a new adventure in the city each morning—if you feel like leaving your suite, that is.
BELMOND MOUNT NELSON
GO VOTED: Best Grand Ole Dame Hotel
"Leafy tranquility. Contemporary buzz." The team at the Belmond Mount Nelson certainly knows how to describe their oasis in central Cape Town. The pink-hued outpost has long been regarded as one of the five-star hotels in the city. What might seem like a behemoth at first glance is in reality a boutique hotel offering a uniquely historical feel that has only grown better with age. Delicate details with first-class comforts like a fitness center and several pools make the Belmond a hub for all your Cape Town needs.
ONE&ONLY CAPE TOWN
GO VOTED: Best Hip Hotel
The aptly named One&Only on Cape Town's waterfront is a sight to behold. Framed by the cliffs of Devil's Peak and Lion's Head, the hotel looks out over the marina with what is arguably one of the best views in the entire city. While the One&Only offers every service under the sun, including a creative program called KidsOnly for any tots or teens in tow, it's the prime location that sets this hotel apart. Walk to the waterfront for endless dining and shopping options, or hit the paved pathway for an evening stroll, winding along the coast watching surfers below and paragliders drift down from Lion's Head above. Who knows? Maybe you'll even decide to join them during your time in Cape Town.
WHERE TO EAT
Town is known for its culinary delights. Here are our insider picks.
THE POT LUCK CLUB
GO VOTED: Best Edgy New Eats
The menu at the Pot Luck Club is organized by several delectable categories: sweet, salty, and sour. Items like the fish sliders, springbok carpaccio, and peri peri chicken are all served tapas style, making this restaurant the perfect place to gather with a group of friends or family. And while the menu is enticing in it's own right, perhaps the most interesting part of the Pot Luck Club is it's location. It's built into the top portion of a grain silo of the Old Biscuit Mill, a favorite Cape Town landmark in an area called Woodstock. You won't find a plethora of other dining options in the area, but making the trip to the Pot Luck Club will be worth the short cab ride. Just take one look at the dessert menu if you have any doubt!
GO VOTED: Best Mediterranean Pit-Stop
With a setting so close to the waterfront that you can practically taste the ocean, Sotano has become a fast favorite of locals and travelers alike. The intimate restaurant features an eclectic bar and cozy interior, as well as an uber-popular patio area where guests can dine on flavorful dishes while watching the passersby. Start with a flat-bread pizza before digging in to the freshest greek salad this side of the equator, or perhaps the seared ahi. Be sure to watch out for live local music on the weekends! Staying somewhere along the Cape Waterfront? Sotano serves a mean breakfast, too.
GO VOTED: Best Cape Malay Kitchen
A Biesmiellah is a prayer said before a meal, and it's the perfect name for this unsuspecting gem in the Bo Kaap neighborhood of Cape Town. With a menu filled with traditional Indian, Middle Eastern, and South African tastes, you're in for a true culinary experience that the locals would whole-heartedly join you in. Go with one of many spicy curry dishes or try a breyani—chicken or mutton marinated in butter and served on a bed of rice. The perfect complement to a day spent perusing the streets of this vibrant and ethnically rich city.
GO VOTED: Best Schoolhouse Turned Eatery
With modern accents and fresh paint, Open Door restaurant has more history than it lets on. The property dates back to 1685 when the Dutch East India Company granted the Governer of the Cape a large plot of land. The Governer turned the property into a vineyard–one of the oldest in the Southern Hemisphere–before time rolled on and the site became a schoolhouse. Open Door now sits on that very site, opened in 2014 with great respect for the original heritage of the building in its structure and photos that appear throughout. Between the storied past and tasty menu, it easily made our best-of list. Nibble on pressed octopus ribbons or roasted duck breast before tucking in to any number of delicious entrees, such as the springbok or kingklip paired with the perfect South African wine.
GO VOTED: Best Tapas Menu in Town
Chefs and foodies will rejoice in this eclectic canteen-style restaurant on Bree Street. With a rotating "tapas for two" menu that changes daily, Chef's Warehouse keeps locals on their toes for whatever the creative chefs have cooked up next. Tourists rest assured that no matter what appears on their plate, the flavors will be fresh and the combinations unique and rich. Chase the tapas down with elderflower panna cotta with blackberries, or perhaps a selection of cheeses with fruit chutney—a South African favorite. Chef's Warehouse doesn't take reservations, so come early to make sure you get a seat at the table.
THE VILLAGE IDIOT
GO VOTED: Best Unexpected Atmosphere
"It is better to dance like a fool, than to stand around like an idiot." This quote from Oliver Gaspirtz gets to the heart and soul of the cleverly named restaurant, The Village Idiot. Established in 2015, the Idiot is quirky by design. The mascot, a stuffed ostrich named Oskar, sits atop the bar as tattooed bartenders in suspenders serve up favorite cocktails and local dishes like braai boards (barbecued meats), biltong (similar to beef jerky), and boerewors burgers. The pub-esque restaurant is located in what is now the financial district of Cape Town, but that's on purpose too. You'll be encouraged to kick back, relax, and enjoy the evening as if you need to let off steam from a long day at the office. Even if you're on vacation, we think you'll find the atmosphere addicting.
GO VOTED: Best French Brasserie
All whites, brights, and delicate accents, The Stack in the 160-year old Leinster Hall is a bar, club, and brasserie all rolled into one. Newly renovated by Sarah Ord and Nigel Pace, who allegedly dreamed up the place while drinking gin during monsoon season, The Stack oozes Georgian structure and Victorian fretwork. Try any number of delectable treats from the French-inspired menu, such as the onion soup and beef bourguignon, followed by rum baba—a brioche bun soaked in rum served with cinnamon-roasted pineapple and coconut ice cream. Seconds, anyone?
GO VOTED: Best Taste of History
Another historic Cape Town eatery, The Roundhouse Restaurant has a past almost as interesting as its menu. Originally a guardhouse built in 1786 by the Dutch East India Company, the building overlooks beautiful Camps Bay below and the Atlantic for as far as the eye can see. It has since been a hotel, dance hall, and hunting lodge to Lord Charles Somerset. Now it's one of the coolest places to eat in South Africa. Pretend you're watching for pirate ships as you tuck into a six-course menu. The items are updated not just seasonally, but weekly–depending on the freshest produce, fish, and meat–to guarantee mouth-watering tastes year-round.
WHERE TO PLAY
Our favorite activities for your time in Cape Town.
MEET THE PENGUINS
GO VOTED: Best Wildlife Activity
The African Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa have become a viral tourist attraction. Perhaps it's because we don't expect to see penguins in a warm, beachy environment, but their sensation most likely has to do with the fact you can literally pitch your beach towel right next to the little guys. Boulders Beach is located on the Cape Peninsula, an hour-long journey from Cape Town. Travel southbound via the famous Chapman's Peak Drive seeing the sights along the way before tucking your toes into the sand along side these tuxedoed creatures. A true family favorite, we think this is the ultimate wildlife day trip from Cape Town!
SUMMIT A MOUNTAIN TOP
GO VOTED: Best Way to Get an Endorphin High
There's no better way to conclude a day in Cape Town than by soaking in the views from up high. Luckily, there are several different options for gaining altitude. If you're hoping to burn off calories from all the delectable South African fare you've been eating, summit Lion's Head via a short but steep 3 mile trail. You can also follow several longer trails up Table Mountain, such as the Skeleton Gorge Path that departs from Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden. Hiking not your thing? Take a cable car up instead and enjoy the same views in a fraction of the time.
GO TO THE WINELANDS
GO VOTED: Best All-Day Activity
Often equated to the Napa Valley of South Africa, the winelands just outside of Cape Town are a must-see destination. The area is extensive, but the popular cities of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek are within reach for a blissful day spent beneath towering mountains, meandering through lush vines while sipping on delicious tastings. We have an entire guide dedicated to maximizing your time in the winelands, whether you're staying for an afternoon or an overnight. Find it on the Journal here.
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Outside GO's Guide to Cape Town
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