Simon Leysen heads for the shores of South Africa’s Table Bay.
As you approach Cape Town airport it becomes immediately clear why the ‘Mother City’ is unique and, in my humble opinion, one of the most stunning cities in the world. The sight of Table Mountain with its tablecloth of low clouds dominating the City Bowl is simply awe-inspiring. But Cape Town is much more than just a pretty mountain. The meeting point of two oceans and a multitude of cultures, Cape Town combines its rich and sometimes troubled history with a hipster, creative vibe.
It takes a little while to get your head around the rather special layout of the city but a look at a map whilst sipping a coffee at one of the many terraces on Kloof Street – surrounded by bearded hipsters – makes you realize how this patchwork of different areas all fits together. It’s all about the mountain.
A short walk from the hustle and bustle of trendy Kloof brings you to the base of Table Mountain where you can take the Cableway to the top. The very brave, or borderline insane, can also hike to the top. Once you get to the top, the view is second to none: surfers sharing the ocean with great white sharks, Lion’s Head towering over trendy beaches, the promenade at Sea Point, the Port and Waterfront, the City Bowl and Big Bay. Furthermore, Table Mountain is not just an oddly shaped rock. The Table Mountain National Park features more plant species than the whole of the UK. Yet the most magical time is sunset, especially sipping an Elgin Sauvignon Blanc – it is a great way to start the evening and your holiday.
What to do?
Cape Town has so much to offer, the list is simply too long to include in an article. The obvious things to do are fairly easy to find online so, paraphrasing Julie Andrews in the Sound of Music, here are a few of my favourite things:
Downtown Cape Town is often ignored but hides a lot of the city’s history. Forget the sites and just wander around the city bowl.
Relax with sundowners at the Twelve Apostles at Sunset.
Misplace your watch whilst enjoying lunch at the The Rumbullion, the casual outdoor eatery in the gardens of The Roundhouse. The last thing you want to do is worry about where you have to be next.
Face a positively scary sight just before paragliding off Lion’s Head.
Solemnity is ‘de rigeur’ when visiting Robben Island. Together with the District 6 museum, it is a good reminder that the natural beauty and glitz of Cape Town go hand-in-hand with a difficult and painful history marked by one of most absurd and repugnant social systems ever devised.
Laze at Boulder’s Beach in Simon’s Town. Don’t just do the 30-minute penguin visit, take the afternoon and share the lovely beach with hundreds of African penguins.
Tea at the Mount Nelson. It really is as good as it is made out to be.
Downshift when driving the Chapman’s Peak road, truly one of the world’s most scenic drives.
Where to Eat
Cape Town is a foodie’s paradise. The mix of cultures and flavours makes for some of the most interesting, yet affordable cuisines. You can get good and inexpensive food just about anywhere, whether it is a modern take on the traditional boerewors (South African sausage) or an avocado sandwich, but those looking for something special will not disappointed. Try to get a table at the Test Kitchen (if you can) – Luke Dale-Roberts’ cooking is superb. Alternatively, The Roundhouse or Aubergine will rarely disappoint or a trip to the wine lands will open up a new extensive list of culinary options.
Where to Stay
There is something for every budget. Hundreds of guest houses are a great option, and some of them are amazing. However, the Mount Nelson, with its yesteryear charm is still hard to beat.
When to go
Cape Town weather can be surprising but going in summer (read our winter) pretty much guarantees lots of sun. Autumn (our April) or late spring are slightly less busy, less hot and should definitely not be excluded.
Not unlike the famous lodging facility on the US West Coast, you can check out of Cape Town but you can never really leave because a part of this amazing city will always be part of you. This might sound cheesy but I dare anyone to try.