Sarah Khan was an editor at Travel + Leisure magazine when she visited Cape Town on a whim in early 2012. In the span of four days, she fell in love with the city…and with a Capetonian. Now she’s married, and happily freelancing from the most beautiful city on Earth. Here are some of Sarah’s favorite things about Cape Town.

Keep up with Sarah on her blog and on Twitter and Instagram @BySarahKhan.

Cape Town is My City

When someone comes to visit me, the first place I take them is BoKaap. The vibrant Muslim quarter of the city is known for its charming rowhouses in a riot of lime greens, marigold yellows, and neon pinks. You can stop by for a coffee and koesister at Biesmillah’s café, or while away the whole afternoon posing for pictures on people’s front stoops.

The colorful houses of the BoKaap quarter (Photograph by Vaiz Ha, Flickr)

The colorful houses of the BoKaap quarter (Photograph by Vaiz Ha, Flickr)

February is the best time to visit my city because it’s summer down here in the nether-hemisphere!

You can see my city best from Table Mountain: it’s the heart of Cape Town — who needs GPS when you have this hulking plateau to help you orient yourself? When you hike it or take the cable car to the top, you can get the best perspective on all the neighborhoods that make up Cape Town, with the mountain at its epicenter.

Locals know to skip the crowded beaches of Clifton and Camps Bay and check out Llandudno Beach instead — a secluded, scenic strip of sand devoid of any shops.

Greenmarket Square is the place to buy authentic, local souvenirs. 

In the past, notable people like Archbishop Desmond Tutu and artist Vladimir Tretchikoffhave called my city home.

My city’s best museum is the District Six Museum because while most people head to Robben Island to cross “apartheid history” off their travel checklist, they should also visit this intimate museum filled with artifacts, pictures, and stories from a community forcibly displaced during apartheid.

A collection of local souvenirs (Photograph by Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot, Flickr)

A collection of local souvenirs (Photograph by Guillaume Colin & Pauline Penot, Flickr)

If there’s one thing you should know about getting around my city, it’s that you need a car. There’s no subway or reliable bus system here. And if you’re renting, you should probably know how to drive manual — automatics are not widely available.

The best place to spend time outdoors in my city is Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens — it celebrates 100 years this year, and was named one of NatGeo’s 10 best picnic spots in the world, with good reason!

My city really knows how to celebrate Tweede Nuwe Jaar, or “second new year,” because it’s when Cape Minstrel Carnival takes place on January 2, a crazy street party dating back to the 1800s.

You can tell if someone is from my city if they call a traffic light a robot, a barbecue a braai, wear slops to the beach instead of flip-flops, and thinks a 15-minute drive to Hout Bay is “the other end of the world.” (See other South Africanisms here.)

For a fancy night out, I go to Test Kitchen, Luke Dale Roberts’s celebrated restaurant in the Old Biscuit Mill.

Just outside my city, you can visit the Cape Winelands — the absolutely stunning wine region just a 45-minute drive away. Babylonstoren, a super-stylish farm resort (no, not an oxymoron!), is the perfect place for an overnight stay, a relaxing meal, or a guided stroll through the sprawling, fragrant gardens.

My city is known for being beautiful, but it’s really beautiful. What can I say, the rumors are true!

The best outdoor market in my city is Neighbourgoods Market, a popular weekly hangout that draws stylish Capetonians, set in a converted Victorian-era warehouse in Woodstock.

Celebrations for the Cape Minstrel Carnival (Photograph by G. Bayliss, Flickr)

Celebrations for the Cape Minstrel Carnival (Photograph by G. Bayliss, Flickr)

The Neighbourgoods Market is my favorite place to grab breakfast, and Long Street is the spot for late-night eats, where you can pick up a boerewor, or spicy sausage roll, from one of many street stalls set up to feed partygoers.

My city’s biggest sports event is rugby. Watch it at Newlands Stadium.

When I’m feeling cash-strapped, I head to Mariam’s Kitchen for a cheap and delicious steak salomie — spicy curried beef wrapped in a flaky, buttery roti.

To escape the crowds, I head to “the rock” — a little-known, secluded lookout point on a hill in Fresnaye.

If my city were a celebrity it’d be Zooey Deschanel because it’s beautiful, laid back, and quirky.

The dish that represents my city best is the Gatsby, a hoagie stuffed with meat, fries, onions, and more.

The Boorhaanol Mosque in BoKaap is my favorite building in town because it is an absolutely lovely, tiny confection of a mosque, sea green with white trim.

The most random thing about my city is the fact that so many diverse, far-flung cultures (European, African, Asian) came to find themselves living here at the tiny tip of this continent, centuries ago.

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (Photograph by Hannah Swithinbank, Flickr)

The Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens (Photograph by Hannah Swithinbank, Flickr)

Tagore’s is the best place to see live music, but if you’re in the mood to dance, check out Shimmy Beach Club.

Four legit seasons in one day could only happen in my city.

In the spring you should go horseback riding in Noordhoek.

In the summer you should braai every weekend.

In the fall you should hike up Lion’s Head (though my husband tries to do this at least once a month, year round).

In the winter you should take advantage of the amazing winter “specials” at all the top restaurants, trying to lure diners out of hibernation.

If you have kids (or are a kid at heart), you won’t want to miss frolicking with the penguins on Boulders Beach.

When I think about my city, the song that comes to mind is ”Paradise” by Coldplay — the video was shot here.

In 140 characters or less, the world should heart my city because it’s got natural beauty, architectural gems, fascinating history, unique cuisine, cosmopolitan culture, and a laid-back vibe.

Comments

  1. Joseph Ramsey
    Australia
    January 7, 6:11 pm

    I absolutely love Cape Town. I had so much fun there that I didn’t want to leave. Next time that I am there, I will have to check out Tweede Nuwe Jaar. I found an article that has another perspective on this wonderful city.
    http://www.theessentialdestination.com/africa/cape-town/

  2. Jessy Lipperts
    Cape Town
    July 26, 2013, 6:05 am

    Oy, ya the list is endless. My favorite spot is the Greenpoint Urban park and the Seapoint promenade where all colors and cultures mix beautifully, you can have free workout on the outdoors gym while watching the sunset. I love all the food markets in and around Cape Town. St Georges Mall has a lovely one on Thursday mornings. Moonlight mass, cycling in the full moon, must be one of the most awesome monthly event and Sababa in Bree Street keeps us nurtured with the most wholesome food ever. But the best about Cape Town is that you can walk so easily from one place to the other or you can use the wonderful Hop on Hop off Bus which takes you to all highlights in a convenient way. Anyway, the Kaapse Story goes on and on.. Greetz from Greenpoint!

  3. Manfred
    CapeTown/ Durban/ Maringá
    July 10, 2013, 4:17 pm

    Hi Sarah, if you love Cape Town so much, then we are on one, and the same level. Cause I do… – and I wrote half a dozen of romantic books about… Give a look at:
    “Firestar2010Books” – there is alway a chance to write another one… Manfred u. Osterroht / Luw ya !

  4. AkashKushwaha
    chandigadh
    July 9, 2013, 9:01 am

    this channal so knowlegement.

  5. ayuinthewild safaris Sri Lanka
    Colombo
    July 8, 2013, 9:05 am

    Absolutely LOVE Capetown!! Just to add a few more do’s to the dining options…Mama Aida’s for dinner and fantastic live music, for more fancy options sea-food at Camps Bay and at the V&A Waterfront….and for first timers the hop on-hop off bus and its incredible African music – sold as a CD at the ticket counters!!! That music keeps our memories of CPT alive!