What Locals Love About Cape Town

I fell in love with Cape Town at first visit, on the Tree Canopy walkway at Kirstenbosch National Botanic Garden.

For Sarah Khan, a former New Yorker who moved to Cape Town and married a local, it’s all about the views. “Biases aside, it’s just the most beautiful city in the world,” she says. “Even when you’re running the most mundane errands, you’re almost always within sight of the coast or in the shadow of Table Mountain. Not a day goes by that I don’t think, Wow, I live here!?”

From the always-changing city center to sleepy vineyard-filled valleys, here’s the scoop on what locals love about Cape Town:

> Budget Bites: “You can’t leave Cape Town without trying a Gatsby [curried meat and french fries buried in what basically amounts to a loaf of bread],” says Sarah Khan, the freelance writer behind the South AfriKhan blog. Her favorite take on the mammoth sandwich can be found at Mariam’s Kitchen, a busy joint on St. George’s Mall specializing in Cape Malay fast food. “You can get a Gatsby that could comfortably feed three or four people for under $8,” she reports.

> A Rockin’ Local Dive: Local Cape Town musician Al Clapper describes himself as a “lover of pool, cheap drinks, and all things rock and roll.” Lucky for him, Shack manages to bring all these aspects together in a grungy two-story building. The massive establishment boasts five bars to choose from, and, according to Clapper, is one of the few places in town that serves food after midnight. “Do yourself a favor and have a Shack pizza,” he recommends.

> Wineland Oasis: Writer Jane Broughton spends as much time as she can in Stellenbosch, a historic town about a 40-minute drive east from Cape Town. In addition to being a vinicultural powerhouse, Broughton prizes the “city of oaks” for its vibrant street art, strong walking culture (owing to the university crowd), and broad range of shops, galleries, and restaurants. Her favorite place of all? “For everything from coffee to lunch, it’s Schoon de Companje,” she says. “The hands-on, involved owners, Fritz and Chanelle Schoon, look like they should be in a TV commercial—both are wholesomely gorgeous blondes that look like they should be skipping through a meadow while drinking full-fat, organic milk!”

> Beachside Bliss: Matt Biden, director of Cape Town’s exclusive Royal Portfolio Hotel, looks forward to his Sunday morning walk with his dogs on Noordhoek Beach all week. The vast shoreline to the south of Cape Town boasts incredible views of the ocean, mountains, and sand dunes. “Flamingos often frequent the inland lagoon and we have seen dolphins playing in the surf from the beach,” Biden says. The perfect end to a perfect day of outdoor adventure? “A visit to Noordhoek Farm Village for a coffee and a pastry.”

> Uplifting Sports: Sunningdale Sports Complex in Blouberg holds a special place in my heart, as it’s home to the fiercest female skating community in ‘Mother City,'” says Cape Town Rollergirls member Ming-Cheau Lin. “Our public events include fast-paced full-contact action, local DJs, half-time entertainment, food, and bar—all set up and organized by skaters.”

> Eats Street: Cape Town-based travel and food writer Ishay Govender-Ypma has watched Bree Street progress from “drab office buildings and a shop or two” into a hive of mouth-watering attractions. “If you’re looking for a bite, a beer, or a place to get excellent bread and pastries, it’s all here,” she says. First Thursdays, where restaurants, bars, shops, and art spaces fling open their doors to the public, provide a stellar introduction to this happening strip. Recommends Govender-Ypma: “Start the evening with a glass of wine at Wienhaus + BierGarten, or off the main street at Publik, and progress to exquisite tapas at Chefs Warehouse & Canteen‘s communal tables before exploring the shops and galleries with friends.”

> Peaceful Places: Walking in the Groot Constantia vineyards is one of Cape Town local Rosie Brossy’s favorite things to do in her city. “Pass through the vineyards, the manor house—built in 1652—and up a steepish incline surrounded by majestic oak trees, and at the top [you can] see the most beautiful views of the Cape stretching through to the False Bay Coast,” she says. “Sometimes on this walk we encounter a troop of baboons, which adds to the fun!”

> Bo-Kaap Style: Cape Town’s kaleidoscopic Bo-Kaap neighborhood mixes “the hum of cars and people [with] the invigorating aromas of traditional spices and foods,” says Sherwin Banda, general manager at the Table Bay Hotel. Two of his favorite stops: Bo-Kaap Kombuis, which features a simple menu of flavorful Cape Malay-styled dishes like denningvleis, and Atlas Trading, a family-owned store focusing on spices. But, Banda says, no tourist’s visit is complete without seeing the Bo Kaap Museum, which highlights the cultural contributions of early Muslim settlers. If you’re planning a visit, better make it fast: “Times are changing,” Banda says. “As property becomes more sought after, wealthy outsiders are moving in. With that comes the potential of losing some of the integrity and authenticity of Bo-Kaap and its people. But for now, it’s one of the most mesmerizing and special places to visit in Cape Town.”

Annie Fitzsimmons is Nat Geo Travel’s Urban Insider, exploring the cities of the world with style. Follow her adventures on Twitter @anniefitz and on Instagram @anniefitzsimmons.

> Are you a Cape Town local? Tell us what you love about your city in the comments section below!

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Comments

  1. paulbroad
    November 24, 2015, 6:02 am

    Wow, this makes me want to visit South Africa.What a gorgeous country! I’ve never considered South Africa on my destination list. Great guide!
    http://www.travangelo.co.uk/blog/2015/08/04/unseen-places-around-the-world

  2. Margaret
    Tobago, West Indies
    June 17, 2015, 1:30 pm

    Had a simply wonderful time in February-March in the Cape districts. There is a never ending amount of things to do, places to go and see… including the Two Oceans aquarium, driving down the coast, riding the cable car to the top of Table Mountain, the sobering memories of Robben Island and the townships and more. The indigenous menus with great tasting food and wine at strunningly low prices, my favourite food was Boboatie with any Pinotage wine!

  3. Chris du Plessis
    Clanwilliam
    June 17, 2015, 10:06 am

    No visit to Cape Town can be complete without an extended visit to Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, one of the largest in its kind in the world. And then, of course, there are 80+ hiking trails plus… plus…

  4. Marie
    June 3, 2015, 12:00 pm

    Great tips! There are several food & retail markets in Cape Town on various days of the week that are worth a try. The Friday night market in Muizenberg is smaller than others and has a nice family-friendly feel. It’s a great way to mingle with the locals.

  5. Arthur Miller
    London.
    May 19, 2015, 9:42 am

    Walking in the Groot Constantia vineyards is one of Cape Town local Rosie Brossy’s favorite things to do. I am agree with you
    .

  6. Mary Beth
    Panama
    May 16, 2015, 3:19 pm

    This makes me want to buy a plane ticket to Cape Town right away! Great post, Annie!