An Insider’s Guide to Cape Town: Mountain Hikes, Iconic Cinemas and Live Music

Cape Town—Home to art-house coffee shops, sunny beaches, strong winds, historic theatre, and that vast and rather iconic, flat-topped chunk of rock. It’s a city where people seem to leave work early on Friday’s, driving longer than ten minutes is a considered a day trip, everyone is “chilled”, coffee and craft beer is consumed like daily bread and every second person is a creative professional. It’s often the site for tourists from far flung countries, regarded as “kak cool” and the “best city in the world” by residents, and a tad pretentious by everyone else. Despite all this, it’s a charming natural beauty and hard not to love – even if it’s just for the holidays. If you’re planning to visit this picturesque seaside village then take advice from some of the city’s creative insiders, who shared with us their best things to do in and around the Mother City.

Start the Day: Somewhere up Table Mountain 

One does not simply go to the Mother City and not climb Table Mountain. For the moderately fit, Lion’s Head offers panoramic views and is a cherished site among locals, who may not be avid trail blazers, but don’t want to risk the FOMO of never witnessing a sunset or sunrise over “the number one destination in the world”. Alternatively, Rob Coutts, host of Assembly Radio’s Rambunctious Radio Show, recommends “anywhere on Table Mountain. A hike up the jeep track and cheeky swim in one of the dams on a nice hot day”. If you don’t have time for an excursion then photographer Anke Loots says, “My favorite view in Cape Town – a bench under a tree on Table Mountain Road – it over looks the tiny city that can sometimes feel a bit overwhelming. I go there whenever I need some perspective…”

Insider's Guide to Cape Town Insider's Guide to Cape Town Insider's Guide to Cape Town

Have Breakfast: Max Bagels | 120 Bree Street 

Max Bagels is always great for a bite if you’re looking for good food and atmosphere. Freelance designer and events coordinator, Philippus Johan Schutte says he’s quite a fan of the eclectic eatery. “From the outside it kind of looks like a shipping container eased into a slab of Philadelphia Cream Cheese, while inside the wood and chrome finishes smell of bacon and salmon. The checkered floor elicits dormant memories of the most beautiful levels from Monument Valley, but instead of the flightless crows we have literary journals like the Paris Review looking up to the likes of Asterix comics and The Onion anthologies,” he says before adding,“Oh also they make really good bagels and I love going there. Was that important to mention?”

Insider's Guide to Cape Town

Gather your Thoughts: The Company’s Garden Restaurant 

“My favourite place to read and relax is the outside couch at the Company’s Garden restaurant on a summer day. It’s out in the open, surrounded by trees and birds, and during weekday mornings it’s usually quiet” says playwright and director, Amy Jephta. “The coffee is great and you’re left mostly by yourself with little interruption. If your eyes get a bit heavy you can take a nap. That’s my favourite thing to do at 11am.” Or, if you’re in the mood for a museum day then visit the South African Natural History Museum, Bertram House and The South African National Gallery, otherwise take a meander through rose garden and try your luck at spotting the infamous albino squirrel. 

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Go Shopping: Missibaba and Alexander Höjer 

Looking for a new accessory or outfit? Ditch large shopping malls and head to Missibaba on 229 Bree Street to peruse through their iconic clutch collections and men’s leather bag range. Monique du Preez from Art Gallery, Salon 91 says, Alexandra Höjer and Missibaba are firm favourites!”  Within walking distance on 156 Bree Street is the designer clothing store so be sure to treat yourself to some holiday wardrobe spoils.

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Lunchtime: Sam’s Cafe | Sir Lowry Road, Woodstock

Hungry yet? Hannah Lewis from Blank Projects Gallery says her lunchbox always takes first place, “but second best is Sam’s Café and Takeaways on Sir Lowry Road – Mrs Naidoo makes a killer curry for 25 bucks!” Grab a meal after viewing some art and then take a walk to the Woodstock Exchange for a look-see at some locally produced goods from homeware to jewellery and shoes.  Insider's Guide to Cape Town

Watch a Movie: The Labia |  68 Orange St, Gardens or 38 Long Street

Sean Drummond, organizer of shnit International Shortfilmfestival and expert on all things Capetonian and distinctly cinematic gives a breakdown of his favourite spot to catch a flick. “Obviously, The Labia at 68 Orange Street – the home of independent cinema in Cape Town – is an institution, for its old school vibe, laid-back spirit, diverse art-house line up and its support of the local industry and festivals.”

An Insider's Guide to Cape Town

Take an Oceanside Stroll: Sea Point Promenade

Conceivably the most Instagrammed location second to Table Mountain is the Promenade or “Prom” (if you’re local). Artist, designer and illustrator Kirsten Sims, says “It’s a great place for sea, city and mountain views, but even better for people and dog watching which is why I love spending time there.” Take a stroll, eat an ice-cream, hire a bicycle, go for a swim, climb the jungle gym, have a picnic or view the public art.

Insider's Guide to Cape Town

Insider's Guide to Cape Town

Order Drinks: Honest Chocolate Gin Bar or Tiger’s Milk 

Dominique Gawlowski of Griet Events and Artist Management and recent co-owner of Fiction Bar says that Tiger’s Milk on 44 Long Street (also in Sidmouth Road in Muizenberg) is the perfect spot for a beer. “They really worked the feng shui well there. The attention to detail decor-wise and being able to sit either outside, inside, at the bar or at a table always makes it really awesome for me and its a good mix of people. I like places that don’t subscribe to a ‘type’.”

If you’re looking for a nightcap or quiet drink to kickstart the evening, Dom also recommends the Honest Chocolate Gin Bar which is tucked away on 64A Wale Street. “It’s not the best place to sit down and feel comfortable because it’s so small, but I would definitely recommend it for their exquisite gin offerings and again, a nice warm atmosphere where you don’t feel overwhelmed by chaos, which I’m sure ensues in the later hours but I pick my times carefully. I own a club so I get my daily dose of chaos at work, haha!”

Insider's Guide to Cape TownInsider's Guide to Cape Town

Time for Dinner: Sloppy Sam | 51A Somerset Rd, Green Point

If you’re ravenous and in the mood for a big meal, owner of Truth Coffees, David Donde says that his favourite restaurant offers great food as well as a different look into Cape Town’s dining experience. Sloppy Sam’s – ignore the name and delve into the Persian inspired food and bear-hug hospitality of Hooman. In the heart of Green Point, it is easily overlooked.” 

Insider's Guide to Cape Town

Listen to Live Music: The Waiting Room | 273 Long Street

From Simon’s Town to Durbanville, you’ll find low lit jazz clubs, beachside gigs, vast concert halls and clubs that play host to a variety of musical acts. We can’t list them all so we spoke to Aaron Peters of Black Major Artist Management and hip-hop artist, Dope Saint Jude, who both recommended The Waiting RoomThis intimate venue is situated above the Royale Eatery and is the perfect choice if you’re looking for night spent listening to some of the latest acts and genres on the scene – anything from folk to “some hip hop on a Friday night”, remarked Dope Saint Jude.

“I like intimate spaces for music so one of my favourite venues is probably The Waiting Room” says Aaron. “It can get really full and sweaty, the sound guy getting buried by the crowd and sometimes you can’t see, but on a good night the vibe is so real. It’s versatile. You get to see and hear all sorts of sounds. Some good regular events happening there and some good once-offs.”

An Insider's Guide to Cape Town

If You’re Here Over the Weekend: Spier Werf Market | Spier Wine Farm

Something would be amiss if you’re visiting a seaside city over summer and we didn’t share where the best spot to eat ice-cream is. Between exploring the winelands, visit the Spier Werf Market for a taste of fresh food heaven. Owner of FORTUNE, Georgia East, says, “my favourite ice-cream is usually homemade (being a foodie blogger) but if I have to outsource then definitely Tuist Craft Ice Cream from the Spier Werf Market. Their black sesame flavour tastes like an illicit love affair”.

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Credits: The Waiting Room photos taken by CJ Chandler.

Also see: an insider’s guide to kiff, sweaty, creative Durban.

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