How to survive “winter” in the Mother City

As soon as winter hits Cape Town, everyone loves to complain about how they’re suffering from the consequences of the cold front – as though the rain is actually an Antarctica-style blizzard. Even more bizarre is that despite this, you’ll still find people wearing flip-flops with coats. Capetonian winters are a strange contrast where on some days the temperature feels more like a European summer, and on others the sky spits hail. When the weather is dreary you can either choose to go full burrito under the covers and hibernate, or you can read our guide for the best ways to make it through the last few months of winter in the Mother City.

#nofilter #noreally

Even though it’s dark and cold when you get out of bed, the later sunrise adds a touch of beauty to the day. It’s not just for those working night shifts or the terminally sleep deprived to witness. Enjoy the red and orange candy floss sky that Cape Town greets us with on crisp winter morning commutes. And if you wake up an hour earlier there’s time for an extra-pretty sunrise stroll along the beachfront or a trip to one of CT’s lookout points (we love Signal Hill) for some fresh mountain air to kickstart your day. Cliché, we know, but some views never get old.

Fashion meets function 

When it comes to dressing for the icy days, there’s a specific dress code that demands to be followed. Let’s start with the movement-restricting ‘under layers’. You know, the layers upon layers that when you go shopping to find a new basic long sleeve T, you end up spending 5 extra minutes in the changing room just taking off and putting back on the three under-shirts you’re wearing. For some quality layers that will keep you warm and on style visit Butan, and for designer wear splurge on AKJP

Next are the I’m-cold-but-want-to-wear-the-trends-like-everyone-else ripped skinnies. Maybe knees are sexy (are they?), but where is the logic in wearing a pair of pants that are the equivalent of trying to heat a house with a toaster? On that note, unless you’re a surfer on your way to Muizenberg, can someone please explain why it’s practical to wear a trench coat with flip-flops? If you’re not a boots person, rather try a pair of sneakers from Shelf Life to stop your feet from getting wet. The sports luxe trend is on fleek and it’s practical too. You also get to wear a beanie because it’s actually cold and not just because you want to look tres cool.

Cape Town

AKJP’s Autumn/Winter 16 collection

Assuming you’ve followed Cape Town’s mandatory normcore palette of khaki, denim, charcoal, grey and black for your entire wardrobe, we’d encourage you to be a little more daring. When the sky is grey, there’s no need to mimic your surroundings. Liven things up with a pair of Nic Socks. They’re ultra-colourful and warm, the perfect way to liven any outfit and keep your feet feeling toasty. 

Seriously, dressing for winter is much easier than trying to find a parking spot in the centre of town. The single most important question you need to ask yourself is, “How strong is my coat game?”. Even if you’re so broke that you’re living on Two Minute Noodles (tip: add enough water and it becomes soup), you can literally wear your pyjamas out as long as you top them off with an amazing coat. Oh So Retro has an online store. The bonus is that you can update your wardrobe without using any petrol or getting out of bed.

Cape Town Winter

From Oh So Retro

Go to indoor gigs

Summer festivals, say what? Head to the Blah Blah Bar, Aces ‘n Spaces, Obviouzly Armchair, Assembly, Mercury or Evol. From the dirty and grungy to the slightly more sophisticated, there’s always a band playing a gig or a DJ sending sweet sounds straight into your eardrums. Dancing in a room full of people is also a brilliant way to keep warm.

Photo: Heino Retief at YOH!'s 3rd birthday

Photo by Heino Retief at YOH!’s 3rd birthday

Embrace the bun-and-patty combo

In spite of all the vegans and hardcore banters out there, burger culture is booming. The Dogs Bollocks at the YARD is the burger-sauce-trickling-down-your-arm kind of delicious. Hudsons is decent if you’re looking for the South African art school version of Hooters – they’ve got everything from biltong shavings to beer battered jalapeños. Then there’s Jerry’s Burger Bar if ever you wanted to feel like a burger-eating biker but don’t have enough swag.

Photo c/o Hudsons

Photo c/o Hudsons

No couch potato-ing

Stay active. Even though it’s cold outside and that afternoon walk on the promenade nowadays feels more like you’re taking part in an episode of Deadliest Catch, there are still plenty of things to do in and around town. For instance, you could take a tour of Cape Town’s underground tunnels. (Disclaimer: this is not for the faint of heart. Claustrophobia is as real down there as the cockroaches you may see.)

If you’re into BMX or love rollerblading then drive to The Shred in Paardein Eiland. Different nights are dedicated to specific wheeled activities, and you can take part no matter the weather.

Cape Town Winter

Photo c/o The Shred

Places to go that aren’t coffee shops

Lady Bonin’s Tea’s latest venture, The Tea Bar, is tucked away on Long Street. This spot is dedicated solely to the leafy elixir, so consider it your small rebellion against Cape Town’s coffee culture. There’s a tea for every mood and need.

Leftys is a cheap-ish and cheerful place. They have a selection of uncomplicated but delicious grub that’s brought to you with a smile. Whether you’re a local, a student or a creative entrepreneur, the service is always personal and friendly in this easy going space. A cult classic for their special of two double gin and tonics for a mere R40.

The Sidewalk Café is a neighbourhood café in Vredehoek with sweeping views from the stadium to the harbour and beyond. Warm and intimate, it’s the best place for breakfasts, lunches and sun-downers. Be sure to go for their dangerously delicious 2-for-1 jam jar special from 3-6pm every Monday to Saturday.

Photo c/o <a href=

Photo c/o We-Are-Awesome

Specials for when your wallet is sad

Breakfast: From Monday to Friday from 7-8am, Clarke’s Bar and Dining Room runs a two eggs on toast with coffee or orange juice for R30 special (you know what they say about the early bird catching the worm). 

Lunch: If you enjoy South American cuisine, then try Orinico. Wednesdays they have a lunchtime special of burritos and quesadillas for R45. Alternatively, try their two-course lunch special for R98 or their sharing dish for R129. If you’re more the beer drinking type and like a pint during lunch time, then check in at The Beer House on Long. R50 gets you their daily lunch time special and a beer. 

Dinner: Tuesdays at The Village Idiot is 2-for-1 for dates and mates. The only catch is that you have bring a partner, friend, family member, or “um-friend”. A bottle of Village Chenin Blanc or Red Blend house wine plus a 600g beef prime rib on the bone with sides equals R240. 

Drinks: Every day from 4-7pm Café Mojito’s house cocktails are priced at R29 and whiskey, gin, rum or vodka mixes go for next-to-nothing R25. Fear not if you’ve developed the Capetonian habit of being fashionably late. They have a late night happy hour from 11-12pm. If you work in Woodstock and the surrounds, then it’s worth your while to visit the Woodstock Brewery Tap Room during happy hour from 5-7pm from Tuesdays to Thursdays. R20 craft beers, need we say more?

Cape Town Winter

Photo c/o The Beer House

Staying in is guilt-free

So now you’re kitted out and practically out the door but there’s a sprinkling of water outside. Yup, next thing you read the WhatsApp group and everyone has bailed. There’s no shame in staying in if the weather decides to turn. At the end of the day, we all know winter in Cape Town is as unstable as 2007 Britney. Just make sure you’ve got your hot water bottle and a warm winter blanket. If you’re like most Capetonians and have a flair for original style, then forget plain colours and buy yourself a something more culturally inclined from Blankets and Weaves. We promise, you’ll make it through to summer.

Written by Gabriella Pinto and Tayla Fagan.

Between 10 and 5