From the iconic Table Mountain to its golden-sand beaches, this cosmopolitan city is as diverse as it is beautiful. But it’s not just the natural beauty that sets Cape Town apart; it also has an incredibly vibrant culture with a unique energy that vibrates throughout the city.
With a history that dates back more than 300 years, and a spirit of ‘Ubuntu’ that heals the scars of apartheid, Cape Town is an incredible place to visit.
Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa, developed by the Dutch East India Company as a supply station for ships heading to its colonies in Eastern Africa and India. The city was founded by Jan van Riebeeck on 6 April 1652 and rapidly outgrew its initial purpose.
Located on the shore of Table Bay, it quickly became the economic and cultural hub of the VOC Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and development of Johannesburg, it was the largest city in South Africa.
The city was divided into the main City Bowl surrounded by Signal Hill, Lion’s Head and Table Mountain; the northern suburbs of Woodstock, Rondebosch and Claremont; and the southern suburbs of Newlands and Wynberg. The municipality was administered by a board of commissioners and ward masters elected in 12 districts.
Cape Town is a diverse, complex city shaped by European colonial influences and Indigenous Khoe and Xhosa culture. Its unique music, food and lifestyle traditions are a testament to its multicultural identity.
A trip to the Bo-Kaap or Woodstock neighborhoods, for example, is a great way to get a sense of Cape Town’s cultural diversity. Here, you’ll find a blend of Dutch, French, Malay, English and Afrikaner traditions.
However, despite its rich and varied history, Cape Town is still grappling with the scars of apartheid. These remain evident in a number of fringe neighborhoods, where poverty, crime and illness persist. This is a reminder that Cape Town has a long way to go before it can claim to be a non-racial, democratic, open and equitable city.
Food & Drink
Cape Town is renowned for its vibrant, diverse food scene. The city is a melting pot of African, Asian, European and Malay cuisines.
The locals love a braai (literally ‘burn the meat’ in Zulu) and it’s one of the most popular ways to experience the real flavours of South Africa. Often held in townships at the weekends, it’s a great way to get a taste of traditional shisanyama and a social eating experience.
If you’re feeling peckish, head to the Oranjezicht City Farm Market for a weekend brunch. It’s a local tradition that typifies the thriving culture of Cape Town’s food scene.
In recent years, Cape Town has developed into a fashion-forward hub for local design and craftsmanship. The result is an array of home-grown designs that wouldn’t look out of place on the pages of Vogue or the streets of New York.
There are plenty of places to shop in town, from the buzzing De Waterkant district and its 15 shops to more established boutiques and markets throughout the city centre. But if you want to really get your hands on a piece of Cape Town, head to historic Greenmarket Square for a trove of African crafts and curios.
A few shopping developments focusing on local design and art are also worth checking out, including the Woodstock Foundry, The Woodstock Exchange and the Old Biscuit Mill. They all stock a wide range of locally crafted goods, from jewelry and ceramics to furniture and artisanal chocolate.
Cape Town is a nightlife capital and there’s something for everyone. From beer bars to cocktail bars, live sports bars to cool event venues, you’ll find it all here.
Most of the nightlife happens in the city centre where Loop Street, Long Street and Bree Street are crowded with bars and clubs. Here you can have a good time and meet people from all over the world.
The best night out is called First Thursdays, where galleries and bars open on Bree Street from 5pm untill 2am. It’s a good chance to go clubbing, drink wine, see art and have a nice night out.