The third biggest city in South Africa, Cape Town was built on trade. The city grew around the harbour, which was established in the 17th Century as a refuelling stop for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, Asia and beyond. It was South Africa’s largest settlement until the discovery of gold and diamonds near Johannesburg in 1887.
The city still has a European flavour – the quaint cobblestoned Bo-Kaap neighbourhood wouldn’t look out of place in Amsterdam or Brussels, while the the Pan-African Market reminds you that African continent extends for 5,000 miles behind you.
Considered to be the safest city in South Africa, the centre of Cape Town is located at northern end of the Cape Peninsula. Table Mountain forms a dramatic backdrop to the city with it’s 1,000m plateau flanked by near vertical cliffs. The precipitous peninsula juts southwards, plummeting into the Atlantic Ocean at Cape Point.
Cape Town is the economic centre of the Western Cape and the regions manufacturing base. The economy is reliant on tourism, and attracts more visitors than any other city in South Africa – over five million annually. The tourism industry alone accounts for 10 percent of the Western Cape’s GDP, and in turn 10 percent of the region’s workforce.
The city has a large political presence, and acts as South Africa’s legislative seat of Parliament. Consequently, there’s a large concentration of professionals in the town. Energy is increasingly important to Cape Town’s economy – oil and gas fields have both recently been discovered off the coast. The city is experiencing a construction boom with massive urban renewal and numerous developments augmenting the business district.
Many of the suburbs of Cape Town are located on a large plain, known as Cape Flats, which joins the peninsula to the mainland. The pace is relaxed, and the Mediterranean climate enhances the unproblematic mood of Capetonians. Rainfall is low, and the temperature here rarely drops below 7°C (45°F).
Emily’s Bistro – Clock Tower Centre, V&A Waterfront. tel 021 421 1133.
Modern translations of traditional Afrikaans recipes make this restaurant one of the best in the region. The waterside locations doesn’t impair the experience, either.
La Colombe – Constantia Uitsig Wine Estate, Constantia. tel 021 794 2390.
Widely regarded as one of the best in South Africa, this breezy, French restaurant rarely fails to impress. Seasonal ingredients are prepared in the Provençale manner – a perfect for Cape Town’s climate.
Buitenverwachting – Buitenverwachting Estate. tel 021 794 3522.
Dining on the terrace overlooking the vineyards and mountains is one of the finest experiences in South Africa. The poised, creative menu completes the occasion.
Mount Nelson Hotel – 76 Orange St, Gardens – tel 021 423 1000
Cape Town’s finest lodgings, the hotel was built in the aftermath of the gold rush to accommodate the South Africa’s new wealth. Arrive in style though a colonnade of palms, and soak up the luxury.
Bay Hotel – Victoria Road tel 021 438 4444
Built in the late 1980s, this five-star neo-colonial palace has the best views of any hotel in Cape Town. It’s a toss-up which rooms are best, ones that face the ocean, or Table Mountain.
Steenberg Hotel – Tokai Rd – tel 021 713 2222
Cape Town’s wineries account for some of the best in the world, and this five-star hotel at the foot of Steenberg Mountain is the oldest wine estate of them all. Dating back to 1682, the whitewashed walls, elaborate gables, and thatched roofs account for some of the finest Dutch architecture in South Africa.