A drink lover’s guide to Cape Town

Breathtaking nature, storied vineyards on the doorstep and a vibrant food-and-drink scene await in Cape Town

Words by Malu Lambert

aerial view and cable car in cape town

It’s a regular winner in the polls for ‘the world’s most beautiful city’, and Cape Town rightly deserves the adoration. The city is surrounded by a nature reserve and is threaded with hikes through the fynbos-covered peaks. The iconic Table Mountain cuts across the cityscape, bordered by the endless blues of the Atlantic. White-sand beaches, ancient forests, botanical gardens and, of course, vineyards are all within easy reach of this great port city.

hiking in Cape Town's table mountain

The first settlement in South Africa, the Mother City dates back to the mid-1600s. It has a rich, though complex, history and the kind of cultural diversity that results from this. Enjoy the thriving art and design scene, world-class restaurants, foodie markets and plenty of Instagram-worthy places to stay. Deemed ‘the coolest street in Cape Town’ by Vogue, Bree Street is a microcosm of all Cape Town has to offer in with its eclectic mix of restaurants, bars, galleries and boutiques.

Things to see and do in Cape Town

You could spend a whole weekend at the V&A Waterfront. Quayside, hop on a harbour cruise, then explore the world-famous Two Oceans Aquarium. The Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) gallery showcases divergent talent from across the continent and also happens to double as an architectural marvel. Crown the experience with a drink at the adjacent Silo rooftop bar then go see culinary diversity in action at Makers Landing, an incubation programme and market that empowers food entrepreneurs like Emazulwini Restaurant, which is making its name in Zulu cuisine. On Saturdays, the Oranjezicht City Farm Market pops up here: idly browse the goods with a cold craft beer.

Cape Town's Zeitz MOCAA gallery
Admire the architecture - as well as the contents - of the Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

You could spend the day south-side on the Cape Peninsula: think buzzy seaside restaurants, surfing lessons at Muizenberg Beach, and penguin-spotting in Simons Town. Or travel a little further along to find yourself in Noordhoek, home to Aegir Project Taproom and brewery – expect craft beer geekery just a minute from a stretch of beach that’s particularly popular among horse riders.

constantia wine region in cape town
The Constantia wine region is within easy reach of Cape Town's centre

For wine discovery, take a tour with Vindigo Travel in ‘Cape Town’s Vineyard’, Constantia. Begin at Constantia Royale for a private tasting in the tunnel under the M3 highway, then head to Klein Constantia for their tasting safari in an open-top Land Rover through the farm’s slopes, and that includes the iconic Vin de Constance. Lunch is served at Constantia Glen, complete with mesmerising rolling vineyard views.

Franschhoek wine tram near cape town
Franschhoek Wine Tram delivers passengers to some of Cape Town's best known estates

Within an hour’s drive of the city, expect great cellar door hospitality throughout Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek. For the latter, hop on the Franschhoek Wine Tram, an open-air tram-bus that stops at estates along the way.

Where to eat and drink in Cape Town

Named 37th in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants, FYN Restaurant’s interpretation of South African cuisine through Japanese technique doesn’t disappoint. It’s a mesmerising space: a cloud of wooden discs hangs from the celling; city lights glint through wide windows.

interior in Fyns restaurant Cape Town
The dazzling interior of Japanese-African restaurant FYN

Head to The Art of Duplicity for its signature Coffee House Milk Punch. Styled as a 1920s speakeasy, it’s hidden away in a renovated 1894 Victorian warehouse for which you’ll only receive the address (and password) upon booking. For the finest Old Fashioned in the land go to hip biker bar, The House of Machines. Find young creatives at Publik Wine Bar and The Power and the Glory – enjoying natural wine at the former and pickleback shots at the latter.

dish with dry ice at la colombe cape town
One of the theatrical fine-dining dishes at La Colombe in Constantia (Photo: Lisa Daubermann)

For a more bucolic experience, go to the leafy Constantia wine region (just 15 minutes from the centre). Alight at the award-winning La Colombe for mind-blowing fine dining in a treehouse-like atmosphere. The wine list features the Cape’s greats, poured by on-floor sommeliers. In fact, Joseph Tongai Dhafana of Blind Ambition fame got his start here. Another estate-based restaurant in the region is Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia where small plates with big flavours reign.

Cape Town's gorgeous george hotel rooftop and pool
The rooftop at design hotel Gorgeous George (Photo: Gibson Photo)

Where to stay in Cape Town

Set on a buzzing cobblestone street, Gorgeous George is close to many attractions: the District Six Museum, the Castle of Good Hope and the sprawling Company’s Garden, which is home to The Iziko Museums. The boutique hotel is the first in Cape Town to join the Design Hotels’ stable with its distinct modern African aesthetic. A bonus for food and drink lovers is the 6th floor Gigi Rooftop bar and restaurant, serving snacks and sips all day long.

For a stay at the seaside on the urban fringe, try Sea Point. The Cape Dutch Winchester Hotel is just the spot for a cold one and some people (and dog) watching, its terrace facing the ocean and Sea Point Promenade.

crowd at leo's wine on Bree Street
Bree Street is buzzing: head to Leo's, a low-intervention wine bar taking over a bagel shop by night

The ultimate drinking destination

A plethora of bars, dives and restaurants – and hedonists – await on Bree Street. Go cocktail hopping at vibey haunts like The Athletic Club & Social, the Gin Bar and Orphanage. The city’s best wine bars are here too, including Penny Noire inside the historic Cape Heritage Hotel. Here, sommelier Penny Setti stocks all her favourite wines and demonstrates a particular weakness for Chenin Blanc.

sommelier penny setti at penny noir wine bar
Sommelier Penny Setti, who operates Penny Noire wine bar inside Bree Street's Heritage Hotel

Across the way is Culture Wine Bar, piled to the rafters with local and international wines, while Grub & Vine serves wine-friendly food in a contemporary atmosphere. Or there’s Leo’s, a low-intervention wine bar hidden inside a bagel shop. On ‘First Thursdays’, buzzing Bree comes to the party with pop-up restaurants, street food markets and packed dance floors aplenty.