Travel Spotlight

Cape Town Update: What to Know Now

The rains seem to have subsided for now, which means it's official: spring has arrived in Cape Town. Travelers from the northern hemisphere will be filling planes headed to the Western Cape the next few months in a bid to escape the cold, and plenty of buzzy new hotels and restaurants are getting ready to welcome them. And with the eagerly anticipated opening of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa later next year, and the sexy new Silo Hotel from the Royal Portfolio opening atop the museum, expect the buzz to reverberate well into 2016.

Where to Stay

Looking for some privacy, or just want to experience Capetonian lifestyle as the (well-heeled) locals do? The private estate Maison Noir opened in early 2015 in the seaside enclave of Hout Bay, featuring a compound of interleading structures housing four sumptuous suites. Think outdoor showers, a private chef, and koi ponds and a private pool — the spread is just 20 minutes from the city, but feels a world away.

The biggest news in the Winelands this year has been the debut of a new hotel group, the Leeu Collection. Indian billionaire Analjit Singh took over the celebrated Franschhoek boutique hotel Le Quartier Francais — home to chef Margot Janse’s Tasting Room, one of the country’s top restaurants — in September, and will be adding the 12-room Leeu House on Franschhoek’s main road in December. The 21-room Leeu Estates, spanning more than 150 acres of vineyards in the Franschhoek Valley, joins the portfolio next year.

Wildfires ripped through the outskirts of Cape Town in March, and one of the many victims of the tragedy was Tintswalo Atlantic. Long considered one of the city's most ethereal hotels — and a perennial honeymoon favorite — the collection of suites hovering over the Atlantic was razed to the ground. But just over six months later, the hotel rose from its own ashes following a complete rebuild, and the new Tintswalo Atlantic opened in November 2015.

Where to Eat

A pale blue heritage building on Long Street is the site for Loaves on Long, a delightful new café featuring, as the name might suggest, fresh artisanal breads and pastries. But there’s a lot more to it than that: you’ll also find great coffee, eggs, sandwiches, and a particularly decadent French toast with homemade mascarpone and berries on offer. But if its carbs you’re really craving, owners Lyndal Wakeford and Ciska Rossouw also run baking classes.

The Madame Zingara restaurant group has a cult following in Cape Town for its sometimes quirky, always delicious stable of eateries (Bombay Bicycle Club, Sidewalk Café, and Café Paradiso among them). Last November’s opening of the Company's Garden Restaurant was a stroke of genius on their part: the historic garden in the heart of the city center finally has a chic restaurant inviting visitors to linger amid the lush surroundings, tucking into delicious sandwiches and benedicts in between scampering around the life-size outdoor chess set.

One of South Africa’s most celebrated restaurants has a new address: last year, the award-winning La Colombe moved to the Silvermist Wine Estate, where chef Scot Kirton turns out refined tasting menus from a prime hilltop perch. Standouts from an ever-evolving menu include Karoo lamb, quail and celeriac, and foie gras and langoustines.

The coastal Cape Peninsula drive, winding through Hout Bay, Chapman’s Peak Drive, Cape Point, the Cape of Good Hope, Simon’s Town, and much more, is at the top of every Cape Town must-do list. But it’ll take you a half day at least, and you’re going to need to pause for lunch at some point. When the hunger kicks in, make sure it’s somewhere near Noordhoek so you can pop into Foodbarn, a laid-back barn-restaurant helmed by chef Franck Dangereux. The casual setting belies the refined French-inflected fare, like duck liver parfait with toasted thyme brioche or slow-braised pork belly with Provençale lentil estoufade.

What to See & Do

At the V&A Waterfront, bypass the cookie-cutter shopping center brimming with international mall staples and head instead for the new-ish Watershed. This covered market is a maze of stalls featuring wares by burgeoning local designers (Pichulik jewelry; Hello Charlie ceramics), which make for high-quality gifts low on kitsch-factor.

Maison Mara’s France-returned owner wanted to re-create a touch of Paris in the Southern Hemisphere with her striking new concept shop: some of her favorite global brands like Chloe and Malin + Goetz are showcased over three floors of a beautifully appointed heritage building, where you’ll want to linger for hours.

Cape Town’s glamorous set have a brand-new place to socialize: the popular nightclub Coco unveiled the ultra-exclusive GoldBar lounge in August, and it promises to be the city’s buzziest nightlife address this season — if you can manage to get in, that is.

The city’s Central Business District has been having a bit of a moment lately, and many attribute the renaissance to the relatively young First Thursdays movement: once a month, downtown galleries and boutiques stay open late and restaurants host special events, and all of Cape Town seems to gravitate toward Bree and Loop streets for festivities that spill onto the streets. If your travel plans find you in Cape Town on the first Thursday of any given month, don’t miss the action.

Published onOctober 13, 2015

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