A newcomer to the restored V&A Waterfront may at first feel like they’re in a corner of the Med, or even a chic suburb of Miami. Have patience, though, and you’ll still find a distinctly African vibe to the former dockyard-turned-shopping and relaxation complex. Locals may occasionally roll their eyes at the unabashed opulence on display here, but that doesn’t stop them coming in their droves to enjoy the stunning mountain views, superb shopping, and dining options, taking in everything from hake and chips to haute cuisine.
We recommend: One&Only Cape Town
A touch of Dubai-style opulence came to Cape Town in 2009 with the opening of this glitzy landmark resort, housing luxury villas and a spa, spread over a tower and two man-made islands. There’s a true international flavour here, with a branch of celeb-tastic Japanese restaurant Nobu, plus Reuben’s, a more informal eatery run by local celeb chef Reuben Riffel.
Oozing glamour, it’s no wonder the Beckhams chose to stay here on their last city visit. Chief hotelier Sol Kerzner ensures bedrooms are never without extra-soft mattresses, a light-up wardrobe, rain showers and iPod docks — not to mention a 24-hour butler. Special menus for scents and pillows are also available.
The island spa offers a vast range of treatments and the hotel also boasts a ballroom and a yoga pavilion.
Rooms from £365 for two people, including breakfast. Dock Road. T: 00 27 21 031 5888. www.oneandonlyresorts.com
X-factor: The city’s best views of Table Mountain.
For art lovers: Cape Grace
Quirky light fittings made from cutlery, whalebone and driftwood, and the largest selection of whiskey in the Southern hemisphere are two standout features of this stylish hotel. Guests have access to a chauffeur and even a yacht, for fishing trips and harbour cruises.
Rooms from £413 for a double room, including breakfast. West Quay Road, V&A Waterfront. T: 00 27 21 410 7100. www.capegrace.com
For a hideaway: Dock House
Next door to a historic bell tower, this cosy 19th-century building has just five rooms and a suite, and was once home to the harbour master. Classical elegance is the order of the day, with marble showers, silk curtains, velvet sofas and even a butler service.
Rooms from £178 for a double room and breakfast. Portswood Close. T: 00 27 21 421 9334. www.newmarkhotels.com
The rejuvenation of central Cape Town continues apace with new bars opening up around Kloof Street and Long Street on an almost weekly basis in the summer months. The Bo’Kaap neighbourhood, formerly the preserve of the city’s Cape Malay community, has become hugely popular for its hillside location and gorgeous pastel-coloured houses. Meanwhile, up in Gardens and Tamboerskloof, the views of Table Mountain are spectacular, and with chic delis and upmarket guesthouses now rubbing shoulders with family homes and funky student cafes, there’s a special buzz about the place.
We recommend: Mount Nelson
Over the years, the grande dame of South African hotels has hosted icons such as Nelson Mandela, John Lennon and Agatha Christie, and it’s easy to see why. A short walk from the beach and most major cultural sights, no other hotel does old-world luxury quite like Mount Nelson. From the high-tech treatments at the Libresia Spa to the Cape Colony restaurant’s South African fare with a haute cuisine twist, a stay within its hallowed pink walls is sure to be a high point of any trip.
As you’d expect, rooms are large and luxurious. As well as oversized beds and huge showers, botanical-themed paintings line the walls.
If your budget won’t stretch to staying the night, the afternoon high tea is unmissable for its gargantuan spread of gourmet teas, finger sandwiches and fabulous cakes. Afterwards, take a stroll in the hotel’s nine acres of palm-fringed grounds, where only the thwack of tennis balls and the gentle hiss of sprinklers threaten to disturb the serene hush.
Rooms from £312. 76 Orange Street Gardens. T: 00 27 21 483 1000. www.mountnelson.co.za
X-factor: Evening meals are cooked by the hottest chef in South Africa, Rudi Liebenberg, who has brought a strong Mediterranean touch to the Oasis Restaurant’s menu.
For Budget-Conscious Hedonists: Cape Town Backpackers
Not as chaotic as many of the city’s other budget options, Cape Town Backpackers — a pair of rambling Victorian buildings — offers en suite doubles in immaculate private rooms, as well as the usual, albeit incredibly clean and civilised, dorms. Evening entertainment options range from authentic Xhosa-themed dinners (don’t miss umunqusho, a delicious sugar bean and maize dish) to trips to catch sundown on the landmark Signal Hill. Friendly staff will be able to tell you all about the bar and club scene just a stone’s throw away.
From £41 for a double room. 81 New Church Street. T: 00 27 21 426 0200. www.capetownbackpackers.com
For Local Hideaways: Grand Daddy
Slap-bang in the middle of vibrant Long Street is by far the most original sleeping option in Cape Town. Tilt your head upwards and you’ll be rewarded with the incongruous sight of seven retro Airstream trailers. The themed rooms inside include ‘Pleasantville’ (1950s Americana), ‘The Ballad of John & Yoko’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’ — complete with Dorothy’s trademark ruby slippers laid out on the doormat. The endearingly quirky touches continue with plastic grass sprouting on the hotel staircases, and rapper chains hanging from the ceiling of the ‘Daddy Cool’ bar area.
Trailers start from £99 for two people sharing, including breakfast. 38 Long Street. T: 00 27 21 424 7247. www.granddaddyhotel.co.za
False Bay Coast
Over the past decade, the stretch of coast hugging the False Bay Seaboard has transformed from a series of moribund fishing villages into some of Cape Town’s funkiest bohemian hubs. Trains run from the city all the way down to the naval base of Simonstown, passing a series of village-like suburbs along the way. Kalk Bay and Fish Hoek are the star attractions — the former, a working fishing village with Cuban-inspired bars and beautifully restored Victorian guesthouses. More demure, Fish Hoek is blessed with a butter-coloured, sandy beach and great spots for whale-watching, as well as easy access to the Cape Winelands in the Western Cape Province.
We recommend: Rodwell House
This colonial-era mansion offers a mammoth range of activities, from bird-watching trips to wine tours and cooking classes, but the real treat here is sitting by the pool and soaking up the languid atmosphere of St James, the quaint seaside village setting.All eight suites have either a mountain or sea view — the Proprietors Suite even boasts a walled garden. Amid the marble floors, verandas, art collection and 15,000-bottle wine cellar, the concrete walls and leather couches of the Art Bar and Titanium Bistro restaurant lend a touch of contemporary chic. The Chef’s Table offers a ringside seat as top chef Graham Isaacson conjures up fresh seafood delicacies.
Suites for two people and breakfast from £170. Rodwell Road. T: 00 27 21 787 9880. www.rodwellhouse.co.za
X-factor: Head to the beach with a sumptuous picnic prepared by the kitchen. Pick out a posh bottle of plonk from the cellar to take with you, too.
For Couples: Tintswalo Atlantic
Built on one of the world’s most scenic roads and set in a mountain nature reserve, Tintswalo Atlantic is certainly spectacular. All 10 suites, built on stilts, are so close to the ocean the froth from the breakers almost reaches the windows. With milkwood trees providing privacy, each room is based on a native island, so choose from idylls such as Sicily or Zanzibar, or the more sinister Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was caged), with ‘prison-bars’ on the bathroom door.
Suites from £320 per person including breakfast. Chapman’s Peak Drive. T: 00 27 87 754 9300. www.tintswalo.com
For Singletons: The Glen Hotel
You can’t help but get caught up in the conviviality of the Blowhole Bar, located inside this reasonably priced boutique favourite, which dates from 1904. Rooms, complete with period wooden floors and huge windows, are a tad on the spartan side, but the spectacular views of either Table Mountain or the ocean mean you’ll want to spend most of your time on the al fresco deck sipping a bottle or two of Castle or Windhoek beer for sundowners.
From £46 for two people, including breakfast. 12-14 Glen Road. T: 00 27 21 782 0315. www.theglenlodgeandpub.co.za
Cape Town’s bright young things have long swarmed to the southern suburb of Observatory for nightlife, theatre and bistro food. Now the tide of fashion has spread further south to Newlands. Previously known mainly for its world-class cricket stadium, the leafy neighbourhood has a more informal charm than prestigious Constantia, a few miles away down Edinburgh Drive. Long established as the premier patch of South African real estate, this neighbourhood, bordering the Table Mountain Nature Reserve, is perfect for long boozy lunches, garden walks and the clink of G&Ts for sundowners over Signal Hill and False Bay.
We recommend: The Cellars Hohenort
Nestled in the heart of the Constantia wine route, this Relais & Chateaux property is a superb conversion of an 18th-century manor house and wine estate. The putting green was designed by South African golfing legend Gary Player and the Green House restaurant is skilfully built around a 300-year-old oak tree. Aspiring artists are catered for with an easel and watercolour paints and bicycles are available to explore the three-and-a-half acre estate. There’s also a space to play petanque and boules. As for the Martini Bar, this is the perfect place to enjoy an appetiser before dinner, with a jaw-dropping 152 varieties of martini to choose from. The best rooms are in the main Manor House, tastefully decorated with original artworks and antique furniture; there’s also a villa with its own swimming pool. The cream of Table Mountain is on your doorstep here, too. Trails from the hotel will guide you up its eastern side, while the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are just a few minutes’ walk away.
Double rooms from £215 per night, including breakfast. 93 Broommersvlei Road. T: 00 27 21 794 2137.
X-factor: Benches tucked away in the gardens are great for a sun-dappled afternoon siesta.
For Self-Catering: The Vineyard Hotel & Spa
This classy former home of 19th-century travel writer Lady Anne Bernard boasts a riverside spa, an East-West fusion restaurant and five self-catering cottages.
Self-catering cottages from £590 per night for four people and breakfast. Colinton Road. T: 00 27 21 657 4500. www.vineyard.co.za
For Calm Seekers: Medindi Manor
This small Edwardian guesthouse, in the suburb of Rosebank, has a beautiful salt-water pool in the gardens and rooms with ultra-soft mattresses and Victorian baths. There’s also a wraparound balcony with a great view of Devil’s Peak.
Rooms from £72 per night for two people. 4 Thicket Road, Rosebank. T: 00 27 21 686 3563. www.medindimanor.com