Our upcoming South Africa tour concludes with four packed days in big gay Cape Town. In honour of the country’s famous city – and to whet your whistle for this luxurious tour – we put together a useful guide below. Read on!
Cape Town’s best hotels and accommodations
For a taste of luxury, unpack your bags in Cape Town’s best boutique hotel, MannaBay. We’ve been staying at this extravagant hotel since we started hosting gay South Africa tours and it is constantly noted as a highlight.
The most trendy five-star hotel right now is definitely The Silo. Located in the V&A Waterfront neighbourhood, this luxury option is built into the sixth floor of the historic grain silo that was recently reimagined as Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) (more on this later). As their website says, “The Silo Hotel is a celebration of art, style, architecture and design.”
Another luxurious option is the Tintswalo Atlantic, Cape Town’s only hotel located in Table Mountain National Park. After a devastating fire in 2015, the hotel was redesigned and rebuilt. Today it drips with even more elegance than ever.
For the LGBT jetsetter who loves his roof-top terraces and jacuzzis, book a room at Cape Heritage Hotel. The 18th-century boutique space has 19 rooms, each uniquely decorated and sporting all your modern conveniences such as satellite TV.
Finally, if you’d like to stay at a gay-owned B&B check out the vibrant Purple House Accommodations. Central, homey and well decorated – they are gay-owned after all.
Cape Town’s best restaurants
Cape Town’s food scene is bloated with exceptional restaurants to choose from.
Let’s start with the city’s best ‘Fast Fine Dining’ restaurant, Chefs. This relative newcomer only lists three daily mains (one of which is always vegetarian) and a dessert. With a reduced menu, the talented cooks can pump out your unforgettable dinner in record time so you can get back to the city sights.
Another affordable option is Luke Dale-Roberts’ PotLuck Club. The restaurant is situated atop a silo and offers incredible views of the city. The menu is designed to be shared, so bring a friend or two.
Chef Peter Tempelhoff’s Greenhouse is the height of fine dining in Cape Town. His internationally inspired dishes are in a league of their own. Expect the unexpected such as hibiscus beets, caramel smoked duck or Cape Malay octopus.
Because we know how much gay men love brunch, here’s our top choices to enjoy “the most important meal of the day”: Jason Bakery (exceptional bakery that also serves a proper breakfast), Kleinsky’s Deli (the best bagels in town), Hemelhuijs (a creative, fresh and exciting brunch menu), and Harveys at Winchester Mansions (pricey but absolutely worth it).
What to do in Cape Town
No gaycation to the world’s southern-most capital would be complete without a visit to the top of Table Mountain. The mountain is the city’s most notable feature and travellers have two options to surmount it: a two hour trek up her slopes or a twenty minute taxi ride. The choice is entirely yours, but please note the trek is often more difficult than people realize and you should come prepared with proper footwear, sufficient water and plenty of sunscreen.
After you’ve conquered Table Mountain, consider Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens. This lush greenery blankets 5.28Sq Km of land and showcases 7000 of South Africa’s 22,000 plant species. For a richer experience, we highly recommend joining one of the garden’s free guided walks or renting the MyGuide electronic gizmo (R40). Finally, swing by the garden’s Tree Canopy Walkway (pictured), conservatory and excellent souvenir shop.
Another Cape Town ‘must’ is the Cape of Good Hope. The more adventurous amongst us can hike or bike the full 33.8km circuit, while comfort cruisers can simply bus down to Cape Point. Either way you choose to experience this slice of Table Mountain National Park, you’ll be treated to sensational scenery, fantastic flora, birdwatching and often-deserted beaches.
For culture buffs, be sure to swing by the recently opened Zeitz MOCAA Museum (previously mentioned as a top hotel choice) located in a remarkably redesigned grain silo on the waterfront. Meanwhile, self-described ‘Birders’ will enjoy Boulders Penguin Colony featuring a board walk that takes you right up to the African penguins. Finally, we recommend everyone spend a sobering morning at District Six Museum which provides a vivid image of the apartheid in the 1960s and 1970s.
Where to go out in gay Cape Town
De Waterkant is Cape Town’s gay Village. And while the entire city is peppered with gay and gay-welcoming bars, the majority are situated within this boho district.
Capes love to begin their evening quite early, either on a patio or terrace while sipping some of the city’s signature cocktails. If you’re sticking to De Waterkant, have your first cocktail at Cafe Manhattan, the city’s longest standing gay bar. The colourful venue has an exceptional terrace and some of the neighbourhoods nicest staff.
For a campier start to your evening, take in a drag show at Beefcakes. The Americana-inspired bar boasts the country’s best roster of Queens.
When you’re ready for something more lively, The Pink Panthor Night Club is perhaps the chicest option on the strip. That said, Stargayzers is perhaps the more popular option thanks to its exceptional DJs, affordable drinks and come-as-you-are vibe. But if washboard abs, chiseled jaws and backwards baseball caps are your thing, Crew Bar is definitely the place to be.
We wanted to give a special shout out to Therapy, one of South Africa’s legendary queer parties hosted in both Cape Town and Johannesburg. Check out their Facebook page for upcoming dates.
Where to shop in Cape Town
Few cities make African and American aesthetics so accessible. While most international brands have a shop or two in Cape Town, they’re easily balanced out with local designers and boutiques.
If you like a gorgeous view while you shop, hit up The Watershed at The V&A Waterfront. You’ll love meandering the market while dipping out for fresh air on the harbour.
Merchants on Long showcases a vast variety of African fashion and design. It’s here you’ll find ethical leathers such as python and ostriche, tailor-made suits and some other notable bits and bobs.
Greenmarket Square is one of the city’s best open air markets, despite its dark past – it was once the heart of the slave trade. You’ll find plenty of South African curiosities here as well as artisan jewellery, household decorations and exceptional souvenirs that weren’t made in China.
Finally, if flea markets make your heart flutter, Milnerton Flea Market is the city’s best. Vendors set up shop every Saturday and Sunday right under Table Mountain.
Our upcoming South Africa tour reaches its extravagant climax with four days in gay Cape Town. While you’ll certainly get an excellent introduction to the city in those four days, we encourage you to consider booking a few extra nights to further explore on your own.
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All photos by Robert Sharp unless otherwise noted in the caption.