I went to Cape Town for five days in September and packed loads in to my limited time. In short, I would absolutely and definitely recommend you go there, in long, here are 9 awesome reasons why anyone a bit cool would love the Cape Town scene…
1. Hang out with a musician who’s played at Glastonbury
One of the best things about travelling is getting to meet the locals. Andulela Tours offer cultural tours where you get a more personal experience and get to meet people face to face in small groups. Of course the people selected are fascinating and you get to learn a little about them, their work and their opinion of Cape Town and their place in it.
They arranged for me to meet Hilton Schilder. I was picked up from my hotel and driven the 20 minutes out to his home. It was a modest house in a run of detached houses – his wife had made us delicious chicken and rice, and I was welcomed with a Savannah cider.
The tour driver, my guide and me all sat down to eat straight away while Hilton told us a bit about his life and showed us some pictures. He played a few traditional South African instruments and then played a piece he’d composed for his wife on the piano. It was amazing to sit there while this famous jazz musician serenaded us on the ivory. He bought up clips of a documentary that was made about him on the flatscreen TV and revealed all about his life on the road.
The experience lasted an hour, although it seemed a lot quicker. The guide then took me to the Swingers Jazz Club where we watched an awesome band jamming out.
2. Sample wine at Constantia Winery
The Constantia Winery in Cape Town is a beautiful drive from The Grand Daddy Hotel where I stayed on Long Street. Although the huge grounds are easily reached using the City Sightseeing bus network. On arrival I was taken on a tour of the winery – from the grape picking to the huge barrels – and to top it off I sampled six of the delicious produce. I went away with a bottle of Cape Port, although I would’ve taken a lot more if it’d fit in my suitcase!
3. Go shopping on Long Street
The vintage shopping here are amazing. I wasn’t ready for them and didn’t expect it, but I went to look around the Green Market – full of the usual wooden animals, ethnic bags and crazy jewellery you find in Africa – and decided to look what was happening on the main street. What I found were more beautiful vintagey bags, shoes, dresses and tops than I knew what to do with.
I only had an hour spare in my fun Cape Town itinerary though, so I had to be quick. This was definitely for the best as I somehow managed to buy a jumper, a top, two pairs of shoes and a dress. Not bad work for 60 minutes.
4. Dance and eat meat at Mzoli’s
Mzoli’s was fascinating. I loved it from the second I set eyes on it. It’s grimy, dirty and awesome. It reminded me of the Below parties in Birmingham, or Urban Guerilla in Sheffield, except with meat. It’s crazy cheap, the owners are super entrepreneurial and is a definite must on any Cape Town itinerary. Loved it so much that I even made a little video on how to do Mzolis here.
5. Tour the townships
Cape Town’s townships are fascinating. The history is sad and divided, but I was assured there is progress. I took a taxi tour around the area of Langly. Black people live in the shanty towns, milling around with dead sheep’s heads and poverty. Onto the next town and it’s the ‘coloureds’ as they’re known there, I could never get used to that word, but it’s the widely understood name for people of mixed race. And then when you see the nice houses you’ve found the white people.
It’s shocking that it’s still so divided and accepted. There are a huge amount of things happening to make the situation better, but it does still exist so go, open your eyes, get to know the people at the visitor’s centres and educate yourself.
6. Enjoy some home cooking in Bo Kaap
Bo Kaap is the Malay Quarter of Cape Town. It’s set on the slopes of Signal Hill and is a colourful area with what are now highly sought after houses. The multicoloured dwellings on the cobbled streets are a huge draw for tourists, but there are ways you can get to look inside them too.
I joined a home cooking food tour with Zainie. She opens up her home to make lunch for lucky visitors and give them a bit of insight into her life and the local area. The 12 of us sat in her little garden while her and her family fed us up, the food was delicious and the service awesome. Definitely more fun and more insightful than any ‘restaurant’ could claim to be.
7. See a gig at Kirstenbosch Gardens
Kirstenbosch Gardens is an awesome thing to do in Cape Town as it is, but add to that the fact that they play host to more than a few worldwide music acts every year for the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset Concerts and that is one awesome night out. Check out the site for the latest gigs, but in the past they’ve hosted Bastille, Art Garfunkel and… Daniel Bedingfield. Love it.
The gardens are huge, lush and surrounded by Table Mountain: I couldn’t think of a better place to enjoy a gig. If you fancy going when the gigs aren’t on, you can enjoy the animals, the butterflies and the restaurant in the centre, where I devoured this delicious beast…
8. Take a helicopter ride
Yes, it may be over £100 for 30 minutes, but a helicopter ride over Cape Town is worth every penny. Thanks to the bird’s eye view you can understand the lay of the land better, and see how the city connects together. You can also see how awesome it would be to hire a car and drive the path around the mountain, one day that’ll be me for sure.
9. Eat at Victoria and Albert Quay
Wherever there’s a food market you’ll find happy, smiling faces, and that’s what greeted me at the Victoria and Albert Quay. I got a photo with Nelson Mandela, then ventured into the food hall to make the most of the free samples, before settling on the frozen yogurt with fudge topping and passionfruit sauce.