Just under two years ago my fiancé and I made the move to Cape Town, and there are many reasons why we fell in love with South Africa’s ‘Mother City’ and decided to make it our home. Not only are some of the most magnificent views accompanied by beautiful blue skies, but it’s blessed with the best of both worlds – the beach and the mountains. And there’s wine. Lots of wine.
So here are my top 15 reasons for why, after a decade of travelling, we reckon that this is the best city in the world to call home.
Forget Japan, come to South Africa. It’s everywhere, it’s fresh, and it’s often very reasonably priced. I’m not convinced by ‘fashion sandwiches’ or the deep fried variations, but I am convinced that Cape Town offers some of the most delicious raw fish in the world. And after having lived a large part of my life in Asia, that is saying a lot.
From kickstarting your Saturday at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock to having sundowners at Cape Point Vineyards on a Thursday after work, there are enough markets in Cape Town to keep you busy every day. But my absolute favourite would have to be EarthFair Food Market in Steenberg. The location is a bit random, being behind a Builders Warehouse in a retail park, but I quite like that. I feel it sums up Cape Town – in the places you least expect, lie hidden gems. Great music, food and atmosphere – it has everything I’ll ever need in life, including my favourite salted caramel La Petite Moo brownies, the best chilli biltong, and my favourite rusks made by Freedom Bakery (chocolate, gluten-free and heavenly). Whether you need to shop for a braai or just want to shoot the breeze with friends, it’s a perfect place to pop in after work on a Wednesday or grab a patisserie on a Saturday morning.
3. Yoga festival
Every March at Mountain Shadows, my favourite event takes place: Spiritfest. All the hippies in the Western Cape descend on a little field in Paarl and go ga-ga over Las Paletas ice lollies and gluten-free pizza. If you can tear yourself away from sunbathing or lazing in a rubber tube in the dam, there are treatments, philosophy talks and yoga classes going on at all hours from sadhana starting at 5.30am to kirtan in the evenings. The live music also goes down a treat, and the energy is contagious.
4. Sundowners on Signal Hill
These are a must for anyone, whether spritely weekend holidaymakers or weathered residents. After a hard day’s work, grab some good pals and a six-pack of cider, and you’re all set to talk nonsense while you watch the sun set over the glorious city. Get there early to find a parking space, and bring a blanket to sit on as well as a cardigan for when it gets chilly.
5. Open air cinema
Summer time in Cape Town means concerts, hiking, sunbathing and most importantly, the Galileo Open Air Cinema. Films are held all over the city at various wine farms and quarries as well as in a couple of staple venues – the V&A and Kirstenbosch. With food trucks to feed you and back rests to rent, there’s nothing better than watching an old favourite under a shooting star.
6. Café culture
I’m sad to admit that I rely quite heavily on coffee to become a human being every morning. So I was relieved to discover that these magic beans are also held in high esteem in Cape Town. With connoisseurs aplenty, you’re never far from a good cappuccino in this city, and many a Capetonian is happy to spend their mornings languishing over a fresh brew at a street-side cafe.
7. Wine tasting
You don’t need to go as far afield as Franschhoek to savour some incredible wines. Constantia Glen is one of my favourite wine estates as it’s a great place to sit outside on cushions while you sample wine, a food board of sorts, and the view. Steenberg Vineyards is another fantastic spot to savour a range of wines in a stylish setting. That said, you can’t go too far wrong with any vineyard that you choose in the region when pretty much all of the farms have variations of views like this:
8. Farmhouse Rocks
I reckon that the fortnightly gigs at Farmhouse Rocks in Scarborough are even better than watching the summer concerts held in Kirstenbosch Gardens. Much more intimate and laid-back, it’s a great Saturday out, and the best part for us (living in Simon’s Town) is that it’s practically on our doorstep, so we can tumble home easily after we’ve danced the day away.
9. Walking my dogs along the many beaches, dunes, dams, trails or parks
I’m a bit obsessed with my pups. But as I work and don’t get to spend the day telling them repeatedly how much I love them, I try to make up for it over the weekends by taking them on epic adventures fit for Lassie. And with so many areas to take your dogs for a walk along the peninsular, there are plenty of places with barely a soul in sight so they can run around like crazies to their heart’s content.
10. Chilli poppers
I’d never had a chilli popper before arriving in South Africa, and after discovering these little bites of bliss, I decided to go on a mission to find the best one in Cape Town. I try to taste these ‘delicacies’ wherever I see them on the menu, and there have been a few close contenders so far.
11. Moonstruck summer beach concert on Clifton 4th
The annual Moonstruck summer beach concert is held in support of the National Sea Rescue Institute and entrance is free. Nothing beats watching the sun go down and dancing the night away in your beachwear to live music.
12. Watching comedy or live music at Cafe Roux
Whether Riaad Mousa is making you laugh or the Suitcase Hearts are making your feet twitch, nights at Cafe Roux are fantastic. Small, cosy and personal, it’s a great place to see talented musicians and comedians up close and personal.
One thing that I really missed when living amidst the bustle of South-East Asian cities was the outdoors. I mean, it exists, but it’s not very nice. It’s often quite polluted and you can’t see 10 feet in front of you without an umbrella poking your eyes out or a skyscraper blocking the sun from view. Whereas, here in South Africa, I have really started to love the great outdoors. The hikes through dunes, up mountains, around dams; the fresh air. There’s something truly magical about spending your weekend enjoying the tranquility and beauty of nature, and it’s something that’s rare to find in a big city. But here hikes are aplenty and, with choices from Echo Valley in Kalk Bay to Silvermine in Constantia, Lions Head is far from your only option for a Sunday jaunt.
Apart from Johnny Wilkinson and a bad joke I heard when England once thrashed France, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you anything about rugby two years ago. Now the likes of Dwayne Vermeulen and Eben Etzebeth have trampled their way into the scrum of my Saturdays. Go Stormers!
With some of the best chefs and award winning restaurants this side of the equator, Cape Town has won my heart and my stomach forever. From Pot Luck in Woodstock to La Colombe in Constantia, you’ll never go hungry here.
Discover Cape Town with Josie Borain in our online magazine here.