Cultural Cape Town: 7 things that make the South African city-on-the-sea sparkle

By Melissa H June 16, 2016

From world-class vineyards to a buzzing arts scene, we asked Micato expert and General Manager,  Melissa Hordych to share her insider’s insight into what makes this World Design Capital one of her favourites.

It has a huge natural advantage. South Africa’s natural beauty always inspires and this is especially true of Cape Town—a sparkling peninsula city surrounded by blue water on three sides with gorgeous Atlantic Seaboard views. Table Mountain dominates, offering commanding views of the city from dawn to dusk. From Green Point to Hout Bay, coves are dotted with giant granite boulders and lined with sandy beaches. At Chapman’s Peak, mountains and jagged coast align. From here it’s a short distance to the verdant valleys and lush hills of Constantia’s famous wine country. A photographer’s dream!

There’s a reason it’s popular. On my very first visit to Cape Point Nature Reserve, I was braced for a touristy cliché. And while it’s true that visitors do flock to this Natural World Heritage Site, it’s actually as popular with locals as tourists. The Cape delivers the captivating beauty of the coast, mesmerizing sights of baboons and buck, as well as a richer understanding of the history of early explorers and their adventures on the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. Micato drives a stunning route, cunningly avoiding large motor coaches and enabling photo calls and scenery breaks at any point, including at small, uncrowded areas such as Noordhoek and the fishing village of Kalk Bay. For the adventurous and energetic, exhilarating half-day hikes follow a variety of Cape Point trails, fabulous kayaking traces the coast from Simon’s Town and bike paths wind along scenic Chapman’s Peak Drive. Micato’s private helicopter excursions over the peninsula present a stunning aerial exploration of the two oceans and beyond.

Shopping is an art — and a potential bargain, too. Not only are Cape Town artisans known for creating beautiful jewellery, fine art, ceramics and crafts, but South Africa’s weak currency makes for some fabulous deals. The art scene ranges from creative (upcycled vintage baby clothing) to downright experimental (functional art created from recycled tea bags). Among my favourites are the contemporary art galleries in Woodstock, the new Watershed in the giant warehouse-style emporium that is the Victoria & Alfred complex, the Old Biscuit Mill’s farm stalls and markets, the distinctive boutiques of the Cape Quarter, and the quirky and hip artisans along Long Street and Bree Street.

Cape Town Markets

Local artisanal goods on display in the many markets in Cape Town.

Culture you can taste. Foodies will love the local flavours, scents and colours of the markets. Saturday morning at the Old Biscuit Mill is home to Neighbourgoods, a lively market arrayed with organic foods and local dishes prepared by the city’s finest food purveyors. Despite being seriously tempted by the many craft beers and ciders, on my early morning visits I like to focus on lunch specialties: home-made pork belly pies by Kitchen Cowboys, a tuna burger from Ocean Jewels, heaping mounds of fresh produce from Salad Lovers, and more. I have yet to sample half the things that I’d like…. Another reason to return! If you want to do as the Capetonians, we’ll have a Micato Safari Director escort you through the evening market at City Bowl for a late-day taste of curries from Durban, olive oils from the Karoo, South African honey, and locally made Kaapse Limoncello.

Raise a glass or two. I learned so much about South African wines—and not just the lovely liquid kind of knowledge, either! From the history of vineyards (the first ones date to 1659) to how wine was produced then and now, the region’s creative fruit-blending techniques, and more. We enjoy a delicious cheese tasting at Fairview Estate, producers of award-winning goat and cow’s milk cheeses, and segue on to chocolate tasting at DV Chocolate at Spice Route, a bean-to-bar chocolate factory – lots of fun for young visitors too.

Even for those who don’t imbibe, there’s much to experience. While the Cape Winelands area serves oenophiles very well indeed, it also offers a great variety of hands-on experiences — from stomping grapes, to helping with the harvest, to learning to make cheese. And of course there’s horse riding, hot air ballooning, Segway tours, beautiful farm walks and hikes in the mountains, and a range of festivals. The Cap Classique and Champagne Festival, annually in early December, offers visitors the opportunity to sample South Africa’s (and France’s) divine selection of bubbly. And, to my husband’s great pleasure, there is one of the largest vintage car museums in the world, the Franschhoek Motor Museum.

Last but not least, did I mention penguins?

As of September, 2017 you can also visit the The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) which focuses on collecting, preserving and exhibiting cutting-edge contemporary African art. The partnership between the Victoria & Albert Waterfront and Jochen Zeitz is housed in Cape Town’s splendid 1921 Grain Silo complex, an icon of the city’s skyline.

Micato Safaris’ Cape Town Sojourns are offered in 3 and 4 day extensions and a stay in this world-class city is included on all our Southern Africa Safaris. To learn more, contact a Micato Safari Specialist today.

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