City Life: Aspire’s guide to the best of Cape Town

Talk of the town. Whether it’s a mountain hike, day at the beach or night in a stylish bar, you can do it in Cape Town, as Hollie-Rae Brader discovers

It’s one of the most picturesque cities in the world, nestled between the ocean and Table Mountain. Trendy Cape Town never fails to impress. With outstanding white-sand beaches, a stunning coastline, a wealth of high-end hotels and countless unique experiences, it’s not hard to see why Cape Town attracts tourists in their droves.During my visit to this seemingly perfect city, what amazed me the most was its sheer beauty. I’d heard all about its epic scenery, but it still managed to surprise me. You’d be hard pressed to find an area of the city centre that doesn’t have a jawdroppingly beautiful backdrop, a quaint setting or wonderful architecture. Another highlight is having a wealth of wildlife on your doorstep. From penguins playfully plodding around Boulders Beach to whales breaching off the coast and dolphins joyfully jumping into sight, Cape Town’s marine life is extremely active. And, of course, visitors have the chance to see great white sharks on cage diving excursions, although when I was visiting they’d scarpered following a series of attacks from orcas.While many use Cape Town as a springboard to see the rest of South Africa, the city shouldn’t be dismissed as being somewhere just to start or end an adventure. There’s plenty of reasons to encourage guests to spend longer exploring this cosmopolitan city. Here’s Aspire’s guide to the Mother City.

Why sell it

Cape Town has long been a popular destination for UK holidaymakers wanting guaranteed winter sunshine, wildlife experiences and extremely good value for money. The drop in the value of the rand over the past five years means guests’ cash will stretch even further.

This diverse city ticks a number of boxes. Not only is it a multicultural melting pot, with 11 languages spoken, it also delivers when it comes to offering a range of experiences. It has it all: beaches, mountains, harbours, gardens, amazing cuisine and both resort and boutique hotels. So if you’re booking a trip for a tricky family or a couple who have differing views on the perfect city getaway, Cape Town is bound to keep everyone happy. 

Being on almost the same time zone as the UK is also a big plus, as it won’t take your clients long to adapt to the chilled local lifestyle.

What’s new

Last year, Cape Town’s cultural offering took a large leap forward with the opening of Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz Mocaa). Located in a former grain silo, the museum has been described as Africa’s answer to the Tate Modern and is well worth a visit with 100 galleries spread across nine floors. 

Sitting at the top of the museum is one of the most-talked about new hotel openings in the city. Aptly named The Silo (pictured), the property has just 28 rooms, including a one-bed penthouse. Its location on the V&A Waterfront is enviable, with the Robben Island ferry a short walk away. Being on top of the city’s most-hyped museum has many perks, but the biggest is being located within the tallest building on the harbour, serving up stunning views from every room and suite. 

The food scene in Cape Town is just as exciting, with new venues opening across the city regularly. Two recent additions are Chefs Warehouse at Maison and Salt at Paul Cluver, but more on the city’s cuisine offering later.

When to go

Peak season is from mid-December until early April for the dry season, but temperatures can soar. My preference is to visit in October or November when the weather is still sunny but more spring-like, plus there’s far fewer tourists trawling around the city. If the wildlife is the driving force behind your clients’ visit, plan their travel between July and November – whale-watching season. 

Where to stay

If it’s heritage and history your customers are looking for then Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel is the perfect choice. If they want something more akin to a beach resort, the stunning One&Only Cape Town is the perfect haven for them. When it comes to boutique hotels, Cape Town has a plethora of options. My personal favourites are Ellerman House and Cape View Clifton.

The former, located in the Bantry Bay area, has 13 suites, plus two three-bedroom private villas that are often booked well in advance by famous faces. Super stylish Cape View Clifton boasts one of the best views from a hotel in the city. With just seven rooms, thissweet little property is romantic and exclusive – perfect for couples and honeymooners.

For something slightly out of the city centre (don’t worry, the hotel offers heli transfers to the V&A Waterfront), suggest Leading Hotels of the World property The Twelve Apostles, part of the Red Carnation Group. Its dramatic location looking out across the Atlantic Ocean provides very special sunset views. Most hotels have successfully implemented restrictions around water wastage, due to the ongoing shortage.

What to do

There’s so much to see and do, visitors could easily spend a couple of weeks soaking up everything this wonderful city has to offer. 

If there’s one thing your clients will definitely want to do, it’s head to the top of Table Mountain. I recommend planning this at the start of the trip, because cloud cover can mean the cable cars stop running at certain times of the day. During my visit, it wasn’t running for three days, and it’s due to this uncertainty that online tickets are valid for a week. Of course, the cable car issue isn’t a concern for more active clients who might prefer to trek to the top. 

While the view from Table Mountain is outstanding, I’d argue it’s even better from the top of Lion’s Head – a mountain that lies across the bay and from which you get to admire awe-inspiring views of the city and Table Mountain. Plan your trek around sunset or sunrise and avoid the hottest times of the day (I only wish I’d followed my own advice during my visit).

Most visitors are keen to learn more about South Africa’s history. Footsteps to Freedom, offers walking tours to highlight Cape Town’s past with insight into its time under British and Dutch rule, slavery and apartheid.

For another dose of history, head to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Something that sets Cape Town apart from other cities around the world is its unique wildlife offering.

It’s rare to be able to visit a colony of penguins, head off on a whale watching tour and get your adrenaline pumping on a shark cage diving experience, all in one city. Sadly, I managed only the first during my visit, but a trip to Boulders Beach, where African penguins meander around all day long, would make anyone happy.

When it comes to perfect beaches, this city has plenty. My favourites are Camps Bay and Clifton, but be warned, the waters of the Atlantic are extremely chilly.

If shopping gets your clients going, recommend the V&A Waterfront, but if boutique and independent shops are more their thing, then the bohemian area of Kalk Bay is a better bet.

A trip to Cape Town wouldn’t be complete without a day exploring the rugged landscape, and for that I headed for the tip of the Cape Peninsula to Cape Point – and it was spectacular.

Where to dine

The food scene is incredible. A combination of fantastic local produce, beautiful South African wines and the exchange rates mean your guests can dine exceptionally well for a fraction of the price they’d pay in other major cities. 

Sister venues The Pot Luck Club, The Shortmarket Club and The Test Kitchen are firm favourites among visitors. Book well in advance and expect to pay a deposit. Locals recommended Black Sheep on trendy Kloof Street during my visit and it was so good I dined there twice. After eating here, stick around the Kloof Street/Bree Street area, which is home to some of the best bars in the city.

Due to the currency rates, Cape Town is also home to what must be the most affordable Nobu on land (Crystal Cruises’ Nobu is the most affordable). You’ll find it at One&Only, but again, make sure your clients book well ahead of their visit.

If they’ve got time during their stay, recommend they head out of Cape Town towards the Winelands. Stellenbosch is just a 45-minute taxi ride away. I went off local recommendations and headed to up-and-coming winery Jordan for an afternoon of indulgence – a lengthy wine tasting, accompanied by delicious cheese and meat boards, heavenly.

Pair it with

There are so many options. The most obvious is to recommend your clients pair Cape Town with a safari. Kruger is the most iconic, but it’s also a malaria zone. If you’re booking for a family trip it is worth suggesting malaria-free options such as Shamwari or Kariega Game Reserves. Other options would be a driving itinerary along the Garden Route, or a journey on the Blue Train or Rovos Rail. Wine fans, shouldn’t just visit the winelands region, but should opt to stay locally in Stellenbosch or Franschhoek for the maximum experience. I recommend a couple of nights at Relais & Chateau property Delaire Graff Estate – one of Stellenbosch’s best spots!

Book It

Knighton Reeve offers a 16-day South Africa... A Great Start itinerary, which includes four nights at the Belmond Mount Nelson in Cape Town. The tour starts at £4,550 per person, including flights and transfers.


 Cape Town hotel reviews, pages 108-112



South Africa’s national carrier offers flights between London and Johannesburg and onwards to Cape Town. The airline serves more than 30 destinations in sub-Saharan Africa. Return business-class flights to Johannesburg start from £3,803, while the lead-in fare inclusive of onwards flight to Cape Town is just £70 more.


After exploring Cape Town, your clients might want to delve further into South Africa. Recommend hiring a car to either travel onwards to the wine regions or to drive along the stunning Garden Route. Avis offers a wide range of cars from Cape Town airport. High-end options include cars such as an Audi A3 or similar, which can be booked from £31 per day, a BMW 3 Series or similar from £34 a day, and a Mercedes-Benz C-Class or similar from £35 a day.