When you start with Cape Town, sample a healthy dose of the Winelands & finish with a safari, it’s clear that a holiday in South Africa offers a veritable feast of choice.
Trip in Summary
Kick-off in Cape Town at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel for afternoon tea, then whizz to the top of Table Mountain by cable car; later eat your way around the foodie hubs of Bree, Long, and Kloof. Once you’ve had your fill, head inland to the pretty wine towns of Franschhoek and Stellenbosch before flying up to Kruger National Park for the ultimate safari experience.
The New York Times named Cape Town its top holiday destination for 2018, and it is without a doubt one of the most exciting and beautiful cities in the world. Whether you are planning a city break by taking in Cape Town’s iconic sights and the beautiful Winelands behind or using it as a leisurely entrée into a longer vacation, perhaps taking in a safari, the city provides a glamorous springboard into South Africa.
Offering a multitude of city-center and waterfront hotels, Cape Town’s hotel scene punches well above its weight considering the city’s manageable size.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is one of the most convenient places to stay while in the city with views of Table Mountain, the Atlantic, and easy access to both designer boutiques and entertainment local to your hotel.
With several awards under its belt, the One&Only Cape Town is considered by most to be the most glamorous property in the city. Set right on the buzzing waterfront, it is all about sleek accommodation and designer dining (the hotel is home to Africa’s only Nobu restaurant). For the ultimate in boutique suites, The One Above penthouse (located above the One&Only) is undoubtedly the most desirable hotel room in the city. It even has its own rooftop pool.
If your tastes run more to boutique hotels, then the ultra-chic Cape View Clifton is the place to head for a laid-back coastal vibe. The pale, soothing interiors combined with the stunning views over the Twelve Apostles and the four beaches of Clifton provide the ultimate bolthole and there is no need to brave the freezing cold waters of the Atlantic
that lap the beach below thanks to its rooftop pool.
Eat & Drink
The cultural and geographical brew that is modern South Africa has yielded an array of constantly evolving culinary traditions. The variety of food styles available, combined with the fresh and very local produce on tap from the sea and farms around Cape Town, mean that the city has more than its share of world-class restaurants.
Many of the best restaurants are found in its hotels where superb food is complemented by top-end wine cellars and service. For Asian-style cuisine with a nod to locally sourced ingredients, head to Nobu at the One&Only.
At Camps Bay, the Marly Hotel has its own Japanese restaurant UMI. With a vibey buzz and elegant décor, the menu is a mixture of traditional and contemporary Japanese cuisine with inventive twists. Myoga at the Vineyard Hotel has developed a worldwide reputation as one of the Cape’s finest culinary attractions. With an emphasis on contemporary fusion, chef Mike Bassett serves everything from casual cocktails and tapas to seven-course tasting menus.
For a fashionable feast, book well in advance for a table at The Test Kitchen in Woodstock. With its theatrical food created by chef Luke Dale-Roberts, the fabulous food flavors and experimental style will leave you wondering about his other two restaurants in the city.
The Pot Luck Club, also in Woodstock, has an edgier side with a restaurant and gallery on the rooftop with stunning views; while The Shortmarket Club, located off trendy Bree Street, has a classic menu entirely in keeping with the opulent old-world feel of the heritage building in which it resides.
For scenic eating The Roundhouse has the best views. Tucked away in the Glen Forest, it looks across Camps Bay to the rocky outcrops of the Twelve Apostles.
Those looking for somewhere smart, The Greenhouse at The Cellars-Hohenort is set amidst beautiful gardens and, for something more casual, the Chefs Warehouse and Canteen on Bree Street is a fun place to enjoy tapas.
See & Shop
With a spirited local art scene, a new museum, and galleries aplenty, Cape Town has upped its cultural game in recent years. As the U.S. dollar buys nearly 14 rand, it’s also a popular place for visitors looking to shop in designer boutiques.
Head to the downtown stores on Bree Street for Missibaba (the Anya Hindmarch of South Africa) and jewelry by Kirsten Goss. For Africa’s most out-there fashion, head to Merchants on Long.
Escape the heat of the sun and slip into the recently opened Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art (Zeitz MOCAA). With seven floors of contemporary African work and an interactive space for children, it has become one of the world’s best contemporary museum spaces. If your viewings inspire you, then head to the designer suburb of Woodstock where you will find a cluster of galleries, including Stevenson, Blank Projects, and the Goodman Gallery.
Do & Discover
From rosé-edged vineyards and shell-strewn beaches to forested mountain ranges, Cape Town is surrounded by natural beauty. Nowhere is this more obvious than from Lion’s Head; the peak adjacent to Table Mountain affords 360-degree views of the sea, hills, and scorched rocks.
Drive out of town along the twisting Chapman’s Peak Drive. Skirting the coast between Noordhoek and Hout Bay for a distance of five miles, the drive offers a cornucopia of sweeping beaches. Hout Bay is well worth a visit in its own right to enjoy the antics of the resident seals or head on to Boulders Beach where you can play in the shallows with a colony of African penguins.
Any visit to South Africa beyond a few days should include a safari. Most big game is located further north and requires a short flight to take you within easy reach of the famous Kruger National Park.
Here you will find the celebrated Singita Sweni Lodge — just one of the properties in the Singita portfolio, which is owned and managed by the Bailes family. The luxurious hospitality group is more about conservation than hospitality, but it still does the latter in spectacular fashion. One of the greatest luxuries it provides is the exclusive experience of viewing game on its private reserves; in the Kruger National Park, it has a 33,000-acre concession. Perched atop the Sweni River’s forested banks, the seven-suite, ultra-contemporary boutique lodge is among the African bush’s most luxurious and the dining is the best found on safari.
From the swanky lodge guests are treated to up-close sightings of impalas, crocodiles, hippos and monkeys, while twice-daily game excursions are via Land Rover or walking safari — both allowing guests to get as close an Out of Africa experience as possible with the concentration of the Big Five (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant and Cape buffalo).
There is no question that this is the place to stay in Kruger.
While Cape Town, Table Mountain, and the coastline offer ample diversions, if your tastes tend more to the vinous then the 200-plus vineyards that cover the verdant hills of the Western Cape are the ultimate lure. About an hour’s drive from the city, lying at the center of wine production, Franschhoek is the oldest settlement in South Africa. With one main street and a population of just 20,000, it also has the unlikely distinction of being one of the world’s gastronomic capitals with dozens of fantastic restaurants to suit every palate.
The Western Cape is famed not only for scenic wine tours but also for its stunning boutique hotels. Many of the chicest properties are found in the converted white painted homesteads that date back to the 1800s. Within walking distance to the pavement café society of Franschhoek, Leeu House is an amalgamation of three properties that make up the 12-room hotel. Probably the most luxurious option within the town, it is an exemplar of classic Cape Dutch and boasts a garden and large pool with views over the mountains beyond.
The charming Le Quartier Français (sister property to Leeu House and part of the Leeu Collection) has been a venerable member of the most prestigious boutique properties in the wine country for more than 25 years. Following a huge renovation last year, rooms are French country style with a contemporary spin; the property offers a pool, spa, private screening room, and award-winning restaurant La Petite Colombe.
Many of the wine estates also have their own luxury accommodation in converted buildings, all of which afford spectacular views due to their position on the verdant hillsides. High up on the pass between Franschhoek and Stellenbosch, the stunning Delaire Graff Estate is home to ten uber-luxury lodges, each with its own plunge pool and butler; six more are set to open this year. There is an award-winning restaurant on the estate (more on that below), a spa, and landscaped gardens that showcase a grand collection of South African and international art and sculptures.
Eat & Drink
The Cape Winelands has a high concentration of stellar restaurants serving inventive farm-to-table cuisine. With its 60-plus award-winning restaurants, the small town of Franschhoek is often referred to as the gourmet capital of South Africa.
The restaurant at the Grande Provence wine estate has won many accolades, and chef Guy Bennet’s dishes reflect the beauty and heritage of the estate. Alternatively, head to one of Franschhoek’s leading restaurants La Petite Ferme. The property is perched high above the town and affords spectacular views accompanied by country-style gourmet cuisine.
The Delaire Graff Restaurant is all about fresh, classic favorites with South African flair. The estate has its own greenhouse dedicated to growing fruits, vegetables, and herbs for the restaurant and, of course, an expansive collection of Delaire wines to choose from. For magnificent views over the Simonsberg Mountains and a distant outline of Table Mountain, request a table on the terrace under the shade of the large pine oaks.
Do & Discover
Explore the Winelands on horseback, riding along forest tracks and up into the mountains, stopping at wineries
for tasting sessions and sampling the culinary delights of a gourmet picnic.
For those looking to see something other than vines and sculptures, the Franschhoek Motor Museum has a constantly changing collection of classic and vintage cars housed in four vast halls located on the L’Ormarins estate. From priceless Bugattis to 60s Ferraris and Ford Model Ts, it is a petrol head’s paradise.
See & Shop
Many of the estates offer more than just wine and cuisine. Take a walk through the gardens of the Grande Provence estate to view their continually evolving collection of sculptures. Alternatively, the landscaped gardens at the Delaire Graff Estate also are worth visiting for the modern sculptures that line the paths and a 360-degree view that will stop you in your tracks.
For an alternative type of stroll, Franschhoek is a must for any serious shopaholic. Boasting independent boutiques, contemporary art galleries and jewelry shops, wander along the main street and through the pedestrian square, taking a break at one of the artisan coffee shops along the way. Browsing doesn’t get any better.
The Delaire Graff Spa offers a holistic menu of beauty and relaxation treatments. Spend the day unwinding in the jacuzzi, lounging around the infinity pool, or opt to eat lunch at their Asian-inspired restaurant Indochine.
To round off the ultimate Western Cape experience, you might spend a few days at the Grootbos eco-reserve. Just an hour’s drive from the Winelands or two hours from Cape Town, the estate is spread across a 2,500-hectare private reserve and comprises two lodges with pools, luxury villas, and a spa.
From your base, you can choose to horseback ride through the bush, go whale spotting (nearby Hermanus is home to the marine big five — whales, sharks, dolphins, seals, and penguins), take a flower safari through scented Cape bush or, at the other end of the extreme, try a cage dive with great white sharks.