The Mother City always features on ‘top ten’ lists – and for good reason. Curious culinistas get a world-class menu of foodie opportunities, sun slaves can’t resist the Atlantic seaboard and nature lovers get an eye-watering visual feast. Here’s how to top up your ‘I-heart-Cape-Town’ tank in just 48-hours. The best part? You don’t have to take a single day of leave.
Evening – Make your escape
British Airways’ Friday schedule gets you out of Johannesburg (take the 19:00 or 20:00 flight) or Durban (18:00) with time to settle in on the other side. It’s an easy 15-minute drive from the airport in a hire car to the city, where the Belmond Mount Nelson – or ‘The Nellie’ as locals affectionately call it – awaits your arrival.
Alternatively, the Cape Grace is an elegant option if you want to be close to the hub of the V&A Waterfront. Afterwards, head out to gentrifying Salt River and order the brilliant craft beer and food pairing board at Devils Peak Taproom.
09:00 – Get a caffeine hit
Head to the Woodstock Exchange at 66 Albert Road on the fringe of the CBD and kickstart your day with the java enthusiast’s choice: an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe at Rosetta Coffee. Browse boutiques and galleries for a taste of cutting-edge design, marvel at Pedersen + Lennard’s furniture solutions, or simply fall in love with artisanal leatherwear at Urban Africa’s Atlier.
11:00 – Hike the ‘Pipe’
Put on your walking shoes and answer the call of Table Mountain. The Pipe Track on the Camps Bay side offers awesome views of the Twelve Apostles mountain range and is relatively flat, so you’ll save some heartbeats for the rest of the day.
13:00 – Life’s a beach
Depending which of the four seasons in one day you get, you might opt for an afternoon of lizard-like behaviour. Clifton’s 4th Beach is the classic (locals ‘own’ 1st), but seasoned lotion-lovers will want to head for the more intimate Glen Beach off Camps Bay that’s also a great surf and sundowner spot.
If the weather isn’t quite beach ready, visit the ever humbling District Six Museum, followed by a walk up Buitenkant Street for a steampunk espresso at Truth roastery, once voted the best coffee shop in the world. Then it’s time to browse rare and beautiful books at the excellent and well-stocked Book Lounge.
15:30 – Back to nature
Amble home via the historic Company’s Garden, buy some nuts and hang out with the world’s friendliest squirrels; or visit the SA National Gallery.
17:00. But don’t forget to leave time for the famous high tea offering back at the Mount Nelson Hotel.
19:00 – Hit Bree Street
The epicentre of inner city revival is Heritage Square on Bree Street, an entertainment artery with rollicking bars at one end and Liam Tomlin’s unbeatable Chef’s Warehouse at the other. You can’t book at the latter, but there’s a cool ‘waiting bar’ downstairs where you can order a pre-dinner snack from the daily changing ‘tapas for two’ menu. Your next stop should be Publik wine bar, home to Frankie Fenner Meats and the charcoal-fuelled Ash restaurant. See what interesting discoveries wine-merchant David Cope has on offer by the glass, and buy some biltong for the next day.
20:30 – In the club
The inner-city love child of Luke ‘Test Kitchen’ Dale-Roberts and his wife Sandalene is The Shortmarket Club, where Pot Luck’s head chef/manager duo, Westley Randles and Simon Widdison, get to do their own thing. It’s a fitting stage for ridiculously fine fare, such as six-week old rib-eye on the bone, seared on a Rooikrans-fired grill.
23:00 – Cap the night
Finish off the night next door at House of Machines. Order the best Old Fashioned in town before following the beautiful people to the tiny bar behind the Honest Chocolate Shop on 64 Wales Street – or go back up Bree to Mother’s Ruin, just to prove the city’s credentials as a global gin capital.
08:00 - Go topless
Sleep in, hit the breakfast buffet and prepare for a day of sensory overload. Head out in your hired car or find your way to a CBD stop of the topless, hop-on-hop-off City Sightseeing busses and let someone else do the driving while you enjoy the view – and what a view it is. The round trip mini-peninsula route takes around two-and-a-half hours and busses are 25 minutes apart.
10:00 - Do gardening duty
Your first stop (20 minutes away) is Kirstenbosch Gardens. Breath deep, wander free and feel the grandeur of Table Mountain. Don’t miss the Boomslang canopy walkway before joining regulars for a moment of quiet contemplation in the uppermost corner where the Proteas grow.
12:00 – Swirl, sniff and savour
The next stop is Constantia Neck. Change to the purple wine route bus and get off at Groot Constantia. Then walk 10m down the road to Beau Constantia where the Cecily Viognier and Pierre Sauvignon-Semillon will blow you away almost as much as the view. When you’ve had your fill, find bus seats on the upper left side and don’t get off again until you reach the Sea Point stop at Winchester Mansions: the trip along the coast will show you why Capetonians hate leaving home.
14:30 – Walk this way
A stroll on Greenpoint Promenade towards the Waterfront with Table Bay at your side is so quintessentially Capetonian you’ll feel like an extra in a movie. If walking isn’t your thing and you feel the need to expand your horizons, why not try (safely) jumping off a mountain? Fly Cape Town will strap you in to a tandem paraglider and help you make an unforgettable leap of faith off Signal Hill that could last anywhere from ten to 30 minutes.
15:30 – Retail therapy
Your breakaway ends at the V&A Waterfront – still South Africa’s biggest visitor attraction by miles. Avoid the madness of the centre and start with a 100 per cent Angus beef classic cheeseburger from the short-order Mondial hatch. Then walk to the new Watershed market, home to over 150 designer stores such as Tiffany Marx’s Inspired Jewellery and Odeon’s home-grown homeware. After that, the Waterfront’s your oyster until it’s time to head out on the highway: you’ll need 25 minutes to get to Cape Town International.
19:00 – Homeward bound
The last flight out for Johannesburg (it’s earlier at 17:30 for Durbanites) will have you home in time to get a good night’s rest and be at work on Monday morning, mental-flossed, ready to go – and already planning your next trip.