Cape Town advice & recommendations

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This topic contains 20 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  capetonianm 14 Nov 2019
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  • DNAdams
    Participant

    I am going to Cape Town for a 2 week holiday in December. I have never been before and I am wondering if any forum members have any advice and/or recommendations re restaurants, bars, wine and other tours. I don’t drive so advice on transport such as trains and buses would be v helpful. We are staying in an Airbnb in Green Point/Signal Hill so don’t need hotel advice. Appreciate any help and advice you have.
    Thank you!


    DavidSmith2
    Participant

    By coincidence, we are also visiting Cape Town in December for the first time, so any advice would be doubly welcome. We will be there from 28 Dec to 8 January, to take in the 2nd test between South Africa and England, as well as new year on the Cape.


    capetonianm
    Participant

    I will happily supply any information and hints you may require, but won’t have the time to sit at a computer to do this until Tuesday or Wednesday next week.

    What I would say at the outset is don’t consider the local trains as an option. They are at best not suitable for tourists (with one possible exception) and unfortunately can be dangerous.

    I am sure you will have a wonderful and trouble-free holiday, but it is important to take local advice.

    2 users thanked author for this post.

    DNAdams
    Participant

    Thank you Capetonianm – appreciated. The only train I was thinking of using was to Simon’s Town, are the buses safe?
    Look forward to your post next week! Thanks again.


    DavidSmith2
    Participant

    Thanks Captonianm. No rush from our side. As DNAdams, restuarants/bars/tours are what we are mainly looking at. Also, for us, I will be at Newlands for the duration of the Test, but my wife is only doing Day 1, so she is looking for things she can safely do on her own while I am otherwise engaged. We are staying at the Lagoon Beach hotel.


    goldaviator
    Participant

    Some of the info I give to friends looking for advice on travelling to Cape Town. All suggestions and opinions are subjective and my own from having lived in Cape Town for 30 years and a background in hospitality industry.

    There is a great outfit in Cape Town called Rhino Africa which is good for booking guides, cars, day trips.

    Also, Jarat Tours for cars and drivers.

    You will be surprised at how reasonable Uber and car services can be in Cape Town. Uber is safe. I would not use the local trains.

    Cape Town traffic is very congested getting into the city in the morning and leaving the city from about 3.30/4pm till about 6pm….rush hour on the main roads is hell.

    There are tour buses that run various routes in the city and popular tourist routes, good option.

    Cape Town has incredible restaurants but some are so popular you literally have to sit in front of your pc waiting for their bookings to open for when you are there and book within seconds of the booking opening. Also, some general info on things to do:

    Cape Town

    Restaurant recommendations:

    The Test Kitchen – voted one of the top 50 restuarants in the world, essential to book as soon as the bookings open for the date you’re looking. It gets booked out for months ahead in minutes.

    The Potluck – sister restaurant to The Test Kitchen

    The Shortmarket Club – better than both above in my view and owned by the same chef.

    Salsify – Also by same chef, great views over Camps Bay and excellent food – very pricey.

    Fyn Restaurant – exceptional world class restaurant

    Wolfgat Restaurant for ‘foraged ingredients’ huge accolades but very difficult to get into.

    Janse & Co on Kloof Street is exceptional.

    La Colombe – Contstatia, comes highly rated and wouldn’t say ‘don’t go’ but in my opinion, slightly overrated.

    The Chefs Warehouse at Beau Constantia

    Shimmy Beach Club – Trendy Seaside Restaurant

    The Bungalow Camps Bay – very relaxed seaside with incredible ocean views, lovely for lunch and sundowners

    The Hussar Grill – down to earth and very good steaks, not a tourist trap

    The Savoy Cabbage – In the centre of the CBD, very exciting restaurant

    Bascule Bar – Whiskey Bar built into the quay at the Cape Grace Hotel in the waterfront

    Harbour House – Kalk Bay or The Waterfront

    Cape to Cuba – Kalk Bay

    The Food Barn – Noordhoek – excellent food and great service

    Carne – steak restaurant in the city center

    Kloof Street House – very vibey place to eat.

    Have a look at https://insideguide.co.za/cape-town/new-restaurants-in-cape-town/ for more ideas of current hot eating trends.

    Constantia is a wine region about 20 minutes drive from central Cape Town with a good range of restaurants.

    Other notable wine regions are Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. Both are great for a day out of wine tasting and restaurants. Best check which ones are open as they dont all open to public Sunday and Monday.

    Wine Farms with restaurants

    In Cape Town suburbs:

    Constantia Uitsig

    Klein Constantia – buy a bottle of Klein Contastantia Vin de Constance Dessert Wine!

    Groot Contstantia – wine tastings and two restaurants – Jonkershuis and Simon’s Restaurant

    Outside Cape Town, about 45 minutes drive:

    Delaire Graaf – has a couple of very good restaurants, do try and get in here, excellent setting and food.

    Jordan Winery – very good restaurant and lovely wines

    Rust en Vrede in Stellenbosch for dinner

    Waterkloof Wine Estate – excellent food.

    General ideas of things to do:

    Beaches on Atlantic side: Clifton (secluded from the wind and is made up of 4 beaches, Camps Bay, Llundudno and Sandy Bay nudist (!) beach. Further out on Atlantic side is Blauwberg which has great views of Table Mountain across Table Bay

    Camps Bay Beach is beautiful and has the advantage of having lots of restaurants and beach chair service

    Beaches on the Indian Ocean: Muizenberg and Fish Hoek.

    The sea temperature is very cold on the Atlantic side of Cape Peninsula and warmer on the Indian Ocean side.

    A day trip around the Cape Peninsula to Cape Point is a must. Stop off at Boulders Beach in Simons Town to see the penguins!

    Take a trip up the Cable Car to the top of Table Mountain. This can be booked online in advance and would recommend to do so. The cable car gets shut down if its too windy, which happens often in summer so try and go early morning.

    A walk up Lions Head is spectacular. Its not too strenuous, a couple of places where you use chains to assist but easy. The views are remarkable and lovely for sunset.

    Cape Town waterfront is popular for shopping, boat trips and seals. A lot of the restaurants there are huge tourist trap and a rip off, I would avoid most except Harbour House and Balducci. Do not go to Balthazar!

    Some of the wine farms in Cape Town do picnic lunches, try Buitenverwachting and Steenberg.

    A trip to Robben Island is a must to see the history of where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years. It’s a good half day trip.

    Hermanus is a good day out, One hour or so drive to east of Cape Town. Good for whale spotting.

    Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden is beautiful. There are also evening concerts in summer, take a picnic and a bottle of wine.

    Have fun in Cape Town. Lots to do and friendly people.

    Enjoy.

    6 users thanked author for this post.

    ImissConcorde
    Participant

    Just been. Unfortunately not a whale to be seen in Hermanus. Also went down to L’Agulhas and Struisbaai. Nothing! Uber in Cape Town were excellent. Felt very safe with them. We did a Cape Point tour with a company called Hylton who were also very good.


    cotswoldsw
    Participant

    My number one tip, especially for that time of year, is make your restaurant reservations in advance. In addition to the restaurants above, I love Chef’s Warehouse at Beau Constantia.
    I always use uber to get around and didn’t bother hiring a car at all last trip. Enjoy, you’ll have an amazing time.


    cwoodward
    Participant

    I was very pleased to see this thread as Mrs C number 3 son and I are going to Cape town for 2 weeks in January.

    I used 50 Years ago live in Camps Bay for a spell. Over the years I have often traveled back to Africa for business but never back to Cape Town
    The information posted above is immensely helpful and I thank all however I need a little information please re accommodation options.

    Having narrowed down the most suitable options for us are ether a 2 bed hotel suite or perhaps a luxury holiday rental (the hotel suite bing Mrs Cs prefered option) I am having trouble making a decision due to the very contrary revues posted on the usually reliable review websites.
    We looked at the Taj but some very bad revues over the past months. Cape Grace and the OneandOnly would blow the budget (ater the 15 hour Business class flights from HK).

    The Cape Royale Suites looks a possibility as they offer a 2 bed suite however again there seems to be complications as I gather that some suites are operated by the hotel and others are individually owned and offered through Booking .com and such resulting in many bad reviews.

    The Rockwell 2 bed apartment looked promising but again iffy reviews and the location seems not to be good after dark.

    Clearly I need need some advice please from a local or frequent visitor. The top end of our budget is about R5000 a night


    goldaviator
    Participant

    Cwoodward

    Have a look at Waterfront Marina. I rent apartments there sometimes. Very secure, parking, walk to waterfront and all its amenities and restaurants.

    I use agents Capsol as agents for renting. Very professional and helpful

    Homepage

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    openfly
    Participant

    Several low-cost excellent restaurants….Maestros by the Milnerton Golf Club at Woodbridge Island…great view of Table Mountain, Robbin Island…beside the sea.

    A fabulous very laid-back hamburger joint in town…The Dogs Bollocks…that’s the name!!

    The Firemans Arms in town. The original fire station. A real fun place with a comfort food menu and very reasonable prices…def worth a visit.

    The best view and value on the Waterfront…Spur Restaurant.

    A wonderful family-run vineyard lunch-time restaurant is Delheim, outside Stellenbosch at the base of the Simonsberg Mountain…not Delair, so up itself and pricey.

    A vineyard with an excellent restaurant and views…Constantia Glen, on the road from Constantia to Hout Bay

    Most restaurants accept BYO…most don’t charge.

    1 user thanked author for this post.

    Inquisitive
    Participant

    This is one of the best thread I noted in a long time.

    Very detail advices are given by those who are knowledgeable – especially by goldaviator – a fantastic use of forum.

    6 users thanked author for this post.

    capetonianm
    Participant

    Useful stuff. Some of you have mentioned some of my favourite pkaces, some have mentioned places I wouldn’t go to – a good balance.

    I’ll update later in the week.


    LuganoPirate
    Participant

    Good list from goldaviation, I’d add:
    Carne
    Kloof Street for a great atmosphere and some good restaurants including Hudsons, Stacked (American style, inexpensive and very good) to name a few.
    Mount Nelson for Afternoon Tea is an absolute must, but do book and don’t go on Sunday as the price goes up on that day.

    Just outside in Pineland is Magica Roma, fantastic Italian and one of the best.

    A wine estate not mentioned is Constantia Glen. Belongs to a friend of mine but well worth a visit and lunch
    https://www.wantedonline.co.za/navigator/drinks/2016-04-07-out-to-lunch-with-gus-allen—co-owner-of-constantia-glen/

    Warning: Bus and trains are not that safe. Don’t go to Simonstown on the train, but take a taxi. Most likely you won’t come to any real harm, but you will be hassled and asked for money or other gifts which will make the journey unenjoyable. Definitely don’t use them at nights. I’d also advise against walking around at night or taking a stroll through the parks. Day time in the city when lots of people are around is fine.

    Do NOT use UBER. My wife and son were robbed at gunpoint and there have been many more incidents I’ve heard of since, many unreported, including kidnapping and hijacking. Several 5 star hotels now recommend their guests not to use them. The drivers often have little local knowledge and UBER will not help you if you do get robbed or assaulted as they say the drivers are freelance, not employed by them and that they are just a tech company that puts you in touch with a driver. Avoid or use at own risk!

    A very good company, that employ the drivers with fair prices and who do not employ the dubious practice of surge pricing, is UNICABS. They have an app, are reliable and the drivers are knowledgeable. https://www.unicab.co.za/

    Driving is also very easy, as they drive on the left like in the UK but do make sure you make a full stop at intersections with a stop sign. The police are just waiting to extract a fine from you.

    Otherwise it’s an amazing city and with sensible precautions a great place to be. Enjoy your time there.

    4 users thanked author for this post.

    capetonianm
    Participant

    I have made some notes based on preceding advice, all of which is very sound. I’ve tried not to duplicate the advice and recommendations of others.

    The only train I was thinking of using was to Simon’s Town, are the buses safe?

    The possible exception I mentioned was the train to Simonstown. I know people who use those trains daily but only during business hours and they say they are dirty and overcrowded. I would not use them, but people do, and survive! You must avoid peak time, which is 0630-0900 in and 1530-1800 out.
    The public buses are not recommendable at all. Nor are the public minibus taxis.
    I always hire a car but often end up not using it for a few days at a time as I use Uber, however, LP has written about his bad experience with them and his caution is valid.

    On balance, you would be better off making an arrangement with a recommended driver or company such as the ones mentioned.

    The company I use is this one : http://www.airporttaxiservice.co.za
    Tel: 0861 77 88 78 / +27 (0) 21 556 5606
    Web: http://www.capetownshuttles.co.za
    Web: http://www.airportshuttlebus.co.za
    Web: http://www.airporttaxiservice.co.za
    Email: info@capetowngroup.co.za
    We have always been happy with them, they are reliable, and their rates are good.

    In some ways not driving in CPT is a handicap, but it opens other opportunities for enjoying the sights and sounds without the aggravation of the traffic, which is awful, and parking.

    Lagoon Beach Hotel has beautiful views towards the city and the mountain, but it is a little bit isolated and the nearest shops are Milnerton, which is not exactly upmarket, but it’s safe during the day. There is not much to walk to in the vicinity apart from a couple of restaurants, one being Amigos/Maestros on Woodbridge Island, which someone else has mentioned and which used to be owned by a friend of mine. You can walk up towards Table View from there, I would think it is safe during the day but I would not advise a woman on her own to walk. There are good beaches (freezing cold water though), some reasonable eating places, and shopping malls.

    You will be surprised at how reasonable Uber and car services can be in Cape Town. Uber is safe. I would not use the local trains.

    I agree about the trains but take heed of the warning by Lugano Pirate about Uber.

    Cape Town traffic is very congested getting into the city in the morning and leaving the city from about 3.30/4pm till about 6pm….rush hour on the main roads is hell.

    Absolutely true. And it gets worse every time I go.
    There are tour buses that run various routes in the city and popular tourist routes, good option.
    There are open hopon/off tourist buses that operate the main tourist routes, they are perfectly safe.
    Don’t underestimate the time it takes to get to places. From town to Cape Point and back is almost 100 miles and to enjoy it you need to take the scenic, slower, roads.
    https://www.citysightseeing.co.za/en/cape-town/open-bus-tours-cpt
    https://www.hop-on-hop-off-bus.com/cape-town-bus-tours
    Then you have : https://www.springbokatlas.com/destination/south-africa/cape-town/day-tours/
    and https://hyltonross.co.za/guided-tours/
    who both do local and long distance trips around the country, have been established for decades, and are professional and reliable.

    Cape Town has incredible restaurants but some are so popular you literally have to sit in front of your pc waiting for their bookings to open for when you are there and book within seconds of the booking opening.

    I don’t go to, haven’t got the patience, and thus cannot recommend that type of place. Nothing wrong with it, but not my ‘thing’.
    I don’t like Kloof Street now, I used to live in that area, the parking and the car ‘guards’ make it a nightmare.
    Exceptions from the list above :
    The Hussar Grill – there are several. The original one is in Rondebosch, my favourite is the one in Camps Bay. Talking of Camps Bay, avoid the beach front restaurants, they are overpriced tourist traps and mostly not very good.
    Harbour House – Kalk Bay (dignified and rather special)
    Cape to Cuba – Kalk Bay (noisy)
    Brass Bell Kalk Bay (noisy, but fun)
    In Constantia I would recommend Jonkershuis at Groot Constantia, Constantia Glen, and at Silver Mist, La Colombe and The Green Vine, although in my view the former is over hyped and over priced, like so many restaurants now.

    Don’t overlook the Durbanville wine route. It doesn’t have the dramatic scenery of the Paarl, Stellenbosch, or Franschoek wine route, but it has lovely rolling hills and is far less busy than the others. We had an outstanding meal last week at Diemersdal. Meerendal is also excellent and it’s a beautiful drive out from town up the N7 and then over Contermans Kloof.

    Further afield, on the way to Hermanus, Benguela Cove Winery is an interesting spot, with stunning local scuptures, great views, and excellent wines and food.

    I cannot say much about hotels as we never stay in hotels other than on the wine routes or further out.
    There are good museums in the city centre, mostly around the Government Gardens.

    Franschhoek has one of the best motor museums in the world! The Franschhoek Motor Museum http://www.fmm.co.za/ is owned by the Rupert family and is open by appointment. It is right in the middle of some dramatic mountain scenery, and there are many excellent restaurants and wineries nearby. Cafe BonBon is one of my favourites.

    If you are careful and sensible you will be fine. Don’t walk in isolated areas, specially at night. If you drive at night make sure you know the route and don’t have to stop to check maps, etc.
    Don’t assume that everyone has criminal intent. The vast majority of people are helpful and friendly but the sad reality is that South Africa has a high crime rate, mostly driven by poverty. Most of the crime is restricted to areas where visitors are unlikely to go, but please be streetwise.

    A few practical things.

    Credit cards are accepted just about everywhere, although I believe that non-ZA cards cannot be used to pay for fuel or the road toll on Chapmans Peak Drive. The ZA banking system is light years ahead of Europe and always has been. There are ATMs everywhere but obviously take care when using them.
    Don’t use foreign currency, not everywhere will accept it, and if they do the exchange rates can be appalling.By the way the largest ZAR note is R200 – about £10, so take a big wallet or money belt!

    Electricity is 220-240 V AC 50Hz, same as UK/EU. You face the risk of blackouts (they call it load shedding) due to the mismanagement and corruption at Eskom. They publish a schedule of load shedding which is usually adhered to. The plug sockets are different, although some buildings and hotels have UK and EU type sockets. You will need an adapter plug.

    Incoming/outgoing calls on UK mobiles are up to £2.40/minute unless you have a package. It is best to use WhatsApp as internet coverage is generally good and most places have wifi. You can easily buy local pre-paid SIM cards.

    I will happily answer any specific questions but I think with all the advice already contributed by others, most questions have been covered.

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