There is little distinction between clubs and pubs in Cape Town, with drinking and dancing often take place at the same venue. City Bowl is the nightlife centre of Cape Town and the activity is centred around the lower end of Long and Loop streets. In these streets you can spend an entire evening strolling around and sampling the nightlife.
The Waterfront with a handful of pubs, clubs and coffee bars, has a more artificial, and safer, mall atmosphere. Clubbing and pubbing tends to cut sharply down ethnic lines with distinct white and coloured venues. For listings, check out the Review section in the inside back pages of the weekly Mail & Guardian, which comes out every Friday. Alternatively, look at the Cape Weekend supplement to the Weekend Argus, which hits the streets on Saturdays and offers similar coverage. If you’re looking for an indigenous flavour, Cape jazz is it. It can be found in the coloured clubs on the Cape Flats, where you can also catch jazzing, popular ballroom dancing to 1950s bossa nova and tango.
The best and safest way to get into the Cape Flats jazz scene is on a jazz tour. Many of the tour operators include visits at one or more township jazz venues. Outside the flats local jazz can be found in city centre haunts. Get a copy of the Jazz Route Guide from a tourist information kiosk to help you plan your musical journey through the many jazz clubs.
In January, The Coon Carnival is Cape Towns major New Year event. It has its origins in the late18th century, when the slaves were allowed their one day off a year on January 1. It consists of dancers, musicians, parades, marches, competitions and street festivals, for the whole month of January. Down at the Waterfront, in the Agfa Amphitheatre, you can often catch free rock or jazz performances and sometimes hear the Cape Town Symphony Orchestra, which also plays at the Grand Hall on Thursdays and Sundays at 8pm.
Victoria & Alfred Arcade, Pierhead, Cape Town, South Africa
Although this place is principally recognised as restaurant, it also happens to be one of the top live jazz clubs in the city. Since it opened in 1990, there has been a live concert every night so you can rest assured that whatever night you go you will be treated to live jazz and a good time. Situated on the waterfront means that this is a relaxing and pleasant environment guaranteed to help you enjoy your night.
1st Floor, 169 Long Street, Cape Town, South Africa
This is one of the top discotheques in Cape Town and once you step past the velvet ropes at the entrance, you will quickly see why. The music ranges from jazz and soul to tribal and techno meaning that you have plenty of choice. It is a pretty classy hang out however, so you might want to dress in something other than jeans and tee-shirt. Remember to check out the patio where you can look out on to the street below. The only thing which may cause problems is the fact that you do have to be over twenty one to gain entry and this rule is strictly enforced.
2nd Floor, Dumbarton House, Cape Town, South Africa
Yet another venue offering live music nightly, Mannenbergs also treats its clientele to the top local and national jazz musicians who play in the city. It’s got a nice atmosphere, if you can ignore all the yuppie politicians who frequent the place – it’s beside the parliament - and is a good place to relax after a day jam packed with activities.
178 Long Street, Cape Town, South Africa
A restaurant downstairs and a bar upstairs, Mama Africa is a fascinating establishment. Full of African artifacts including a real snake (dead!) that winds down a wall across the bar and into the restaurant forming the longest bar counter in Africa, or so the owners claim. Small but unusual and with live African jazz and kwaito music almost every night, the bar is worth visiting, even if it is only to check out the décor and take some pictures. It is expensive but no more so than most places in the city.
6 Bree Street, Cape Town, South Africa
Saturday nights are the most important in this ultra trendy club and once again you do need to dress up a little - well a lot actually, we know what you backpackers are like. It is the longest running dance venue in Cape Town and Saturday features a highly varied mix of house. Yes, apparently there are quite a few different types. It has two dance floors, two ‘chill out’ rooms and a cinema lounge so if one hundred and one different types of the same music isn’t for you, check out the more relaxed areas of the venue. But, on Fridays Pure takes on a completely different façade and plays all the cheesy club classics for all you true fans of disco.
75 Kloof St, City Bowl, Cape Town, South Africa
Knoxville is the new kid on the block in terms of bars in Cape Town. It's also the extremely cool kid, meaning everybody wants ot hang out with him. DJs spin everything from chart tunes mid-week to house at the weekend, and while barmen can get you chilled beers, they prefer cooking up cocktails.
Open 8pm-2am Wed-Sat, closed Sun-Tues.