Hostelworld Guide for Cape Town

Colm Hanratty


Thanks to golden beaches, colourful neighbourhoods, a rugged coastline and a landmark simply known as 'The Mountain', there are few cities in the world that are as spectacular as Cape Town. South Africa's most famous city has all the above...and then some. The locals are unbelievably friendly, the sunsets are truly unforgettable, the food is as mouthwatering as you'll find anywhere in the world and, because it's the beginning of most backpackers' journey in South Africa, the nightlife can be experienced any night of the week. If you are planning a trip around the fascinating country that is South Africa, make sure to put by at least five days to explore this amazing city. It is the only way you will see the best bits, and believe me, there are many of those.



In this Guide...      

Useful Information
After Dark
Places to Eat
Top Attractions
Budget Tips
Where to Shop

 The Essentials


Getting There

By plane: Cape Town has excellent connections with cities all over the world and its newly-renovated international airport can be found just over 20km from the city centre. Many hostels offer airport connections via special backpacker buses. A taxi from the airport to the city will cost 280R approximately.

By train: Cape Town's main train station is located in the heart of downtown Cape Town. It has good rail connections with all other main cities.

By bus: Rather than using South African bus networks, most people travelling to Cape Town via bus do so on special backpacker buses such as the Baz Bus.

Getting Around

On foot: Cape Town's 'city bowl' where many of the hostels are and the city centre are within walking distance of each other. But at some stage you will need to use a mode of transport other than your own feet.

By train: While the train isn't a widely used mode of transport, popular suburbs such as Kalk Bay, Simonstown and Fish Hoek can all be travelled to by train.

By taxi: Taxis can be waved down on the street or called for by your hostel.

By car: If you plan on seeing most of what Cape Town has to offer, at some stage during your stay you will need to rent a car.

 Cape Town facts

Name: As Cape Town is located on the Western Cape (cape meaning a piece of land extending into the sea), it got the name Cape Town from its original Dutch settlers.
Population: The city and its surrounding areas have a population of just under 3 million people.
Founded: Cape Town was founded in 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck as a supply station on the Dutch East India Company's sea route to the East.
Area: Cape Town's land area is 2499 square kilometres (965 sq mi).

While it is located in South Africa, Cape Town boasts a Mediterranean climate with hot summers and mild winters. The hottest months are December to March. February is particularly hot, with an average temperature of 26°C. While winters aren't particularly cold, they can be wet, and from May to August there are high levels of rainfall. During these months the lowest the average temperature drops to is 16°C.

 Good to know

Languages: English, Afrikaans and Xhosa.
Currency: Rand (R)
Electricity: 220V/230V, 50 Hz
Area code: +27 (South Africa), 021 (Cape Town)
Emergency codes: Police/Fire 10111, Ambulance 10177
Time zone: South African Standard Time (GMT +2)
Central Post Office: Cnr of Darling and Parliament Sts
Main tourist office: Pinnacle Building, Cnr Burg & Castle Streets
Avergage price of a meal: R60
Avergage price of a beer: R15
Price of a coffee: R20

Embassies, High Commissions and Consulates

USA: +27 (0)21 702 7300*
Canada: +27 (0)21 423 5240**
Australia: +27 (0)21 419 5425**
New Zealand: +27 (0)21 696 8561*
UK: +27 (0)21 405 2400*
Germany: +27 (0)21 405 3000*
Spain: +27 (0)21 422 2415*
France: +27 (0)21 423 1575*
Italy: +27 (0)21 487 3900*
Ireland: +27 (0)21 419 0636***

*Number is for Consulate
** Number is for High Commission
***Number is for Embassy

Hostelworld Guide for Cape Town

 Cheap Eats

 After Dark

Arnold's, 60 Kloof St, City Bowl Have you tried eating 'game' before? Things such as ostrich, springbok or crocodile? Probably not. If you want to, this is where to try it. It's also a great place for breakfast, and their free wine promotion attracts droves (see 'Budget Tips' below). Open daily 6.45am-close (from 8am Sat & Sun).

 The Great Gatsby

Biesmiellah, Cnr Wale/Pentz Sts, Bo Kaap Ask a Capetonian what you can't leave without trying and many will tell you a 'gatsby', a Cape Malay specialty which comprises chips, a spicey sauce and a choice of meat. They're messy and sloppy as hell, but you have to try one. Open Mon-Sat 7.30am-11pm, closed Sun.

Eastern Food Bazaar, 96 Longmarket St, CBD In this ever-busy food court you can indulge in Arabic, Indian, Chinese and other cuisines. Your choice of dish will be prepared in front of you and then you can eat in or take out. The ordering system is a tiny bit confusing but not rocket science either - you pay and order at one counter and collect at another. Open daily 10.30am-10pm.

Col'Cacchio, Cnr Victoria Rd & The Meadway, Camps Bay This busy pizzeria serves an abundance of award-winning pizzas to a hungry mix of tourists and locals. There are many to choose from, some of which were created by celebrity chefs. And if you don't fancy dining in, they deliver to the nearby beach. Open daily 12 noon-11pm.

Aris Souvlaki, 83a Regent Rd, Sea Point In this Greek restaurant, which is open since 1982, you can find all the usual Greek favourites - souvlakis, loukanikio and more. There's a small seating area downstairs but if you can, take a seat on the upstairs balcony and let the busy below street enhance your dining experience. Open daily 9am-11pm.

Knoxville, 75 Kloof St, City Bowl 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.

La Med, Glen Country Club, Victoria Rd, Clifton No trip to Cape Town is complete without enjoying a few 'sundowners' in La Med, a hotel with a bar overlooking Camps Bay. You'd think that Friday or Saturday is when to come, but you'd be wrong. Sundays is when it happens here. Miss one at your peril. Open daily 12 noon-close.

 Gay / Lesbian Cape Town

Cape Town has an abundance of gay bars and clubs, many of them in the Green Point suburb. Café Manhattan (Cnr Dixon & Waterkant Sts, Green Point) is a relaxed venue, while Navigaytion (22 Somerset Rd, Green Point) is one of the city's most popular gay clubs. It is also affiliated with Bronx, an extremely popular gay bar. Other popular spots are The Loft Lounge (24 Napier St, Green Point) which is great for cocktails and Lush is a Saturday night party for lesbians at Junction Cafe on Somerset Road, Green Point.

Zula Bar, 194 Long St, CBD Long Street is by far the city's liveliest street once the sun sets, and Zula Bar is arguably the most happening bar along it. Attracting endless backpackers, they have live bands, DJs, drinks specials, and a pole if you want to show your moves to the bating public. Open daily 12 noon-4am.

Café Caprice, 37 Victoria Rd, Camps Bay Camps Bay's most famous haunt is also its most glamourous. Drawing beautiful people to its premises like bees to honey, it isn't as pretentious as you might imagine so don't totally knock it before checking it out. As with La Med, the big day here is Sunday. Open daily 10am-2am.

Springbok Pub, 1 Sport Pienaar Road, Newlands Pub by day and club by night, Springbok is an extremely popular spot in Cape Town because of one thing - choice. There are different themed nights, such as 'Student Night' on Tuesdays and 'Jug Night' on Fridays, while the club itself has no less than five different bar areas to enjoy. Open daily 12 noon-close.

 Don't Miss

 Mark Your Calendar

Table Mountain, Table Mountain Rd, City Bowl Overlooking Cape Town from almost every angle, 'The Mountain' is one of the most beautiful sights you will ever see. Atop you can admire the panoramic views and walk the clearly marked trails. Any time is good to visit, but sunsets are particularly spectacular. Open 8am daily, closing hours vary on season; admission R165 return/R85 one-way.

 Chilling, fascinating and moving

Robben Island Robben Island came to the public eye on 11th February, 1990 when Nelson Mandela was released after 27 years in prison. It ceased operating as a prison in 1996, then opened as a museum the following year. During a visit you get a guided tour of the island before visiting the actual cells. Ferries depart at 9am, 11am, 1pm & 3pm; admission R200.

V&A Waterfront South Africa's most visited attraction is touristy as hell, but let's face it, sometimes touristy is good, and a few hours spent here is a great way to while away an afternoon or evening. You'll encounter a shopping centre with a cinema, lots of free entertainment, a host of restaurants and even wild seals.

Drive to Cape Point This extremely enjoyable day-trip takes in countless attractions - you can see the penguins on Boulders Beach, stop for a relaxing lunch in Kalk Bay, admire the surfers in Muizenberg, and then finish it off (or begin it) with a cruise along Chapman's Peak Drive. Best done in a rental car, but organised tours do the trip also.

Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens Covering an area of 528 hectares, the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are some of the most beautifully maintained gardens in the world. They showcase only South African flora while a number of birds live in the gardens also. Open 8am-7pm (Sept-March) & to 6pm (April-August); admission R30.

January to February - Shakespeare in the Park Each summer for two months a different play by celebrated English playwright William Shakespeare is staged in Cape Town's Maynardville Open-Air Theatre. The perfect option for a quiet night out.

February to March - Cape Town Pride For South Africa's premier LGBT festival a host of events take place including fashion shows, sports events, film showcases and more.

March - Cape Town Carnival This event strives to create something new, where communities interact and celebrate the city's uniqueness every year. It also endeavours to unite the city's citizens.

March - Dragon Boat Festival Cape Town's V&A Waterfront is the location for this annual event which commemorates Chinese patriot and poet Qu Yuan. It is an unforgettable spectacle.

April - International Jazz Festival Cape Town's annual jazz festival is arguably the continent's top event of its kind, attracting artists from both home and abroad. One of the highlights of the event is a free concert in Green Market Square.

April - Sound on Screen This annual film festival is quite unique as it concentrates solely on movies about music. Over the course of the festival both features and documentaries are shown.

September to October - International Comedy Festival Staged in Cape Town's Baxter Theatre and other venues, Cape Town's annual comedy festival attracts funny people from both home and abroad. Street performers entertain people around the city for the duration of the event too.

November - The Discovery Cape Times Big Walk This is the biggest timed walking event in the world, and takes place annually and focuses on raising funds for charity. Walks cover anything from 5km to 80km to suit all types of walkers.

November to April - Kirstenbosch Summer Concerts Every Sunday evening between late November and early April the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens are the location for a series of outdoor concerts. All types of acts perform which come from both home and abroad.

December - OBZ Festival Held in the Observatory (OBZ) neighbourhood, this street festival celebrates the arrival of summer. Expect live music, film screenings and more.

Hostelworld Guide for Cape Town

 Neighbourhood Watch

 Retail Therapy

Camps Bay Most coastal cities have one seaside suburb more famous than any other and Cape Town's is Camps Bay. Heaving with sunworshippers during the summer, and attracting the more beautiful offspring all year round, it is the perfect place to while away an afternoon or grab a bite to eat and a few beers once the sun sets.

Guguletu Cape Town isn't all golden beaches and breathtaking mountains - around the city are numerous 'townships' which are a harsh reminder of apartheid. Located 15km from the centre, Guguletu is one of these townships. Here you will discover a mix of brick and galvanised housing, and some colourful characters. If you do visit make sure to do so with a local.

 Multi-colourd Malay heaven

Bo-Kaap With its cobbled streets and bright, multi-coloured houses, Bo-Kaap is the most intriguing of all of Cape Town's neighbourhoods. It is a prominently Muslim area, with a number of mosques to be found. Its most notable characteristic is its colourful houses, most of which can be found along Wale St and Chiappini St. Full of locally run cafés and restaurants, it is also a very safe neighbourhood.

Central Business District (CBD) I know what you're thinking - 'is downtown Cape Town safe?' The answer is yes. Explore places such as Greenmarket Square, Adderly Street and Bree Street you will discover a bustling CBD like any other in the world. On top of that you'll encounter great shopping, cafes to watch the world go by and more.

Kalk Bay If you wish to unwind but not on a beach then Kalk Bay on the coast of False Bay is where you should set your sights on. This fishing village has a small, but great selection of bars and restaurants. Here you can admire the ocean views over some fresh seafood or a cold beer.

Greenmarket Square, Downtown Located in the heart of Cape Town's CBD, Greenmarket Square is the city's best known crafts market. Here you can pick up hand painted fabrics, wood carvings, CDs, paintings and more. Even if you're not on the lookout for a new purchase, it's worth visiting this cobbled square as there's a lot of history to it also - in the past it's been a slave market and a fruit and vegetable market also. Open daily 9am-6pm.

Neighbourgoods Market, The Old Biscuit Mill, 373-375 Albert Rd, Woodstock This well-known market is primarily a food market, selling gourmet produce. But look hard enough and you'll find second hand clothes and wines on offer also. Open Saturday 9am-2pm.

Canal Walk, Century City, N1 Motorway If you find yourself 13km from Cape Town on the N1 and are wondering what the development along it is, its Century City. One part of it is Canal Walk, a shopping centre with over 400 stores representing top local and global brands. Open daily 9am-9pm.

 Victoria and Alfred would be proud

V&A Wharf, V&A Waterfront Named after Queen Victoria and her son Alfred, the V&A Waterfront is where you will find the V&A Wharf Shopping Mall. With two floors, stores you will encounter include Guess, G-Star Raw, and Fossil along with lots of surf and skate shops - O'Neill's, Quiksilver and DC all have stores here too. Open daily 9am-9pm.

Cape Quarter, 72 Waterkrant St, Green Point Popular for its piazza where you can enjoy live entertainment as well as shopping, the Cape Quarter shopping mall offers an alternative shopping experience to Capetonians and visitors alike. Here you'll find more specialised and local shops as opposed to international brands. Open daily 10am-6.30pm (5pm on Sunday).

 Budget Tips

 A Day in Cape Town...

Save money going up Table Mountain There are two ways to save money getting to the top of Table Mountain. The first way is to hike up which, apart from all the energy, won't cost you a thing. There are numerous hiking trails but make sure to do your homework before setting on your way. The second is by taking the cable car up after 6pm (peak season only). Leave it until then and it's half price.

 Free wine anybody?

Enjoy free wine in Arnold's restaurant Arnold's is known for its game, friendly service and great location. It's also known for the free bottles of wine they give out. To obtain one all you have to do is pick up one of their promotional flyers and present it when ordering. Simple. Flyers can be picked up in hostels and guesthouses in the popular restaurant's vicinity.

Chill out on the beach Cape Town has countless beaches to enjoy. The best-known is the Camps Bay, but there are many others. Clifton Beaches 1, 2, 3 and 4 have something for everybody, while Muizenburg is known for its surfing. One you should really try and visit is Bloueberg Strand as this is where you'll get that postcard perfect shot of Table Mountain.

Catch a sunset on Signal Hill It's harder to think of a more pleasant way to spend an evening than catching a sunset with a picnic and friends up on Signal Hill. There's a wonderful atmosphere up here every day when the sun goes down so try to make it up at least once during your stay.

Invest in a 'Moola Magic' card If you're planning on backpacking around South Africa, it's worth investing in a 'Moola Magic' card when you first arrive. Available at members of the 'Backpacking South Africa' group which many hostels are part of, with them you can get up to 10% off car rental, bookings in other hostels, and tours.

Start the day by getting the ferry from the V&A Waterfront to Robben Island. See where inmates worked, visit Nelson Mandela's cell and more.

Explore the V&A Waterfront (below) on your return. Enjoy free live entertainment, check out the local seals and maybe even treat yourself to a new purchase.


Head over to Camps Bay for lunch. Choose from fish & chips, pizza and more from the many cafes and eateries.

After lunch explore this famous coastal suburb. Stroll along the suburb's main strip, Victoria Road, or simply relax on the beach, topping up the tan and admiring the view.

Drive to Chapman's Peak, just twenty minutes from Camps Bay near Hout Bay. This coastal drive is one of the world's most breathtaking, boasting spectacular scenery.

Upon your return to the city, visit Cape Town's top attraction, Table Mountain. Take some time out to walk the various trails before catching a sunset you'll never forget.

Obtain a voucher for a free bottle of wine in Arnold's on Kloor St. Go there for you evening meal. Try 'game' which can be ostrich, springbok, or even crocodile.

Go for a few drinks in Knoxville, one of Cape Town's newest and coolest bars. Get into the mood with a couple of beers or cocktails while getting your groove on to the tunes.

Cape Town's liveliest street for nightlife is Long Street. Finish the perfect day off in one of its bars. Zula Bar and Mama Africa's are just two of the most popular.

Hostelworld Guide for Cape Town