Welcome to Backpacker’s Boutique. Every Sunday, this spot will feature a new travel blogger. Some weeks it will be a really fun interview about packing, fashion, and fitness so you can snoop inside their bags & lives a little bit and other weeks it’ll be a detailed luxury guide to a city the featured blogger/expat knows very well. E-mail me if you’d like to be featured.
A Luxury Guide to Cape Town
Tell us a little about yourself and tell us why you’re an expert on luxury travel in Cape Town.
I used to live in Cape Town for almost seven years. During that time, I not only ate my way through most of its amazing restaurants but also dated winemakers and met hoteliers at work. As a production coordinator, I was in charge of organizing accommodation for the pickiest clients with really high standards and I dare say I did a good job. All that has left me with a better understanding of the hospitality business in South Africa in general and the insight to some incredible places in Cape Town in particular. I was the go-to girl for anything clients wanted, from helicopter rides to fashion shoots with wild animals or a special vintage of a certain wine. These days I usually just travel here for holidays, but it’s still nice to know the best places to eat, drink, and have fun in town.
What makes Cape Town a perfect destination for travelers seeking a glamorous trip?
Cape Town is a perfect destination for the discerning traveler. European flair meets African sun here and so much natural beauty sometimes it’s hard to believe you are still in town. In addition, you will find some of the best restaurants and hotels of Africa in Cape Town and the surrounding Winelands. Capetonians are notoriously picky, so if they love their town, I am sure others will too.
While you find a lot of luxury in the basic meaning of the word here, Cape Town’s luxuries go far beyond. There is just nothing better than a sunset viewed from the top of Table Mountain, nothing more exciting than rescuing a turtle on the drive to the West Coast National Park or simply seeing the amazing bluer than blue sky when you get up in the morning.
What 5-star hotel is the best in Cape Town?
Depending on what you like, I would recommend the One&Only which is located directly at the V&A Waterfront. It doesn’t get any chicer and more cosmopolitan and the marina view from the bar are unsurpassed. For a more traditional approach, I would recommend the Ellerman House. This super exclusive property is hidden away overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in Bantry Bay. It used to belong to Sir and Lady Ellerman and the setting will make you feel nothing less than royalty. Spa, pool, gardens and of course, a first-class wine cellar and their very own art gallery, add to its exclusive appeal.
What about boutique hotels in Cape Town, of them all, which would you send your friends or family to stay at?
I have lots of family here who rent rooms on Airbnb (link to get $20 off first booking) so I would probably send friends there first because all of them are so hospitable and beautiful. However, if someone wants to stay at a proper boutique hotel I would send them to La Grenadine. Here Parisian style meets a Cape Town backyard with the biggest pomegranate tree ever, right in the middle of town. For those who want to be close to the beach, I’d send them to the POD in Camps Bay. While I dislike Camps Bay for being too busy and touristy, the POD provides a little chic sanctuary in a side road. Close enough to walk down to Glen Beach, but secluded enough not to get caught up in the ‘strip’s’ craziness (unless you want to of course!). Click here for rates and availability. There are plenty of Cape Town beaches, though, so you can pick out which ever one you think fits your style best.
Are there any fun activities for the adventurous traveler in Cape Town?
Welcome to adventure paradise! From sunset cruises on a sailing yacht, scuba diving, pop-up gourmet dinners, and paragliding off of Singal Hill anything is possible. A classic for tourists and locals alike is the moonlight hike up Lion’s Head during full moon. Do take a torch, though, because there are some steep parts to cover and moonlight will only get you so far.
Another more relaxed favorite is a Sunday concert at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens. Local bands will come and play on its open-air stage and with the backdrop of Table Mountain the atmosphere becomes truly magical.
A recent discovery of mine is snorkeling with the Cape Seals. These fun creatures get up close and personal with you and being in the water with them is an amazing experience. Just be warned – the water temperatures around Seal Island in the Atlantic are anything but mild and the stench surrounding the seals anything but pleasant. However, it wouldn’t be a real adventure without some troubles to overcome, would it?
Where are the best hangouts during the day in Cape Town?
Where not to hang out should be the question. I would start in town for some breakfast at Jason – croissant, coffee, people watching. From here head to Kloof Street for some shopping. On Saturdays, the Neighborgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill is still the place to be and a good place for further explorations in Woodstock. Stay here for lunch and if you get lucky even a meal at The Test Kitchen, undoubtedly Cape Town’s best restaurant.
No day in Cape Town would be perfect without heading to the beach. I recommend Cozy Bay or Llandudno which will also provide stunning scenery on the way. Don’t forget the SPF, the South African sun is strong! However, that also provides the perfect opportunity to take a quick dip into the freezing Atlantic once you are properly warmed up. For non-beach goers – who are you anyhow?? – I recommend a stroll along the Sea Point Promenade and the Greenpoint Park, which offers a little greenery in the middle of town. From here soccer fans can take a peek at the Worldcup stadium and Italian coffee fiends go to Giovanni’s for their fix.
End your day with sand in your hair, a smile on your face, and a cocktail at hand La Perla to watch the sunset.
If you have a big date night, what are the most delicious restaurants in Cape Town and what are their best dishes?
Whether you already know the date will be a success or for a first date, I recommend an outdoors location. Cape Town gets chilly at night, even in summer, so perfect opportunity to snuggle up. One of my favorite date restaurants is Fork which offers modern tapas which are delicious and great for sharing. Try to get a table on the tiny balcony overlooking busy Long Street, perfect to get closer over a plate of pancetta wrapped prawns and fried goat cheese balls. And yes, of course, there are fairy lights!
For foodie couples I recommend La Colombe in Constantia located in a romantic garden setting – however, know before who picks up the bill, it doesn’t come cheap. Also, you might be rather stuffed afterward so I wouldn’t count on too much post-date activity.
For a more casual, even a first date, I’d go to Lucky Bao in Hout Bay. Asian gourmet fast food so the date can be quickly over if it needs to be, but can also be extended with a romantic sunset stroll on the beach if you want to.
Let’s talk desserts- what place makes the best?
95 Keerom makes some seriously amazing Italian food and has the best dessert in town: a duo of molten lava chocolate cakes, one dark, one white. The white one is a special treat – I love white chocolate and have to this day not seen it done anywhere else. Also, a really great dessert to share if you can pick sides.
Tell us all the hot shopping spots; who’s carrying the trendy local designers in Cape Town?
Truth to be told, I was always a bit disappointed by SA fashion designers. While there is a local fashion week and such, I never thought it was even remotely intriguing. Then again I might be spoilt by years of living in New York. However, there are some really nice little boutiques that offer local designers. Head up and down Long Street for stores like Merchants on Long, mememe, and Mungo & Jemima.
There is even more great local talent when it comes to accessories and home decor. My favorites here are Katherine-Mary Pichulik for amazing necklaces, Chapel for handmade backpacks, and Skinny La Minx for home fabrics. Woodstock is the design hub of the city and offers a wide range of shops and design studios – perfect to lose some serious cash!
What are a couple of the best salons and spas in Cape Town?
Hands down the best salon for facials, pedicures, and waxing is Petticoat Parlour – it’s funky, pretty and has exceptional beauticians. If you are in need of a massage and a piece of heaven there is no better place than Enmasse. Shiatsu and tea is what they do and I promise you, they do it well. On top of it, you will have a hard time finding a more serene place – imagine an aquarium had a love child with a cloud and you are pretty close to their aesthetics.
Time for a great sunset view in Cape Town… where would you go?
I don’t think you can do much better than Table Mountain for a perfect sunset view. However, I am terrified of cable cars and my knee is not in great shape right now eliminating the only options to get up there. Therefore, I would prefer the car option and drive up Signal Hill for similarly stunning vistas.
My favorite though is a bit of an odd one. Drive from Camps Bay towards Hout Bay on Victoria Road – it is one of the most stunning coastal roads in the country. Drive here during sunset and you may understand why even after driving it countless times, I will still gasp and declare how beautiful the scene is every single time. There are also plenty of parking bays in case you want to turn it into a photo op.
Now that the sun’s gone down, fill us on the best places to go for some evening drinks or a great pre-gaming spot.
I like Publik which offers a great selection of unusual wines by the glass and is hipster cool yet unpretentious. For more of a beer garden vibe and an awesome burger head to neighboring Weinhaus + Biergarten (formerly &Union), the godfather of South African craft beer. If you are keen to move seamlessly from dinner to cocktails to dancing, head to The Orphanage. Located on the corner of Orphan street they have some serious good mixologists at work and you can drink and do good at the same time. For every ‘Tea with the Vicar’ cocktail you buy, they donate a part of the proceeds to the orphanage that used to be located across the street.
Annika is a Hamburg, New York, Cape Town hybrid, having called all three cities her home at some point. When she can sneak away from her daytime job as photo producer in Hamburg, she is on the road with her laptop. Her best is to travel throughout Africa and Asia to eat all the local food and play with street kittens. How she managed not to become an old cat lady yet she doesn’t know herself! The first thing she likes to check out at any new place is the underwater world, chances are you will find her cuddling with a shark (in lieu of kittens underwater) in no time. Her friend has declared her a funny Germany, so she writes funny stories about her adventures on The Midnight Blue Elephant, posts inspirational kitten travel pictures on Instagram and Twitter.
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Love Ellerman House one of my all time favourite hotels :)
I agree the Camps bay drive is a must and we stayed at The Twelve Apostles on the route, very nice spa.
Thanks for sharing! :)