Naomi Larkin teams up with some Cape Town and Johannesburg locals to bring you an insider’s guide to these dynamic cities.
– an insider’s guide to the country’s two most vibrant cities, Cape Town and Johannesburg
Cape Town has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Places like Camp’s Bay, Clifton and Llandudno draw visitors from around the globe. The attention is well deserved, as is the attraction of Table Mountain, which dominates the skyline with its distinctive flat top. Both are high on our list of places to visit in the Mother City but there is much more to do, a lot of which is only just being discovered by visitors who, once enlightened, vow to return. Urban renewal programmes have led to creatives setting up shop to make and sell their wares, from jewellery and bags to ceramics and fashion.
The suburb of Woodstock has been transformed and well worth a visit. Places of note are Woodstock Foundry, where Casamento and Vogel make beautiful furniture, Woodstock Exchange and the Saturday Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill. Top food spots include the Kitchen and Superette, while Test Kitchen and the Pot Luck Club are legendary. You’ll also find key art galleries, Stevenson, Whatiftheworld and the Goodman Gallery.
South Africa is renowned for its wine and the Capewinelands is at the heart of the industry. Delaire Graff Estate, Tokara and Vergelegen are just three on our list, while Babylonstoren on one of the oldest Cape Dutch farms is not to be missed. It has been completely made-over into a destination on its own with magnificent gardens, designer accommodation, a spa, restaurants, bakery and winery.
The Stack exemplifies the widely accepted statement that ‘Africa is having its moment right now’ when it comes to décor, art and design. A private member’s club and public brasserie, it is the brainchild of husband and wife team Sarah Ord and Nigel Pace, an interior designer and an ex-hotelier respectively. The interiors vibrate with colour and pattern as African and Western design collide gloriously. The walls are decorated with contemporary art and the food is memorable. Chef Warwick King delivers on the promise of ‘proper food. No smears, no soils, no spumas, froths or strangled ingredients. The Brasserie is authentic, hearty, good and true French.’ thestack.co.za
Affectionately known as ‘The Nellie’, this pink-painted hotel is a Cape Town institution. Built in 1899, the addition of surrounding buildings and various revamps have meant it has grown in size and fabulousness to become a fivestar establishment. Its 198 rooms and suites offer views of Signal Hill, Table Mountain, the hotel’s glorious gardens and two swimming pools. An awardwinning spa completes this epitome of true luxury. The Planet Restaurant is all about fine dining and the Planet Bar remains one of the most glamorous meeting places in the Mother City. The hotel’s location in the central Gardens suburb makes it the perfect base for tourists and business travellers. A martini on a summer’s day in the garden under a flowering hibiscus tree is one of life’s greatest joys. belmond.com/mount-nelson-hotel-cape-town/
Tucked away in Cape Town’s leafy suburb of Gardens, this guest house in a revamped Victorian home is the perfect bolthole. The house’s historic exterior belies the stylish contemporary interior. Each of the four ensuite rooms is named after a colour, with that hue then dominating the décor. The quirky touches in the Yellow Room, for example, include an embroidered headboard, the Play Play cupboard, bathroom mirror, and side tables all produced by South African designers. Chances are you’ll want to take a number of the pieces home. Breakfast is available on request. 12Hofmeyr can also be rented for longer stays. 12hofmeyer.co.za; perfecthideaways.co.za
Joburgers always talk proudly about the high energy of their city – that it operates at full-throttle. The catch-cry ‘Africa is not for sissies’ most often comes from the mouths of those who live in this massive, sprawling metropolis. Truly a 24-hour city, it’s as wonderful as it is chaotic – usually at the same time.
Previously downtrodden areas such as Braamfontein and Maboneng have been given a new lease on life with stores, markets, bars and restaurants springing up alongside businesses and stylish loft apartments. Join Mainstreetwalks for a tour of Maboneng Precinct which takes in the Kwa Mai Mai Traditional Healers Market, Museum of African Design (MOAD), Bioscope Independent Theatre, and Collectors Treasure – the largest secondhand bookshop in the southern hemisphere.
Head to the revamped Cosmopolitan Hotel for lunch in the courtyard. Arts on Main is the location for the hugely popular Sunday Market on Main, a mecca for contemporary and vintage fashion, food of every description. Nearby Braamfontein has trendy stores, art galleries and bars and is home to Constitution Hill, which includes the Old Fort and the Constitutional Court.
South Africans love a mall and they can be found criss-
crossing the country. The upmarket Hyde Park Corner includes brands such as Burberry, Max Mara, Thomas Pink and Emporio Armani. When you’ve worked up an appetite head to Tasha’s le Parc for the excellent food and service. You’ll need to allocate several hours to the Mall of Africa for its 300 shops, many of them local and international chain stores. South African art is garnering growing attention and many galleries are worth visiting. The Keyes Art Mile, which includes the architecturally beautiful Circa Gallery, is a must.
Clockwise from top: Cape Town, Clifton beaches, the Neighbourgoods Market, the Duchess of Wisbeach.
Clockwise from above: Johannesburg at night, View restaurant at the Four Seasons; the Mall of Africa.