As the country struggles to boost tourism after the arab spring, all eyes are on the thriving resort of El Gouna.
Hiking up this mighty slab of sandstone, a symbol of Cape Town, is almost compulsory for visitors. Choose a clear, wind-free day and take the easiest route to the top along Plattekloof Gorge. Enjoy a cool drink at the cable-station restaurant and feast on the sumptuous views. To save your legs, take the cable car back down to the city.
Mount Nelson Hotel
Also known as the Pink Lady, this grand old establishment has been the favored hotel of royals, politicians, and film stars for more than a century. Set in lovely gardens, it exudes elegance and colonial charm. If the rooms are too pricey, at least try one of the famous afternoon teas.
76 Orange Street; mountnelson.co.za
Constantia Wine Route
The Western Cape’s more famous wine routes lie outside the city in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, but Cape Town’s very own Constantia route, a series of wine farms open to the public, is not to be sniffed at. It has some exceptional wines and the grandest Cape Dutch building of them all, Groot Constantia. The estate was once the home of the Dutch governor and today is a combination of wine cellar, restaurant, and museum.
Old Biscuit Mill
The run-down, inner-city suburb of Woodstock has been given a face-lift, with art galleries and trendy restaurants popping up everywhere. The centerpiece of the district is the Old Biscuit Mill, whose Saturday Neighbourgoods market, selling food, arts, and crafts in a huge open shed, is the place to be seen. You can sample everything from organic wines to designer cheeses.
373–375 Albert Road, Woodstock; theoldbiscuitmill.co.za
Cape Town is blessed with an array of world-class beaches. Clifton, with its granite boulders and limpid, green waters, is the most iconic. It actually comprises four separate beaches, reached down flights of stairs. The area is crowded on summer days, and the best time to go is evenings, when the sun melts into the Atlantic before your eyes.
Take the ferry to this infamous island in the center of Table Bay. Like San Francisco’s Alcatraz, it served as a prison for many decades. Visit the cell of Nelson Mandela, but also wander the wild western shore, with its penguin colonies and Second World War gun emplacements.
One of the finest botanical gardens in the world, Kirstenbosch has a majestic setting on the eastern slopes of Table Mountain. It showcases more than 7,000 species, representing much of South Africa’s rich and diverse flora. Take a picnic with you andenjoy one of the delightful open-air concerts on summer Sunday evenings.
Harbour House and Polana
Kalk Bay has Cape Town’s most picturesque harbor, and a building on its breakwater is home to an excellent group of eateries. Upstairs is the simple and elegant Harbour House Restaurant. The fish comes straight off the boats, and the views of False Bay are to die for. Downstairs is Polana, the prettiest pub in the city, with waves splashing against the windows.
Although touristy, this waterfront precinct remains a working harbor, busy with ships and packed with fine Victorian buildings (V&A is short for Victoria and Albert). There are some good restaurants and decent shopping, and most of the city’s boating excursions leave from here. Find a perch at a bar, such as Alba or Bascule, and watch the marine traffic go by.
The southwestern tip of Africa is a sublime spot with towering cliffs and pounding waves. The craggy point sits at the southern end of Table Mountain National Park, filled with wildlife and endemic flora. Take your bathing gear and dip in the icy water at one of the reserve’s lovely beaches. (Just beware of baboons stealing your picnic lunch.)
Paul Theroux looks at his hometown after the marathon bombing and finds the mood of the city transformed.