Falling in love with Cape Town
The Old Town Hall, which is being developed into a music/cultural venue. (Ariadne Van Zandbergen/LPI)
South Africa’s Mother City, with its cloud-draped Table Mountain, golden beaches and bountiful vineyards, captures people’s hearts.
Few cities contain a wonderful national park at their heart or provide the broad range of adventurous activities that take full advantage of it. Accentuating this natural majesty is Capetonians' creative flair with design and colour. From the brightly painted facades to the contemporary Afro-chic décor of its guesthouses, restaurants and bars, this is one handsome metropolis.
This year Cape Town had to prepare for its biggest party since the first democratic elections of 1994. For the 2010 World Cup, the city made a bold architectural statement in the new Green Point Stadium, complemented by improved infrastructure to host the hundreds of thousands of participants.
Its star attraction is Table Mountain National Park. To Nelson Mandela and his fellow prisoners on Robben Island it was a beacon of hope. To the millions of people who have climbed or been transported in the cableway to its 1,088m peak, it is the ultimate viewpoint over the city.
If you want to get active, Cape Town's wind-whipped waves and Table Mountain is a nirvana for the adventure sport enthusiast, with operators lining up to ensure you do not go home without having experienced adrenaline rushes like surfing and rock climbing.
For more extreme adventures, such as shark-cage diving or paragliding, you will need to travel out of the city or wait for the ideal weather conditions. But it is not all about thrill-seeking. The Mother City is also a fabulous location for a leisurely game of golf, practicing your yoga moves or a spot of pampering at the spa. Capetonians are also avid supporters of sport – enthusiastically attending football, rugby or cricket games.
Do not forget to leave some space in your suitcase because you will probably be leaving Cape Town laden with booty. An irresistible range of products – from modern African beadwork to fine wines – is guaranteed to turn even the most consumer-averse visitor into a shopaholic.
Local design and fashion are sizzling hot, so if you want to give your wardrobe or home that contemporary African look, Cape Town is the place to break out the credit card. The city also acts as a clearing house for antiques and curios from all over Africa and you will find some amazing pieces here - as well as plenty of fakes!
This is also a delicious city to dine in. The best of Cape Town's restaurants and cafés are on a par with those of larger and more cosmopolitan cities, and its top chefs can stand shoulder to shoulder with the likes of Gordon Ramsey, Charlie Trotter or Jamie Oliver, lending the city the nickname, "Tavern of the Seven Seas".
After dinner, head out on a Friday or Saturday night to Long St, De Waterkant or Camps Bay for an experience of how the locals like to party. During the long, warm summer nights you will find some convivial place to while away the evening. There is certainly no shortage of bars with stunning views of either beach or mountain and, if getting a workout on the dance floor is more your thing, then there is bound to be a club to suit.
It is not all about drinking and dancing. Cape Town's nightlife also embraces cabaret and comedy venues, and live music gigs with jazz, rock and pop are all popular. Cape Town has a vibrant and creative arts scene. There is a healthy range of theatrical offerings and for music lovers, the exciting news is the development of Old Town Hall into a dedicated music and cultural venue.
If you would like a glass of red with that, there are more than 200 wineries within a day's drive of the city. Cape Town is the natural hub for touring the Western Cape's Winelands. This is where South Africa's wine industry – now the ninth-largest in the world – began, three centuries ago.
Above all, Cape Town is a multicultural city, where respect for different ways of living is ingrained. Given South Africa's troubled history, such wisdom has been hard won: practically everyone has a fascinating, sometimes heartbreaking story to tell. When the time comes to leave, you may find your heart breaking, too.
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