Humming with young boho buzz, Cape Town has emerged from its rocky past as the creative capital of Africa. From high-stakes adventures (paragliding off Signal Hill) to creature comforts (crisp, local sauvignon blancs), the city will leave you breathless.
While the day away in City Bowl’s historic open-air markets, public gardens, and cobblestoned pedestrian malls dating back to the 17th century’s Dutch East India Company. Tamboerskloof has chic outdoor cafes and prime-time people-watching. Style junkies should head to emerging neighborhoods Woodstock (for design collectives and art galleries), Bo-Kaap (for colorful cottage architecture), and de Waterkant (for a hopping gay scene).
To experience the social swirl at its best, stay within easy access of Kloof Street. Kick up your heels at Tamboerskloof’s sleek and chic Kensington Place (38 Kensington Crescent; +27-21-424-4744) for primo pampering (like your suite sprinkled with rose petals).
The Airstream Penthouse Trailer Park atop the new Grand Daddy (38 Long Street; +27-21-424-7247) offers a campy-cool vibe in the form of seven vintage caravans refurbished by local artists and set against stunning Table Mountain. Trailers have themes — Afro Funk, Love of Lace, and Goldilocks and the Three Bears. Sip Castle lager at the rooftop bar and catch a flick at The Pink Flamingo outdoor cinema. Really, now. Who said trailer trash was a uniquely American phenomenon?
Native glamazons start the day with Ouma Rusks, the South African equivalent of a biscotti, and yummy meia de leites (espresso with steamed milk) at Vida e Caffe (34 Kloof Street; +27-21-426-0627). For lunch, grab a quiche at Melissa’s (94 Kloof Street; +27-21-424-5540), which has an awesome pay-per-kilo buffet. Thirsty? Sundowners are a Capetonian institution. Snag a harborside table at Cape Grace’s Bascule (West Quay Road; +27-21-410-7100) and choose from more than 400 whiskeys. The largest single malt collection in the Southern hemisphere, it’s a whiskey lover’s wet dream.
Share the love with jealous pals back home and swing through the historic Greenmarket Square (54 Shortmarket Street) for authentic African curios like Hutu masks, soapstone giraffe sculptures, and wooden rhino salad tongs. Saturday mornings, the city’s creative cognoscenti descend upon Woodstock’s vibrant Neighbourgoods Market (373-375 Albert Road; +27-21-448-1438). Tarts, curries, and biltong (South African beef jerky) are a must. And make room for one-of-a-kind textiles, vintage dresses, and handcrafted charm necklaces.
For old-world glamour and traditional Afrikaans fare, stop by Sunday jazz brunch at Steenberg Hotel and Winery in Constantia Valley (10802 Steenberg Estate, Tokai Road; +27-21-713-2222), the oldest vineyard on the Western Cape. (Owner Graham Beck’s brut NV is what the Obamas popped on election night.)
For insider access to vineyards, hook up with Roar Africa. Its people have been in the region for eleven generations, and co-founder Deb Calmeyer can impress the pickiest oenophile. The VIP visit to UK diamond king Laurence Graff’s new winery, Delaire Graff Estate (P.O. Box 3058, Stellenbosch; +27-21-885-8160), gets you into the off-limits barrel room and a sneaky sampling straight from the casks. (The property’s chic David Collins-designed boutique hotel is set to open next year.)
No snoozing for you: There’s high-voltage adrenalin and raw wildlife at every turn. Swim with sharks at Seal Island. Ride big waves at Muizenberg Beach. Hike Table Mountain for sweeping views of the city and the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. Visit indigenous penguins at Boulders Beach. And catch a glimpse of the only free roaming white lions in the world at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve (+27-28-572-1824).
Don’t worry about the eternal flight home. You’ll be sleeping the whole way.
Photos: Courtesy of Kelley McMillan; Courtesy of The Grand Daddy; Courtesy of Cape Grace; Courtesy of Neighbourgoods Market; Courtesy of Delaire Graff Estate; Courtesy of Sanbona Game Reserve