Region: Western Cape, South Africa
Physical Address: 8 Alexander Road, Bantry Bay, 8001
Cape Town is southern Africa’s most beautiful, most romantic and most visited city. Indeed, few urban centres anywhere can match its setting along the mountainous Cape Peninsula spine, which slides into the Atlantic Ocean.
By far the most striking – and famous – of its sights is Table Mountain, frequently shrouded by clouds, and rearing up from the middle of the city. More than a scenic backdrop, Table Mountain is the solid core of Cape Town, dividing the city into distinct zones with public gardens, wilderness, forests, hiking routes, vineyards and desirable residential areas trailing down its lower slopes.
Standing on the tabletop, you can look north for a giddy view of the city centre, its docks lined with matchbox ships. Looking west, beyond the mountainous Twelve Apostles, the drop is sheer and your eye will sweep across Africa’s priciest real estate, clinging to the slopes along the chilly but spectacularly beautiful Atlantic seaboard. Turning south, the mountainsides are forested and several historic vineyards and the marvellous Botanical Gardens creep up the lower slopes.
Beyond the oak-lined suburbs of Newlands and Constantia lies the warmer False Bay seaboard, which curves around towards Cape Point. To appreciate Cape Town you need to spend time outdoors, as Capetonians do, hiking, picnicking or sunbathing, or often choosing mountain bikes in preference to cars and turning adventure activities into an obsession.
Sailboarders from around the world head for Table Bay for some of the world’s best windsurfing, and the brave (or unhinged) jump off Lion’s Head and paraglide down close to the Clifton beachfront. But the city offers sedate pleasures as well, along its hundreds of paths and 150km of beaches.
Cape Town’s rich urban texture is immediately apparent in its diverse architecture: an indigenous Cape Dutch style, rooted in the Netherlands, finds its apotheosis in the Constantia wine estates, which were themselves brought to new heights by French refugees in the seventeenth century; Muslim slaves, freed in the nineteenth century, added their minarets to the skyline; and the English, who invaded and freed these slaves, introduced Georgian and Victorian buildings. In the tightly packed terraces of twentieth-century Bo-Kaap and the tenements of District Six, coloured descendants of slaves evolved a unique brand of jazz, which is still played in the Cape Flats and some trendy city-centre clubs.