Living Like a Local: Cape Town, South Africa

So you want to live and travel like a local in the beautiful city of Cape Town, South Africa? 

No problem—for I, in fact, am a Capetonian.

And whilst I am an expat abroad, I make it my mission to really live whenever I go back home for a visit. Insider tips to Cape Town, are you ready?
What do you think about when you think ‘Cape Town’? Perhaps you’ve been put off visiting because you’ve heard outlandish things about the crime level and you’re unsure of whether you’ll be safe there. And if that is the case, you sincerely need to get rid of that notion. Cape Town, along with any other city in South Africa, of course has its bouts of danger—just like any other city in the world, but if you are wise and travel-smart, you should have absolutely no problem at all.

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First off, don’t look like a tourist. You don’t want to be checking your iPad whilst your expensive camera is sitting next to you in a public place. Keep it safe, keep an eye on it and you will be fine. Then, don’t wander the streets at night, especially alone—but please don’t let this hinder your experience. You really have to embrace the night life in Cape Town, but do so with friends and simply go from point A to B. You can adopt the idea that Uber is a safer option than opposed to public transport or simply walking in unfamiliar areas alone at night. Additionally, if you’re coming from a country like England, you’ll pay basically nothing to do so.

Now here comes the fun part—things to do.

Beaches

Camps Bay Beach is the hip and trendy spot to go beaching. There, you’ll find folk of all ages, walking their dogs, playing sports, doing photo shoots, and surfing.

Kommetjie Beach is where you’ll want to head if you’re keen for an unspoilt local vibe. And nearby, you’ll find Monkey Valley Resort, where you can stay overnight and/or grab a bite with a stunning view of the sea.

Boulders Beach is the spot to see penguins. And yes, while it is kind of touristy, the locals love a stroll down that beach too. It’s a perfect spot for photos. Additionally, there are a few African markets down there to have a gander.

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Clifton Beach is where most Capetonians love to spend their summer days. When it’s sunny, you’ll find tons of locals chilling, getting a sun tan, and just enjoying life in general.

Muizenberg Beach, also known as ‘Surfer’s Corner,’ is a super local spot for all surfers in the area. Here, you’ll also see the iconic and colourful beach huts.

If you’re keen for an off-the-beaten-path beach trip, a simple 45-minute drive will take you to the small town of Yzerfontein where you’ll find near empty, well-preserved beaches and stunning accommodation with sea views.

Cultural Spots

Robben Island is admittedly a tourist spot, but you can’t possibly go all the way to Cape Town and not visit. It’s a short ferry ride and here, you’ll see Prison No. 7, the cell of Nelson Mandela, as well as the Penguin Sanctuary where the birds are permanently grounded.

Stellenbosch is an amazing university town about 40 minutes drive outside of Cape Town. Here, you’ll find tons of wine farms, local places to eat and party, as well as a vibe that is just buzzing.

Table Mountain is also a must-see. Even I make a point of taking the cable car up this iconic mountain for the spectacular views every time I am home. To be honest, it’s almost unreal. Tip: book online beforehand to avoid standing in a long line.

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Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens is a scenic little garden where you can take a walk, have some coffee or a light lunch, and just enjoy the greenery.

Chart Farm, a beautiful location where you can grab a bucket and a pair of gardening scissors and cut your own roses. It’s a fantastic spot for walking, and there’s a really nice restaurant, The View @ The Terrace, where you can grab a bite.

Wine tasting at Groot Constantia is a great idea, as South Africa is known for its wine. You can also do a wine and chocolate pairing, whereby the chocolate has been specially created for each wine. To end the afternoon, Simon’s is on-site and a fab restaurant to have some lunch.

Cape Point is the southernmost tip of Africa about 60 km outside of Cape Town centre. It’s rife with fauna and flora, as well as 250 species of birds and the occasional baboon. Not to mention the view that is breathtaking.

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Photo Opportunities

Bo Kaap, a former township, is the place you’ll want to go to see immense culture and magnificent brightly-coloured houses. Here, you’ll experience true Cape Malay culture.

Chapman’s Peak scenic drive is also one of my favourite things to do when I am in Cape Town. It’s an impeccable route between Hout Bay and Noordhoek. Note: there is a toll gate, but it is well worth it.

Shopping

Cavendish Square is the more local shopping mall and has an array of stores and places to eat. It’s a decent place just to do some on-the-go or necessary shopping if you’re in the area.

The V&A Waterfront is admittedly tourist-central, but so many locals love to shop, eat, and take photos there too. In fact, you can find spectacular views of Table Mountain and a ferris wheel that is perfect for photo ops.

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Canal Walk is a large shopping mall with all the trimmings. Here, you’ll find just about anything as well as have the opportunity to go to Cape Town’s theme park, Ratanga Junction — a favourite for kids and adults with rides and entertainment.

The Old Biscuit Mill is an absolute gem and should be experienced on a Saturday when there are copious food stalls and tons of local markets.

Eating

The Hussar Grill is a great chain, but it’s also a hit and miss. I visited the one in Paarl and it was quite possibly the best meal of my life. Later, I visited the one in Steenberg and it was completely disappointing.

Bacon on Bree is a spot solely dedicated to bacon. ‘Nuff said?

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Tiger’s Milk is a popular lunch spot among locals, and has several locations within Cape Town.

The Brass Bell is, and always will be, a favourite. Why? Simply because the view is out-of-this-world. Have a cocktail or a meal and stare out at the beautifulness that is Cape Town.

Primi Piatti, an Italian-inspired chain restaurant, is nothing fancy, but it is a spot that many locals frequent for pizza and pasta, as well as a few cocktails. The one in the Waterfront offers great views.

The Spur is well-known favourite for South Africans. Ask anyone from the country if they know it and they will nod happily. It’s a cheap, family-orientated restaurant with a Native American theme.

Drinks

Cape Town is the hub when it comes to having awesome drinks beside the sea, in a hipster-inspired locale, or in a local watering hole. The Waiting Room, Yours Truly, Banana Jam, Paranga, The Village Idiot, Aces ‘n’ Spades, and Arcade are the trendy spots in Cape Town for one or more tasty drinks and possibly food.

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Clubs

When it comes to clubbing, you can’t go wrong with Deco Dance (I have yet to hear of someone who doesn’t like this place), Fiction, a stroll down Claremont Main Road for an array of bars and clubs, a night out in Long Street frequenting tons of clubs along the strip, and if you’re into the more alternative side, a visit to Observatory Lower Main Road for age-old favourites, such as Gandalfs and Stones.

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And there you have it—a pretty awesome and concise guide to living like a local in Cape Town. Whatever you choose to do, it’s certain that you’ll have an absolutely fantastic time alongside beautiful views and beautiful people.

Photo credit: Laura McCullagh, Daddu, booking.com

22 thoughts on “Living Like a Local: Cape Town, South Africa

  1. Hi! Thanks for a great article. My girlfriend and I will be in Cape Town for NYE this year… any tips on where to be and what to do? We’re single 31 year old gals looking for a good time. Thanks in advance!

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    1. Heyyy! Thanks for reading! That’s so cool you’ll be in Cape Town this year! So, I had a little gander and thought maybe you’d like Beefcakes for NYC: http://bit.ly/2jjebUk. It’s way too much fun! There are (hot) topless men, a drag show, dinner and drinks. It’s one of the popular spots for gay men and straight women. Then, you’re in the right place to hop over to other parties in greenpoint or town. But just a tip: definitely take an Uber to your next party, as walking at night isn’t that safe. Hope this helps? Just ask if you’d like some more ideas 🙂

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