Foodies will appreciate the quality and variety of restaurants in Cape Town. They will find a wide variety of international fare, along with many restaurants that offer local Cape Malay dishes and traditional African cuisine. Seafood is extremely popular too. Fine diners and families with young children will find they are equally well-catered for, and vegetarians and vegans will also feel at home.
Camps Bay and the Waterfront have a wide variety of restaurants, but many of the better ones are outside these tourist hotspots. The town of Franschhoek is just 40 minutes outside Cape Town and is considered the gourmet capital of South Africa. Many of the wine farms in Constantia and around Stellenbosch have fantastic establishments for long lunching over a bottle of the superb local wine.
Visitors to Cape Town during the winter months should take advantage of 'winter menus' offered by most restaurants. These are astoundingly good value deals, often packaged as a tasting menu of five courses or more. Restaurants in Cape Town usually add a 10 to 15 percent service charge to tables of six or more. Otherwise, waiters expect a tip of 10 to 15 percent for good service.
Shopping in Cape Town is largely centralised within a few good shopping malls, the most popular with travellers being the V&A Waterfront, Cavendish Square, and Canal Walk. Though many international brands are present, shopping in Cape Town is not quite in the same league as international cities such as London, New York, or Singapore. Having said that, shopping is comparably cheap for most international visitors because of the exchange rate and the potential to find some designer bargains,
Supermarkets are of a high standard, with Pick n Pay good for bulk shopping. Woolworths is probably the best for fresh produce and luxury goods. For food lovers, the Saturday morning market at the Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock is excellent for organic foods and unique, locally-made products. The Sunday craft market in Hout Bay is one of the best places for handmade local arts and crafts, and for South African art it is worth taking a drive down to Kalk Bay and Simonstown where there are lots of small galleries.
The flea market at Greenmarket Square, off Longmarket Street, is worth a visit for African curios and gifts, and bargaining is often possible, particularly if buying a few items. Nearby Long Street also has a number of curio shops, mixed with local boutiques, bookshops, and music stores. Popular Cape Town souvenirs include African masks, colourfully-printed fabric and clothing, and carvings made of wood and soapstone.
Most shops are open between 9am and 5pm, some with reduced hours on the weekends. Stores in shopping malls may be open later, until 8pm or 9pm. Overseas travellers can claim back VAT at the refund kiosk in Cape Town International Airport on presentation of all receipts.
Cape Town is by far South Africa's most cosmopolitan city. A multicultural treat with something for everyone, it offers fashionable bars, small watering holes, classy dance clubs, and hotel bars.
Visitors can sip cocktails and watch the sunset at one of Camps Bay's trendy sidewalk cafes in the summer. Somerset Road in Green Point is where the main gay and lesbian clubs and bars are situated, although Cape Town in general is very tolerant of same-sex relationships.
Observatory offers a more bohemian experience, where everything happens at a slightly slower pace. Pool halls, reggae bars, avant-garde eateries, and live music are the order of the day.
Long Street is the heart of Cape Town's nightlife. Located in the centre of town, it has just about every kind of bar or club on offer, from live music and DJs to pubs, dance clubs, and the more trendy and laid-back lounge variety. Travellers should be wary of the numerous pickpockets in the crowd, and keep a close watch on mobiles and wallets.
Cape Town also has plenty of quieter and less crowded venues hidden away off the side streets. Kloof Street and Bree Street are within easy walking distance of Long Street, and are known for their fashionable bars and restaurants.
For culture lovers, there are great local and often international shows to be seen at one of the many theatres in Cape Town, such as the Theatre on the Bay, the Baxter Theatre, or the Artscape. On Broadway hosts a wonderful mix of comedies and farces. The Cape Town City Ballet, the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Cape Town Opera are all world-class performing groups. Maynardville Open-Air Theatre hosts Shakespeare in the Park performances in Wynberg every summer.
Unfortunately, there is little to no public transport after 7pm besides private taxis. These often need to be booked in advance and can be very expensive, so it is best to rent a car. The legal drinking age in South Africa is 18. Bars and clubs stop serving alcohol at 2am.