Cape_Town

Jutting out on the coast of South Africa's Western Cape Province is what has been called one of the most beautiful cities in the world: Cape Town, the country's second most populous city, derives its beauty not only from its natural wonders, history, and stellar architecture, but also from its diversity of people. One of the most multi-cultural cities in the world, Cape Town, also known as ‘the Mother City,’ is ready to take lead in things to do while at the World Cup. An award-winning cultural and creative center, its world class shops, restaurants, museums, and entertainment, along with the ‘big 6’ tourists attractions bring in about 1.6 million tourists each year. This number expected to climb tremendously due to Cape Town’s rising reputation as an international tourist destination and its being a host city to eight of the FIFA World Cup matches. Let’s take a look at a city that is destined to be one of the most luxourious destinations for all types of tourism.

The Big Six

The top six attractions can be done within a fairly short stay. In as little as three or four days, Robben Island, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Point, Victoria and Albert (V & A) Waterfront, and the Constantia Vineyards can be done. The V & A Waterfront is the most visited site in the country. If you plan to do only a handful of the big 6, you may want to put V & A on your list.  There you can partake in a variety of activities. At the V & A, find hotels and other lodgings, water sports, sea adventures, shops, and several venues that host events like concerts, crafts, and whiskey and wine tastings. You can even arrange a helicopter ride over the port and surrounding area. 

With over 70 restaurants, you’ll discover that the cuisine culture of the Waterfront reflects that very diversity that makes Cape Town so special:  Classy cocktail lounges like Alba or the award-winning Bascule Whiskey, Wine, and Cocktail Bar, famous for its variety of drinks as well as its distinguished South African food; fresh seafood and Belgian cuisine at Den Anker; and even Halaal spots like Anat that serve Middle-Eastern favorites just to name a few.

Pierhead_Table_Mountain

 

The Waterfront also features a memorial honoring the four native Nobel Peace Prize winners, the late Nkosi Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, former State President F.W. de Klerk and former President Nelson Mandela. Last and not least, it offers a breath taking view of the port and Table Mountain. Visit the V & A Waterfront official website at www.waterfront.co.za/ for more details.
 

From the waterfront, visitors can take a ferry to Robben Island, the location of Nelson Mandela’s forty-year imprisonment and moving reminder of the newly democratic nation’s struggle for freedom. Ferries leave at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm, and a guided tour can be arranged. More information on Robben Island is available at www.robben-island.org.za

constantiaWine enthusiasts find their pleasure at Constantia Valley; a sprawling vineyard boasting over 350 years of wine-making expertise, Constantia wines have been described over the centuries in both poetry and prose. Established in 1865 by the Dutchman, Simon van der Stel, these vineyards are rich in both cultural and vita cultural history. Constantia is the oldest vineyard in the southern hemisphere, and the slave labor that was brought to South Africa in the 16th and 17th centuries was instrumental to the development of the valley. Tours and visits to the valley’s historic buildings, museums, galleries, award-winning restaurants and perhaps most importantly, the vineyards can be arranged. Just visit www.constantiavalley.com

Bordering the Constantia Valley and Vineyards, is Table Mountain National Park, another Cape Town must-visit. 1085 meters high, Table Mountain was described as a “beacon of hope” by Nelson Mandela during his imprisonment as he and other prisoners at Robben Island would peer over at its “magnificent silhouette [which] represented the mainland to which [they] knew [they] would one day return.” A five minute cable car ride takes visitors to the top of the mountain. There you can buy souvenirs and eats and enjoy a spectacular, panoramic view of Cape Town while sipping a glass of wine! More information is available at www.tablemountain.net

 

Nightlife

Be careful not to tire yourself out with all the day time hiking and site-seeing; at night, you’ll certainly want to get around in Cape Town’s fabulous nightlife scene. There are plenty of bars, restaurants, night clubs, and all sorts of spectacles going on in this lively city. You can head back to the V & A Waterfront for an international and trendy scene with live jazz music at places like the Green Dolphin, or you can go over to the seaside Camps Bay strip for an evening of refreshing drinks and beautiful people. Known for its glamorous crowd—rock stars, super models, and all—Camps Bay is one of the city’s most awe-inspiring beaches. On Victoria Street, the main strip, have your choice of lounges, bars, and shops on one side and the beautiful ocean on the other.  

In the Cape Town City center, around Long Street and Koof Street are an eclectic group of night spots.  Try the Mediterranean-style Po Na Na Bar, the laid back Kennedy's Cigar Bar, or the upscale Planet Bar inside the Mount Nelson hotel. Using a mixture of comfy Feng Shui furnishings, faint, sultry lighting, and delicious healthy tapas, Asoka Son of Dharma restaurant and lounge on Koof Street proposes a relaxing night out.

One of Cape Town’s most popular clubs is Opium. Located in the Green Point district, it features funk and deep house-spinning DJs in an ornate atmosphere. With plush sofas and two dance floors, have your pick of lounging or dancing the night away.  Still in Green Point, the Buddha Bar promises a Saturday night well spent with house, R & B, and funk. In District Six, Mercury Live and Lounge features a lineup of original South African musicians. The district also presents a range of nightly options from laid back and traditional to ultra-chic.

 

A Word on Responsible Tourism

In addition to providing quality entertainment, Cape Town is committed to responsible and sustainable tourism being the first city to ever win the Virgin Holiday’s Responsible Tourism Award and winning the “most responsible city” award at London’s World Travel Market.  Many attractions including Table Mountain Cable Aerial Cableway, the Two Oceans Aquarium, and the Grand West Casino employ eco-friendly measures and are accredited by the Heritage Environmental Management Company ensuring a commitment to environmental responsibility.

Also, under Cape Town’s responsible tourism initiative are several tour operators and educators. Among these are Uthando South Africa, a non-profit that offers community tours to the places they aid, Andulela Tours which does a variety of tours from the cultural to the culinary, and Dyer Island Cruises which offers close encounters with marine life.

 

Finding Culture

Photo_by_David_L_Govoni_2009

Venturing outside of the city, Cape Town’s surrounding townships offer cultural and historical experiences. Historically, townships were considered slums housing non-whites during the apartheid era. Today townships offer unspoiled beaches, a break from bustling city, community atmosphere, and cultural interactions within the local everyday life. For the cultural enthusiast, a township tour is essential to a visit to Cape Town. Townships are important to Cape Town history and South African history on the whole because they tend to be an interesting mix of the apartheid past and of the progressive future.
 
Gugulethu is one such township. Described as a combination of what remains of the poverty, segregation, and other ills of the apartheid era of yesterday and of the new progressive development of today, Gugulethu offers a candid experience of South African life. Having fully embraced tourism and technology, this colorful community has an information technology center, several bed and breakfasts, and cozy restaurants. It will even be hosting the iTownship Wine Festival on October 30-31, 2010.
mzolisOne of Gugulethu’s must-visits is a popular eatery and speak-easy called Mzoli’s Meat that offers food and drink as well as casual conversation. It is a favorite among locals and is known for its rowdy merry-making and delicious meats. Another warm and welcoming spot is Liziwe’s Guest House, a restaurant and inn with an inspiring story.

Of course, the township’s history hasn’t always been so merry. Commemorating seven young activists from the township who were murdered by the South African police for their participation in the anti-apartheid movement, the Gugulethu Seven Memorial sits alongside the highway serving as a reminder of the value of freedom to those who pass by. Other townships offer similar experiences, but with their own unique histories and traditions: Langa, Cape Town’s oldest township and a hub of the anti-apartheid movement, and Khayelitsha one of the largest townships.
 
More cultural and historical experiences are to be had in Cape Town: Just visit the Iziko Museums. Exhibiting South Africa’s social and natural history as well as pieces of art from around the world, the Iziko Musuems include the Slave Lodge, the South African National Gallery, the Castle of Good Hope, the Bo-Kapp Museum, the South African Museum and several others.
 
Another way to take in some culture is to arrange a drum tour or craft tour like bead-making. Such tours usually include a trip to a nearby village where locals share their culture and heritage. In light of the World Cup, many companies are even starting to offer soccer tours.
 
With no shortage of things to do, it’s no wonder Cape Town is growing by leaps and bounds as a major destination. Natural scenes like those of Cape Point with its jagged cliffs, white foamy waves, and flourishing vegetation remind visitors of the immense exquisiteness of nature. And with exciting events yearly events like the Vodacom Funny Festival going on this month and in July, the Cape Gourmet Festival each May, Cape Town Fashion Week in August, and of course the World Cup which started today, the Mother City welcomes you!