The much-anticipated opening of Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) has cemented Cape Town's status among the cosmopolitan elite. Time to take that art-buff mini break, writes Nicola Moyne
Why go? The latest, must-do draw is Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA). Looming over Cape Town’s industrial V&A waterfront, this is the first institution on the continent dedicated to contemporary African art – and it’s not just the seminal artworks pulling in crowds. The museum is housed in a former grain silo of gargantuan proportions. Originally built in 1921 and standing 187ft, it was the tallest building in sub-Saharan Africa for half a century. Now, under the careful eyes of architect Thomas Heatherwick, German philanthropist Jochen Zeitz and South African curator Mark Coetzee, it’s a gleaming example of how the past, present and future of a nation can be culturally documented by clever design. Culture fix, sorted.
When? To avoid the crowds and spot migrating whales, travel in October. September will be quiet and sunny too, but beware of the gales this early in the season (pack layers and plenty of them). South African Tourism can advise on particular events that take place throughout the year, but whatever the weather, make sure you hit Table Mountain (pictued below), which guarantees stunning views over Cape Town, Table Bay and Robben Island.
You really must… venture out of the city to e-bike round West Coast National Park – 49km from the pretty, whitewashed village of Paternoster. Sounds hard work? That’s where the ‘e’ comes in. An electric motor will give your bike a fun boost while you take in the blue expanse of the Atlantic Ocean and Harrier hawks circling above. Book with Cape Lions e-Bike tours and you’ll be able to refuel with a true SA delicacy: roosterkoek bread washed down with with a bottle of Du Toitskloof Cellar’s South African Sauv Blanc and your body weight in cured, salty biltong. For something a little fancier, stop off at Abalone House & Spa‘s Reuben restaurant for its signature linecaught dish (kingklip). This five-star cottage offers up calming sea views, eclectic interiors and lashings of white table linen while you dine. Retire to the cosy, baroque-style lounge with one of the three hotel cats and a glass of red to rest your legs. Or, head down to Langebaan Lagoon for a sunset cruise that proves as popular with the local dolphins as it does tourists.
Stay at: Table Bay Hotel is at the centre of the action. Officially opened by Nelson Mandela in 1997, the hotel oozes old-school grandeur and its V&A Waterfront location means you’re never far from the buzz of Cape Town’s biggest attractions. For something a little more hip and boutique, hit Ellerman House. Perched on the slopes of Lion’s Head in scenic Bantry Bay, the 11-room hotel offers up day bed-clad lawns with crashing-ocean vistas, an impressive private art collection spanning more than two centuries, plus a 7,500-strong wine gallery to boot.
Dine at: With the Cape Winelands on your doorstep, it would be crazy not to make a day or night of it at Babylonstoren – a stunning hotel, series of restaurants and spa all set adjacent to 3.5 hectres of Stellenbosch’s finest growing gardens. Dating back to 1692, this fruit and wine farm took a turn ten years ago when it fell under the gaze of former magazine editor Karen Roos. Her passion for historic Cape Dutch style led to an authentic yet contemporary restoration that oozes sophistication, not to mention amazing food and wine. The menu is seasonal and comes direct from the burgeoning gardens, so expect the freshest South African fare alongside modern design details and chic staff. Our top tip? Book a farm to fork dinner at Babel – Babylonstoren’s cow shed-turned glass-enclaved architectural delight, and order a bottle of the restaurant’s signature ‘Babel’ red.
Bring home… Stock up on beautiful handmade ceramics from Dianne Heeson-Green’s Paternoster studio, or wind your way through the 150 artisan workshops in Cape Town’s V&A Watershed. From butter-soft leather bags and traditional Zulu basketry to contemporary handcrafted jewellery and prints, this is your one-stop shop for a last-minute spree before the airport.
Book now: South African Airways’ return flights start from £610 from London to Cape Town in September. For more information on South Africa as a destination, visit the South African Tourism website.