Cape Town nightlife
An insider's guide to the best bars and pubs in Cape Town, including the top spots for cocktails, incredible views and waterfront partying. By Pippa De Bruyn, Telegraph Travel's Cape Town expert.
There are essentially five nightlife precincts in Cape Town: 1) Victoria Road in Camps Bay, aka the ‘sunset strip’, with tables on the pavement or on raised platforms – all the better to toast the setting sun; 2) Long Street, an increasingly grungy area attracting a young pan-African crowd, and where most of the backpackers are located; 3) Bree street (running parallel with Long Street so it’s fairly easy to explore both on the same night) where you’ll find the densest concentration of hip bars and cool casual eateries; 4) upper Kloof (an extension of Long street) and parts of Kloof Nek, and 5) the somewhat diminishing options for gay revellers in Waterkant and Green Point. Take a stroll around any of them and make your selection.
This is a great lounge-bar in which to have a pre or post-dinner drink (or drink all night and order tapas from their menu) – a schmoozy Asian-styled place attracting a slightly older crowd, where the music (played by respected in-house DJs) is lounge-model, and everyone looks good enough to eat.
Address: 68 Kloof Street, Tamboerskloof
Contact: 00 27 21 422 0909; asoka.za.com
Opening times: daily, 5pm-2am
Fiction DJ Bar & Lounge
If you like to dance, Fiction is the best in the city, with a pumping, thumping postage-stamp dancefloor, and a wraparound terrace overlooking Long Street on which to catch your breath before plunging back in for more.
Address: 226 Long Street
Contact: 00 27 21 424 5709; facebook.com/Fictiondjbar
Opening times: Tue-Sat, 10pm-4am
There are now four branches in the CBD but Kloof street is still the flagship and constantly buzzing with activity. This relaxed space is popular with locals who gather for morning coffee all the way to after work drinks; it also boasts Kloof street’s only rooftop bar, Up Yours, which hosts various DJs and musicians every weekend. No reservations so get there early over weekends.
Address: 73 Kloof Street
Contact: 00 27 426 2587; yourstrulycafe.co.za
Opening: 6am-11pm (Up Yours: Mon-Fri 4pm-10pm; Sat&Sun 3pm-10pm)
The Sorrows Bar
Located directly opposite The Power and The Glory, The Sorrows is a bar-restaurant conceived by Yours Truly’s Daniel Holland and JL Joinery’s James Louw. Together they’ve created a chic and trendy spot that is, despite the tongue-in-cheek name, entirely unpretentious. It has relaxed seating inside as well as a street facing outdoor terrace, perfect for hot summer days.
Address: 16 Kloof Nek Road, Tamboerskloof;
Contact: 00 27 21 422 3655; thesorrows.co.za
The biggest selection of beer in the city, with 99 bottled beers and 22 on tap, makes this is a no-brainer stop for all lovers of malt and hops. Grab a table on the bright yellow balcony overlooking Long street as it can get quite loud indoors.
Address: 223Long Street
Contact: 00 27 424 3370; beerhouse.co.za
In the middle of De Waterkant’s social hub, this New York-styled cozy jazz and cocktail club offers live music every night, ranging from jazz and blues to classical piano and indie pop. Solo artists make for a relaxed feel from Sunday to Thursday with bigger bands picking up the tempo Fridays and Saturdays. Great tapas and creative cocktails on their wraparound veranda with views of De Waterkant stretching all the way to the bay. It’s happy hour 4 to 6pm; Mondays sees a good ‘date night’ special.
Address: 47 Napier Street, De Waterkant
Contact: 00 27 418 1096; thepianobar.co.za
Opening: daily 12.30am-late
The Gin Bar
Known as “the secret gin bar”, this is tucked away in the courtyard of Honest Chocolate on Wale street (incidentally the best locally-produced chocolate by a long way). It’s an intimate space where friendly bar tenders make up one of many gin-based cocktails with a choice of gins and tonics. On your way out, grab a chocolate brownie or a dark chocolate buckwheat tart from Honest.
Address: 64A Wale Street, City
Contacts: 00 27 60 606 6014; theginbar.co.za
Opening: Mon-Wed 5pm-12am; Thur-Sat 4pm-2am
La Parada Del Mar
The coolest new addition to the Camps Bay strip, with its Turkish blue-and-white tiles and shabby-chic wall finish. Get there early to grab one of the three bar tables on the balcony upstairs and you have yourself one of the best seats for the end-of-day show as the sun sinks into the Atlantic. Great for sunset drinks but you can stay on for dinner – suggest a shared tapas-style meal of charred octopus, salt and pepper squid, pork belly and ham croquettes.
Address: 35 Victoria Rd, Camps Bay
Contact: 00 27 21 286 2106; laparada.co.za/camps-bay
Opening times: daily 8am to 11am; noon to 2am
Grand Africa Café and Beach
If your idea of heaven is sitting with your toes curled in the sand while sipping a cocktail and watching the ships sail in and out of the harbour, be sure to head over to Grand Africa Café. It’s a recreated beach in Granger Bay adjoining the Waterfront that’s been taken over by the Harbour House group and they have improved it no end. A good menu to help line the stomach but it’s definitely more of a cocktail vibe.
Address: Haul Road, Granger Bay
Contact: 00 27 21 4250551
Open: daily in the summer noon-midnight. Closed 28 June to 15 September 2017.
The best dance club in the gay quarter, Crew Bar is known for its slightly cheesy house anthems and gorgeous men – both behind and in front of the bar.
Long Street’s most relaxed, intimate lounge-bar - named after its signature mint juleps - does not advertise itself, but instead relies on word of mouth. It’s clearly worked, as the place keeps pulling in punters despite its discreet location (hidden lane off Long Street).
Address: Vredenburg Lane
Contact: 00 27 21 423 4276; julep.co.za
Opening times: varies so call ahead but always open Fri and Sat evenings.
Hands down the best bar in the Waterfront, with yachts parked right outside, an intimate atmosphere, and the best selection of whiskeys in the city. Fridays often see live DJs, with the after work crowd spilling out onto the edge of the marina. It’s part of the Cape Grace but manages to feel completely separate from the hotel.
Address: Cape Grace, V&A Waterfront
Contact: 00 27 21 410 7100; basculebar.com
Opening times: daily 10am till late
Tjing Tjing Rooftop bar
Located in a 181-year-old heritage building in Longmarket Street in the Cape Town city centre, this renovated attic-bar opens onto a small outside terrace. The cozy timbered space and great tunes attracts a cool clientele, even more so since Conde Nast Traveller listed as one of their favourite new bars in a 2012 feature covering 20 cities.
Address: 165 Longmarket Street, city centre
Contact: 00 27 21 422 4920/00 27 21 422 4374; tjingtjing.co.za
Opening times: Tues to Fri from 4pm to 2am, Sat from 6.30pm to 2am
The Power and The Glory
What started off as a kind of extension of owner Adam’s home is now one of the best places to spot the Cape Town hipster, where creative types hang out and order handcrafted beers and interesting shooters. At 5pm the tiny attached bar-room, called The Black Ram, opens up, to fit a few more of the regulars and trendy newbies who drift in off the street.
Address: Corner Kloof Nek and Burnside Roads, Tamboerskloof
Contact: 00 27 21 422 2108
Opening times: Mon to Sat 8am-10pm; The Black Ram from 5pm till late.
Overlooking Camps Bay beach and those spectacular sunsets, this beach bar-bistro gets very busy in summer when there’s plenty of air-kissing between platinum blondes and buff men, and on some nights a truly eclectic array of friendly loud young hedonists spill out onto the pavement.
Orphanage Cocktail Emporium
This tiny city-centre cocktail club, located on the corner of Orphan and Bree streets, is always buzzing. The vibe is laid-back, DJs spin deep house (till around 2am) and you can get wasted on a drink that supports the nearby Children’s Home.
Address: 227 Bree Street
Contact: 00 27 21 4242004
Opening: Mon-Thurs & Sat 5pm to 2am; Fri 3pm to 2am
The Planet Bar
Located in the venerable colonial-era Mount Nelson hotel, with tables on the terrace overlooking well-groomed gardens and a tinkling fountain, great staff and good nibbles, this is the much beloved after-work gathering place for Capetonians old enough to pay a bit more for the perfectly mixed tipple.
Address: Mount Nelson Hotel, 76 Orange Street
Contact: 00 27 21 483 1000
Opening: bar 12pm-12am; restaurant 6:30pm-10:30pm
This fabulous bar attracts an interesting crowd, often here for the theatre or music show (upstairs; check the programme online) or a predinner drink before heading out to one of the nearby restaurants (though light meals are also served here). Just love the dial-up vintage telephone on every table – place your drinks order by dialing 9; then flirt with table two. Or maybe table six.
Address: 76 Strand Street, City Centre
Contact: 00 27 21 300 1088; alexanderbar.co.za
Opening: Mon to Sat 11am to 1am; Sun 3pm-12am
Shimmy Beach Club
Shimmy is another manmade beach right on the water at the edge of the working harbour, but it’s as shallow as a beauty pageant. It’s popular and when pumping great for people watching (local electronic outfit #Goldfish always rock the house) but be warned: unless you pay to be in the VIP section service is slow, there are armed guards at the entrance, bags are searched as you enter and the whole experience is a slightly sleezy.