Gay Cape Town: 10 Reasons to Visit
Being gay has been legal in South Africa since the late nineties and today there’s a well-established scene in good ol’ gay Cape Town. This coastal city has a great choice of gay-friendly bars, brilliant gay beaches and all the usual sights you need to see, from Table Mountain to the V&A Waterfront. Here are a few of our favourite reasons to visit Cape Town.
Wander around amazing art galleries
Art lovers will fall for Cape Town fast – there are hundreds of galleries here, with everything from museums with contemporary African art to small showrooms showcasing international talent. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa on the V&A Waterfront is a favourite, and the Norval Foundation with its beautiful sculpture garden.
You can see the city’s up-and-coming and established street artists at Worldart, where urban pieces and paintings with political commentary hang on the walls. Want to bring a piece home with you? Head to 34FineArt where you can see the city’s best creators and purchase your favourite pieces.
Explore the V&A Waterfront
A hive of activity and a real hub for Cape Town’s residents and visitors, the Waterfront is the place to be. With views out across the harbour and plenty of brilliant bars, it’s one of the city’s top sundowner destinations. After dark, there are plenty more bars to enjoy and a host of fantastic restaurants too, serving everything from sushi to seafood to steaks.
There are a few museums within the area, too, including the rugby-themed Springbok Experience. Don’t miss a ride on the huge Ferris wheel, which offers brilliant views of Table Mountain in the distance.
Get a history lesson at Robben Island
Right up until 1996, Robben Island was used as a prison, and it was here that Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for campaigning against the government. He spent 18 years of his imprisonment on Robben Island and, after his release in 1990, he was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize and later elected President.
Today, Robben Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, preserved as it was to act as a reminder of South Africa’s troubled past. You have to join a tour to visit the prison, which involves a ferry journey and a 45-minute bus ride around the island, but it’s well worth it. You’ll see the lime quarry where Mandela was forced to do hard labour and the cells where prisoners were kept in solitary confinement. It’s a dark place, but an important part of the country’s history, and your tour guide is often an ex-prisoner who can give you a first-hand account of the experience.
Watch world-class cricket
Watching cricket in South Africa is a whole different ball game – pun intended. This nation is big on sport and cricket is up there in the top three (alongside rugby and football, of course). Newlands Cricket Ground is the main place to see a match in Cape Town, and the season runs from around October through March, during the South African summer.
The grounds have spectacular views of Table Mountain, and throughout summer the perfectly manicured lawns contrast beautifully against the bright blue skies.
Taste the best of the Winelands
Eastward, just beyond Cape Town, lies a swathe of flat plains with perfectly fertile ground, ideal for growing grapes. It’s from here that most of South Africa’s top wines originate, with rows and rows of vines making up the more than 300 vineyards that spread out beneath the mountains.
You can take a day trip from Cape Town, but better is to spend a few days here meandering between wineries (preferably with a driver, of course) to sample some of the best Chenin Blancs, Cabernet Sauvignons and the native Pinotages. Plenty of the vineyards have their own exceptional restaurants serving food to complement your drinks, and many offer overnight accommodation so you can wake up to views of the vines in towns such as Franschhoek.
Visit historic Stellenbosch
When it comes to winelands, the historic town of Stellenbosch is also a must. Packed with gorgeous Dutch, Georgian and Victorian architecture and littered with regal oak trees, the town is one of South Africa’s most attractive. Head to the Dylan Lewis Sculpture Garden for your art fix or, for the keen gardener, the university’s Botanical Gardens. You can get to grips with the region’s history at the Village Museum and the Rupert Museum has a captivating collection of 20th-century South African art.
But perhaps the highlight here is what lies just beyond the town – vineyards, and lots of them. You’re never too far from a good bottle of wine in South Africa, and Stellenbosch has wineries aplenty to explore for tastings.
Get hot at Camps Bay & beaches
Sitting on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Town has some spectacular beaches. Its most famous is probably Boulders Beach, where you’ll spot penguins waddling about the sand. But better yet (for humans) are the beaches around Camps Bay and Clifton.
Camps Bay is a lovely little suburb, just 20 minutes from the V&A Waterfront, with restaurants, bars and beaches aplenty. Come to lay your towel on the sand, swim in the clear-blue waters and eat lazy seafood lunches before a night out in the neighbourhood’s many bars.
Clifton’s 3rd beach is one of the busiest and best gay-friendly beaches where the locals hang out; or try Sandy Bay if you’re looking for a gay nude beach.
Scale Table Mountain
The iconic attraction in Cape Town, Table Mountain is a must-visit. The flat-topped mountain is 1086 metres high and affords those who reach the top some spectacular views out across the city and over the ocean. For the energetic, there are numerous hikes up the mountain of varying difficulties – the Platteklip Gorge trail is the most direct but also the steepest, while the Skeleton Gorge trail is more leisurely – but for a faster and easier way up, there’s no shame in taking the cable car.
There’s a brilliant restaurant at the top, so come at sunset and treat your partner to a sundowner as you admire the panoramic views.
Party at Cape Town Pride
Come to Cape Town in February and you’ll get to enjoy Pride week. This city really knows how to celebrate and that much is made clear at the annual Pride parade. Expect floats of pure flamboyance, outrageous costumes and plenty of short shorts – it gets pretty hot at this time of year, after all.
Throughout the week, parties and events are held throughout the city and favourites include the Pink Party – on opening night – which takes place at various locations, plus numerous hotel pool parties and comedy shows by LGBTQ+ comedians.
Enjoy the gay nightlife in Green Point
Green Point and De Waterkant have some of the best gay bars in the entire city. Sitting just west of the V&A Waterfront, it’s not far from the mainstream action but offers great vibes for the LGBTQ+ community.
Dance at Crew Bar and Amsterdam Action Bar, or enjoy a more relaxed evening in Café Manhattan, one of the oldest gay establishments in the city. There are happy hours all over the neighbourhood, so if you start your night early, you’ll get a bargain.
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