Local knowledge involves a hard won, intricate understanding of a place; it’s not easily dug up in guide books, nor is it straightforwardly fessed up by its guardians. When it comes to Cape Town, we’d like to think we’re in a good position to pass on our locals’ knowledge, so we set about uncovering the gems and quirks that stitch the fabric of Cape Town’s scene together. By creating awareness awehness, we hope that next time you visit the Mother City you’ll also be able to experience Cape Town and the spots where you can eat, shop, party and be entertained like a local.
Yogi’s Barber Shop, Cape Town
Back then the barber shop was the perfect place to catch up on skinner, now it’s all about networking – Yogi of Yogi’s Barber Shop.
If you’re looking to get your hair cut like a local then step into Yogi’s on Buitengracht Street. Proudly owned and run by a 4th generation barber, Yogi’s has been around for over a decade. The barber shop is reasonably priced, clean and relaxed, and the interior is kitted with the most amazing antique barber’s chairs, black and white chess board floor, as well as the obligatory red and white baton outside. Yogi’s stylists are exceptionally talented and cut hair with the same level of expertise and passion as the owner.
Tip: Yogi’s Barber shop is a multicultural experience, he and his fellow barbers cater for all, and have the skills to satisfy any customer’s needs.
Fish on the Rocks, Hout Bay
Capetonians know they’re never too far away from a slap up seafood chow, but for what is arguably some of the freshest seafood in the city, locals know they can rely on Fish on the Rocks in Hout Bay. Known for their delicious fish and chips combo, it’s the authentic experience, and no tour of the Cape Peninsula is complete without stopping here. Think crispy fish and chips with a sea breeze.
Tip: Combine a visit to Fish on the Rocks with a browse around Bay Harbour Market which is just across the parking lot.
Look to your left when approaching Cape Town on the N2 and you should see the recognizable white arches curving over the two stands at Athlone Stadium. This is the home of Santos Football Club and Chippa United, as well as the Cape Flats’ lively football culture. The stadium holds 34 000 people and makes a festive venue in the midst of the legendary match ups it plays host to.
Tip: Laduma with the locals and roar at the pitch. Stay up to date on fixtures at Athlone Stadium at the Santos FC website. thepeoplesteam.co.za.
Hudson’s Burger Joint
Forming an integral part of trend-setting Cape Town culture since 2009, Hudson’s is the self-proclaimed creator of the Mother City’s tastiest most satisfying burger. With 3 restaurants situated on Somerset Road in Green Point, Claremont and on Kloof Street; when visiting Cape Town you will never be too far away from Hudson’s. Inspired by the authentic American-style diner with a distinctly Capetonian twist, you will always feel comfortable and at home sipping on a Hudson Pale Ale Draught and enjoying fantastic service.
Tip: Happy hour is from 16:30-18:30, Monday to Friday which means half price on selected items including appetizers, draughts and cocktails.
Surf with the Muizenberg locals
Image by Andrew Deacon on Flickr
Muizenberg – the sleepy seaside community comes alive in the lineup at Surfers Corner. The wave riding culture of the area is alive and well, and has been for some 50 odd years when The Corner Surf Shop – Africa’s oldest surf shop – first opened its doors. Besides the shape of surfboards and the comforting presence of Shark Spotters, not much has changed in Muizenberg, and that’s where its charm lies.
Tip: Check out Gary’s Surf School on Beach Road for lessons and board rental.
‘Slow’, in the new age sense of the word, is defined as, “edibles that are produced or prepared in accordance with local culinary traditions, typically using high-quality locally sourced ingredients.”
What better way is there to experience this culture of slow than at the Slow Market at Willowbridge. Taste locally produced food served by locals, and enjoy the culinary spoils of the merchants’ ode to old family recipes. Featuring 100 specialty suppliers, including local farmers, grocers, artisan bakers, organic merchants, craftsmen, fine food purveyors, craft beers and estate wines, the Slow Market is open on Saturday from 9am to 2pm, come rain or shine.
Tip: Take time to chat to the storeowners and you’ll find out there is also a Slow Market in Stellenbosch at Oude Libertas.
Khayelitsha, Cape Town’s biggest informal settlement is rarely explored, but Ubuntu is changing that with their township bicycle tours. The tours, which are conducted in English and cost R250 p/p, offer a safe and fun way to explore a new culture and landscape.
Tip: There are a number of B&B’s in Khayelitsha. Why not stay for a night or two.
Shop like a local, take The Lot
Capetonians are a fashion conscious bunch, and The Lot on Kloof Street is perfectly positioned to cater for local looks. A contemporary boutique with various locations around the city, finely dressed folks at The Lot have scoured the globe to bring you the coolest fresh & vintage fashion, accessories & lifestyle products. Their stores stock women’s wear and menswear from local designers to well-known international brands.
Tip: Too far from Cape Town to get the look? Shop online at ilovethelot.com.
Lefty’s, Cape Town
Kentucky Chicken and waffles in one dish … what more can we say. Unashamedly itself, Lefty’s on Harrington Street is one of Cape Town’s newest dens, drawing a local crowd for it grungy interior, American inspired menu and all round alternativeness. Spread over several interlinked rooms, this is the venue for booze, food, smoke and song. The menu is scrawled haphazardly on the wall, leading us to believe firm favourites such as chicken waffles and ribs is just the beginning of Lefty’s’ offering.
Tip: Order the deep fried, chicken, maple syrup waffles.
The Book Lounge
Image by Ben Williams on Flickr
Kicking back with a book in the comfy setting of The Book Lounge is a promising alternative if you need a break from exploring outdoors. Offering peace and quiet in the city, The Book Lounge won an award for being the best independent book store in South Africa. Curled up on a couch with your favourite novelists latest work, this charming book store will take you back to the Victorian era with its beautifully decorated wooden finishing’s and plush sofas, what’s more is there is no rush, join the locals and read for an entire day.
Tip: The Book Lounge often has book launches and informal chats with authors, speak to the clerk to see what’s on.
The Fireman’s Arms, Cape Town
It’s one of Cape Town’s oldest pubs occupying the same site it did when it first opened for business in 1864. Despite its age, Fireman’s Arms has stood the test of time, retaining its original ambiance. It’s still a great place to watch sport alongside fans of local sides, and a wintery Saturday cheering on your favourite team has never looked so good accompanied by a range of hot pub fare, a range of beers on tap, and table visits from Babelas – Fireman’s Arms’ resident cat.
Tip: Join the Pub Quiz Night on Thursdays. Arrive around 6pm to secure a table. Quiz starts at 8pm. Don’t forget your thinking cap.
Kalky’s, Kalk Bay
Image by Ian Wilson on Flickr
The queue on weekends verifies this non-descript little shops popularity. Kalky’s offers an old school fish & chip experience where patrons can choose to eat inside if the weather’s looking sketchy, or on the pier, where you’ll need to keep an eye on dive-bombing seagulls who are as hooked on Kalkys’ food as the locals! Fresh from the sea (caught on the owner’s boat) the blackboard menu brims with authentic fish and chips, deep fried calamari, snoek and crayfish and prawns all served with rice or chips. Expect generous portions and daily offers which can be enjoyed with an easy drinking house wine or beer while watching trawlers at work and seals at play in the quaint Kalk Bay Harbour.
Tip: Take the Metrorail train to Kalk Bay and stop for a few cheeky drinks at The Brass Bell, sans Designated Dave.
Beta Beach, Bakoven
Image by capetown.travel
While the water might not be as tempting as the photo suggests, Beta Beach offers a welcome respite from the crowds at Clifton, Camps Bay and Llandudno. A small, pristine stretch of sand frequented by residents who live in the vicinity, truth be told, unless a fellow sun gazer has bought their cat with, it’s hard to tell locals from visitors. Although the beach mostly comprises large boulders there is a small section of white sand, and a clear swimming area if you’re brave enough.
Tip: Have a pre or post beach coffee at Baked Bistro which is around the corner from Beta Beach on Victoria Road.
Image by andreavallejos on Flickr
Tokai Forest presents the perfect opportunity to get outdoors in Cape Town like a local. This green belt in the Southern Suburbs of Cape Town is the domain of SANParks and a favourite amongst picnickers, mountain bikers, walkers and runners. The mountainside setting affords fabulous views of the flats, and on clear days, all the way to the Hottentots Holland mountain range. Pine trees create a natural canopy; while a maintained network of dirt paths provide the perfect platform for adventure seeking mountain cyclists, trail runners and horseriders.
Tip: Take the trek to Elephant’s Eye Cave if you are in the mood for some off the beaten track exploration.
As an outsider, there’s nothing like experiencing the passion and pulse of a home crowd on a winning streak, and at the various sports grounds around Newlands, the atmosphere is electric. Consisting of Sahara Park, Newlands Swimming Pool and the rugby stadium; Newlands is the oldest rugby stadium in South Africa and the second-oldest rugby stadium in the world.
Tip: Are you a Sharks supporter in Cape Town? Then try the Sharks Supporters Club near Newlands.
Long Street Baths
Right in the middle of Cape Town’s lively centre, hidden behind an antique looking façade on the corner of Long Street and Orange Street, is one of the Mother City’s often overlooked gems: the scruffy but charming Long Street Baths. For more than 100 years, the swimming pools at the top of Long Street have provided generations of water babies with a place to play, relax and perfect their stroke. At the baths, you can swim a few laps or break a soothing sweat in the traditional Turkish Baths. While the exterior exudes faded Edwardian elegance, the interior was upgraded (in 1990!) to include an up-to-date heating system, ramps and facilities for handicapped swimmers, as well as change rooms with hot showers.
Tip: The pool is open from 7am to 7pm all year round. The entry fee is R5 for adults and R1 for children. Pensioners go free!
Today Milnerton Market is situated on Marine Drive (R27) a stone’s throw away from Lagoon Beach. The outdoor market has been going for over 20 years now, and it offers a true locals experience on the weekend – browse delightful bric-a-brac, pick up some plants or find a rare Cape Town keepsake hidden amongst mountains of antiques. A landmark popular with bargain hunters, it’s open on Saturday and Sunday, as well as public holidays.
Tip: Bring the dogs – Milnerton Market is pet friendly. Entrance to the market and its parking facilities is free of charge.
Eastern Food Bazaar
To step into this aromatic arcade between Longmarket Street and Darling Street is to step into another world, seemingly removed from the Cape Town experience you might be familiar with. But for locals who frequent this value for money restaurant and take away outlet, it’s the very fact that such a diverse dining experience of this nature even exists is what makes it so distinctly Cape Town. And whether you’re going for lunch or a late in the day dinner, with a menu that takes you from India to Turkey and downtown Chinatown in one sitting, Eastern Food Bazaar is a multinational eating experience like no other.
Tip: Pay for your order at the cashiers first, then take your slip to the relevant chef and watch while he makes your meal.
Go Places with the MyCiti Bus
South Africa has never been praised for its public transport network, and for locals without their own vehicles it can be an uphill battle to get from A to B. Times are thankfully changing, and things are looking up; especially since the introduction of Cape Town’s MyCiti buses in 2013.
Tip: The MyCiti Bus System is not to be confused with the City Sightseeing Red Buses which are sometimes far better suited to tourists and first time visitors to the city. The Airport Express gets you to or from Cape Town International for R61.50.
Rafikis Restaurant & Bar is a locals’ favourite for its familiar faces, relaxed scene, good music and tempting food and drink specials. A landmark on one of town’s most well-known intersections, the venue is known for its wrap around balcony which supports a diverse crowd who come here looking for an unassuming setting to meet friends and make new ones. Whatever it is that brings people here, all will tell you that a quick “pop in” often turns into an “all-nighter”.
Tip: Rafikis have weekday specials which you’ll want to be on top of if you’re looking for dining out deals in the City Bowl.
Whether you’re from Sandton, Umhlanga or Soweto, we hope you’ll find a fine balance of places and activities that truly showcase Cape Town’s diversity and uniqueness. The city really does have everything and more you could want in a holiday destination. The real experiences however lie just off the beaten path waiting for you to find them.
Have you had any wonderful experiences whilst after flying to Cape Town? What would you add to our list? Tell us by commenting below.