Cape Town’s love for liquor and a good night out, along with its constant ebb and flow of multicultural tourists, has made it a bar-centred city to be reckoned with. There are amazing venues in Cape Town that tick all the right boxes — whether you’re looking for a cheap beer at an unpretentious dive bar served to you by a disinterested tattooed hipster, or a flashy high-end concoction mixed by a tied and suited bartender who makes you feel like the most important person at the bar. Whatever your preference, one of these top spots in and around the city should have you covered.
House of Machines
Bar, Cafe, Beer, Pub Grub, $$$
House of Machines
It’s clear from the moment you set foot inside the House of Machines, on the quiet Shortmarket Street in the Cape Town CBD, that these guys pay careful attention to detail. Everything from the decor to the drinks are carefully curated, and yet it still maintains an authentic feel. Drinks here aren’t cheap and tend towards the high-end and craft side of things, but with free live music every night of the week, expertly mixed cocktails (including their legendary Old Fashioned), and a laid-back crowd featuring some of the city’s finest, it’s a small price to pay for a great night out.
Asoka was one of the first Cape Town bars to serve high-end cocktails in an expertly curated environment, and although it’s now more of a trendy bar and eatery frequented by tourists, it’s still a worthy inclusion on a Kloof Street night out. The drinks here are of the highest quality, with a selection of some of the city’s better cocktails on offer, and if you’re feeling peckish there’s a comprehensive menu to help line your stomach. The crowd, too, is impressive, with people tending to get more dressed up to visit Asoka than most other bars in the city centre.
If you’re looking for the city’s widest selection of beer, and you’re not too fussed about the crowd or atmosphere, then make a turn at the glaringly yellow Beerhouse on Long Street. This unpretentious beer bar at the top of Cape Town’s Long Street serves dozens of craft beers, several high-end imports, and all of the country’s mainstream brews. Though it’s not exactly going to win awards for decor and atmosphere, unless you’re looking for a chaotic smattering of beer swilling lads and lasses in their mid-twenties, it’s a welcoming, friendly bar that serves as a good starting point for a night on and around Long Street.
Yours Truly started out as a hole in the wall sandwich and coffee shop on Long Street, but has since expanded to included two of the city’s most popular bars, on Kloof and Loop Streets. The venue on Kloof Street, with its Up Yours deck, is perhaps one of the best bars in the city for a lazy summer afternoon beer. The crowd is diverse, the beers reasonably priced, and the upstairs location unbeatable. On some nights of the week DJs cram into the small space and all but destroy the conversation and transform the pleasantly laid-back bar into an overcrowded dance floor, but if you’re simply looking for an early evening beer as the sun slips behind the mountain, then you can’t go wrong.
If you’re looking to tap into Cape Town’s newfound love for gin in one of the most charming venues in the inner city, then The Gin Bar is the place to go. Though many refer to it as ‘the secret gin bar,’ given its elusive location behind a Wale Street chocolate shop, these days it’s anything but undiscovered. But its popularity, particularly among visitors to the city, doesn’t seem to matter, because most seem to treat it as a quiet bar perfect for an expertly mixed gin-based nightcap, or to get you going for a night on the town.
Kloof Nek’s The Power & Glory made a name for itself as one of the city’s original hipster bars serving up expensive craft beer in a welcoming environment. It was an almost instantaneous hit, and has since become an institution. It’s open throughout the day for simple food and coffees, but come late afternoon the city’s trendiest filter through the doors and transform it into a vibrant bar perfect for a few pints of Cape Town’s finest craft beers.
Devil’s Peak brews some of the city’s best craft beers, and their taproom in the industrial suburb of Salt River is the perfect place in which to drink them. The taproom has an authentic beerhall feel, is laid-back and unpretentious, and also serves up a selection of great pub food. As far as beer-centric bars go, especially on the fringes of the Cape Town Inner City, this might be one of the best. They’ve also opened up a new flagship store and moved their main brewing operations to a new venue in Epping, which promises to be one of the best taproom style bars in the city.
When Orphanage first opened its doors in 2012 people flocked there to gawk at its extensive and creative cocktail list, and equally gobsmacking prices. And yet, many years later, it’s still a Cape Town bar worth visiting, particularly if you’re a fan of unique drinks created by some of the city’s best mixologists. The elegant venue, at the very top end of Bree Street, is a destination bar worth visiting for at least a round or two of drinks, but chances are once you’ve sampled their signature cocktails, you’ll be returning for more.
If you find yourself on the other side of the mountain and craving a quality cold craft beer in a unique environment, then head to the Striped Horse in Muizenberg. Striped Horse makes some of the country’s best craft beers, and the expertly designed bar and grill is a great spot in which to savour it. On a good day you can enjoy the beers outside with a view of Muizenberg Beach, but when the weather turns the eclectic dive-bar interior is equally enthralling.
Though Lefty’s is a love it or hate it kind of bar, it deserves a mention for its commitment of turning Cape Town’s East City district into an enjoyable place to hang out. With its authentic dive bar feel comes a laid-back and authentic atmosphere, cheap drinks, and a selection of good quality food. If you’re looking for a neighbourhood kind of bar away from the pretense that often accompanies those closer to the CBD, then make a turn at Lefty’s for a few beers, dirt-cheap gin and tonic, or a pretty solid burger.