As the oldest city in South Africa, Cape Town also lays claim to the oldest and most traditional pubs in the country. Though some may argue which came first, there’s still a strong drinking heritage at these watering holes that you can still feel to this day. At the same time, several new establishments have sprung up to piggyback on Irish, Scottish and British drinking culture.
Whether you’re looking to catch the latest game, gorge on a typical pub meal, or just have a cold beer while making small talk with a sympathetic ear behind the bar, these are your best bets in the city.
Fireman’s Arms is a slick traditional pub on the edge of the Cape Town CBD. It’s been around for years and has many loyal followers, but it also keeps up with the times with regular pub quizzes, comedy evenings and live performances. They have a vast and diverse menu, and though not on the cheap side, quality is good and service impeccable. This is the kind of traditional pub that has found a perfect balance between old school charm and modern efficiency.
25 Buitengracht St & Mechau St, De Waterkant, Cape Town, +27 (0)21 419 1513
This classic pub in the Cape Town suburb of Newlands may be a popular student hangout due to its proximity to the University of Cape Town, but the Foresters Arms, or just Forries, has a history and heritage that goes back many years.There’s ample seating both indoors and in an outdoor courtyard, and as a large, standalone building set in the leafy suburbs, it’s the perfect spot to watch the rugby, go for an afterwork drink, or have a lazy Sunday afternoon lunch.
52 Newlands Ave, Newlands, Cape Town, +27 (0)21 689 5949
Ferryman’s Tavern has the impressive accolade of being the first tenant at the now V&A Waterfront. They opened their doors in 1989 and converted an old locomotive shed into a vibrant, historical bar and pub. Though typically filled with people from out of town, it’s a vibrant bar in an idyllic location that also serves some of the better priced food and drinks in the precinct.
Locomotive Shed, Dock Road, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, +27 (0)21 419 7748
Mitchells Scottish Ale House
Next door to Ferryman’s is Mitchells Scottish Ale House. Though in its current iteration it’s newer than its next-door neighbour, there’s still an old charm to this ale house that makes it worth a visit. The cosy interior and upstairs sections have plenty of seating and large television sets, but the outdoor terrace is the most popular spot to have a beer and watch the passing parade.
East Pier & Dock Road, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town, +27 (0)21 419 5074
Villains Old Ale House
Villains may be one of the newest pub style venues to open in the city, but they’re staying true to many traditions handed down over the years. They’re also located in a building that has housed several bars, pubs and restaurants over the years, so although slick and refurbished, the venue doesn’t lack character. They run regular happy hour specials, offer a wide range of beers, and are conveniently located just off Greenmarket Square, making this an ideal inner city pub hangout.
38 Hout St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, +27 (0)21 422 2317
Hank’s Olde Irish
Hanks Olde Irish is perhaps the trendiest old style bar in the city. Though it’s opened its doors fairly recently, the building it’s located in is one of the oldest in the city. The crowd here tends to be on a par with other trendy Bree Street bars and restaurants, but with its dimly-lit, hole-in-the-wall style decor and impressive range of whiskey and beer, it has earned a loyal following.
110 Bree St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, +27 (0)82 535 5472
The Kimberley Hotel is a Cape Town landmark located on Roeland Street just a short walk from the parliamentary precinct. Though it has developed a reputation for some fairly wild late night parties, it’s still an old school bar and pub at its heart. Unlike many other bars in the city, the Kimberly Hotel has stayed true to its roots, proudly bucking the craft beer trend and serving some of the cheapest alcohol in the city.
46 Roeland St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, +27 (0)21 461 2160
If you find yourself in the winelands and hankering for a traditional pub, De Akker Country Pub and Restaurant should have you covered. This traditional pub is located on Dorp Street in the heart of Stellenbosch, and is one of the oldest in the country. They serve quality food and cold beer, have regular specials that pull in the students, and host regular live music performances that make this a Stellies institution.
90 Dorp St, Stellenbosch, Cape Town, +27 (0)63 797 3257
Perseverance Tavern, or Persies, claims to be the oldest pub in South Africa. It dates back to 1836, and though it has seen some renovations over the years, it still retains its historical charm. Even though it’s been around for more than 100 years, it’s still a popular destination for residents looking to catch the latest game on the television, or have a few well-priced afterwork drinks. The spacious courtyard is perfect for a summer’s evening, and the indoor fireplaces in the old interior make it perfectly cosy during winter.
83 Buitenkant St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, +27 (0)21 461 2440