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Sunset beers | © Wil Stewart / Unsplash
Sunset beers | © Wil Stewart / Unsplash

Sundowners, the Very Cape Town Way to Socialise

Picture of Andrew Thompson
Updated: 13 January 2018

If you’ve spent any time in Cape Town, there’s a good chance you’ve heard someone mention sundowners. Though the term is originally a British one, meaning an alcoholic drink that is enjoyed around the time of sunset, Capetonians have taken the concept to a whole new level.

The thing about Cape Town, especially in the summer, is that it’s almost impossible to resist the pull of the sunset. As the mid-summer 8pm sunset approaches in the city, there’s a palpable shift in energy. People scuttle outside to soak up the last warm glow of the sun, and to gawk as the skies cycle through multiple shades of red, orange, pink and purple.

Not satisfied with enjoying the natural phenomenon alone, many Capetonians have found a way to make this event a social experience under the umbrella term of sundowners. There are dozens of potentially incredible sundowner spots in Cape Town, but quite how the evening develops is largely up to the people organising it.

Most sundowner missions start at least an hour or two before the sun is due to set completely. Others just morph out of an extension to a full day on the beach or mountain. Many are a last minute-rush to make the most of what nature provides, as Instagram and Twitter light up with sweeping shots of a particularly epic sunset on the way.

Many choose to pack their favourite selection of beverages and head for somewhere scenic. Lion’s Head, Signal Hill, Table Mountain and one of the city’s numerous west-facing beaches are the first choices for scenic sundowner fans. Of course, the only real criteria for a good outdoor sundowner spot is having adequate drinks and an unspoilt view of the setting sun. The more scenic you can make it, the better. This has the added benefit of nature, cheap drinks and no pressure from target-focussed restaurants and bars trying to turn over numbers.

With public drinking outlawed in South Africa, including a responsible tipple on the beach at sunset, there’s an element of risk associated with brazenly drinking outdoors, and those who are more focussed on the alcoholic and social elements of the event tend to head towards some of the city’s best sea-facing bars.

If you’re in doubt, head somewhere along the Atlantic Seaboard, where the quality of the view tends to be in direct proportion to the cost of the drinks and the pretentiousness of the crowd. But with the added benefits of not having to keep your drink on the down low, and being able to perch on a comfortable chair surrounded by beautiful strangers, many consider this the best approach.

Regardless of which approach appeals to you, there’s little arguing that there are few better ways to pay tribute to another incredible Cape Town day, or to kickstart a night in the Mother City, than with a drink in a strategically flawless location as the sun finally slips behind the Atlantic.