What to Do on a Rainy Day in Cape Town

South African National Gallery
South African National Gallery | © Carina Beyer / Iziko Museums

Freelance Writer - instagram.com/andrewthompsonsa

It’s no secret that Cape Town is a premier summer destination. What with all the beaches, mountains, lakes, and scenic outlooks, you’ll be spoilt for choice when the sun plays along. The city has a mediterranean climate, which means that summers are usually warm and dry, and winters are wet and relatively cold. Many use this as an excuse to stay away in the rainy season – this is why you shouldn’t.

Watch sharks feed at the aquarium

Most big cities in the world have aquariums, which might lead you to give the Two Oceans Aquarium a skip. But this attraction at the V&A Waterfront is worth a visit regardless of the time of year. It’s packed full of fascinating fish from the surrounding waters, as well as a few loud flocks of penguins. There’s also a large tank in the centre of the aquarium that is home to large fish and several circling sharks. Time it right, and you might be lucky enough to witness a live feeding session – check the Two Oceans Aquarium website for updated times.

Two Oceans Aquarium

Visit a fascinating museum

Cape Town has dozens of museums and galleries that can keep you busy when it’s cold outside. There are several that deal with matters of historical importance, such as the District Six Museum, Robben Island Museum, Slave Lodge, and the Bo-Kaap Museum. There are also various art galleries throughout the city that are worth a visit. If those aren’t enough to keep you busy, Iziko manages a planetarium and natural history museum in the Company’s Garden. Entry to many of these museums and galleries is either free or surprisingly cheap.

South African National Gallery

Savour a killer cup of coffee

Cape Town knows its coffee, and there are dozens of quaint coffee shops in which to whittle away a rainy day. You can’t go far anywhere in the city without bumping into a unique spot, but the highest density of coffee shops is definitely in the central business district. On Bree, Long, Loop and Kloof Streets you seldom have to walk a few metres before finding a bearded barista to brew you an exquisite flat white.

Truth Coffee Roasting interior

Taste award-winning wines

The Cape’s wine farms are beautiful to explore in full sunshine, but full of atmosphere when the clouds roll in. There are wine farms dotted throughout the Constantia region which is conveniently close to the city. If you’re up for a drive, head to the likes of Franschhoek, Paarl or Stellenbosch to taste some local varietals. Almost all wine farms have in-house restaurants with award winning chefs, and most will take care of the cold with a classic log-burning fireplace.

Waterkloof Wine Estate

Visit an indoor food market

Cape Town’s markets are all open come rain or shine, but if it’s bucketing down head to one of the more sheltered options. The V&A Market on the Wharf and the new Mojo Market are indoors and open seven days a week. The Old Biscuit Mill on Saturday mornings is not fully insulated from the cold, but covered in the event of rain. And then there’s also the City Bowl Market, which is indoors and open on Thursdays from 4:30pm to 8:30pm.

The Old Biscuit Mill

Watch an independent movie

Skip the generic cinema and head for one of South Africa’s last remaining independent movie houses. The Labia Theatre screens a variety of contemporary blockbusters and smaller independent films. And for those cold wintery evenings, they also serve up warm glasses of gluehwein which you can take into the movie theatre.

Treat yourself to a spa day

Cape Town has plenty of relaxing and rejuvenating health and wellness spas that can put you back in a good mood in no time. There are dozens located throughout the city and in the outlying wine farms, and most offer a variety of treatments from simple massages to full body pampering.

Hamman spa

Dine out at a top restaurant

There’s no better way to beat the rainy day blues than with a great meal. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of fine restaurants throughout the city. Whether you’re looking for gourmet burgers, unbelievable vegetarian options, or simply want to kick back with a diverse menu and eat your way through the storm, the city will have you covered.

Chefs Restaurant

Catch a live show

There’s been a real rejuvenation of the live performance scene in Cape Town over the last decade, and on any one night there’s now a wide selection of live theatre, stand-up comedy, and musical performances to choose from. If you’re looking for theatre, check the listings for the Fugard Theatre, Baxter Theatre, or Alexander Bar. For a laugh, there are several bars, clubs and restaurants that have stand-up comedy shows once a week, and there’s also the established Cape Town Comedy Club at the V&A Waterfront. Though live music venues are a bit scarce these days, The Crypt will have you covered for jazz, the House of Machines regularly hosts free acoustic performances, and the live music institution of Mercury Live features a variety of live acts throughout the week.

Watch the storm roll in

The best way to enjoy a good storm in the Mother City is to watch it roll in over the ocean. If you don’t mind getting a bit wet, head to the Sea Point Promenade, when on a good day the waves hit the walkway with impressive force. You can also take a tour of the Green Point Lighthouse to get a first-hand glimpse of what the ships on the ocean must be facing. If you’re interested in taking a drive, consider heading out to Cape Point. Though the area is best explored on a sunny day, venturing out there in a large storm will give reveal just how it received the moniker the Cape of Storms.

Waves on the Sea Point Promenade
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