Where to Stay in Cape Town for a Local Experience

Lion's Head, seen from a room at the Tintswalo Atlantic
Lion's Head, seen from a room at the Tintswalo Atlantic | © Bruce McGowan / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Glynis Horning
17 January 2021

Feast on Cape Malay curries, drink in South African wine and admire some of the Rainbow Nation’s emerging art talent at these heart-of-it-all hotels.

South Africa’s capital lets you sample the country in microcosm. You can tick off the country’s emerging art scene by gallery-hopping at First Thursdays. Drink in some of the nation’s best wines, plucked from nearby Fransschoek and Stellenbosch. And absorb surely the world’s most scenic combination of coast and countryside – from the Twelve Apostles to Clifton’s cool beaches and up to the twin bluffs of Lion’s Head and Table Mountain. It’s easy to imagine living in Cape Town – and these hotels show you how.

Cape Grace Hotel

Luxury, Spa Hotel, Independent Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Cape Grace Hotel / Expedia
On a private quay between a quiet yacht marina and the vibey V&A Waterfront, this hotel gives a taste of Cape Town harbour life at its most glamorous. The 120 guest rooms and suites are all different, blending electronic essentials with antique furnishings and local artworks. Signal Restaurant serves old-school afternoon teas and multi-course gastronomic feasts, starring the likes of spiced-springbok bobotie (a moussaka-like speciality, regarded as the national dish of South Africa) and catch-of-the-day shellfish broth.

The Silo Hotel

Luxury, Eco Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of The Silo Hotel / Booking.com
Created from the grain elevator of an old silo complex, rising six storeys above the Zeitz MOCAA museum on the V&A Waterfront, this architecturally arresting hotel puts the continent’s biggest collection of African art right at your feet. Striking multifaceted glass windows turn it into a glittering beacon in Table Bay harbour. The 28 rooms blend opulence with edgy industrial accents and African art. The Silo Rooftop, with its pool and panoramic views, is one of the city’s coolest spots to sip cocktails at sunset before digging into Cape seafood curry at the Granary Cafe.

The Bay Hotel

Map View
Courtesy of The Bay Hotel / Expedia
Set on Camps Bay, with its powdery white sands, natural rock pools and views of the Twelve Apostles range, this trendy Cape Town hotel has posh seafood eateries and mellow cocktail bars on the doorstep. The Bay Hotel epitomises local residents’ laid-back opulence, with rooms at once luxurious and romantic. It has four restaurants, but the place to hang is Bistro @ The Bay beside the hotel’s pool, which serves steaks, seafood and salads with easy flair.

Ellerman House

Boutique Hotel, Spa Hotel
Map View
Courtesy of Ellerman House / Expedia
Over 25 years, this private boutique hotel with 13 individually-designed rooms on the slopes of Lion’s Head above Bantry Bay has become synonymous with Cape Town’s sophisticated beach lifestyle. Two private villas have been added, each over several stories with extraordinary sea views, its own infinity pool and private chef. Rooms include a wine tasting each afternoon and South African craft-gin cocktails and canapés from a trolley at sunset. You also get guided tours of the impressive Ellerman House art collection and the obliging concierge will arrange curated experiences, from a 4×4 dune ride to a Spice Route tour.

Cape View Clifton

Boutique Hotel, Inn
Map View
Courtesy of Cape View Clifton / Booking.com
There are just seven bright, airy suites in this elegant boutique hotel, each with a private balcony overlooking Clifton beach, Camps Bay and the Twelve Apostles. The central pool deck is a great place for a glass of Cape wine while you take in one of the world’s best sunsets. Clifton has four beaches to choose from, each with its own following: 1st Beach draws the surfer crowd; 2nd is for families; 3rd the gay set; and 4th the trendies.

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  • Once in Cape Town

    Map View
    Courtesy of Once in Cape Town / Expedia
    Clean, comfy, affordable ensuite twin rooms and dorms with funky murals and friendly staff have made this a hub for young travellers. Set on vibey Long Street, it’s within walking distance of boutiques, vintage shops, restaurants and bars. Its own restaurant and bar, Same Time Tomorrow, is a neighbourhood favourite with hanging greenery and craft beer. The sundowner deck (Up Yours) features funk and electronic sounds and vinyl DJ sets. The Once team offers free neighbourhood walking tours, township braais, visits to an organic farmers’ market and salsa dancing on the promenade. You can also sign up at reception for surfing lessons.

    The Backpack Hostel

    Hostel, Lodge, Hotel
    Map View
    Courtesy of The Backpack - Hostel / Expedia
    This award-winning Fair Trade hostel is safe, central and provides value for money with its funky dorms and private rooms coloured red, white and blue. A big buffet breakfast is laid on, there’s a kitchen available and you’ll find an inexpensive bar. The hostel embraces environmental sustainability and encourages participation in community projects such as the Stitch N’ Bitch programme (knitting blankets for the needy) or volunteering as a teacher’s aide, coach or helper at the Great Commission United Academy. Its location also makes it a great place for self-guided walks, before cooling off afterwards in the pool.

    Tintswalo Atlantic

    Map View
    Courtesy of Tintswalo Atlantic / Expedia
    Set between Chapman’s Peak and the Atlantic Ocean, Tinswalo’s dramatic location makes it a prime wedding and honeymoon venue. Suites are themed: the seriously beautiful Robben Island Suite paying tribute to Nelson Mandela. The new Chef’s Warehouse serves dishes that are fresh, local and sustainable above the extraordinary view – oysters and risotto are always on the menu. The hotel provides its own adventure tours, from horse riding on Noordhoek Beach to snorkelling with seals at nearby Duiker Island (it’s just a rubber-duck ride away – wetsuits provided).

    La Grenadine Petit Hotel

    Budget Hotel, Guesthouse
    Map View
    Courtesy of La Grenadine / Booking.com
    This retreat off Kloof Street in Cape Town’s City Bowl (natural amphitheatre) oozes Gallic charm in a 19th-century farm building among pomegranate, guava and olive trees. The five ensuite bedrooms blend vintage and modern, industrial and Provençal styles. The effect is elegantly quirky, with vividly painted clawfoot baths, whitewashed walls and French hand-embroidered linen. A traditional French breakfast includes fresh croissants, pain au chocolat, fresh-fruit salad and home-made muesli. The perfect start to a day spent browsing the city’s parks, galleries and museums.

    Stock Exchange Apartment Hotel

    Chain Hotel, Budget Hotel
    Map View
    Courtesy of Stock Exchange Apartment Hotel / Booking.com
    This is a great base for exploring colourful Woodstock, a suburb just east of the City Bowl, between the docks of Table Bay and slopes of Devil’s Peak. It’s full of old factories, covered in street art or converted into cool design stores, such as the Old Biscuit Mill. Weekly Neighbourgoods Market, filled with street food, local handicrafts and fashion, is a must – as is The Test Kitchen restaurant (if you can bag a table). The Stock Exchange is part of a mixed-use building with retail outlets, eateries and an entertainment deck. The 33 trendy apartments are divided into playful themes – Urban Art, Urban Jungle and Urban Pattern – celebrating local design talent. A design map of Woodstock lets you buy similar décor items to support the area’s artisans.
    These recommendations were updated on January 17, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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