Sip your way around town
Capetonians are a sociable bunch – and a discerning audience when it comes to choosing their tipple of choice. Luckily, the Mother City has plenty to offer as far as drinking dens are concerned – from panoramic rooftops and stylish cocktail bars to atmospheric speakeasies and super slick spaces, there’s something for every taste. We’ve taken it upon ourselves to taste our way through the myriad of options, in order to bring you our top choices below – cheers!
The Silo Rooftop
While there are many scenic places in Cape Town, none can match the epic 360-degree views from The Silo Hotel’s rooftop bar at the V&A Waterfront. As a non-hotel guest, booking is essential – come just before sunset, order the Rose Ginvino signature cocktail (Musgrave pink gin, lime, Chenin blanc, grapefruit, rose syrup, and egg white) and freshly shucked oysters, and be prepared to be blown away.
Tjing Tjing Rooftop
Located on the top floor of a three-storey Japanese emporium, Tjing Tjing Rooftop has been a perennially popular drinking haunt for the past decade. Following a recent refurb, the bar looks slicker than ever – in summer, the view-drenched terrace is the place to be. Try one of the Japanese-tinged cocktails (we love the Seven Samurai, made with Hakutsuru sake, shimeji, sesame, thyme, mango, lemon, and rosemary), sakes, or Tjing Tjing’s own wine label, paired with delicious otsumami(Japanese snacks) and cool indie and electronic beats.
Gigi Rooftop at Gorgeous George
Part of the edgy Gorgeous George Hotel in town, this highly Instagrammable rooftop restaurant and bar is always buzzing. Book a table on the lush, plant-filled terrace and pick your poison of choice – the extensive drinks menu includes killer cocktails such as the perfectly balanced Marzi Gold, made with Goodleaf CBD, almond, vanilla, dried stone-fruit, apple and citrus. Pair with a little something from the small plates menu, and you’re all set.
Part of The Kove Collection (who own and run a large chunk of prime dining property in Cape Town), this cool rooftop hangout on the Camps Bay strip came in at number five on Time Out’s 25 best rooftop bars in the world 2021 list, thanks to impeccable sunset views, expertly crafted cocktails and weekend DJs to get the party going from 4pm every Friday to Sunday. If hunger strikes, the classic café menu hits the spot.
The Art of Duplicity
Taking the hush-hush aura of prohibition to a whole new level, this hidden watering hole is a speakeasy in the truest sense of the word. Book (ideally for a Friday or Saturday, when there’s live jazz) to obtain a password, locate the secret venue within a Victorian warehouse, and gain entry to a bygone era. The cocktails are among the best in the city (as confirmed by an entry on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 list), and the bartenders really look the part, too – great fun.
The Athletic Club & Social
Conjuring up images of an eclectic living-room-turned-secret-bar, this tasselled, velvet-covered, marble table-topped three-storey beauty is set in a heritage building that indeed once served as a speakeasy. The classic and innovative signature cocktails, Mediterranean-inspired menu and live music performances are the perfect mix for a stylish night on the town. https://www.instagram.com/theathleticclubandsocial/
Tucked away on Heritage Square, this art gallery doubles up as a cool speakeasy-style bar. Peruse the art collection on display before ordering your preferred tipple – ours is The Desert Whisper, containing Sipsmith gin, Caperitif vermouth, fresh orange juice, cardamom, nutmeg, and thyme (although we also wouldn’t say no to the Ruby Ruby: an enticing concoction made with Suntory Toki, grapefruit oleo, Caperitif vermouth, Chenin blanc, soda, and charred ruby grapefruit).
The Willaston Bar
If Cape Town’s famous South-Eastern threatens to literally blow you off The Silo Rooftop, venture downstairs to the sixth floor, where The Silo Hotel’s super stylish The Willaston Bar provides a worthy alternative. The spectacular pillowed glass windows, designed by Thomas Heatherwick, are the highlight of many Instagram accounts – and the cocktails and bar menu are world-class.
The Piano Bar
This atmospheric 1950’s-style bar brings New York flair to De Waterkant, thanks to stylish interiors, classy cocktails and live music that runs the gamut from jazz, Motown, and cabaret, to soul-funk, afro soul, and pop – and everything in between. There’s also a Mediterranean tapas menu if you’re feeling peckish, plus a wraparound terrace with gorgeous views (for sweeping Table Mountain vistas, head upstairs to the Sky Bar).
The light-flooded Grand Pavilion is a buzzing restaurant and bar along the Sea Point promenade. Open all day, it’s the perfect spot to come for fresh seafood and sushi, and then stay for after-dinner drinks and music. Ease yourself in at the beach-style Pavilion Bar, before moving behind a draped curtain and into Harry’s Bar, a sultry 1920’s-themed den to get lost in, a signature Sassy South Side (Al Capone’s drink of choice) iron hand.
Grand Africa & Beach
Offering a multitude of venues, all set amidst its own private beach, this oceanfront Waterfront powerhouse is one of Cape Town’s most scenic destinations. From the Gin Bar and Corona Bar to the exclusive Beach Bar and toes-in-the-sand dining, there are plenty of options – and the drinks aren’t half bad, either. Go all out and order together with one of the towering seafood platters.
Culture Wine Bar
Matt Manning’s Grub & Vine restaurant has been a runaway hit with both locals and visitors – and now you have another reason to stop by, thanks to the upstairs addition of this impressive wine bar. The curated selection of fine wines, cult classics, hidden gems, natural wines, and special imports is second to none – paired with the charcuterie board, or Manning’s famous Croque Monsieur. The complimentary wine tastings on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and live music sessions on Fridays and Saturdays (booking essential), are another great excuse to stop by.
The (Secret) Gin Bar
As the name implies, this much-loved hidden-away bar in Cape Town’s CBD has more (excellent) gins than you can shake a stick at (over 100, 80 of which are made in South Africa). Not your tipple of choice? Fear not, there’s also beer and wine, plus a recently opened Bubbly Bar. The heritage building was once a mortuary, hence the playful cocktail menu of “medicinal remedies”. To find all these liquid delights, and a romantic Mediterranean-style courtyard, you have to walk through the Honest Chocolate Café. It’s all rather brilliant.
Too cool for school
CAUSE | EFFECT Cocktail Kitchen & Cape Brandy bar
Currently ranked #53 on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, this molecular hotspot at the V&A Waterfront takes mixology to the next level. Inspired by Cape Town’s oceans, mountains, fynbos and vineyards, the bar’s expert mixologists create liquid magic, paired with tasty morsels of food. For the full shebang, book the interactive three-course cocktail and food pairing experience with your own private bartender. If you can’t make it to the Waterfront, another branch is conveniently located right on the Camps Bay strip.
Dark Horse Bar
Eclectic interiors, a lineup of great classic cocktails (think Gin Fizz and Lemondrop Martini), and a scrumptious small plates menu sets this fun bar apart. It’s owned by the same people as local favourite Black Sheep across the way, so you know you are in for a good time. Take in the sports memorabilia inside, or head upstairs to the rooftop deck for picture-perfect Table Mountain views.
This hugely successful Cape Town franchise is a whole lotta fun – the eclectic food menu offers hearty, high-quality fare (think burgers, Tex-Mex, pizzas, seafood and the likes), and there are plenty of drinks to wash it all down with. The Camps Bay branch enjoys a prime beachfront position – sit on the upstairs terrace and order one of the fun cocktails, tequilas, Whiskeys or beers.
The House of Machines
Don’t feel confused standing outside THoM – it may look like a motorbike shop (and it is) but there’s a whole lot more to it than meets the eye. A highly efficient multi-tasker, the shop is also a café with its own brand of coffee, an exclusive menswear store selling classic apparel, a gig venue, a restaurant and a craft beer specialist – and an excellent cocktail bar (and The World’s 50 Best Bars member), all rolled into one very cool package.