South Africa sings of safari and wild seas but its Western Cape is a region woven by a historic past, a flourishing present, and a fruitful future.
From the tropical waters in the east to the unforgiving Atlantic coastline along the west, many visit South Africa on safari; to get a glimpse of the big five roaming vast game reserves, or to spot the loveable African penguins and enjoy seasonal whale watching.
Yet in its mountainous landscape, South Africa’s Western Cape carries a thriving contemporary urban art scene and miles of elegant winelands. Here, old juxtaposes with new: Dutch wine estates date back to the 1700s and Africa’s largest collection of contemporary art can be found.
Here’s how to explore the region.
WHAT TO PACK
On opening in 2017, The Silo revolutionised Cape Town‘s five-star hotel landscape, and its art scene too. Located on the city’s waterfront and occupying six floors above Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, The Silo’s geometric windows form a reflective honeycomb. The striking aesthetic continues inside too; the hotel’s private art collection is made up of over 300 pieces. Twenty eight individually curated rooms burst with a character and colour that seemingly adapts throughout the day – soaking up the pink skies of sunrise or the striking late afternoon sun. The Deluxe Suites – overlooking the city beneath and mountains beyond, decorated with amethyst furnishings and mirrored surfaces – embrace the excitement of the city, but for the best views, check into The Penthouse which looks out across Table Mountain, or into one of the two Royal Suites which face the ocean and Robben Island.
The tallest building on the waterfront, The Silo’s Sky Terrace showcases panoramic views that wrap around the building. A spot open to hotel residents and visitors, a part of the rooftop – including the rooftop pool – is exclusive to those residing in one of its rooms. Cool off in the pool, then order a mango margarita alongside a plate of fresh oysters. A few floors down, in the centre of the building, The Willaston Bar is a scenic spot for cocktails and The Granary Café for a bite to eat while the Silo Spa is a sanctuary within this city hotel. Inclusive of five treatment rooms, therapies are in keeping with the hotel’s luxurious persona. The hot crystal massage is a favourite.
In a private 30-acre Franschhoek Valley estate is La Residence. Filled with fragrant flowers and fine wine, resident peacocks parade the hotel’s boutique and uniquely-curated spaces, sweet plums picked from the surrounding orchards fill large, polished silver bowls, antiques and bouquets tower towards chandeliers, while vineyards sweep towards the terracotta property.
Eleven rooms sleep up to 22 people across a stunning collection of Luxury and Superior Suites. Rolltop baths look out through French doors framing the heavenly vista beyond, each a unique colour scheme and design. Choose from the Tibetan Suite, dressed in exotic antiques, to the blue and yellow Chambre Bleu with Provencal velvets and silks. But one room stands out: there’s a signed photo of Elton John in the corner and the room is said to be his favourite. If it’s good enough for pop royalty, it’s good enough for us.
A stay at La Residence feels more like a visit to the private home of your most glamorous friend. Spa treatments are carried out in either the double treatment room, or in the privacy of your suite (which you may well not want to leave!), while outside in the garden is the cerulean swimming pool lined with buttercup yellow parasols and a large ice bucket filled with champagne and soft drinks. Rather than restaurants, you’ll find one dining room – many of the dishes created with home-grown ingredients from the herb and vegetable gardens. Dishes are paired with La Residence’s wine collection (exclusively available only to guests) and this is a theme continued throughout your stay. Expect red wine on arrival, bottles of champagne left by a freshly-drawn bubble bath and private tastings between the vines at sunset. Suitably sensational, helicopter wine tours are also available, allowing you to take in the breathtaking landscape of Franschhoek from above.
On a Franschhoek hilltop sits Mont Rochelle. Part of Richard Branson’s Virgin Limited Edition – a collection of unique, award-winning retreats – the hotel is located within a 96-acre private vineyard which grows, produces, and bottles wine on site. Dating back to the 1800s, with white walls and a thatched roof reminiscent of the region’s traditional Dutch heritage, the main hotel has 22 bedrooms and six suites, each with extensive views of the valley that surrounds the property.
The rooms are clean, contemporary – and aptly named in keeping with the wine producing region. Shiraz Rooms include king-size beds with courtyard or valley views; larger Merlot Rooms boast king-size beds and valley views; six Cabernet Rooms include a private terrace overlooking the valley; four Pinotage Suites feature a separate lounge; two Cap Classique Suites include a lounge, private terrace and plunge pool; and the Manor House is made up of four deluxe suites and a children’s bunk room – ideal for larger groups seeking privacy.
When not simply stretching out beside the pool, there are plenty of other activities on offer at Mont Rochelle. Start at the breathtaking tennis court. Overlooked by magnificent mountains, the court comes with an outdoor lounge and bottles of ice-cold water, while on the lawn behind the pool and the gym is a croquet court.
Eating is serious business here, too. Namesake of the property’s previous owner, MIKO is the hotel’s signature fine-dining restaurant. Offering a taste of ‘South African favourites’ each of MIKO’s dishes tells a story, is made with local ingredients, and is best paired with their wine. A breakfast of fresh fruits, yogurts and cheeses alongside hot egg dishes layered with hollandaise sauce is also served here. On the other side of the farm, The Country Kitchen is located besides wine cellars dating back 150 years. A more informal, daytime dining spot, they offer hotel guests and visitors wine tastings paired with hearty dishes – from deep fried calamari to the popular ‘CK’ 200g beef burger.
La Petite Colombe
La Petite Colombe is a theatrical masterpiece among Franschhoek’s manicured landscapes. Rated the number one restaurant in the area and ranked within South Africa’s top ten, chefs and waiters synchronise their way around the 20 or so tables, proudly presenting their line-up of edible artwork.
Franschhoek is a region of the Western Cape that lives and breathes luxury hospitality, fine food, and even finer wine. On arrival, you’ll be swiftly invited into the restaurant’s minimalist lounge for a presentation of appetisers which play the preview of what is to come. Once seated at your table, there is a choice of menus and wine pairings. The Chef’s Experience menu paired with fine wines is always a good choice. This ten-course tasting menu dances between many ingredients, flavour combinations and ingenious presentation styles, all consumed using curiously beautiful knives, forks and spoons. Highlights include a duck liver dish with quince and chestnut and a perfect ‘karoo lamb’ with celeriac and kapokbos (an aromatic herb).
More than three centuries old and located within ancient oak trees, this historic wine farm takes you back to where South Africa’s wine legacy began: the love of wine-crafting held by one man in 1685. Groot Constantia is situated in the smartest suburb of Cape Town: visit its on-site restaurant for brunches under parasols and lunch besides the classic, grand white Dutch buildings.
Producing wines that were a favourite of Napoleon’s, wine tastings are on the agenda daily at Groot Constantia, with optional chocolate pairings too. Before or after a few glasses, explore the original Cape Dutch Manor House or visit the famed Cloete Cellar, wine museum and cultural history museum.
The Franschhoek Tram weaves across the famous wine producing region, allowing passengers to hop on and off to experience the variety of wine related activities on offer – from tastings to cellar tours and vineyard lunches. With a choice of ten different tram lines, each passing through a collection of estates across the vineyard valleys, the tram allows easy access to the region’s best farms and producers.
Considered the cultural centre point of South Africa’s Dutch heritage, the Franschhoek Tram is the perfect way to learn about the Huguenots who made the valley home over 300 years ago, bringing their passion and knowledge for winemaking and transforming Franschhoek into the place it is today.
Beneath The Silo hotel, The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) hosts tours of its striking and thought-provoking 21st-century pieces, from Africa and further afield, across an extensive permanent collection and rotating temporary exhibits.
Or, for a local taste of creative street culture visit Woodstock – one of Cape Town’s oldest suburbs, today considered one of its trendiest. An urban gallery of vibrant street art, join daily walking tours, and visit the contemporary art galleries. A hub for the city’s young creatives, in recent years Woodstock has welcomed many independent shops, cafés and restaurants as well as a string of local breweries.
The V&A Waterfront is a magnet of hospitality, lined with beautiful brunch spots, restaurants and buzzy bars that light up the harbour by night. Otherwise known as the ‘Victoria & Alfred Waterfront’ – in honour of Queen Victoria’s second son who was the first member of the royal family to visit South Africa in 1860 – here, South Africa’s historic past meets with its cosmopolitan present day. As well as for dinner, visit for retail therapy and to browse international outlets, local stores and weekly farmers markets that draw in thousands of visitors and locals each day.