From speakeasy-style dives and boisterous pubs to swanky hotel lounges and rooftop gardens, we’ve rounded up the coolest bars in and around the Mother City.
1. The Gin Bar
Tucked neatly behind Honest Chocolate Café in the CBD, this dedicated gin bar is all about quality rather than quantity. The menu comprises five cocktails (Hope, Head, Ambition, Heart, and Soul) and, of course, G&Ts for the purists – where you get to choose the tonic water of your choice (the owners believe that the accompanying tonic is just as essential to the mix as the spirit is). There’s a charming courtyard out back, and an upstairs bar that’s perfect for special occasions.
Contact 071 241 2277, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Gin Bar, 64A Wale Street, Cape Town
2. The Sorrows
Joining the ranks of Kloof Nek’s coolest watering holes, this bar-slash-restaurant plays on the notion of drowning one’s sorrows, with the vast array of “libations” on offer (the “victuals” are pretty neat, too). Exquisite furnishings (such as the intricately crafted oak-and-marble bar, navy leather benches and striking chandeliers) create an elegant atmosphere that’s offset by off-the-cuff illustrations and a group of headless Venuses. Service is on the ball and friendly.
Contact 021 422 3655, email@example.com
Location The Sorrows, 16 Kloof Nek Road, Tamboerskloof, Cape Town
3. Chinchilla Rooftop Café and Bar
This cool and contemporary rooftop bar is the hottest new addition to the Camps Bay’s strip (and comes courtesy of The Kove Collection, whose ever-expanding portfolio of restaurants and bars includes Bilboa, Lily’s, Blanko, Paranga, Dalliance and Bungalow, to name a few). With killer views of the ocean a stone’s throw away, it’s the ideal place to while away the hours sipping on gloriously refreshing cocktails and listening to the coolest beats spun by Chinchilla’s resident DJs. A menu of seaside café classics means that you can stay for a light dinner, too…
Insider tip On Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons, let DJs Tess Prins and Charles Webster take you on a musical journey, as they spin cool tunes until sunset.
Contact 021 286 5075, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Chinchilla Rooftop Café and Bar, Shop 120, Second Floor, The Promenade Building, Victoria Road, Camps Bay
4. Outrage of Modesty
Just off the tourist track, in an old frame theatre, this off-the-radar mixology bar does creative, cutting-edge cocktails in a super-cool Scandi-Jap space. You won’t find cloying cosmos or Kir Royals here; instead patrons can expect a considered menu of eight carefully curated cocktails, concocted by an international mixologist (Singapore-based Noreen Dunzo is responsible for the Spring/Summer 2017/2018 menu). The 28-seater speak-easy has a theatre-like feel, with tiered seating, providing a birds’ eye view of the bar.
The wall art is just another element of the layered sensory experience. When the bar opened two years ago, a giant mural of the Kennedys presided over the seating area (and required a double take before realising that Jackie O’s arms and JFK’s knuckles were covered in tattoos). These days, an oversized fuchsia X decks the wall.
Opening times Tuesday – Saturday, 6pm – late
Contact 021 422 2902, email@example.com
Location Outrage of Modesty, 88 Shortmarket Street, Cape Town
5. The Planet Bar at the Belmond Mount Nelson
Chic, laidback and unfailingly luxe, the Planet Bar is just as suitable for spontaneous after-work drinks with colleagues as it is for special-occasion sundowners. Sit inside in one of the plush alcoves, or head onto the terrace for a glass of pre-dinner bubbly while drinking in the majestic views of Signal Hill and the beautiful gardens. Service is always excellent and friendly.
Contact 021 483 1000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel, 76 Orange Street, Gardens, Cape Town
6. The Power and the Glory
This swaggerrific bistro on Kloofnek is where locals and cool kids gather to let off steam, down a few ales, and listen to cool tunes. The bar section, which opens at 5pm and pumps till late, is essentially a low-lit chill zone for smokers, but the vibe throughout is boisterously festive. You must try the German-style hot dogs, which go down a treat with the thirst-quenching selection of craft beers.
Insider tip: Get there early on Friday nights, when revellers spill onto the pavement with G&Ts and such.
Contact 021 422 2108, email@example.com
Location The Power & The Glory, 13 B Kloof Nek Road, Cape Town
7. La Parada Constantia Nek
The iconic century-old building at the Constantia Nek circle is home to La Parada, where lip-smacking tapas and an extensive bar menu keep guests happy from noon till late every day. Come Sundays, the spacious outside area becomes Party Central when DJ Rene spins a set of familiar upbeat tunes, accompanied by his trusty percussionists, attracting Capetonians (and foreigners) from far and wide.
Contact 021 795 0620, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location La Parada, 1 Hout Bay Road, Constantia, Cape Town
8. The Grand Africa
There’s hardly a better place on Earth to watch the sun being swallowed by the sea (delicious cocktail in hand, of course) than at The Grand, whose private beach – with stunning views of the Atlantic and Table Bay – sets it apart from other ocean-facing venues.
Inside, the vibe is a combination of old-world romanticism and laidback glamour, while outdoors you feel like you’ve stepped into Robinson Crusoe’s backyard. Palmtrees, daybeds, private bars and dedicated DJ booth set the scene, so order a glass of bubbly and a plate of oysters and forget about the world outside.
The food Remaining true to its relaxed, beach-chic feel, the Mediterranean-style menu is versatile, and includes sushi, wood-fired pizzas, steaks and seafood.
Good to know There are five bars to choose from: a Pongracz bubbly bar, an Ernest Hemingway-inspired craft beer bar, the Corona Bar, the Tanqueray Café Society Bar (for a sneaky G&T), and the Ibiza Beach Bar on the beach. So, pick your poison, and don’t waste any time queueing for something you don’t feel like drinking.
Contact 021 425 0551, email@example.com
Location The Grand Africa, Granger Bay Road, Granger Bay, Cape Town
9. Tiger’s Milk Muizenberg
Overlooking the waves on Muizenberg’s boardwalk, but sheltered from the sometimes nippy wind, you’ll find this popular hotspot that’s part of the Harbour House group of restaurants. With its distressed face-brick walls, designer-rustic tables and benches, and on-trend yellow bar stools, Tiger’s Milk has certainly put this once-sleepy surfer’s paradise on the Hipster Radar, and blasted some much needed swagger into the lowkey suburb.
The “guy grub” is designed to satisfy the post-surf appetite, and can be washed down with a pint of craft beer, a classic cocktail, or a crisp glass of chenin, while watching the surfers go by.
Contact 021 788 1860, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Tigers Milk, Corner of Beach and Sidmouth Road, Muizenberg
With its plethora of street-side cafés, bars and restaurants, Kloof Street is a favourite among locals (and tourists) for a festive vibe. One of the street’s popular haunts is Asoka, where superb cocktails, top-drawer jazz and tasty sharing plates are the order of the day. Sit at one of the tables around the fairy-lit olive tree – which is 150 years old – and soak up the delicious vibe.
Good to know Asoka hosts live jazz every Tuesday evening.
Contact 021 422 0909, email@example.com
Location Asoka Restaurant & Bar, 68 Kloof Street, Tamboerskloof
11. Veuve Clicquot Bar at The Ritz
After an extensive multi-million-rand refurbishment, this landmark hotel is re-opening 45 years after it was erected. We’re most excited about the Veuve Clicquot Bar on the pool deck at Casa Restaurant on the first floor. The banana-leaf wallpaper, white-marble table tops, gold palms and tropical outdoor cabanas create a Miami-resort vibe and, with the top-drawer bubbly available, we’ve no doubt it’s where Champagne aficionados will be gathering this summer.
Please note The Veuve Clicquot Champagne Bar opens 15 December
Good to know Feel like splurging? Head upstairs to the decadent Dom Perignon Champagne Bar at the Top of The Ritz for a glass (or bottle) of bubbly to be enjoyed with breathtaking panoramic views of the ocean and city.
Contact 021 439 6010
Location The Ritz Hotel, Corner of Main Road and Camberwell Road, Sea Point, Cape Town
12. Gin Lab at Twelve Apostles
Juniper-berry lovers in the Mother City, hear this! Our favourite seaside sanctuary has opened a Gin Lab just in time for Summer. The Gin Lab @ The Conservatory is open daily from 3pm until 9pm, offering a series of gintastic tastings and experiences, where you’ll get to sample an assortment of 12 international and 15 local gins in typical Twelve Apostles style.
Good to know Don’t fret if you’re not a fan of gin, The Twelve Apostles also offers wonderful beer and canapé tastings.
Contact 021 437 9029, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, Victoria Road, Camps Bay, Cape Town
13. Harringtons Cocktail Lounge
If JFK were to take Jackie out for pre-theatre drinks, this swanky cocktail lounge in Cape Town’s East City is surely where they’d go! Draped velvet curtains line the interior walls and velvet-covered booths, giving the venue an ornate, plush, and decidedly glam feel.
The striking L-shaped bar that wraps around half the venue, bares exposed brick behind rows of spirits. Order a cocktail (some of the city’s best), and a plate of tapas to share, then sit back and enjoy the opulent surrounds.
Good to know The venue hosts East City Jazz Sessions every Thursday, from around 8pm to 11pm.
Contact 021 461 2276, email@example.com
Location Harringtons Cocktail Lounge, 61b Harrington Street, Cape Town
14. Seta at Villa 47
Villa 47 – the three-in-one Italian Emporium housed in an iconic heritage building on Bree Street – is home to Seta, a sophisticated fusion-cocktail lounge where the Italian sensibilities of aperitivo entertaining are the order of the day. Here, patrons are encouraged to whet their appetites with (and make an occasion of) pre-dinner drinks.
While cutting-edge cocktails are the main event, at Seta you’ll also be able to enjoy a selection of exquisite small plates with your drinks. Crafted by effervescent resident chef Michelangelo D’Oria, the designed-to-share dishes blend authentic Italian flavours with a hint of the Orient. Good to know The downstairs restaurant Locando is a favourite for made-with-love Italian dishes, while Pierino Penati on the top floor, headed by a third-generation Michelin-starred chef, is a fine-dining extravaganza.
Contact 021 418 2740, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Seta, at Villa 47, 47 Bree Street, Cape Town City Centre
15. The Twankey Bar at The Taj
Hotel bars have a certain allure, especially in an esteemed hotel like Taj Cape Town. Combining elegant decor with a laidback atmosphere, The Twankey Bar – headed by award-winning mixologist AJ Snetler (also known as @the_tattooed_bartender) – is conveniently located for the innercity work crowd to wind down with a handcrafted cocktail and a range of hot and cold finger food.
Contact 021 819 2000, email@example.com
Location Taj Cape Town, Corner of Wale Street & St. Georges, Cape Town
16. The House of Machines
THoM or The House, as it’s affectionately known, is a motorbike workshop and men’s apparel shop by day (yeah, you read right) and a hipster cocktail bar by night. And, somehow, added to this eclectic mix, is a much loved café. It doesn’t get more nonconformist than a Speakeasy-themed space selling coffee, café racers, collared shirts and classic cocktails all under one dimly lit roof!
The eclectic decor – weathered wooden beams, exposed bricks and a bike theme throughout – pays homage to a bygone era while remaining decidedly contemporary. The service is lively, a little hammed up during cocktail hour yet always polished. Chill with an Old fashioned in the outside area, and soak up the scene.
Hot news As if The House of Machines wasn’t already the talk of the Cape Town, its recent opening in the States, on the streets of Los Angeles, no less, has got this homegrown favourite making some serious international waves. The kitchen is managed by Bruce Kalman, a well-known restaurateur on the Los Angeles food scene, and a current contestant on Top Chef! While the bar is headed by the legendary Amanda Colom (aka Bad Birdy), whose 142 000 Instagram followers are testament to her serious skills, down-to-earth attitude, and cool energy. The theme of the restaurant takes inspiration from the Cape Town original, a favourite for motorcycle patrons who prize cool music, savvy design, good coffee and quality tipples. Rumour has it that THoM will be opening in other cities across the globe in the next few months…
Contact 021 426 1400, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The House of Machines, 84 Shortmarket Street, CBD
17. The Willaston Bar at The Silo Hotel
Boasting one of the most spectacular views of Cape Town, The Willaston Bar on the sixth floor of The Silo Hotel is stylish and chic, and the perfect place to wind down with a digestif after a meal at The Granary Café (on the same floor).
Named after the very first ship to export grain from The Silo Building back in 1924, the bar offers a wide selection of classic cocktails, wine, gin and whiskey to be enjoyed with the stunning panoramic views out of the Thomas Heatherwick-designed, Instagram-famous geometric windows (and an assortment of delicious bar snacks, of course).
Please note no reservations are possible at The Willaston Bar, but you need to book in advance for The Granary Café and The Silo Rooftop.
Contact 021 670 0500, email@example.com
Location The Silo Hotel, Silo Square, V & A Waterfront, Cape Town
18. The Botanical Bar
The savvy people behind Honest Chocolate Café, The Gin Bar, and Marrow have done it again! They’re at the forefront of the coolest new craze to hit the Mother City: botanicals – the wonderful assortment of fresh, fragrant and foraged-for stuff that abounds in our oceans, mountains and forests.
The Mother City’s first botanical-inspired bar is, er, aptly named The Botanical Bar and, says co-owner Anthony Gird: “We have spent months experimenting with different local botanicals and making many different types of bitters using local shrubs and barks. The results are amazing. And, with so many local crafters producing quality small-batch liquor, it became obvious that we could actually open a bar that only serves locally made, small-batch alcohol.”
Sounds like a pretty fresh place to cool down this summer.
Please note The Botanical Bar opens December 2017
Contact 064 686 4164, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Botanical Bar, 160 Longmarket Street, Cape Town
19. Orphanage Cocktail Emporium
Some tall, some short, and some served in a teacup, the unique and delicious cocktails at Orphanage Cocktail Emporium are widely accepted as some of the best in town. Award-winning barmen dressed in 1920s garb are fascinating to watch as they create tasty tipples to the soundtrack of cool music. Champagne, good wine, craft ales and an assortment of spirits are also available at this vibey, low-lit joint that stays open until the wee hours.
Contact 021 424 2004, email@example.com
Location Orphanage Cocktail Emporium, 227 Bree Street, Corner of Bree and Orphan Street, Cape Town
20. The Stack
Part brasserie and bar, part private members’ club, The Stack is where you’ll find the city’s cool creatives enjoying fine food and excellent drinks in the comfort of this super-stylish, double-decker venue, housed in the historic Leinster Hall. The plush bar and deep verandah are perfect for a sunset G&T, a big night out or a chilled light bite with friends. Problem is… you may never want to leave.
Contact 021 286 0187 firstname.lastname@example.org
Location The Stack, Leinster Hall, 7 Weltevreden Street, Gardens, Cape Town
21. Yours Truly
Shrouded in greenery, Yours Truly is a chilled bar-café on the ever-buzzy Kloof Street, where you can truly feel the rhythm and energy of the Mother City. Situated next to a backpackers’ lodge, it’s a popular hangout for student travellers, the beard-and-tattoo brigade, and anyone who enjoys delicious pizzas (the Deluxe is a personal favourite), tangy sandwiches, and cold beer on tap.
As the sun starts setting and the place fills up, move on up to the Up Yours rooftop terrace, where super-cool local DJs and live acoustic sessions take things to the next level (pun intended). If you’re lucky, resident bulldog Molly, who is just the cutest, might make a guest appearance.
Insider Tip: No reservations so come early.
Contact 021 426 2587 or 081 504 0064
Location Yours Truly, 73 Kloof Street, Cape Town
This cool surfer-punk bar on Harrington Street, downstairs from Harringtons, is festive and casual, making it a popular neighbourhood watering hole where locals unwind. Inside there are private booths and a long bar area, while the outdoor courtyard is a cool reprieve from the tiny dance area, which heaves when the band starts playing (last Thursday of every month).
Contact 021 461 2276, email@example.com
Location SurfaRosa, 61a Harrington Street, Cape Town
23. Striped Horse Bar & Grill
“Gypsy-meets-pirate-shanty” is how the owner of this saloon bar describes The Striped Horse, where overstaying your welcome is not only recommended, it’s encouraged! The mixture of floral bordello couches and kitsch paraphernalia, coupled with a Haldane Martin-designed bar counter all add to the eclectic vibe.
The food Simple, hearty, delicious. Have the chicken prego roll (if you like a bite).
The booze The tequila comes all the way from Mexico, and the cold craft beer on tap is local and lekker. You must try the Striped Horse Lager, which has its own African fable attached: a wild white horse that battled a baboon for control of a fresh watering hole.
Good to know Keep an eye on their Facebook page for the latest events. Live music Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays are a must, and Vinyl Fridays and Saturdays also get pretty boisterous. Stop by on Thursdays and you can get a prego/burger and a pint of beer for just R100.
Contact 021 788 2979, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Striped Horse, 12-14 York Road, Muizenberg, Cape Town
24. Lefty’s Dive Bar
A rustic boozer with lorry loads of character, this dark and smokey dive bar might not be for everyone, but could be exactly what you’re looking for if you feel like a hole-in-the-wall vibe, off the beaten path. We love the ribs, widely known as the best in town, as well as their American-style fried chicken on waffles with syrup.
Insider tip Feel like a bowl of ramen or a bao? Walk upstairs to Downtown Ramen for some tasty Asian street food.
Contact 021 461 0407, email@example.com
Location Lefty’s, 105 Harrington Street, Cape Town
25. The Ghibli Bar and Pool Terrace
With stunning cityscapes and plush decor in an urban setting, The Ghibli Bar on top of the Radisson Blu hotel is every cocktail-lover’s dream. Inviting loungers and chaises longues surround the sparkling blue swimming pool, creating the perfect summertime invitation to arrive, recline, and sip exotic cocktails while nibbling on delicious snacks.
Good to know Every Friday during summer, the bar hosts Musgrave Gin Pink Summer Soireés from 4pm to 8pm, when a guest DJ will spin delicious beats while you soak up the scene. The R100 price tag includes a welcome drink, sun-lounger access, and free wifi. Get a ticket ahead of time on Quicket, or pay at the door. Look out for guest DJs every Friday for ambient sundowner sessions.
Location Radisson Blu Hotel, 22 Riebeek Street, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town
26. Roxy Late Night
One of Dunkley Square’s oldest and coolest haunts is the ever-popular Roxy’s. The easygoing boho café – a favourite among local artists and creatives – keeps things real with its down-to-earth vibe and friendly staff. Courtyard drinks in the early evening are always lovely, after which you might like to attempt the treacherously steep wooden staircase for a game of pool.
The fact that it’s the only place in Cape Town whose kitchen stays open until 2am makes it our go-to spot for a post-jol snack.
Contact 021 461 8507, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Roxy Late Night, 14 Wandel Street, Cape Town
27. The Station on Bree
The Station on Bree takes “themed bar” to another level. If you’ve ever had the (mis)fortune of travelling by tube, you’ll recognise the sounds of the subway that are played over speakers in the bathrooms, while worn-down “Mind the Gap” signage gives the impression that countless soles (and souls) have scuffed against the paintwork over time.
Staircases connect the various levels, each with a few cosy alcoves to hang out in, but the tree-sheltered sidewalk tables might be the most appealing when the things get heated on the dancefloor this summer.
Contact 082 423 0549, email@example.com
Location The Station on Bree, 207 Bree Street, Cape Town
28. Love Thy Neighbour
In the space previously occupied by the wildly popular &Union, this relaxed space on Bree Street has attracted its own legion of fans, who flock to the lovely courtyard, lit up by fairy lights, for delicious Mediterranean-style food, beer and live music.
Inside is less rowdy, but both are great for after-work drinks, a casual dinner, or a fun evening out.
Insider tip A shared corridor leads to Hanks Olde Irish, where Tuesday-night jazz sessions are a riot.
Contact 021 422 2770, firstname.lastname@example.org
Location Love Thy Neighbour, 110 Bree Street, Cape Town
We also rate…
- Si! Cantina Sociale
- The Martini Bar Cellars-Hohenort
- The Devil’s Peak Salt River Taproom
- The Piano Bar
- Tjing Tjing
- The Rose Bar at The Alphen Hotel
- Aces ‘n Spades
- The Foreign Exchange Bar
- The Waiting Room
- The Crypt Jazz Restaurant
- The Vic Bar
- The Craft Gin Bar at Vredenheim
- Hanks Olde Irish
- The Crazy Horse
- The Alexander Bar
- The Grand Daddy Hotel Sky Bar
- The Woodstock Lounge
- The Village Idiot
- Brewers Co-Op
- Bascule Whiskey, Wine, & Cocktail Bar
- A Touch of Madness
Research by Simone Michaelis, Alicia Chaimaillé and Matthew Flax
If cocktails are your thing, check out Our Best Sundowner Spots in Cape Town.
Love a rooftop bar? Check out Our Best Rooftop Bars in Cape Town.
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