THE MILLENNIAL’S GUIDE TO CAPE TOWN PART TWOJul 26 , 2021
Cape Town might not have the most prolific museums or historic sights in the world, but it is a city that boasts a peculiar mix of cultural roots and a metropolis of infinite adventures. While the previous post unveiled some of my best-loved eateries and hangouts, Part 2 of my Millennial’s Guide To Cape Town maps out some of my favourite escapades in and around our coastal capital.
It is an often touted fact that the millennial generation is obsessed with experience, choosing to spend money on meaningful life, rather than possessions (something I actually did ethnographic research on for my honours dissertation a few years ago – fun fact). Whilst status symbols for previous generations were material objects such as expensive cars, houses or watches, this is quickly changing, especially in this digital age wherein social media reigns. The new status symbol; the new showing off, is experience – particularly experiences that can be shared on Instagram, such as travelling and music festivals.
Whilst buying experiences seem more altruistic than the traditional consumer culture, it is also pretty problematic, and has to some extent produced a cookie-cutter life that we all feel we need to conform to in order to be fulfilled – this idea of “living your best life” manufactured by our well-followed, young and beautiful peers that travel the world with a seemingly unending supply of funds and stamina. This perpetuates a certain amount of that tiresome millennial envy and self-obsession, with our image becoming more dependent on those that see it, than on us that create it. Despite such depressing notions, these experiences are of course not always necessarily narcissistic, and adventures can reflect a pure and genuine desire to explore our world. At least, this is what I choose to tell myself or risk dissolving into a puddle of cynicism.
Through this lens of wanderlust, Cape Town is a city of a thousand activities; and a perennial-weekend attitude to go along with it. Whether it be running along the Seapoint promenade, hiking Table Mountain, tanning on Clifton beach, cruising along Chapman’s Peak drive, wine tasting in Constantia, penguin-watching at Boulder’s Beach or watching the sunset from Signal Hill, Capetonians always seem to be chasing adventure. I honestly can’t tell you how they get any work done. I can, however, share with you some of my own adventures documented throughout my last few months in the Mother City.
Despite the freezing temperatures of the Atlantic, Cape Town boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Camps Bay and Clifton Fourth are probably the most popular, and for good reason. They offer the classic idyllic beach image, and are veritable visions of paradise. If you travel a bit further, Llandudno is a well-known surfing spot, and so is Muizenburg, particularly for beginners. Here the iconic colourful houses also offer the tourist favourite photo-op. Further down the coast, the beautiful Cape Point sees throngs of tourists visit the most South-Western point of Africa.
Vineyards & Gardens
One of the most amazing things about adventures in Cape Town is their diversity. You could be tanning on the beach one day and sipping Chardonnay in the winelands the next. South Africa produces excellent wine and champagne, and has picturesque vineyards and gardens to taste these in. The Constantia region in the Southern Suburbs of the city has a multitude of beautiful wine estates, such as Glen Constantia, Beau Constantia and Eagle’s Nest. However, if you head North to Stellenbosch, Franchoek or Paarl, you will find a vast amount of wine and restaurant locations. Although there is a myriad of truly outstanding offerings, my personal favourites for a day-time wine-tasting mission, is Spice Route and Babylonstoorn (pictured below). Both present more activities than purely wine and are great culinary and photo opportunities. The well-maintained gardens of Bablyonstoorn are particularly photogenic, conveying a sense of the city’s Dutch heritage. Lunch in the greenhouse sees fresh produce from the farm itself and a charming atmosphere.
This Malay neighbourhood in the city centre is one of Cape Town’s most characterising areas, and is often recommended to tourists due to its photogenic rows of brightly coloured houses. Although I used to park in this area as a student (its was the only free area near my college), I sometimes prefer the architecture of the more upmarket De Waterkant area (the side of Bo-Kaap that borders Greenpoint) as a less gritty alternative with cute coffee spots and boutiques.
If you have time on a beautiful day, one of the best luxuries is lounging at the pool of one of Cape Town’s many elegant hotels, cocktail in hand. The Bay Hotel, which looks out directly on to Camps Bay beach, and the newly refurbished, tropically-themed Casa at The Ritz Hotel are my current favourites.
Capetonians are endlessly obsessed with our iconic table-shaped mountain. It’s a beautiful natural landmark that offers breathtaking views of the city and the ocean – especially during those spectacular South African sunsets. Of course, this can be enjoyed the lazy way with drinks and snacks from your car; or the freakishly active millennial way – hiking. For some reason, people in Cape Town really enjoy exercise, and Table Mountain has numerous routes for hiking, running or mountain biking. These routes vary in length and scenery, some covered by green foliage lasting for days, others heading almost completely vertically upwards in the blazing sun lasting hours. Lion’s Head is probably the most popular and picturesque hike, especially if you go via the much-photographed Wally’s Cave. The hike is not too long or challenging (although that being said, it’s not exactly a t-shirt and jeans kind of stroll either), and at the summit offers glorious 360 degree views. However, it does get very crowded on weekends and public holidays, and I have been stuck in human traffic at the climbing points.
“Bio”, “artisanal” and “locally sourced” are like magic words to our generation; and apparently supermarkets are just too mainstream. Cape Town has some lovely food, clothing and craft markets to visit on weekends, such as the weekly Oranjezicht, Hout Bay and Old Biscuit Mill markets, the permanent Mojo market in Seapoint and the sporadic Kamers/Makers that pops up at various locations across the country.
The seaside promenade that runs from Mouille Point to Bantry Bay is a national treasure. On a daily basis Capetonians use the walkway to run, rollerblade, stroll, walk their dogs or sit and watch the sunset whilst eating ice cream. There is also a public swimming pool looking out over the ocean.
Scenic drives along the shoreline of the Cape Peninsula is a favourite pass-time of many visiting or living in the Mother City. Chapman’s Peak drive in particular offers stunning coastal views – so idyllic that multiple international advertising campaigns and music videos have been shot here. Make a day out of this drive to visit Kalk Bay, Simon’s Town, Cape Point, Kommetijie and Noordhoek (where horseback riding on the beach is a popular tourist activity).
Situated in Kalk Bay (which you can visit via the scenic Chapman’s Peak drive), Boulder’s Beach is perhaps the most quintessential Cape Town experience. Although mostly visited by tourists, every local needs to this at one point in their life. This beautiful, protected beach is populated with wild penguins (although they are very used to people). As a visitor you can sunbathe and swim with the seabirds and take advantage of the adorable photo-op. Make sure to check the tide schedule, as the beach becomes very small at high tide, which can be unpleasant on crowded days.
I am surprised you can even spell “millennial” without “music festival”, because at this point the two go hand-in-hand due to the experiential and photogenic nature of festivals. The most popular festival is probably Rocking The Daisies, which takes place in October in Darling (about an hour’s drive from Cape Town) and AfrikaBurn, which takes place in April in the Karoo Desert (about four hours from Cape Town). However, there are plenty of smaller, one-day festivals that are much more accessible throughout the year, such as WeLoveSummer, Love & Light and the Kirstenbosch Summer Sunset series. The latter takes place in the beautiful Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens (which merits a visit in its own right) and is much more of a relaxed picnic and wine vibe for all ages.
That brings us to the end of this love letter to my millennial-minded city. The imageries and mythologies surrounding Cape Town truly let those that visit feel like they are living an Instagram worthy life – whether or not you choose to engage in the controversy that is social media. With its unique mix of coastlines, winelands, wildlife and trendy hang-out spots, the Mother City seems to offer the kind of good life and good vibes you only see in deep house music videos.
Words & Layout: Yolanda Senekal
Images: Yolanda Senekal, with contributions by Jade Williams, Charles Hanekom, Lana Koster & Carlien Koster