The South African city sees its share of celebs coming through to film and play. Cape Town, South Africa, may have been in the international news most recently for its water crisis, but it's far more glamorous than those storylines. by Kathryn Romeyn
The southern city at the tip of Africa, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet, is a destination beloved by many for its incredible food scene and wine production, and outsized dose of natural beauty. South African native Charlize Theron has spent her fair share of time in the place dubbed the Mother City. (Others who've spent time include Penelope Cruz, Claire Danes, Rebel Wilson and Adrien Brody.)
Furthermore Cape Town and its surrounding expanses and waters have been used as a mini Hollywood for many productions. Michael Fassbender hung out while his now-wife Alicia Vikander filmed Tomb Raider, and last year saw shoots for Outlander, Maze Runner: The Death Cure, and Troy: Fall of a City. Anthony Mackie is expected there this year to film heist movie The Blue Mauritius.
Fortunately for all those working actors, the city is full of wonders -- and world-class hotels. One of the favorites, for decades, is the Belmond Mount Nelson, which might remind some of the iconic pink Beverly Hills Hotel for its color and gorgeous grounds. Vikander and Theron have been guests at the super private property, as well as Katie Holmes, Sean Penn and William Shatner more recently. The grand dame of five-star Cape Town is where former President Bill Clinton wanted to stay when he was coming to town, but they weren't able to comply with his secret service's request to cut down the giant palms lining its driveway. The landscaping is impeccable, as are the views of Table Mountain, which lords over the city and turns colors as the sun sets. The elegant daily high tea is a pleasure.
Mariah Carey, Clint Eastwood and Naomi Campbell have rumored to have overnighted at the sprawling One&Only Cape Town, which is notoriously tight-lipped on famous guests. It's because of that discretion and the expansive grounds--some rooms are on their own "island," along with the idyllic two-level spa -- plus the presence of Nobu and Reuben's Restaurant (by acclaimed South African celeb chef Reuben Riffel) they seem to flock. The free-form pool is also a perfect place to tuck away in a cabana for a day in the summer -- our winter.
The newest luxury watering hole in the city is The Silo, which opened on the top six floors above the also new Zeitz MOCAA museum (more than worth a couple hours), in a former grain silo. Every vivid, luxurious inch of the 28-room and -suite hotel is Instagram-worthy. Model Jourdan Dunn proved that when she posted a drool-worthy shot of herself on New Year's Day 2018 at the pool, which is probably one of the world's coolest. It's on the rooftop with epic vistas of the waterfront, Table Mountain and Lion's Head (a popular hike, especially with bubbly on full moon nights as the sun is going down). Available only to guests, the pool and an even higher rooftop perch with 360-degree views are unforgettable at sunset, when the sky changes colors in every direction. Granary Cafe, the art-stuffed hotel's main restaurant, is a hot spot in its own right.
Cape Town has rightfully become known as a foodie destination. Chef Luke Dale-Roberts -- whose collection of innovating, in-demand restaurants includes The Test Kitchen, The Pot Luck Club and The Shortmarket Club -- is one person to thank. He and Riffel seem to have invigorated many young chefs in the city to push the boundaries of food. It doesn't hurt that farmland nearly surrounds the city, and there's plenty of bounty from the sea, too. Farm to table is the natural assumed rule in Cape Town's many exciting dining destinations (many of which are found on Bree Street), not the exception. Gorgeous, colorful plating is also the norm, making some dishes almost too pretty to eat. It's even the case at popular Saturday markets Neighbourgoods Market (which also has a complementary selection of homegrown fashion and accessories brands that are too good to pass up) and Oranjezicht City Farm market in Green Point.
Along with exceptional dining experiences -- most of which require reservations ahead of time, along with in many cases a deposit -- there are beautiful places to drink. Cafe Caprice in the Malibu-esque Camps Bay suburb is legendary for sundowners, the tradition of late afternoon into early evening cocktails. Leonardo DiCaprio and Zac Efron have both been. The Rumbullion lawn is a less raucous site for bottles of rose MCC -- Methode Cap Classique is Cape Town's version of Champagne.
Post-dinner it's all about gin. The spirit has taken off in the city and surrounding areas and is being produced carefully by craft and artisanal distillers using botanicals evocative of the region. The Secret Gin Bar behind Honest Chocolate and the Botanical Bar are perfect places to experience the local iterations (One&Only's lobby bar, too, does great things with them), while Orphanage and Outrage of Modesty are the calls for truly unique creations. Teetotalers are also in luck: the city's coffee culture is off the charts good.
In the amount of time it takes to get from Beverly Hills to Hollywood during rush hour you can reach the Cape Winelands, a region that would give Napa/Sonoma a run for its money. The prix fixe Chef's Warehouse at Maison, Reuben's and Indian eatery Marigold are must-eats, while it's worth a couple nights in out-of-the-way Cape Dutch farm Babylonstoren's idyllic, airy cottages for the opportunities it would bring to eat meals at the farm-fresh Babel. Extensive gardens could keep one busy for hours, and there's plenty of wine, too.
Also incredibly private is the hyper-luxe La Residence, an intimate hotel designed with grand decor that has exotic peacocks roaming around lush gardens and a pristine pool with mountain views. Sir Elton John is a regular and even has a suite named for him. (The Silo is its sister property.) Sir Richard Branson's Mont Rochelle is tucked away, ensuring a quiet retreat, especially in the Manor House, which has two pools of its own. Next door, Leeu Estates--Le Quartier Francais and Leeu House are the buzzy in-town properties in this design-forward collection--has serene accommodations and a tasting room for the award-winning Mullineaux & Leeu Family Wines, known for Syrahs and Chenin Blancs that consistently sell out.
But Cape Town isn't only about indulgence. There's also lots to be learned. Morgan Freeman, Idris Elba and Terrence Howard have all played inspiring leader Nelson Mandela who for 27 years was a political prisoner on Robben Island off the city's coast. Half-day tours led by former prisoners -- including the picturesque boat trip back and forth from the V&A Waterfront -- are a somber but fascinating look at the experience of the former South African president and many others. Scenic drives are in no short supply -- if you can handle left-side driving -- and include the postcard-worthy Chapman's Peak. Hiking or taking the cable car up to the flat-topped Table Mountain is a must-do for any first-time visitor. Just as essential is a trip to see the true celebrities of Cape Town: the African penguins of Boulders Beach.