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Cape Town’s Bars and Clubs: The Best 11 to Experience the Capetonian Lifestyle

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3 weeks ago

The Cape Town lifestyle is more than just amazing beaches and the Cape of Good Hope. In fact, one of the best ways to experience the Capetonian lifestyle is to get yourself to Cape Town’s bars and clubs. There’s a place for everybody in Cape Town, but irrespective of where you go, every venue will have that charm and laid-back attitude that is characteristic of Cape Town.

We’ll take you through the best of Cape Town’s bars and clubs as curated by locals and frequent visitors alike. And we’ll give you the essential tips you need to make sure you’re at the right place at the right time.

Going to bars and clubs in Cape Town

There are great bars and clubs scattered throughout Cape Town’s seafront suburbs like Sea Point and Camps Bay, the City Centre, the V&A Waterfront and Woodstock. In general, though, Bree Street and Kloof Street in Cape Town’s City Centre have the highest concentration of bars. The typical night out for Capetonians is to hop between bars on those streets.

Local tip: Avoid the bars on Long Street. This is historically rowdy and can get quite dodgy at night which means a much higher chance for pickpocketing.

It’s no secret that Cape Town can be quite unsafe. Bars and clubs usually mean drinking alcohol, so it’s even more important that you stay vigilant. You’re unlikely to face physically violent crime while in a venue, but there are always pickpockters which prey on intoxicated patrons in any bar and club, so keep an eye on your personal belongings.

Cape Town’s Best Bars and Clubs

The Athletic Club & Social

The Athletic Club & Social consistently delivers the quintessential Cape Town night out that you will come to know and love. This is the place where the trendy crowd like to spend their evenings, and yet somehow there is no feel of pretentiousness and everyone is out and excited to dance and chat to new people.

The walls are covered in old sports team photos, most of which the owner found in a basement. The atmosphere is super fun, and the balcony is a great place to chill out in between dancing sessions and meet locals and foreigners alike. As far as Cape Town bars go, this is one of the best in the city.

Best for

The Athletic Club & Social is one of the few places where you can get a great meal and then an amazing night out with great music and a lively atmosphere all under one roof. Go for dinner and stay for the party – but if you’re just going for the party, make sure you get there earlier; otherwise, you might be stuck in the queue outside.

Café Caprice

The Cape Town institution, Café Caprice has been a stalwart of the Cape Town bars and clubs scene for years. This is where the young and cool go to see and be seen, and if you want to be a part of it then it is essential that you go much earlier in the day and don’t leave; otherwise, you could be queuing for hours for just the chance to get in.

The thing with Café Caprice is that it manages to be all things to all men: it’s amazing for breakfast, great for lunch, perfect for sundowners, and the best for a night out. Depending on the season, you might be lucky enough to reserve a table for sunset, but Café Caprice knows it’s popular so it’s not unheard of for them to charge steep prices for a table.

Best for

Café Caprice is good for everything, but the best time to go is for sundowners at sunset and then stay into the evening for a great night. The atmosphere makes you want to speak to the people around you and dance into the night.

The Lawns at the Roundhouse

Located at the foot of Table Mountain, The Lawns is a stunningly green location that is great in both summer in winter. If you go to The Lawns around sunset, expect a vibey atmosphere with all of the tables full of people eating and drinking.

And if the night happens to turn cold or windy, don’t fret because The Lawns has got you covered (no pun intended) with blankets. The views over the mountains and Camps Bay are absolutely stunning, and there is a real calmness in the atmosphere. Make sure you ring to reserve and ask for a table with a view (not all the tables have a great view).

Best for

That is perfect for sunset drinks (or sundowners, as locals call it). Your best plan is to stick to The Lawn for sundowners and go elsewhere for dinner afterward.

The Gin Bar

The phrase ‘hidden gem’ is thrown around quite loosely, but The Gin Bar one is quite literally a hidden gem (in the figurative sense). The Gin Bar is entered through Honest Chocolate Cafe which means you have to be looking for it to find it.

The Gin Bar prides itself on producing carefully crafted cocktails that are, in their words, designed ‘to cure all manner of ills’. You can get one of their drinks, or you can mix and match. The atmosphere is unpretentious, and the focus is very much on the skills of the amazing bartending team who know exactly how to whip up an amazing cocktail.

And if you want to try some of the handmade chocolate downstairs, you’ll need to go for earlier drinks because the chocolate shop closes a lot earlier than the bar. Cape Town bars are even more than drinks!

Best for

The Gin Bar is more of a bar in the traditional sense, so don’t expect loud music or dancing. This is the place to go if you want an amazing (gin-based) drink in an intimate environment where you can hear your friends and carry on conversation.

The Dark Horse

The Dark Horse consistently ranks among locals as one of the best (if not, the best) rooftop bars in Cape Town. The bar team consistently delivers some of the best cocktails you can get in Cape Town. If nothing else, the drinks here are consistent and tasty, but there is also an awesome vibe.

Make sure to sit up upstairs on the rooftop if the weather is good. The views of the mountains are so lovely, and it just generally feels pretty cool to be dancing to great music with the mountains so close.

Best for

The Dark Horse is great for a night out with friends when you want to sit rather than dance.

The Grand Africa Café & Beach

The Grand Africa Café is a vibey beach bar near the V&A Waterfront that doubles as a restaurant. The team here has clearly put in effort into creating an elegant space that takes full advantage of the stunning harbor views and Table Mountain backdrop. And once the DJ gets going, you’ll want to stick your feet into the sand and get into the atmosphere.

The Grand Africa Café is a great place to spend a lazy afternoon and is especially good if you’re looking for a place that will start off chilled and relaxed and then turn into a party. It’s probably the quintessential place to experience the best of Cape Town’s lifestyle in one place.

Best for

Locals know that the service is notoriously subpar, and the food is average at best – but the vibes are incredible, so it’s a great choice for a night out (but choose somewhere else for dinner beforehand!)

The House of Machines

There is something that feels incredibly real and authentic about the motorcycle-themed The House of Machines. Some describe The House of Machines as a dive bar, and certainly the aesthetic gives that flavor, but the team delivers on its promise to craft tasty and thoughtful cocktails every single time.

When you’re at The House of Machines, it feels like you’ve stepped into a subsection of the local Cape town community, and the bartenders will treat you like a local – that is to say, you’ll get amazing service because this is a bar that wants you to keep coming back.

Best for

If you’re the type that likes live music, The House of Machines is known for live music performances virtually every night of the week.

The Willaston Bar

Located in the Silo Hotel at the V&A Waterfront, The Willaston Bar is a gorgeous bar high in the sky. One of the reasons that The Willaston Bar is one of the best bars in Cape Town is that they showcase African art throughout the venue. The bar is part of the same group that has created one of South Africa’s best safari experiences, and as it turns out, they do everything well.

There is something special about sipping cocktails while appreciating local art, whether it be paintings on the wall that tell a story or stunning masks on stands.

Best for

The Willaston Bar isn’t quite the place for evening vibes, but it is the perfect place for a drink after a tour of the Zeitz MOCAA (which happens to be in the same building). It’s one of the few places in Cape Town where you can get a sunset view of the harbor, mountains and city – and it’s indoor, so it’s great for colder nights.

Tjing Tjing House

Tjing Tjing is a rooftop bar with an East Asian flair to it (think deep reds and Chinese lanterns). The bar can get busy very quickly but you can usually find at least space to stand even though it’s quite small. The décor is absolutely stunning, and the vibe is very cool.

Best for

Tjing Tjing House is best for louder music but less of a party. It’s only open on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, so make sure you factor it into your itinerary for Cape Town.

Asoka

Asoka is one of the few bars that also serves good food, and it also delivers with a stunning open-air courtyard. The vibe is exciting and yet it feels cozy and cool with candles and incense. If you want a romantic evening, email the team and ask for table 20 (next to the olive tree which is as old as the building) for something just that bit more special.

If you decide to dine at Asoka, make sure to get their malva pudding for a true South African experience – it’s also one of the best we’ve found in Cape Town.

Best for

This is a great place for dinner that turns into drinks and then turns into a party. If you plan on going just for drinks, expect to queue for a while because Asoka gets full very quickly.

The Moveable Feast

The Moveable Feast attracts the young and hip crowd who are mainly there to dance and party. The atmosphere is great and there is always awesome music playing. Capetonians will usually get to The Moveable Feast for dinner and then head to the bar area for the DJ and to dance late into the night.

Best for

The Moveable Feast is a great night out. Expect to be on your feet dancing and chatting to new people on the balcony. Having said that, there’s quite a few bars so there are quieter corners if you’re looking to observe more than participate.


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