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Last updated : Nov 2009
 
Cape Town Nightlife
Cape Town Nightlife - TravelPuppy.com
Cape Town is a party town, especially in summer, when 10's of 1000's of tourists (local and foreign) descend upon the city. Even during winter, the action by no means stops. The city has also become an international Mecca for DJ's, running huge rave, trance and plenty of parties, often held in beautiful locations on beaches or in forests. The city is also firmly fixed on the international rock music touring circuit.

A great deal of the nightlife activity is concentrated on a handful of popular suburbs and city streets. Kloof Street and Long Street in the city centre are alive with bars, restaurants, live music clubs, coffee shops and the occasional strip club. On the outskirts of the city centre, the De Waterkant / Green Point area has a series of gay and gay friendly clubs and restaurants, while the V&A Waterfront is simply filled with nightlife hotspots popular with both tourists and locals. The Camps Bay beachfront brings LA style outfits, trendy restaurants and some spectacular sunsets to Cape Town.

Heading towards the southern suburbs, Lower Main Road in the suburb of Observatory is another gay friendly area and the territory of Cape Town’s students, offering up a more relaxed and Bohemian style of amusement. This is the place for local alternative music, slightly seedy pool halls, poetry, philosophy, stand up comedy and vegetarian food.

On the N1 highway, north of the city centre, the Century City development combines a state of the art amusement park with many sound stages, restaurants, and the Dockside multi level club and live music venue. The seaside suburbs of Fish Hoek, Kalk Bay and Simon’s Town, although traditionally family orientated and ‘dry’, are becoming gradually more trendy for nightlife beyond the city limits, although this is largely centred upon restaurants.

There are no strict licensing hours in Cape Town and several clubs stay open until the small hours and maybe to sunrise. The dress code is almost always as casual as you wish, although trainers and shorts are not excepted in some venues and a ‘no effort no entry’ rule is sometimes enforced. Admission prices to clubs and raves range from R 20 to R 200, several are free before 11.00 pm. The legal drinking age is 18 years, although some pubs demand a 21 or even 25 year age limit for entry. Alcohol is very cheap for foreigners, at approximately R 10 for a beer purchased in a bar.

The bi monthly Cape Etc and monthly SA Citylife publications are brilliant sources of information and listings for Cape Town’s nightlife. The Friday editions of The Cape Argus and the Cape Times newspapers, as well as the weekly Mail & Guardian, all have arts and entertainment segments. Information on Cape Town’s club scene is available online.

Bars

In the city centre, the Long Street Café, 259 Long Street, is 1 of the trendiest places in town, while Café Bardeli, Longkloof Studios, Kloof Street, is where Cape Town’s media and modelling community strut their stuff and sip great summer cocktails and a DJ plays on Friday nights. The equally trendy Café Camissa, 80 Kloof Street, features stand up comedy, live music and poetry readings. A great pre club treat for Captonians is a trip to Jo burg, 218 Long Street, a contemporary bar brimming with urban chic.

The V&A Waterfront has numerous bars and cafés, many with stunning sea and mountain views. Mitchell’s Scottish Ale House & Brewery, East Pier Road, is a relaxing pub serving home brewed beer and British style grub, while Paulaner Braühaus and Restaurant, Shop 18/19, Clock Tower Square, brings a staggering collection of German beers to this trendy brewery restaurant with beer garden.

Located on the water’s edge of the international yacht marina, the Bascule Whisky Bar and Wine Cellar, in the Cape Grace hotel, West Quay (overlooking the Alfred Basin), is an impressive, nautically themed hideaway, with over 400 whiskies on offer (the biggest collection south of the equator).

Lower Main Road, in the arty district of Observatory, has Rolling Stones, a relaxed but crowded pool hall with a balcony, and Obz Café, where the terminally hip serve up cocktails to stunning bohemians. Despite facing east rather than the setting sun, the informal bar at the Brass Bell, Main Road, St James, has long been a desire with tippling locals and refugees from the ‘dry’ Fish Hoek. The Kalk Bay area is exploding into nightlife and earning itself a arty and bohemian reputation with quirky venues.

1 of the best venues in which to watch the sun go down is La Med, which is at the Glen Country Club, Victoria Road in Clifton. Bikinis are voluntary. Another trendy sundowner spot preferential to those who have had a trying day sunbathing on the fabulous beach below is the Clifton Beach House, 72 The Ridge, Fourth Beach, Clifton, Baraza and Eclipse Cape Town, both situated in The Promenade, Camps Bay. Sunset Beach Bar, 41 Victoria Road, Camps Bay is also a bar to go to after the beach. However, for the best view in town, enjoy the sunset from Table Mountain Bistro.

Casinos

The best casino in the Cape is undoubtedly the GrandWest Casino & Entertainment World, 1 Vanguard Drive, Goodwood. This huge complex is a reconstruction of various historic Cape Town buildings and includes 2 hotels, an Olympic sized ice rink, many restaurants, cinema, shops, children’s entertainment and, of course, the casino itself, complete with 1,750 slot machines paying out jackpots of up to 2 million Rand, 60 gaming tables, and a salon privé, as well as lounges, bars, restaurants, a nightclub and revue bar. The gambling areas are open for those over 18 years (a passport ID is necessary), and dress is smart / casual in the gaming halls.

Clubs

There are literally 100's of clubs in Cape Town, varying from your average disco playing standard dance fare to extremely alternative clubs where bouncers assess dress, body piercings and language before determining whether or not customers make the grade. Persian plush, brilliant cocktails and the coolest clientele are all trademarks of the unique Fez, 38 Hout Street. Rythem Divine, is another club, situated at 156 Long Street, which goes crazy until the wee hours with house and garage beats.

Rhodes House, 60 Queen Victoria Street, is packed with stunning people, and The Purple Turtle, corner of Long Street and Short Market, offers a varied bag of alternative music, live music and theme nights. Additionally, 169 on Long, 169 Long Street, has smooth R&B, and the Buena Vista Social Club, 81 Main Road, Green Point, is full of funky Latino sounds, sights and tastes.

African fusion is accomplished at the trendy Dharma Club, 68 Kloof Street. The Jet Lounge, 74 Long Street, is a classic, comfy club with top DJ's and a welcoming crowd. More hardcore is The Shack, 41 De Villiers Street, District Six (Zonnebloem), with a grunge / goth atmosphere and customers. Situated in Cape Town’s ‘gay village’ of De Waterkant / Green Point, Bronx Action Bar, 35 Somerset Road, Rosies, 125a Waterkant Street, and Club 55, 22 Somerset Road, are Cape Town’s most well known gay clubs.

Purgatory, 8b Dixon Street, Green Point is a former theatre, and a new Art Deco style clubbing venue. Chilli 'n Lime, 23 Somerset Road, combines R&B, garage, drum and base, progressive house and live bands with a photographic studio and designer fashion shop. The Dockside complex, Century City Boulevard, Century City, is the largest club in the southern hemisphere and hosts frequent dance parties.

Comedy

Laughter is the best medicine and has helped South Africa over the apartheid years, both emotionally and politically. The Cape Comedy Collective Circuit supplies the laughs at a variety of venues, including the Baxter Theatre Centre, Main Road, Rondebosch, which also hosts customary shows of South Africa’s finest comic talent, such as Pieter Dirk Uys.

The ever popular Theatre sports, Cape Town’s longest running show, takes place every Tuesday and Thursday at the Artscape Theatre Centre, 1-10 DF Malan Street, tickets are available through Artscape Dial-A-Seat (telephone: (021) 421 7695). A noisy crowd and often quite silly comedy can be enjoyed at The Grouse, Main Road, Rondebosch, each Wednesday. On Broadway, 21 Somerset Road, Green Point, is a very popular dinner and cabaret venue.

Cultural Events

There are several cultural, sporting and trade events taking place throughout the city all year round. Among the scores of food and wine festivals, flower shows and dog shows, there is the yearly summer Maynardville Shakespeare Season, which takes place at the Maynardville Open Air Theatre, Maynardville Park, corner of Church and Wolfe Streets, Wynberg (telephone: (021) 410 9800), in January and February.

1 of the most popular annual cultural events of the season is Kirstenbosch Appeltiser Summer Sunset Concerts (tel: (021) 799 8783 or 8620), held at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens every Sunday from 5.30 pm to 6.30 pm, from late November to early April. Crowds of over 5,000 picnickers start gathering from early afternoon, to enjoy a diverse evening of classical, ethnic, jazz and popular music.

The March Cape Town Festival (telephone: (021) 465 9042, facsimile: (021) 465 9043, email address: info@capetownfestival.co.za) celebrates the diversity of the city’s people through dance, music, drama, film and other cultural and religious events featuring local artists and personalities. The oldest and arguably the most essential Capetonian cultural event is the Kaapse Klopse (also, somewhat controversially, known as the ‘Coon Carnival’). This carnival derived from the days of slavery in Cape Town, when the Malay slaves paraded through the streets on the Tweede Nuwe Jaar (Second New Year). The event is largely the mainstay of Cape Town’s ‘Cape coloured’ community, who dress up in highly crafted costumes and paint their faces to march in a noisy, jazzy, jubilant and colourful parade through the streets of Cape Town, past the Grand Parade to Green Point Stadium, where prizes are awarded for the best costumes. This is a particularly relevant event, seeing as it stood the test not only of time but also of apartheid oppression.

Dance

Cape Town’s premier contemporary dance company, Jazzart (telephone: (021) 410 9848 or 9828, facsimile: (021) 419 1907, email address: dance@jazzart.co.za), stages customary performances at Artscape Theatre Centre and other venues.

Visiting national and international dance and ballet troupes often appear at the Baxter and Artscape venues. The Cape Town City Ballet (telephone: (021) 650 2400 or 4672, facsimile: (021) 650 3527, email address: info@capetowncityballet.org.za) is based at the UCT School of Dance, Lovers Walk, Rosebank and performs at the Artscape Theatre Centre opera house and the delightful Maynardville Open Air Theatre, Maynardville Park, corner of Church and Wolfe Streets, Wynberg. Tickets for both venues are available through Artscape-Dial-a-Seat (telephone: (021) 421 7695).

Film

Although Cape Town has a huge television and film industry, locally made feature films primarily come out of Johannesburg. The South African film industry, although filled with new talent, is yet to receive the essential funding and attention it deserves to truly take off.

1 of Cape Town’s favourite pastimes is cinema. Every major shopping centre has a cinema complex showing mainstream movies, either run by Ster Kinekor (telephone: (082) 16789 (ticket line) or Nu-Metro (telephone: (086) 110 0200), with advance booking through Computicket (telephone: (083) 915 8000, email address: info@computicket.com).

Ster-Kinekor outlets are situated in various shopping centres, including Tokai Road, Blue Route and Cavendish Square Commercial, Cavendish Square, Dreyer Street, Claremont.

A 17-screen Nu-Metro Multiplex is situated at Canal Walk, Century City and also provides the big-screen thrills at N1 City, Louwtjie Rothman Street, Goodwood and Victoria Wharf, V&A Waterfront. Arthouse and independent films are equally well catered for, with Ster Kinekor’s Cinema Nouveau outlets situated at Cavendish Square, Cavendish Nouveau, Dreyer Street, Claremont and V&A Nouveau, Kings Warehouse, V&A Waterfront.

The Labia Theatre, 68 Orange Street (telephone: (021) 424 5927, email address: labiatheatre@labia.co.za), is Cape Town’s oldest and most Bohemian arthouse movie theatre. The movie house has recently expanded and now has a 2nd 2 screen outlet on Kloof Street. Another well liked arthouse spot is the Independent Armchair Theatre, 135 Lower Main Road, Observatory (telephone: (021) 447 1514).

Although foreign film crews flock to Cape Town, it rarely appears as a definite setting for a movie. The scenery and city are often used, although concealed as another location. For instance, those familiar with the white sand beauty of Long Beach will easily recognise the beachscape (especially the famous wreck) when watching some scenes of David Lean’s classic Ryan’s Daughter (1970), which is set in Ireland, although partly filmed in Cape Town.

Most recently, the remake of the Poseidon Adventure (1972) is presently being filmed in the city. Possibly Cape Town’s most well known and internationally famous son, the Shakespearean actor Sir Anthony Sher, was born in Sea Point. Other actors connected with the city include cult actor Richard E Grant, who also attended university in the city, and Sir Nigel Hawthorne, who was raised in Cape Town and studied at the University of Cape Town.

Literary Notes

‘Ever since Sir Francis Drake describe the Cape Peninsula as ‘the most stately thing and the fairest cape in all the whole circumference of the earth’, Cape Town has featured powerfully in international literature. Cape Town has often been used as a metaphor for the system of apartheid and as a symbol of white domination in black Africa. However, since the release of Nelson Mandela and the end of apartheid, Cape Town has become a symbol of freedom and equality, with several of the major political works on South Africa (by figures such as Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Govan Mbeki) written in the city.

The writer who has, possibly more than any other, described South African literature is J M Coetzee, twice winner of the Booker Prize for literature. His novels include Foe (1986), Disgrace (1999), The Life and Times of Michael K (1983), Waiting for the Barbarians (1980), and Dusklands (1974), go to the very heart of the country's psyche and delve deep into the political and social landscape of South Africa. Coetzee was born in Cape Town and was professor of English at the University of Cape Town, before following the white South African inclination of immigrating to Australia.

Another literary figure at the university is André P Brink, 3 time winner of South Africa’s premier literary prize, the CNA Award, twice short listed for the Booker Prize and winner of the 1980 Martin Luther King Memorial Prize. Brink’s novels include Rumours of Rain (1978), Looking on Darkness (1974), A Dry White Season (1979), An Act of Terror (1991) and Rights of Desire (2000). Jakes Mda is an internationally commended and award winning Capetonian poet, playwright and novelist, whose works include Ways of Dying (1995), Heart of Redness (2000) and She Plays With the Darkness (1995).

South Africa’s premier playwright, Athol Fugard, based his powerful 2 man play, The Island (1973), on the political imprisonments on Robben Island.

David Kramer is not internationally famous, however he is known as the unofficial king of Cape Town musicals, he penned a brilliant memoir of Cape Town’s darkest moment when he captured not only the grief, confusion and hatred of the relocations but also the spirit and wonder of this tragic area in his musical collaboration with Taliep Petersen, District Six (1987). Kramer has also accomplished acclaim for his musical Karoo Kitaar Blues (2002) and has taken his work to London stages.

Another lesser known Capetonian writer who has caught a extraordinary and perceptive glimpse of the city is Menán du Plessis, her novels, A State of Fear (1983) and Longlive! (1989) both focus on assorted lives, observations and personal struggles in a politically turbulent Cape Town during the 1980's.

On a more factual level, in A Mouthful of Glass (1998), Dutch writer Henk van Woerden documents with simplicity and outstanding sensitivity the events that took place in Cape Town, when Demitrios Tsafendas stabbed the then Prime Minister, Hendrik Verwoerd, in the chamber of the South African Parliament in 1966.

Music

The Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra (telephone: (021) 410 9809, facsimile: (021) 425 1009, email address: capephil@artscape.co.za) performs regularly at the City Hall, Grand Parade (telephone: (021) 465 2029), and the Artscape Theatre Centre, as well as several other venues, details are published in the local press.

The Artscape Theatre Centre opera house features regular opera from the groundbreaking Cape Town Opera (telephone: (021) 410 9800, facsimile: (021) 425 3623), famous for successfully ‘Africanising’ the classics. Both the Artscape and Baxter venues host classical music, popular music and jazz. Regular performances also take place at the South African College of Music, off Woolsack Drive, Rosebankl (telephone: (021) 650 2626, facsimile: (021) 650 2627 email address: hodmusic@protem.uct.ac.za).

Further afield, the Spier complex, Lynedoch Road, Stellenbosch (telephone: (021) 809 1100, email address: info@spier.co.za), 1 of the oldest wine cellars in the country, is now well established as 1 of the Cape’s major performing arts and music centres, largely thanks to the annual summer festival taking place from November to March.

Live music fans would do well to check the local press and listings magazines for details of live music events, as several take place in unknown venues and on an irregular basis. A popular spot for goth noise, hectic rock, local stars and alternative sounds is Mercury, 43 De Villiers Street, District Six (Zonnebloem).

Marco’s African Place, 15 Rose Lane, Bo-Kaap, is 1 of the 1st of a growing number of authentic urban African venues and is a well known spot for Cape Town’s rich and famous, who come to enjoy the original cuisine, stylish bar and nightly live music from the best of the local jazz bands.

Mama Afrika, 178 Long Street, also offers brilliant local food and live music in a rowdy atmosphere. The Drum Café, 32 Glynn Street, Gardens, provides African sounds with interactive Djembe drumming. Cape Town excels at jazz and for customary live performances, The Green Dolphin, Shop 2a, Alfred Mall, at the V&A Waterfront, is Cape Town’s premier jazz venue.

Other swinging venues include Dizzy Jazz Café, The Drive, Camps Bay, Hanover Street Nightclub, GrandWest Casino, Goodwood and Kennedy’s Cigar Bar, 251 Long Street. For a great live band line up and studenty atmosphere, The Independent Armchair Theatre, 135 Lower Main Road, Observatory, is another great option for live local talent.

Big name concerts featuring international artists are generally held at the Greenpoint Stadium, Fritz Sonnenberg Road, off the Western Boulevard (M6), Green Point (telephone: (021) 434 4510) or the Bellville Velodrome, Carl Cronjé Drive, Bellville (telephone: (021) 949 7450). Local stars often shine at the Baxter Theatre Centre, Main Road, Rondebosch, and Dockside complex, Century City.

Theatre

Besides the Baxter and Artscape venues, which both host regular and diverse theatrical productions and stand up comedy acts, the Theatre on the Bay, 1 Link Street, Camps Bay (telephone: (021) 438 3301, facsimile: (021) 438 1998, email address: info@theatreonthebay.co.za), is the city’s other major theatre, staging popular and contemporary theatre, as well as cabaret and music.