Christmas in South Africa

Not the title of a movie, but a series of tips to enjoy the magnificent Cape Town summer

The Grand Cafe and Beach in Cape Town. Until mid J

The Grand Cafe and Beach in Cape Town. Until mid January, restaurants in the capital are bubbling with activity. In full summer (photo Brett Jones)

Christmas in South Africa is like Ferragosto in Italy. From December 15th to January 15th everything stops: summer comes, tourists and South Africans scatter outdoors or arrive in crowds to Cape Town. For residents, this is the worst time of the year: traffic, too many people and lots of difficulty in finding a place in one’s favourite restaurants. In any case, a Christmas trip to Cape Town, if you plan it ahead, is really an outstanding experience, for true Epicureans.

We’ve already talked about the markets. On top of Biscuit Mill, Hout Bay market is worth a visit: all kinds of food, craft beers, cocktails and organic produce. A little more out-of-town, there’s another beautiful market, called Oude Libertas in Stellenbosch: inside an ancient Cape Dutch house, it holds a beautiful South African contemporary art gallery.

Oude Libertas Market

Oude Libertas Market

One of the loveliest summer experiences in Cape Town are lunches and aperitifs (sundowners) on the marvellous coast. The grandest one, as stated by its name, is the Grand on the Beach in Granger Bay. An ex-port-warehouse on the beach, it was transformed into a splendid tropical location, with a beach bar with sofas and armchairs right on the sand, a bar at least twenty metres long and a restaurant. At sunset, this is the perfect place to eat calamari, salads, fish and good quality meat and gourmet pizzas served on long wood cutting boards, aside from oysters and lobsters. Here, to tell the truth, food is not essential: what counts is The scene.

The best sunsets can be enjoyed on the coast from Clifton to Camps Bay (the Cape Town Promenade). Since its refurbishment, The Bungalow in Clifton has been a very fashionable bar: there are long sofas on which you can sip cocktails and champagne while enjoying spectacular sunsets, with dj sets and lots of nice people. Should you want to stay here after the sun has gone down, The Bungalow is also a restaurant with nice food.

Harbor House at Lalk Bay

Harbor House at Lalk Bay

For another couple of unbeatable sunsets, you can also count on The Bay Hotel and The Twelve Apostles Hotel in Camps Bay. The latter also has a famous restaurant, Azure, which, however, doesn’t have a good quality-price ratio. Better go for the aperitif. Sticking to the marine theme, another place worth a visit in this period is Harbour House in Kalk Bay with fresh fish, oysters and sushi in a magnificent location. And there are other bars and restaurants in the same building: Polana, a lovely tapas bar over the water, on the ground floor; Live Bait, a more informal fish restaurant, cafe Sirocco and the picturesque fish ‘n’ chips Lucky Fish. This makes for a nice trip to the seaside, during which, on top of an excellent lunch, you can shop for very fresh fish, straight from the pier, and play with seals.


Giovanna a Capo-tavola

The food world in and near Cape Town told by Giovanna Sartor