I’m sitting on a train to Cologne. As per usual the train is delayed and the reservations all messed up – only this time I don’t care a bit. As long as I get there eventually. Tomorrow my cousin from Cape Town and her kids are arriving for the weekend and I CANNOT WAIT. Feeling very much at home in multiple places also means always missing someone and so I am beyond excited to sit on the stupid train right now. But calling Cape Town my home also means that I constantly miss being warm. Honestly, Hamburg’s weather is the greatest downside of living here and I had to restrict myself to one complaint per day.
Most people can understand, but they are usually surprised that I would trade places – weather-wise at least – even now during South Africa’s winter. As summer is fully packed with Greece, Borneo and Verona trips as well as work in between I will have to make do with the weather and one quick weekend with my loved ones.
Great things to do in Cape Town in winter.
You, however, don’t have to. In fact, you shouldn’t because Cape Town winter is a well kept secret worth exploring. Here are 10 good reasons why winter is the new summer and some great things to do in Cape Town in winter.
1. Winter is relative.
I know Europeans might hate me for saying that but a lot of Cape Town winter days rival the best of British/German/Dutch summer. Sorry, but that’s a fact. While temperatures might not be suitable for endless tanning sessions, it is a great time be outside in low twenties. There is a lot less wind than in summer, which makes most activities so much more enjoyable and even if a day starts gloomy, bursts of rain are usually short lived.
From flights to tours and accommodation winter is the time to save big in South Africa. Most airlines schedule fewer flights, but with excellent conditions and most hotels will offer special winter rates. Check out my favorite guest house La Grenadine or the ultra luxe One & Only at the V&A Waterfront.
3. Space odyssey.
Capetonians are afraid of the rain. There I said it. Streets are emptier and I guess just like in any other country people tend to huddle up inside a bit more in winter. That is great news for you, dear visitors, as everything is just so much more relaxed for a lack of crowds – tourists and locals – alike. No lines to get up Table Mountain or at The Test Kitchen which is a treat in itself and fewer customers usually mean better service too!
4. No reservation.
I’d want to have my last meal in Cape Town. The food scene is incredible and you will have a hard time finding a bad meal (or wine) even for little money. The cuisine is so varied that carnivores and vegans, daring eaters and home cooks, fast food fans and gourmets will be equally spoilt for choice here. One of my favorite things to do in Cape Town in winter is to eat everything.
Winter is the perfect time to try everything because most restaurants offer incredible deals. While they are actually meant to attract locals during the slower business months, nobody will hold it against you to take advantage of them too. Not only will you eat like a queen, you will also be able to get into some usually hard to get into places. A few best-of deals and personal favorites worth standing in line for if you had to:
Sushi & Japanese – Kyoto Garden Sushi
Best tasting menu – La Mouette
Pacific fusion – Cheyne’s
Fancy tapas – The Pot Luck Club
5. Inside(r) tips.
I won’t lie to you. There will be a few days when the weather is just kak in winter. That’s why it’s called winter. And while Cape Town has the most to offer when it comes to awesome outdoor activities, it also has great options when you rather want to stay dry and inside. Get your ocean fix at the Aquarium, have a gin strawberry slushie and a classic movie at the Labia or get your art and history fix at Stevenson Gallery, the District Six Museum or the National Gallery. If you want to burn a little (or big) hole in your wallet check out one of many indoor markets like the one at the Woodstock Exchange, the Hout Bay or the Old Biscuit Mill weekend markets. And if you are a bad traveler traveling anthropologist and want to spend your day at a mall, head towards the iconic V&A Waterfront for some serious good people watching and window shopping.
6. Surf’s up.
Storms between Cape Town and the Antarctic push in the most swell between May and August which sounds a lot scarier than it is because it also makes for the best surfing and diving conditions. While I am not a surfer myself, I know that Cape Town is mecca for those who like to board up and for good reason: whether you are a newbie or a pro you will find no shortage of suitable waves here. You will still need a wetsuit for any prolonged water activities but the water is a lot warmer in winter even in the Atlantic!
7. Jaw dropping.
While this may seem an odd reason for some, for others, increased shark sightings is an excellent reason to come during the winter months. Between May and September, 60 000 Cape Fur seals come to breed and with that offer themselves up on a plate for sharks. Shark Alley, a narrow strip of water in Castle Rock Marine Protected Area, is especially popular for cow sharks and their prey and an excellent spot for free divers. I expect it may come in handy to have your breath taken away when free diving…
8. Cry whale.
If you prefer watching marine life from the sidelines head to Hermanus where whale season starts in July. While I’m now spoilt for life after almost touching a whale shark up close, one of the best things to do in Cape Town in winter is going whale spotting. Sometimes they come super close to shore or you follow the Whale Crier to find the Southern Rights. Hire a boat if you want to feel like captain Ahab and get really close and cozy.
9. Fifty Shades of Green
It’s always greener on the other side – that has never been truer than for the South African winter. Lush is the word to best describe the vegetation. Trees, bushes and grass have 50 shades of green after the summer heat is gone and the soil had some rainy days. Hiking now is at its best with no scorching sun and all that greenery to feast your eyes on. Come in late winter or early spring and you are in for a special treat: the Namaqualand flowers up the West Coast are in full, glorious bloom.
10. Veni, vidi, wine.
South Africans love their wine and they love festivals. So it comes as no surprise that there are numerous events that combine the best of these two worlds. And even when wine isn’t the main focus, there is always a stand, a bar, a crate to tide you over. And fear not – we are in the winelands – there is no bad wine, even if you are at a festival and might be stuck in muck. With these highlights you basically now have all the good reasons to
be drunk for most of July become a wine connoisseur in just a month:
Stellenbosch Wine Festival – July 1-5
The Pick ‘n Pay Knysna Oyster Festival – July 4- 13
Franschhoek Bastille Day – July 12+13
Cape Town Nu World Festival – July 18+19