I’d never been terribly excited to visit South Africa, though many friends had raved about the country as a travel destination. Sure, it was on my list—as is everywhere—but it fell beneath repeat trips to Barcelona and Paris, the South of France, and Russia.
However, when a dear friend invited us to her wedding in Boschendal, on a pristine vineyard outside Cape Town, we made the trip—and it was the trip of a lifetime. We worked with our friends at Safari Architects to plan a gorgeous five-day safari in Kruger National Park at Lion Sands Reserve. I could not recommend safari more—it was the perfect combination of luxury and adventure. The safari lodge was luxurious: we took outdoor showers near monkeys, got outdoor massages with more monkeys, and laid by the infinity pool with elephants bathing in the river nearby. (One negative experience with wildlife: there was a giant snake living under our hut. It nearly ate me.)
After five days on safari, we spent a few days in Boschendal and Franschoek, staying in beautiful, European-style bed and breakfasts, taking our morning breakfast outside on the terrace overlooking the vineyard. The entire experience was surreal—and we didn’t eat one meal indoors the entire 10 days. (A true treat since it was winter back home.)
Our trip culminated with a three-day weekend in Cape Town, a mecca of brunch, coffee and shopping, which happen to be my three favorite things. Read my tips below.
See the Sights
While our hotel looked out onto Table Mountain, we sadly did not make it to the top. I would highly recommend it if you can take time away from shopping and brunching (I could not). Find more information on the the website here.
Penguin Colony, Boulder’s Beach
We had an absolute ball socializing with the brazen, stinky jackass penguins on Boulder’s Beach. While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend swimming at the beach, which is crowded with tourists and penguins, it’s fun to go say hello to the quirky little penguins. Find more info here.
After you’ve made your way down to Simon’s Town to see the penguins, keep driving down to Cape Point, the Southernmost tip of Africa, which is about another 30 minutes. The cliffside drive boasted some of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever seen—and I’ll remember them vividly all my life.
Drink the Wine – Franschhoek
Our itinerary in South Africa was absolutely perfect: one night in Johannesburg, five nights safari, three nights in wine country, and three in Cape Town. Wine country was absolutely idyllic: sophisticated vineyard bed and breakfasts and charming towns lined with boutiques and little restaurants. I highly recommend getting out of Cape Town for a few days to visit Franschhoek. Here’s where you should stay, drink, and dine.
Boschendal Winery- Our friend was married on this enormous, beautiful vineyard estate, complete with fishing, horse back riding, vineyards, cottages, and other activities. This is an enormous estate filled with everything you could ever want.
Haute Cabriere Cellar- The rehearsal dinner was held at this beautiful wine cellar on a hill overlooking the rolling hills of wine country below. The food was spectacular and it was a lovely experience dining in the wine cellars.
Grande Provence Winery– There’s hardly a place more charming than Grande Provence, a winery and well-respected restaurant in Franschhoek. We had a candlelit outdoor dinner under the stars in the tree-lined courtyard and every bite was spectacular.
Rueben’s Restaurant – Stop by this charming little restaurant for lunch to soak up all that wine.
Coffee & Brunch
Cape Town is loaded with brunch spots, many of which are only open on weekdays until 3 p.m. and also local coffee roasters, many of which also serve a great brunch. We had an absolute heyday, beginning every day with brunch, followed by visits to multiple coffee shops and boutiques.
This charming little cafe was a workspace, boutique, and coffee and pastry shop all in one. Cape Town loves its multi-purpose pop ups. Head there for a coffee and to socialize with the local 20-somethings who hang out in coffee shops. 114 Church Street, Bo-Kaap, Cape Town.
Be sure to visit the Biscuit Mill to shop local wares, arts and crafts, and vintage finds in this flea market style, open air market. And, stop for coffee at local roaster Espresso Lab while you’re there! The Old Biscuit Mill, 373-375 Albert Road, Woodstock.
This Hemelhuijs is a stunning, whimsical café and breakfast spot that is glam yet chic. The restaurant—which feels like a boutique—is the brunch mecca: posh vibes, friendly, attractive service, fresh-pressed green juices, house-made pastries feels more like a boutique than anything else—and you can, in fact, purchase the stunning, simple dinnerware that decorates the walls of the café and juice bar. Read our review here. 71 Waterkant Street, Cape Town.
Truth Coffee Roasting
This popular local coffee roaster has several locations in Cape Town, as well as being served in multiple restaurants. We recommend a visit to the roastery, which is housed in an old Victorian warehouse, for breakfast to start your day. 36 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town.
The shopping in Cape Town is absolute heaven and the exchange rate in our favor. I shopped until I dropped, picking up clothing, accessories and housewares in abundance from the boutiques, vintage stores, pop-up shops from local hipsters, artists and designers.
This upscale prêt-à-porter and bridal shop is a must for anyone who loves high-end fashion, to browse or buy. 43 Bree Street, Cape Town.
Merchants on Long
This is by far the most pricey of the shops we visited in Cape Town, but it was worth the visit. This contemporary retail emporium is a curated selection of jewelry, accessories and ready-to-wear from Africa’s top designers. I picked up a stunning two-piece set from a local designer that is very similar to a Missoni piece. 34 Long Street.
The Loading Bay is yet another mixed-use concept: a coffeeshop and menswear boutique that also happens to serve brunch. It’s filled with high-end menswear like Acne and APC, for the sleek modern man. Head there for brunch or coffee–and pick up something great for the guys back home. 30 Hudson Street, Cape Town.
The Old Biscuit Mill
The first place you visit should be the Biscuit Mill, which is a multi-story amalgamation of boutiques, pop ups, restaurants, and coffee shops located in Woodstock. Spend a few hours picking up unique local wares, everything from African art to swim trunks to jewelry to socks. I was incredibly impressed by the local designers, creating athletic apparel, swimwear for men and women, housewares, jewelry, and more. 375 Albert Rd, Cape Town.
After that, stroll down Woodstock to check out the other local offerings. Two of my favorites in the Biscuit Mill were Kat Van Duinen, a high-end womenswear designer, and Abode, a cheeky housewares boutique.
Woodstock is an up-and-coming part of town—not unlike Brooklyn ten years ago—that’s filled with coffee shops and design pop ups. Head there on a Saturday or Sunday and spend a few hours strolling from boutique to boutique. One of my personal favorites was Threads Project, located at 349 Albert Road in Woodstock.
A posh, all-white restaurant with a focus on fresh vegetarian-friendly fare. 151 Aloof Street.
Grand Cafe & Beach
On our last night in Africa, we had a bittersweet sunset dinner on the beach at Grand Cafe & Beach, an outdoor club and restaurant with Bohemian baroque vibes. Think of it as the South African’s take on Southern French seaside. We loved every minute of the experience, from the fresh seafood to the friendly service, to sitting on posh riviera chairs with our toes in the sand. Granger Bay Road, off Beach Road, Cape Town.
The Test Kitchen
Sadly, we didn’t make it to The Test Kitchen, by far the most buzzed-about restaurant in Cape Town. But you should certainly make reservations at this 30-seat gourmet restaurant located in the Old Biscuit Mill. Shop 104A, The Old Biscuit Mill, 375 Albert Road.