Home to two of the country's top contemporary art museums and a host of galleries and studios, Cape Town also has a proud history of making, with many boutique brands for clothing, homeware and accessories proudly designed and made here.
Cape Town, on the shore of Table Bay, is South Africa's oldest urban area, having been settled by Dutch colonists from 1652. It was the largest city in South Africa until the Gold Rush that created the development of Johannesburg. The Dutch settlement quickly found itself in need of cheap labour and set about importing slaves from Indonesia and Madagascar, today represented by Cape Town's Malay communities.
Located at the same latitude as Buenos Aires and Sydney, Cape Town's geography is highly distinctive with Table Mountain it's most recognisable landmark. Boasting a flat-topped summit more than 1000m high and flanked by Devil's Peak and Lion's Head, Table Mountain has been proclaimed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, along with the magnificent Kirstenbosch Gardens and Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned). The peaks enclose an area referred to as The City Bowl. Jutting around 40km southwards into the dramatic Atlantic Ocean and ending at Cape Point is the Cape Peninsula's mountainous spine.
Dubbed Cape Town's Riviera, the Atlantic Seaboard unfurls from the V&A Waterfront, a major shopping and entertainment destination on the north shore of Table Mountain making its way to Hout Bay. The suburbs along this strip each have a distinct atmosphere, cafe culture and promenade life starting from Green Point and Mouille Point to the Sea Point Promenade (popular with walkers, runners and cyclists) and on to the upmarket residential enclaves of Bantry Bay, Clifton and Camps Bay.
While Bantry Bay and Clifton are mostly residential with little in the way of commercial businesses, Camps Bay is a busy hive of activity with plenty of restaurants and shops all looking onto the breakfront. It's also the one beach along the strip that is easily accessible from the main road.
Clifton's magnificent four protected beaches are accessed by vertiginous steps. The road from Camps Bay to the harbour village of Hout Bay (more a town but still retaining a village feel) is a treat to drive offering jaw-dropping views of mountain and ocean.
The beautiful beaches of Clifton, Camps Bay and Hout Bay are popular for swimming but be warned the water is Atlantic Ocean cold and not for the faint of heart. For those in need of warmer water, a 45-minute drive in an easterly direction takes you to the False Bay and the Indian Ocean beaches of Muizenberg and Boulders (famous for its penguin colony).