Being from Cape Town we like to think that we live in the land of eternal sunshine – most Capetonians do. This isn’t too far from the truth as Cape Town’s winters are peppered with occasional moments of glorious sunshine. And we’re not talking about a feeble, washed-out winter sun but rich, golden days with warm colours, pleasant temperatures and no wind that makes for perfect hiking weather!
But sometimes it does rain, and when it does it tends to come down in buckets, forcing people to stay indoors. So what do you do on rainy days in Cape Town? Here are a few suggestions guaranteed to add a silver lining to even the greyest of days.
Head to the V&A Waterfront
One of the great advantages of the V&A is that is ringed by outstanding accommodation like One&Only Cape Town, the Cape Grace, the Table Bay Hotel, and the Victoria and Alfred Hotel. Of course, if you’re staying at one of these, the Waterfront’s many entertainment options are right on your doorstep.
Even if you’re not staying here, it’s worth the trip on a rainy day, especially if you have children. At the Two Oceans Aquarium, they will love the touch pools, cute African penguins, mesmerising kelp forest and predator tank of sharks that will help them understand life in Cape Town’s chilly Atlantic Ocean. For lunch, grab a bite at the aquarium’s child-friendly Shoreline Cafe or head across the square to the Market on the Wharf, an indoor collection of organic and artisanal fresh food stalls.
The Waterfront also has a multiplex showing the latest releases and a smaller art-house cinema if you’re in the mood for a movie. There is plenty of shopping to be done – especially for upscale African mementos – and adults interested in sport will enjoy learning more about rugby at the Springbok Museum Experience, which details the history of South Africa’s national rugby champions.
The Waterfront also regularly hosts international travelling exhibitions (recent ones include Lego art, the works of Leonardo da Vinci and Bodies) so ask the information desk staff for details.
Indoor market eats & treats
Cape Town loves its markets, especially the Bay Harbour Market, which is housed in an old warehouse in Hout Bay. Open from Friday evenings to Sundays afternoons, this weekend market sells beautifully made clothes and crafts, along with a fantastic selection of food – think oysters and champagne, juicy steak rolls, French crepes and German wurst. And while lunch time can get crowded, even when it’s busy this indoor market manages to maintain its laid-back Cape Town atmosphere.
Our advice: grab a craft beer, sample some nibbles, and surround yourself with the sights, live music and delicious smells of ‘Cape Town’s cosiest winter market’.
Ward off the winter chill in the Winelands
There are few better ways to while away a rainy afternoon than savouring great food and wine with your family. For a touch of tradition go wine tasting on South Africa’s oldest wine farm – Groot Constantia – followed by a meal at one of the estate restaurants: opt for French-inspired classics and Cajun spices at Simon’s or Cape Malay curries and traditional bobotie at Jonkershuis. Both restaurants have roaring fireplaces to keep you warm and toasty.
For more in-depth advice on how to tackle the Constantia Winelands, read our expert blog.
Well worth visiting in any weather, the Cape Winelands town of Franschhoek is liberally seasoned with fine restaurants and grand old estates. Here, a top rainy day pick is Grande Provence Heritage Estate where you can sip and swirl award-winning wines, treat yourself to a gourmet 3-course lunch (think French cuisine with an Asian twist) and wander around a gallery showcasing a wonderful collection of contemporary South African art – all without leaving the estate.
Cape Town’s stories
Most of Cape Town’s museums lie within the city centre, so if you’re prepared to brave the weather you can walk between them. As someone who is interested in personal histories, my must-visit recommendation is the District Six Museum. Housed in the old Methodist Mission Church, the museum’s moving displays of letters, photos and personal memorabilia really drive home the impact that apartheid had on families, friends and the once-vibrant community of District Six. Around the corner is the acclaimed Fugard Theatre, named after Athol Fugard, a Tony award-winning playwright who penned Tsotsi. Pop into the box office and see what’s playing!
If you enjoy history, you may also find it fun to check out a few of the places associated with Nelson Mandela – here is our list of recommendations although we’d suggest taking the ferry to Robben Island on a sunny, calm day.
And although a walk through the Company’s Gardens is also best saved for a sunny day, there are plenty of indoor attractions – including the National Gallery – around this green lung in the city centre. Check out a list of seven of our favourites here.
Kids will love stargazing at the Planetarium. The ultimate in armchair travel, at the Planetarium you simply sit back and stare up at a pitch black dome where they magically recreate the night sky in a scattering of constellations and planets. Whatever the weather outside, the Planetarium’s sky is always clear and when the cosmic show is over you can wander through the neighbouring South African Natural History Museum – the African dinosaur exhibit and Whale Well are always a hit with children!
The diverse city centre is also to great coffee shops like Haas, the House of Machines, Truth Coffee Roasting, Bean There and Elixir (watch our video chat with the head barista of Bean There). Haas has been punted in Wallpaper magazine as one of the Top 20 reasons to be in South Africa. Choose from single-origin beans and exotic blends from around the world; then take a seat among the cushions, ceramics, collectables and curiosities. All the artwork at Haas is for sale, so after your coffee pick out a quirky reminder of your stay in Cape Town.
The House of Machines and Truth attract an edgy, younger crowd while Bean There and Elixir pride themselves on Fair Trade, organic and healthy options (try Elixir’s delicious candy made of chick peas, as garbanzo beans are known in South Africa!)
Make your own adventure
These are just a few of our indoor favourites but if you take a drive along the Peninsula or into the Winelands you’re sure to find your own cosy lunch spot or a lovely little gallery. And if you already know of that perfect rainy-day place then please do share it in the comments below.