Below are some of our favourite bars to head to for an evening of fun in Cape Town. Scroll down to find some of Cape Town’s best bars and lounges. I have included some special & unique bars, some old favourites, as well as some of the hippest and hottest bars in Cape Town. I hope the list inspires you to try a few new places to experience a taste of Cape Town’s nightlife!
Pam’s Favourite Cape Town Bars:
The Athletic Club & Social –NEW – is my new favourite spot for a fun evening with friends! We needed the equivalent of a comfortable gentleman’s club for Cape Town! Picture wonderfully comfortable couches and arm chairs – sport pics on the wall – marvellous decor where you feel like you have stepped back in time……..squash racquets on the wall – yes – it sounds odd – but it is indeed marvellous! This spot seamlessly combines:
- comfort, great service, good food, great decor
- an outside terrace, an eatery, a whiskey bar and a downstairs club.
Note that the upstairs is supposed to be for drinks only – the ground floor level is for eating. Closed on a Sunday – otherwise open from about 11am for drinks, lunch & dinner. 35 Buitengracht Street.
So Cal – secret speakeasy bar – quirkily only open on a Friday and Saturday night from 7pm (and for First Thursdays). To find them you have to find Jarryd’s in Church Street (just off Bree Street), you then enter through Jarryd’s through a passageway that takes you to a fab bar and terrace that overlooks Bree Street. It feels like a California/Miami beach bar and the bar dishes are Californian/Mexican inspired. The food was fun, had great flavours and really well priced. I loved our visit – wonderful friendly staff -I loved sitting outside on the terrace on a hot summers night!
Cause Effect – is a great great cocktail bar and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Make sure you sit at the bar counter!I have never come across people who are so passionate about making cocktails. It is a serious business and watching these alchemists at work is fascinating. If it is your first visit – sit at the bar and chat to the “drinks alchemists” – they will take you through a journey and match what you enjoy to their cocktails. The guys are foraging for local plants to add to the drinks, searching for unique flavours and small producers. Make sure you start with a Caperitif made by Adi Badenhorst – it is an excellent light start to enjoy while you are negotiating the rest of the choices. They serve light eats to go with the drinks and it is possible to book a table. If possible try and go on a week night as it is magical to be able to chat to the team when it is quieter. I am in love with Cause Effect. Location just off Kloof Street above the city.
The Art of Duplicity – Shhhhhhhhhhhhh – There is a new secret speakeasy in Cape Town’s emerging Eastside District (ie on Buitenkant Street!) This is fun! You have to book online to come for a drink – they are open from 6pm till late.
They have a wonderful assortment of cocktails and that many of them arrive wrapped in newspaper! I loved the feeling of subterfuge – announcing ones arrival at the front – heading down coffee alley – sneaking in the back door through the loo and then the secret knock to get in. I would recommend booking to sit in the lounge as the chairs were really comfortable and we got to sit right next to the jazz singer. I loved her performance. Note that they have kept it simple – drinks, nuts and a charcuterie platter – this is not a dinner spot – plan it before or after dinner. It would work well with a dinner at Belly of the Beast or Downtown Ramen one street down. Note that the cocktails are pricey – but worth it! Click here to book. And please – do not tell others about it! It is our secret!
House of Machines – an absolute favourite for cocktails. They specialize in Old Fashioned Cocktails – that have been matured for 4 to 6 weeks in barrels and live music. It is really important to try one of their old fashioned cocktails – make sure you sit at the bar and watch – as it is an entire show to create one! This spot has live bands on from Wednesday to Saturday nights – they are closed on a Monday and Tuesday is open mike night. So if you enjoy local music – track this spot down! During the day it operates as a coffee shop with light eats. Note this is on the same block at the Commissary – so combine the two! ….and to then head to the House of H for a steak or burger!
The Commissary – This is defined under their “about us” on their facebook as –
- Commissary – kɒmɪs(ə)ri/ noun – a restaurant or food store in a military base, prison, or other institution.
- What is it? It is a little bit of a secret bar – perhaps sort of a speakeasy (but not a late night one) – it is for drinks and small dishes prepared and created by the top chef team that work and own the Shortmarket Club Next door.
They do not take bookings and are open in the evenings until about 22h30. They are a night venue. Find the secret door and light at 88 Shortmarket Street. Here is a picture of the entrance for you to find it more easily – good luck! They serve some fun dishes for sharing over drinks.
The Drinkery – this is a wonderfully intimate hidden little art gallery that has turned into an art gallery and bar. It is quirky & comfortable with a wonderful terrace with big couches. Your hostess on most nights is the owner – Shay – a South African of French decent who lived in Costa Rica and loves to travel. Her dog Mia goes everywhere with her and being a Costa Rican doggie – he only speaks Spanish.
This is a fun spot to either catch up with a friend or to chat to Shay for some local insights – or to buy art after a cocktail or two! She has a fun range of interesting local wines & spirits. To find them head to Heritage Square in central Cape Town. Find the entrance in Shortmarket Street – enter – you then see a staircase on the right as you come in – go up the stairs – veer to the right and you have found it! Happy hunting!!
Publik – The guys from Publik go searching for their favourite wines and then bring them back to offer to you! As such you can have a wonderful experience tasting lesser known wines with them. They are a specialist wine bar.
They support the smaller producers – most of which do not have a tasting room. They are also huge fans of the Swartland Wines – so if you are a wine lover – this is a great little bar to head to to find some interesting local South African wine gems. They have a small food offering – mostly some bar nibbles and charcuterie and cheese platters. Note that there are lots of fun spots for eating across the road – so head there for wine & snacks! 11D Kloof Nek Rd
Ps tip – do not miss out on having a taco across the road at the El Buro Taqueria – delicious taco’s and great vibe! Ps 2 – then head for a drink to the Power & The Glory (next door to Publik) – it is a quirky and fun bar. Ps 3 – if you head upstairs to The Moveable Feast – there is a hidden bar next to the restaurant upstairs. This is a great hood for drinks and dinner. Note that if you enjoy Japanese – Kyoto Sushi is wonderful and is highly recommended…….and is pretty much next door!
Frogitt & Vonkel Wine Bar– NEW – are a great new addition to the city as they are a specialist wine bar that launched in January this year on Bree Street. John – the owner – has had a wine marketing and distribution business called Frogitt & Vonkel for many years. He specializes in representing smaller wine estates and selling smaller stellar batches under his own label. This spot is a real treat for wine enthusiasts as even if you are a local wine enthusiast, you will find wines that you have not tried before! All the wines are available by the glass as they have the nitrogen system to preserve the wines.
If you are hungry you can also order a mixed cheese and charcuterie platter – or pop next door to Matt Manning’s fabulous new bistro called Grub & Vine. Note finding Frogitt & Vonkel Wine Bar is tricky – it is up the stairs, which are located to the left of Burger & Lobster.
House of H bar – do not get worried when you click on this link and it takes you to a steakhouse. H and his wife Poppie created their fabulous restaurant on the sniff of an oil rag. It was once a car park. They then set their eyes to the roof of the building where they were operating from to create a bar. Who knew it would cost them a fortune just to get the water and power up there! So that left them with a shoe string budget for the bar. It may be a little rough on the edges – but it is fun with a great view and with staff that have a definite pulse! Make sure you do dinner downstairs – some of Cape Town’s best burgers/steaks and chips. Then head up to the bar. Location Loop Street – city bowl. Ps House of H is very popular over the weekends it is best to book for dinner. Note the bar upstairs operates from Thursday to Saturday.
SeaBreeze Fish & Shell – technically this is a fabulous seafood bistro – not a bar……………however there are two sides to it that work for enjoying drinks with friends! In the early evening one meets at their fabulous outside table for oyster happy hour with bubbles. Oysters are R12 a shuck at happy hour at 5pm. The outside table is my happy space in summer. It is first come first served and we have enjoyed many bottles of bubbles here over the last few years! SeaBreeze sells more oysters than any other restaurant in Cape Town – so if you are looking for the freshest oysters – head there immediately!
Note that they also specialize in Rum and have a great collection of local rums and do wonderful cocktails. They also have a bar area at the back for people to meet up for a drink in the evening……….so if you are into rum – this is worth a visit. Ps it is about two blocks from the new rum bar Rum Tum Tum – so this would be a good combo for a rum lover!
The Secret Gin Bar – this is hidden behind Honest Chocolate on Wale Street – to find it put in Honest Chocolate on google maps or for Uber! It is the courtyard behind Honest Chocolate. Note there is no sign that says “GIN BAR”. This courtyard is magical – it feels like you are in a hidden European courtyard in Italy. The little bar is a treat as they have a wonderful selection of local gins and some wonderful gin cocktails. Location Wale Street – just off Bree Street. Track this one down – I love this little intimate courtyard on a beautiful night in summer. Note this is outdoors – so not perfect for a cold night!
The Botanical Bar (just off Bree on Longmarket Street) – wonderful artisanal gin bar – they have a whole wall dedicated to infusions and bitters that they have made themselves! It is well worth a visit or a serious gin lover. Note that ordering a gin takes a while when you have to explain a large range of gins and mixes! So perhaps order the food before the drink! Or order a cocktail from the list while you learn about the gins! They have a great light dinner menu and also do a harvest table here at lunchtime. (Note same owners as the Secret Gin Bar)
Love thy Neighbour – pretty much our only inner city outdoor small beer garden. This is bliss in summer as all one wants to do is sit outdoors. The Chef is Greek – so this is perfect for drinks and fabulous Greek style snacks in the evening – and equally good for a casual fun dinner. This spot is an institution as it was first & Union – then it was Biergarten and now it is Love Thy Neighbour. Note that on some weekdays they are closed for a short while in the early evening as they provide dinner for homeless people prior to opening. I am going to find out what nights this happens so that I can update it here. Note you cannot book – you simply arrive! This is a great spot to come and relax and to meet locals as you end up sharing tables. Most of the seating space is outdoors. 110 Bree Street – City bowl Closed Sun & Mon.
Tjing Tjing – have a wonderful hidden semi outdoor bar on the roof of their building. They have completely re-invented themselves and gone Asian in a big way! I love Asian – so this is my idea of heaven. We popped in a few weeks ago to try out the casual Asian restaurant downstairs and to have a drink upstairs. I LOVE the quirky decor downstairs. This venue is called Tjing Tjing Torii – it is open from Tuesday to Saturday and does not take bookings. On the middle level they have launched Tjing Tjing Momiji. Everything is smarter on the middle level. Lovely decor. They are focusing Japanese tasting menus that can be paired with drinks. The third spot here is the rooftop bar – which is a great secret bar to know about in the city for summer. (Located in the city bowl). Closed Mondays
Rum Tum Tum Bar – the next big thing after gin seems to be rum! The rum revolution has started and this is Cape Town’s first dedicated rum bar to open in the city. They stock a combo of local and overseas rums. Friday nights is their Cuban Party and Ladies night with a free Salsa class at 9pm at Rum Tum Tum. 136 Bree Street.
Black Sheep & The Dark Horse – Black Sheep has become a favourite local restaurant and bar – it was pretty much Cape Town’s first gastro pub. It is always fully booked – but usually if you phone the day before you get space (book if you wish to eat!). They are so popular that they have two seatings for dinner. They have a nice small bar area – which is also really popular – which one does not need to book – and one can still eat at their bar!
Their newest venture is Dark Horse – which is across the road and upstairs. The focus of Dark Horse is to be a pub/bar – but they also serve fab casual bar food with a gourmet gastro pub twist! The dishes are well priced! Both at the top of Kloof Street – just above the city. (If you were doing a bar crawl – combine with Cause Effect, Publik & The Power and the Glory)
Yours Truly – I love this spot. It is on the outside of a backpackers on Kloof Street. It feels like you are sitting inside a little forest of green outside. Funky vibe. Free wifi. Good music. Great Coffee. Fab sandwiches during the day. At night it turns into a bar on the ground floor and also on the first floor terrace until 10pm. There is a great vibe at the first floor terrace in the early evening. This is younger – and the wine list reflects it. The only fault of the place is a seriously bad wine list of commercial wines. To me there is no excuse for a commercial wine list when we essentially are part of the Cape Winlelands region. For some time the food was slipping as well – they have however just relaunched their menu – March 2019 – and it is looking good. When they initially launched the food was inexpensive and amazing – a great great combo!
Bobo’s Brasserie– NEW – Greenpoint – this is the spot that has replaced Peppenero in Greenpoint – great decor – fab music – lovely welcoming staff – panoramic sea views – this is the perfect spot to watch the sun set in Cape Town. We loved our drinks and dinner here. It is however absolutely fine to simply take a table at the front for drinks. They also have a gorgeous bar area at the back of the restaurant – large and lush with comfortable chairs – a perfect spot to meet a group of friends after dark! Note they are part of a group of restaurants owned by the Kove Collection. The Kove own Lily’s next door – which is also a favourite spot for sundowner drinks.
The Lawns at The Round House – this is the re-invented and relaunched spot that has replaced the Round House Rumbullion Lawns. Rugby legend Ray Mordt is the new owner of the Roundhouse property. Luke Dale Roberts now runs the actual historic building as “Salsify at the Roundhouse”. Ray maintains the outdoor “Lawns” space. This is an outdoor restaurant located in a nature reserve – with sweeping views of Camps Bay and the 12 Apostles (side view of table mountain). When the weather is perfect there can be no nicer spot to sit in the world. They are open for breakfast, lunch, sundowners and for an early dinner. They have revamped the tables, put down an artificial lawn on the one level – which looks great – added cute huts to serve the drinks. We ordered pizzas – which were great. The menu has expanded and has everything from a whole chicken to snack on through to ribs! Book for sundowners to meet up with friends at 17h30 and stay to watch the sunset! Note they close at about 8pm. This is an early evening spot! Note to make a back up plan for the day as this spot is 100% outdoors – so it is weather dependent. I would highly recommend a visit – this is one of the most beautiful viewpoints in Cape Town.
The Grand on the Beach – is an absolute summer favourite for drinks, cocktails and pizza. This is a fake beach created around a shack of a lobster factory – right next door to the V&A Waterfront. This spot makes you feel like you are starting the summer party. No bookings required for the drinks area of the beach – but if you want to enjoy lunch or dinner it is safest to book. If the weather is good the tables are on the sea sand. This spot works for all ages – it is family friendly, as well as trendy and fun for us oldies too!
The Bungalow – is another holiday summer favourite. Outdoor bar – sea in the distance – party music – this spot if vibey and lots and lots of fun. Location – between Clifton and Camps Bay.
Anywhere on the Camps Bay Strip – with the nicest being Bilboa! We also like the festive vibe at Tigers Milk! Note that you can stop for drinks at any of the restaurants on the strip. Caprice is the only spot that stays open really late and it rocks late at night. Note if you are going to do Bilboa which is the highest spot for a drink in Camps Bay – and boasts amazing views. It is best to book or you may not get in. If you book you also get the most fabulous table with the best view. I would recommend booking for Bilboa!
CAPE TOWN WINE BARS
- Publik – Truly a little wine gem – these guys source wines from smaller less known producers and change their tasting by the glass options regularly. It is a great opportunity to try interesting wines – and one can even order the ones one likes from them! They have now moved to Kloof Nek Road and have their own premises. Fabulous – tiny hole in the wall spot!
- Open Wine – Italian owners who are passionate about South African Wine – great spot to meet up with friends to sample a glass or two of wine before dinner. Location – 72 Wale Street
- Frogitt & Vonkel Wine Bar– are a great new addition to the city as they are a specialist wine bar that launched in January this year on Bree Street. John – the owner – has had a wine marketing and distribution business called Frogitt & Vonkel for many years. He specializes in representing smaller wine estates and selling smaller stellar batches under his own label.
- Belthazar at the V&A Waterfront – ok so this is not technically a wine bar – but I know wino’s will check this section too! Belthazar is a wine & steak restaurant – they boast the largest selection of wine by the glass in the Southern hemisphere. So, out of meal times, it is worth grabbing a table and continuing your wine journey if you are in the Waterfront! Tip: Call for the sommelier – the wine list is long and daunting!
- La Boheme – this is a fabulous little bistro in Seapoint that offers seriously fun bistro style food at a great price and has a fabulously interesting wine menu that allows you to try lesser known wines. Note that this is a lovely spot for sitting outside in the summer on the pavement. It has a lovely vibe and is always busy as the food is well priced and really delicious!
CRAFT BEER SPOTS IN WOODSTOCK
- The Local Grill and The Woodstock Brewery – This is a great combo of a craft brewery and a great steak house in a fabulously renovated building in Woodstock (fringe area near the city). Tip: you can pre-book for a brewery tour and a kitchen tour to see where the meat comes from and hear about how they age the meat. Contact Andre who owns the Brewery and has a share in the Local Grill to organize your tours! 252 Albert Rd, Woodstock. Tel no 021-447 0934
- The Taproom at Devils Peak Brewery – is there “in brewery” restaurant. I loved our visit. This is a chilled out pub atmosphere. Some of the dishes on offer are chef David Walker’s unique bite-sized Cheese Burger, his legendary Pulled Pork Sandwich, Prawn Pasta, Reubens Sandwich, Vegetarian Pizza and Beer-battered Fish and Chips. They are also doing a 5 beer food pairing for a R100 that looks like great fun plus a beer tasting line up where you can taste small amounts of all of the beers. My feeling is that the food is more suited to a lunch then to a dinner. The Tap Room restaurant is inside the working brewery. When you book for a meal, you can also book for a tour of the brewery. Hours: Tue-Sat, 12 til 10 (kitchen), Sat 11-6 Address: 95 Durham Ave, Salt River Phone:+27 21 200 5818