As the city center tries to reinvent itself as a residential entity, there are an increasing number of smart places to stay -- bear in mind, though, that bedding down here means you will inevitably forgo a full-on mountain or sea view. Also be aware that while you'll enjoy the convenience of having the city's nightlife and dining at your doorstep, you'll also have its ever more congested traffic and associated parking problems (not a problem if you like to walk). Described here are the best city-center options, but given Cape Town's geography, my money is on the options in the residential City Bowl suburbs, reviewed later.
Expensive -- If you like intimate, boutique-style accommodations, the centrally located Cape Heritage Hotel, 90 Bree St. (tel. 021/424-4646; www.capeheritage.co.za), on Heritage Square, is the top pick, but certainly not the cheapest place in town. It is a gracious heritage property (the real McCoy -- take a look at its tasteful colonial-themed interiors) that provides immediate access to one of the city's best restaurants (Savoy Cabbage) and an excellent wine bar (Caveau). Summer rates start at R2,520 for a standard double (in this category, book room no. 111), but it's worth upgrading to the more spacious (and better-dressed) luxury category (R3,120 in summer).
Note: A couple of large, posh hotels are slated to open by 2010. The biggest will be the first foray into South Africa by India's Taj Hotels group (tel. 021/426-4759; www.tajhotels.com). Expect unbridled luxury.
Moderate -- An agreeable value is the Adderley Hotel (tel. 021/469-1900; www.relais.co.za), on Adderley Street. Made up of three historical buildings, it has tidy, modern rooms and more character than the nearby Mandela Rhodes apartments. The rates (from R1,610 double; R1,920 for a good-size junior suite) include breakfast overlooking the early-morning bustle of one of Cape Town's most interesting streets, and are negotiable, so call to discuss. Walking distance from the Company Gardens is eclectically furnished Dunkley House (tel. 021/462-7650; www.dunkleyhouse.com; R850-R1,350 double, based on season), at 3B Gordon St., near Dunkley Square and not far from Parliament. The larger Bay units are modern and slick, and some of these have private patios with plunge pools and room enough to sunbathe -- naturally, these ones are a tad pricier, but worth it. There's a decent communal pool, too, as well as Wi-Fi access, a DVD library, and an honor bar.
Inexpensive -- Farther up Long Street, in the direction of the never-ending throng of watering holes and late-night establishments that make this Cape Town's headiest stretch, is one of the most photographed hotels in Africa: Daddy Long Legs, 134 Long St. (tel. 021/422-3074; www.daddylonglegs.co.za) is a conceptual boho hotel that, thanks to its 13 en-suite rooms decorated by 13 Capetonian artists, got the glossies and design annuals to sit up and take note of what imagination can do with an essentially small amount of living space. Rooms go for between R600 and R860 per night (no breakfast) and are probably priced well below what they're worth, which is why this place is always packed to capacity.
City Bowl Suburbs
For easy access to sights, top restaurants, and beaches, you can't beat the City Bowl, which here includes the residential neighborhoods that tumble down the slopes of the mountain. Most enjoy fabulous views of the city center and the best take-in vistas of the mountain -- the Mount Nelson is still the classiest large hotel option. Boutique Manolo is the top guesthouse.
More Space, More Freedom, More at Home . . . -- While there's great atmosphere in and along the cobbled streets of De Waterkant, that area can be a bit of an enclave for out-of-towners, and years of construction are transforming what is already a very-overpriced neighborhood into a dedicated shopping district. For a more keen sense of Cape Town's diverse city life, I'd recommend staying in the City Bowl suburbs. Right off bustling Kloof Street (with its plethora of restaurants) is brand-new More Quarters (tel. 021/480-8080; www.morequarters.co.za), a cluster of historic semidetached cottages that have been converted into self-catering apartments, each one individually styled, shaped, and apportioned with all the conveniences of a small but spacious modern home. There's a dedicated check-in -- one that doesn't feel like a tourist hub or travel agency (which is what's happened to Village & Life in De Waterkant) -- with an upstairs breakfast room ('cause the morning meal is included in the good-value rate; R1,810-R2,125 for a one-bedroom, R3,190 for two bedrooms in high season; low-season rates are much lower). There's also a four-bedroom house with pool that you can take over for R6,250 per night in high season. Lodged here, you'll feel like you have Cape Town at your fingertips, and obliging staff are adept at helping out with any request.
Moderate -- Cape Town has a few more guesthouses worth considering in this price category. All are in gorgeous historic homes high up on the slopes of Oranjezicht, with great views of the city and harbor lights.
One of the slickest newcomers to the ever-burgeoning luxury guesthouse scene in Oranjezicht is 2inn1 Kensington, 21 Kensington Crescent, Oranjezicht (tel. 021/423-1707 or 076/452-6028; www.2inn1.com), adjacent to the pretty wooded estate of the Western Cape Premier. The two side-by-side renovated houses have undergone a chi-chi, modern makeover, with luxurious finishes and exhaustive in-room amenities, including iPod docking stations and under-floor heating. Facilities are extensive: pool, Jacuzzi, DVD library, in-room massage, and free high-speed Internet. Rates are very fair -- luxury doubles go for R1,980 in summer, while standard units are even cheaper, and the suites (R2,500) sleep four.
Cape Riviera (tel. 021/461-8535; www.caperiviera.co.za; R900-R1,540 standard double) is also on one of Cape Town's most beautiful streets, amid grand turn-of-the-20th-century homes overlooking the Molteno reservoir. Rooms, furnished in dark wood and white, are elegantly stark (framed black-and-white photographs, pretty chandeliers, and fresh flowers add personality) and equipped with all the comforts (air-conditioning, Wi-Fi, satisfying linens). Superior rooms (R1,100-R1,800 double) have personal sitting areas. The views are best from luxury room no. 10 (R1,300-R2,270).
A wooded garden, charming home, and large pool make Rutland Lodge, 5 Montrose Ave., Oranjezicht (tel. 021/461-7062; www.rutlandlodge.com; R1,100-R1,800 double), another tidy proposition. With its modern conveniences, tasteful decor, and hands-on owners, it doesn't get better -- unless you insist on one of the three top-floor rooms, each of which has phenomenal views from a private deck. Also in Oranjezicht, De Tafelberg Guesthouse (tel. 021/424-9159; www.detafelberg.com; from R1,300 double in summer) is yet another grand home with superb views from most rooms, as well as a great breakfast "room" -- a deep covered balcony overlooking the pool, with views of the city and harbor in the distance. A few bedrooms aren't air-conditioned, and some have showers only. Finally, if you prefer to keep it anonymous and impersonal, there's always that good-value stalwart, Cape Milner, 2 Milner Rd., Tamboerskloof (tel. 021/426-1101; www.capemilner.com), a hotel offering a fairly smooth, convenient base with modern comforts (and a recent glossy makeover); avoid the roadside rooms, though, as the windows don't silence traffic noise.
Inexpensive -- If you'd rather spend your money on restaurants or a high-end fling in a game reserve, take a look at the aforementioned Daddy Long Legs, on bustling Long Street. If rooms there have already sold out (as they do), consider booking a private room in one of the city's first-rate backpacker lodgings: The Backpack (tel. 021/423-4530; www.backpackers.co.za; R550-R800 en-suite double) is one of the oldest and most popular. It's clean and convivial, with a busy courtyard, cafe, bar, good travel center, shuttle bus, and pool, and it's an easy stroll from the nightlife and restaurant options on Kloof and Long streets (walking is inadvisable late at night, though).
Bear in mind that the Waterfront is very much a tourist enclave. Everywhere but the ultra-exclusive boutique hotel, Dock House, you're likely to find yourself surrounded by many, many fellow travelers.
Very Expensive -- Competing with the Mount Nelson, Ellerman, Dock House, and Cape Grace as the preferred location for the rich and famous, the glitzy Table Bay (tel. 021/406-5000; www.suninternational.com) occupies what serious shoppers consider a prime position on the Prince Alfred Breakwater -- connected to the Victoria & Albert mall. It doesn't have the sense of exclusivity or privacy of its competitors, but shopaholics couldn't want for more. Public spaces have a "wow" factor, but standard rooms are small and dull (from R3,275 double); opt for a luxury room (R4,075-R5,425 double) or suite (R5,400-R10,200).
De Waterkant, Green Point, Mouille Point & Sea Point
These suburbs virtually neighbor town and the Waterfront, but despite their location at the start of the Atlantic seaboard, the mountain makes beach access a little more time-consuming than from the City Bowl. That said, the area affords sea views and is a good value, particularly when compared with accommodations in the adjacent Waterfront. Plus, it's a stone's throw from Green Point Stadium and all the exciting new shops and restaurants popping up in the surrounding precinct. If you're staying for a while and don't mind the bland anonymity of apartment-style hotel suites, look at the one- and two-bedroom options at The Rockwell (tel. 021/421-0015; www.therockwellapartments.co.za); some units have full kitchens.
Moderate -- If none of our listed options appeal to you, check out the delightful Cape Victoria Guest House (Wigtown Rd. and Torbay Rd.), Green Point (tel. 021/439-7721; www.capevictoria.co.za); standard doubles are an excellent value (R750-R1,250), and a magnificent suite with ocean views from a private balcony goes for R1,900-R2,200 in summer. The guesthouse is run by excellent hostess Lily, whose architect son converted the building.
Village Life for Hire -- In the oldest residential area of Cape Town, amid partly cobbled streets and quaint 18th-century Cape Malay architecture, De Waterkant has an almost European feel, and places you in the heart of Cape Town's most fashionable shopping district, with great restaurants and nightlife options within easy strolling distance. The city center is also easily managed on foot (by day). Unfortunately, for much of 2008 and 2009, the entire area has been a monstrous construction site as a second Cape Quarter shopping mall takes shape (obscuring views, creating noise, blocking off roads, and generally upending any form of village life. Hopes are that, by mid-2010, the cranes will have departed and the area will have returned to its fabulous self, albeit with more traffic (as there will soon be supermarkets and general-use stores). There's no telling how De Waterkant will really be affected (some hoteliers say their views may be lost forever, but they nevertheless welcome the real estate upgrade). Village & Life (tel. 021/409-2500; www.dewaterkant.com) has the widest selection of properties for hire in the 'hood and will match you up with the style, size, and level of luxury you require (or can afford); rates start at R1,200 for two people in summer. For guests who don't care to self-cater, there's De Waterkant House, a well-placed B&B with plunge pool and lounge (www.dewaterkanthouse.com; around R1,300-R2,200 double in summer); guests here eat breakfast at The Charles, another Village & Life's guesthouse. Decorated in a more contemporary style, it's certainly worth considering (www.thecharles.co.za; R1,800-R2,800 double in season) and also offers a few studios and small cottages. Also take a look at Cedric's Lodges (tel. 021/425-7635; www.cedricslodge.com), a pair of luxury four-bedroom guesthouses, which can be rented in their entirety for a more exclusive holiday.
Most visitors to the Cape want to wake up to a seascape and stroll down to the beach, but you'll need to book early and shell out for the privilege. By far, Camps Bay has the most ocean-facing units and the city's most accessible beach, lined with dozens of bars, coffee shops, and restaurants. It's also a mere 10-minute drive from the center of town. The area has numerous B&Bs (check out www.portfoliocollection.com), but be warned: Good taste and great location seem to enjoy an inverse relationship here, and you're really paying for the sea view. There are a few exceptions, of course. If you're on a more restrictive budget, take a look at Camps Bay Beach Village (tel. 021/438-4972; www.villageandlife.com): Its studio apartments, built around a heated pool, are a great value, at R1,500 to R2,000 double in summer. They're a good deal cheaper in winter (from just R850), during wet season -- hardly an ideal time to be on the seaboard, though sunsets are best then. Neighboring Clifton is more secluded but requires you to negotiate a long stairway to the beach, below relatively steep cliff paths. And in summer, you'll deal with traffic and parking problems. It's the most beautiful bay in Cape Town but not the most convenient place to stay, so guesthouses are scarce; you're best off renting your own seaside bungalow and living like a local. Neighboring Bantry Bay has two excellent options.
Expensive -- There are some spectacular opportunities for anyone who prefers to self-cater. Sexy Lion's View, 4 First Crescent, Camps Bay (tel. 021/438-0046 or 083/719-5735; www.lionsview.co.za), is an architect-designed modern dream pad that's featured in a string of glossies (including Wallpaper*). It features awesome, open-plan living areas and a wonderful heated pool that flows off into infinity. The two-bedroom Penthouse Apartment is good for families (up to four people; R3,900 in high season, 5-night minimum), while the Main House down below, with five en-suite bedrooms, is an ideal setting for memorable celebratory gatherings (R8,500 per night in high season). To view a collection of similarly exciting Camps Bay apartments and villas, which you can hire for a self-catering holiday for a relatively affordable price, visit www.campsbayapartments.com.
I'm also fond of the eponymous Eleven Sedgemoor Road (tel. 021/438-7219 or 083/628-8620; www.11sedgemoor.com), a chic, elegant, small, modern guesthouse within walking distance of the beach and Camps Bay dining strip. There are five guest rooms (R2,000-R4,000 double), the most fabulous of which is undoubtedly the penthouse suite, which offers better privacy and one of Camps Bay's best views. You can also rent the entire house as an exclusive villa from R15,000 per night.
Tintswalo: On the Edge of the Atlantic -- For its location alone, Tintswalo Atlantic, Cape Town's loveliest oceanfront accommodations, deserves your attention. There's nowhere like it anywhere in Africa -- a luxury safari-style lodge tucked among a grove of protected milkwood trees, and backed by the looming craggy cliffs of famous Chapman's Peak Drive (star of international car commercials and much local controversy). A chauffeured Mercedes whisks you down a steep, winding driveway culminating with the beautifully-designed, ecologically-sensitive hideaway that's completely invisible from above. Opened late-2008 (and already on Condé Naste's Hot List), it has just 10 superb suite-sized rooms -- all water's edge cottages with balconies on stilts, which let you feel as if you're hovering over the water. From your room, soothed by a symphony of crashing waves, you can watch southern right whales just off shore; and at night, Hout Bay twinkles on the other side of False Bay, while fishing vessels trawl the waters like fireflies on the water. Each pretty suite-sized cottage (with a predominant palette of azure and silver) features wood floors, beautiful chandeliers, Persian rugs, ceramic fireplace, and a unique design based on the island after which it's named.
One drawback, though, is that while there's a lovely pebble "beach," you can't expect to go jumping into the ocean here -- it's more for voyeurs than full-on adventurers (although guided mountain walks and helicopter flips will get the blood pumping). And at night, after plundering the wine cellar for some fine local vintages, you're lulled to sleep by the cacophonous roar of waves just meters from your bed -- or order a bottle or two of bubbly and stay up late toasting one of Africa's most epic locations. While Tintswalo is well-positioned for exploring the southern part of the peninsula, it takes a little more effort to get to the city (for some, this may be a strong selling point, and a shuttle service is provided).
The real downside? Tintswalo isn't in everyone's price bracket -- R7,000 double gets you a matchless location with gorgeous sleeping quarters, all house drinks, airport transfers, breakfast and a luxurious afternoon tea. Dinner time dining here is a touch outrageous (R550 per head for a good, but by no means thrilling, three-course dinner). Nevertheless, this is Cape Town at its most mesmerizing and -- for nature lovers at least -- dynamic. Check it all out at www.tintswalo.com; or book immediately by contacting tel. 011/300-8888 or 087/754-9300, or emailing email@example.com.
If the beach isn't your scene and you prefer your landscapes with mountains and trees, you'll find blissful peace in Constantia, the wine-producing area closest to the city, some 20 to 30 minutes away (halfway between the city and Cape Point). A little closer to town are leafy Bishops Court (Cape Town's embassy district) and Newlands. Being home to landmark rugby games and the world's largest rugby museum, Newlands is ideal for fans of the game, but for the most part it is bland middle-class suburbia. It does have some large, gracious lodgings that may suit less adventuresome travelers who want to be pampered, notably The Vineyard Hotel & Spa, which offers a good-value alternative to the pricey hotels at the waterfront. You should also check out the lavish rooms at The Bishop's Court, 18 Hillwood Ave., Bishopscourt (tel. 021/794-6561; www.thebishopscourt.com) -- particularly lovely is room no. 3, with its commanding vista (R3,900 double in summer). If you're a keen golfer, check out the swanky, good-value Steenberg Hotel (tel. 021/713-2222; www.steenberghotel.com), on a beautifully restored 17th-century wine farm at the foot of the mountains in Constantia. A worthy contender in this part of the peninsula, biting at the heels of The Cellars-Hohenort, Steenberg has an 18-hole championship golf course and better room decor than Uitsig. Rates start at R3,090 double (less in winter).
It's also worth browsing the guesthouses on www.thelastword.co.za, a collection of superluxurious guesthouses concentrated in the southern suburbs, offering chauffeurs and managers who administer advice and arrange tours.
False Bay & the Southern Peninsula's Coastal Villages
Even Capetonians look at this part of Cape Town as a totally different city experience and talk about moving here in the same dreamy tones as they would of moving "to the country." It's very laid-back, probably more suited to the older traveler or someone who's been to Cape Town before and fallen in love with the naval atmosphere and Victorian architecture of Simons Town, or the quaint fishing village atmosphere of Kalk Bay (these are the two best suburbs in which to base yourself). Staying on this side of the mountain, you are well positioned to visit major attractions like the penguins at Boulders and Cape Point (some 10-20 min. away), but it's about 40 minutes from the city center. If Kalk Bay appeals to you (and it really is delightful, with a plethora of dining options and dinky antiques shops, art galleries, and quirky clothing), the best accommodations options for you are in gracious, turn-of-the-20th-century mansions in neighboring St James: Rodwell House and The St James (www.thelastword.co.za; from R3,400 double in summer) are both within walking distance of Kalk Bay's main drag. Based here, you're phenomenally central: within walking distance of Kalk Bay's numerous restaurants, 10 minutes by car from Simons Town, and 20 minutes from Cape Point. The city is a short half-hour hop, and the Constantia wine route starts 15 minutes away.
In Simons Town, families should consider the British Hotel Apartments (tel. 021/786-2214; www.british-hotel.co.za) -- lovely, large, old-fashioned self-catering apartments (R1,400-R2,280 for up to four people) in a Victorian-era hotel on the main road with sea views. Alternatively, there's Simons Town Quayside Hotel (tel. 021/786-3838; www.relais.co.za; R1,120-R1,350 double, with breakfast), right on the water, with just 26 rooms. This is part of the Simons Town Harbour development, with a number of shops and Bertha's Restaurant below. Most of the rooms are typical bland mass hotel style, but pleasant enough, with French doors opening onto beautiful views of the False Bay coast and Simons Town yacht basin. If you're looking for accommodations right on the beach, take a look at Whale View Manor (tel. 021/786-3291; www.whaleviewmanor.co.za; from R1,000 double), just above a sandy crescent on the outskirts of Simons Town; each room is heavily styled along thematic lines (the Jardine room is the least showy), but they're all comfortable and cared for. More upmarket and over on the other side of the peninsula, The Long Beach (www.thelongbeach.com; R2,500-R5,500 double) is a luxury B&B villa with six shuttered suites leading onto the fabulous expanse of Kommetjie beach. And then, south of Kommetjie, adjacent the Cape Point Nature Reserve, is heart-warming Scarborough -- where it's possible, with some luck, to spot the exceptionally shy Cape clawless otter at Schuster's Bay. If you're clever enough to seek out this idyllic village, without street lights but with quick access to a mesmeric stretch of pristine white beach, you'll probably want to stay at the sensational new Zensa Lodge.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.