South Africa is synonymous with natural beauty – it is the land that produces statuesque blondes such as Charlize Theron and Princess Charlene of Monaco, after all - and Cape Town is most certainly the country’s crowning jewel. This buzzy metropolis’s dramatic setting betwixt mountain and sea is a visual feast, endlessly admired by tourists and locals alike from famous vantage points such as Table Mountain. It’s the perfect cold weather escape – the sun shines on the Southern Hemisphere during the winter months (bonus for Europeans, who feel no jetlag). Cape Town is a little bit country (wine country, that is) and a little bit rock n’ roll – a newfound edginess shines through its sleek galleries, vibrant alternative music scene (including Alexander Wang favorite Die Antwoord), artistic boutiques and experimental new restos, which seem to sprout up daily. It’s the city on the tip of everyone’s tongue - accolades this year include World Design Destination 2014 and The New York Times number one ‘Places to go’.
There are very few locales in the world where rare lions, world-class vineyards, breathtaking beaches and historic landmarks are all at arm’s reach…or at least at a short drive. Fifteen minutes out from the city center and you’re at Hout Bay, windsurfing away. The Stellenbosch and Franschhoek valleys are within an hour’s drive, perfectly easy to do in an afternoon. The demand for South African wine dates all the way back to the time of Napoleon, so assume the local taste will be up to par for even the most snobby of oenophiles. For Shark Week live and in person, Gansbaai, home of Great White cage diving, is two hours away. At three hours out, you’ll arrive at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, getting your Instagram-worthy luxury safari on.
However, if your trip is shaping up to be all Viognier and bikinis, you’re missing the point of what makes Cape Town such a diverse and dynamic city today – its rich, yet checkered, history. Explore this former colony’s struggle through apartheid at the museums of District Six and also Robben Island, whose most famous prisoner (not to mention Oprah and Naomi Campbell BFF), Nelson Mandela, served time before becoming a president who influenced the world far beyond his homeland, during his inspiring life. After delving into the past, nothing will lighten your mood more than a trip out to Boulders Beach for lunch at Chef Bruce’s, followed by a personal visit with that most slapstick, well-dressed dandy of all birds, the penguin.
In Cape Town today, the fabulous life never far out of reach. A laid-back seaside lifestyle allows for more informal dressing (think of it as LA to Joburg’s NYC), yet cosmopolitan Capetonians bring it for evenings out and sophisticated events such as the Queen’s Plate horse races. Colorful cocktail dresses abound, but flats and wedge footwear feels right in the typical sand and grass settings - save for the most fancy of gatherings. People watching and sunbathing are popular pastimes, therefore pretty cover ups and light shift dresses with cozy cashmere for chillier nights are the style by the sea.
A trip to the ‘Mother City’ is really ideal for any traveler – the lunatic daredevil checking theatrics off their bucket list, the high maintenance honeymooner searching for exotic romance, the gastronome living a gluttonous dream journey. There’s really no other place like it, on any continent.