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On The Waterfront


The Victoria & Albert Waterfront draws tourists to its restaurants, bars and shopping, but its real charm is that it is still a working harbor full of fishing boats, small cruise ships and pleasure boats. The container terminal is on a larger outer dock, but the main piers of the original harbor are here. Many of the hotels are refitted and updated buildings with a past like the Waterfront Breakwater Lodge and The Dock House.


The waterfront was completely restored in the early 1990s, making it one of the world's most welcoming for tourists; but its rich history has not been erased. In front of the Clock Tower Centre mall is the 19th century Clock Tower, originally the port captain's office and long the waterfront's symbol. Nearby is the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island and boat trips to the infamous former prison. A more recent monument to South African past is Nobel Square with bigger-than-life statues of the country's prize winners including the late President Mandela. Use the pedestrian swing bridge that opens every 10 minutes for boats to save you time and steps between the Victoria and Albert basins. The V&A Visitors Centre offers a map and self-guided tour.


Mid-day explore the 150 or so design and craft shops at Watershed where you may chance upon special exhibits and events. The space has a wine tasting bar, wellness center and eateries if you want to recoup before heading next door to the aquarium.


On the Cape peninsula, you can visit the Atlantic and Indian Oceans on the same day, but in an afternoon at the Two Oceans Aquarium you can get a good look at what lives beneath and around those waters. Viewing is particularly exciting at feeding time - noon and 2 pm in the new I&J Ocean Exhibit and 11:30 am and 2:30 pm for the penguins. You can grab a bite yourself in the cafe in front of the I&J exhibit. Opened in 1995, the aquarium offers large viewing windows, an underwater tunnel and the opportunity to scuba dive among the sea life.


Visit Silo Square pedestrian plaza for a preview of the new Silo District, a work in progress in the six grain silos. The giants were the tallest buildings in town when built in the 1920s. Silos 1 and 2 are office and apartment complexes, but Silo 3 is being transformed into the nine-floor Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, topped with The Silo, a boutique hotel. The first Radisson Red hotel in Africa, Europe and Middle East lays claim to Silo 6.


Ride the Cape Wheel just as the sunset and harbor lights come up. Then take your pick from dozens of bars, restaurants and jazz cafes for the evening diversion. The Bascule Bar in the Cape Grace Hotel is a good place to start. Dine at Quay Four and stay on to hear local bands in the pub until late.