It is iconic and memorable. A perfect advertisement for the city for which it’s the backdrop. Table Mountain, when the weather is perfect, stands clear, defined as the city spreads out below it. Even when it is covered by its cloth, clouds tumbling over the sides like a waterfall, the mountain frames the city beautifully.

Cape Town has grown to make the most of its beautiful setting. When the weather is perfect you can climb Lion’s Head with its twisting path and ever-changing views of the city. There is a national park in the middle of the city. Air currents make kite surfing a true extreme sport. Relax on pristine beaches lapped by the ice cold Atlantic or visit the small but rich diversity of the Cape Floral Kingdom.

For prisoners on Robben Island, craggy Table Mountain was the promise of a better future, but the city is more than the mountain at its heart. It’s an old city that celebrates its history while looking to change it. The Dutch planted gardens, the French started a wine industry, the English built Georgian and Victorian mansions and Malaysian slaves built mosques.

Today it’s the summer cool of the Grand Daddy’s Pink Flamingo rooftop cinema. Africa’s most innovative artists are making Cape Town their home alongside refugee Congolese dandies.

Minstrel performers in the colourful neighbourhood of Bo Kaap in the Cape Town city bowl. (Image: Brand South Africa)

The city is food inspired by all the nations that pass through. And jazz and gospel tours that take you into the homes and churches of the city’s musicians. The old City Hall, from whose balcony Nelson Mandela made his first speech as free man, sits next to the District Six Museum and its heart-breaking memories. It’s the colour of the Bo Kaap and the lifted Afro chic of its guesthouses. Cape Town is as much high teas at the stately Mount Nelson as it is a braai and afternoon of jazz at Mzoli’s in Gugulethu township.

The Mother City thrives on its contrasts. It’s the brilliance of the light and the fresh air and the expanse of ocean. It’s the quiet of Kirstenbosch Gardens and the excitement of its summer concerts. There are waddling penguins and the squeezed confines of centuries-old dungeons at the Castle. From Cape Town you can tour wine farms or enjoy the city’s medley of cuisines.

It’s the bounce and energy that is Long Street at night and the hustle and edginess of Lower Woodstock’s hipster craftsmen. It’s a night out at the theatre or cabaret. It’s the vibrancy of its music scene and the quiet of a night sleeping in at Iziko Museum in the Company Gardens.

Long Street in the Cape Town city bowl is a hub of arts, culture and laid-back nightlife. (Image: Brand South Africa)

Cape Town is the simple pleasure of people watching at sidewalk cafes and the heartbreak of watching rugby at Newlands Stadium. The city is more than its natural beauty, but you can’t deny that Wanderers Cricket Ground is the most beautiful place to spend a sedate afternoon.

But what makes Cape Town truly amazing is its people. A citizenry with an refreshingly unhurried (Why work when you can go to the beach?) mind-set. A multicultural soup that makes the city a true rainbow nation.

TOP IMAGE: Cape Town’s Table Mountain at dusk, with the harbour and Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (one of the top global tourist attractions anywhere in South Africa) in the foreground. (Image: South African Tourism)

  • Words: Sulaiman Philip
  • Editing, photo research and captions: Mary Alexander