It may be the oldest working harbour in the Southern Hemisphere, but the iconic V&A Waterfront is oh so much more than that. Forget the practicalities, this hub is where the people of Cape Town congregate to eat, drink and be merry – by which we mean shop, obviously. If ever there was a place to release your inner hedonist, this is it.
Starting out as a small, functional jetty, built by South Africa’s colonial founders back in 1654, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront has since grown to be one of Cape Town’s most-loved landmarks. Now consisting of five distinct shopping districts, two different food markets, a handful of museums, an aquarium and enough bars and restaurants to satisfy even the fussiest of pallets, it’s almost a city within a city – you name it, this harbour’s got it.
The Waterfront’s beginnings can be dated back to just two years after Cape Town – South Africa’s oldest city – was founded itself, making it a landmark of great historical value. As the demand for the diamonds and gold found in South Africa grew, so did the harbour – hence it’s two names. The Alfred basin was established first and the Victoria basin added later, namesakes of the prominent figures of Britain’s monarchy at the time, Queen Victoria and her son Prince Alfred. Much to the delight of any history lovers, most of the heritage buildings from this time remain the same.
Number one on most visitors’ Waterfront to-do lists? Shop ‘til you drop. From world-renowned designer offerings to marketplace moments, you’d have to be very strong to resist temptation here.
Shopping a bit too materialistic for you? Well for one, you’re a better person than most. And secondly, there’s still plenty for you to do – the Waterfront has enough to keep even the keenest of culture vulture’s satisfied. Map in hand, embark on a self-guided historical walking tour that takes in the 22 landmark sites dotted around the harbour or perhaps have a wander around any one of the Waterfront’s museums.
If you’re all about the views, riding the Cape Wheel is a must. With each rotation taking around 15 minutes, this is no ferris wheel – you’ll be able to drink in the 360-degree views of the city at your leisure as it creeps its way into the air and then slowly back down again.
Any summer visitors are in for a different kind of treat, as it’s during these months that the Galileo Open Air Cinema opens its figurative doors. Make sure that you keep your Thursday night free for a night in front of the big screen and under the stars.
And it doesn’t stop there, foodies are also indulged here – after all, entertainment is the Waterfront’s forte. Home to some of Cape Town’s most popular bars and restaurants, the harbour is yet another of the city’s perfect spots to toast to the sun falling into the glittering horizon. Or, enjoy some biltong and beer in amongst the urban cool of the Old Power Station turned V&A Food Market. Housing a plethora of artisanal street-food vendors, this is the trendiest spot to grab a bite at the Waterfront.
Around on a weekend and fancy getting a feel for one of Cape Town's famed farmer’s markets? Head to the Waterfront’s Granger Bay area every Saturday to fill a basket full of the fresh, seasonal produce that you’ll find at Oranjezicht Farmer's Market. The best place in town to bag picnic-worthy groceries.
A trip to Cape Town wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the V&A Waterfront shops, bars, bistros, markets and many many attractions. Visiting here couldn’t be easier, many of your hotels will actually be in the Waterfront and it’s on the included hop-on hop-off bus pass route.
“Where the city meets the sea”. You can walk there from the city centre in less than half an hour, or hitching a ride in a taxi will see you there in 10 – uber fans will be glad to know that they can rely on the trusty app in this city just as much as they do at home.
Serious shoppers are in luck because this mecca is open 9am-9pm. Every. Single. Day.
All day, everyday. Surely the fact that it tempts the most daily visitors out of all of Cape Town’s myriad attractions is evidence enough that the V&A Waterfront is the place to be? Enjoy breakfasts overlooking the bustling harbour as it comes to life and evenings soaking up the atmosphere of one of its lively bars – not forgetting the shopping inbetween!
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