Originally published on Rich Vein Travel.
Cape Town is one of the most gay-friendly holiday destinations in Africa. In fact, Cape Town is so welcoming, and friendly, that over the years it has been named one of the most popular LGBT holiday destinations in the world. What makes Cape Town so popular? Aside from its vibrant gay scene, and popular Pride, Cape Town is also famous for its beautiful beaches, and Table Mountain. To find out more about why Cape Town is a fantastic gay travel destination, continue reading this post!
Gay Nightlife in Cape Town
Gay Bars and Restaurants in Cape Town
Many of the gay bars in Cape Town are located in the district of De Waterkant. De Waterkant is situated in near the colourful Bo-Kaap neighbourhood which means that it’s almost impossible to miss.
One of the most popular gay bars in De Waterkant is Versatile Gay Bar. This bar has two separate dress codes. From 23:00 Wednesday to Saturday, Versatile is a men’s only bar with a strict dress code – underwear only. But fear not! If you would prefer to keep your trousers on, for the duration of the night, visit Versatile on Sunday, Monday, or Tuesday, to enjoy a drink or two.
The De Waterkant district is also home to Cafe Manhattan. Cafe Manhattan is a gay cafe, bar and restaurant all rolled into one. As one of the most established gay venues in Cape Town, it has been a firm favourite for LGBT travellers and Capetonians for decades. Although the bar can be crowded at times, the terrace outside is the perfect place to enjoy a spot of lunch or a few drinks in the sunshine. However, if you’re looking for a bar with more of a party atmosphere, Crew Bar is one of the best options in Cape Town. This gay bar/club is famous for its themed nights every week, go-go dancers, and great music.
Camp, frivolous, and full of fun, Beefcakes is the place to go for beefy burgers, handsome (shirtless) waiters, and daily drag shows. Inspired by an American 50s diner, this restaurant also has a downstairs bar called Studio 54. Whilst Beefcakes is not strictly a gay bar, it attracts a lot of fun-loving people looking for a unique experience in Cape Town.
Gay Clubs and Saunas in Cape Town
One of the best gay clubs in South Africa is Stargazers. This club is popular with some of South Africa’s biggest drag acts. The music and affordable drinks mean you’ll want to visit Stargazers over and over again. However, there are alternatives available too. There’s Crew Bar, (mentioned previously) which has two dancefloors, for you to dance the night away on. And there’s a third club called the Pink Panther Night Club. The Pink Panther Night Club is a stylish LGBT club that attracts a fairly young crowd. Great lighting, talented DJs and friendly vibes make this venue a great choice. But please note that the Pink Panther Night Club is only open for two nights a week, on Fridays and Saturdays.
HotHouse is the only gay sauna in Cape Town. This European Style sauna is also located in the De Waterkant district. Complete with an enormous steam room, sauna, two spa baths, a fireplace, a bar and a sundeck, HotHouse is incredibly well equipped.
Gay Beaches in Cape Town
There are no gay beaches in Cape Town. But three beaches, in particular, attract more LGBT travellers and Capetonians than others. The most popular gay beach in Cape Town is called Clifton 3rd Beach. This is the third beach along the stretch of Clifton, and it’s arguably the prettiest with beautiful white sand. We highly recommend spending a day on this beach – at least!
No speedos? No problem. When you’re on a holiday to Cape Town, you may also want to visit Sandy Bay. Sandy Bay is a gay nude beach. Tucked beneath steep cliffs it is a mixture of soft white sand and large boulders called Sunset Rocks. The LGBT part of the beach is at the far end, so will take a few minutes to walk to. On weekends, it’s important to arrive early to ensure that you get a parking space that’s close by. However, if you’re travelling by taxi this won’t be an issue.
Last but not least is Camps Bays. Lined with palm trees, trendy restaurants, and bars, Camps Bay oozes laidback beach vibes and is perfect for sundowners. If you’re staying at the 5* Twelve Apostles Hotel, you’ll be able to make use of the hourly shuttle bus running to and from the hotel to Camps Bay.
Gay Events in Cape Town
There are two big gay events in Cape Town each year. The biggest event of the year is Cape Town Pride. This event typically takes place in February every year and is where the entire LGBT community can come together. There is more to the event that just parties and club nights. In 2019 there were drag shows, book launches, sporting events, film shows, poetry readings, and art exhibitions. The highlight of Cape Town Pride is the Pride March where LGBT people march proudly through the city centre to celebrate the occasion.
The Mother City Queer Project (MCQP), is one of Cape Town’s other big LGBT events. MCQP is Africa’s biggest and longest-running costume party. This Mardi Gras style event takes place in December. It is incredibly popular in Cape Town and a new theme is selected every year.
Travelling with Children to Cape Town
When in Cape Town you’ll discover a range of activities that make the city a great destination for LGBT couples or groups travelling with children. From educational museums to fun playgrounds, there’s no shortage of activities to keep children and teenagers entertained.
You may want to visit the Iziko South African Museum which houses important African collections of zoology, palaeontology and archaeology. Or there’s the V&A Waterfront which is a shopping, dining, and entertainment mega-hub. V&A Waterfront has over 450 retail stores and over 80 restaurants, but it’s the Cape Wheel that may appeal most to little ones. Providing they’re not afraid of heights, children and teenagers will love the Cape Wheel. This giant wheel offers a spectacular 360-degree panoramic view of Cape Town. Children can also run around and play in Battery Park. This new addition to the V&A Waterfront includes a family-friendly jungle gym, swings and a scooter path.
If you’re staying at The Twelve Apostles children and teenagers will feel right at home thanks to a range of in-house amenities and activities aimed specifically at little ones. Children can also have fun splashing in the hotel’s infinity or mountain pools, with pool toys provided during the summer holidays. During the winter, children will be able to spend a few hours in the cosy hotel cinema/screening room.
A visit to Butterfly World Tropical Garden is a must for children who love nature. But it’s also possible to book trips to Boulder’s Beach with African penguins and visit the Giraffe House Wildlife Awareness Centre in Stellenbosch.
Wine Tours in Cape Town
No trip to Cape Town is complete without visiting the glorious wine estates, vineyards, and gourmet restaurants that lie just beyond the city centre. The two most renowned wine regions are Franschhoek Valley and Stellenbosch. The Franschhoek valley offers world-class wine estates, tastings and cellar tours nestled between towering mountains and beautiful vineyards. Equally impressive, the Stellenbosch wine region is one of the most prestigious wine regions in the world. This region has a long history of wine growing due to the perfect climate it boasts for grape growing. Both regions are less than an hour away from the centre of Cape Town by car.
LGBT Rights in Cape Town
South Africa is one of the most progressive countries in Africa when it comes to LGBT rights and LGBT protection. In May 1996 South Africa became the first jurisdiction in the world to provide constitutional protection to LGBT people prohibiting discrimination on sexual orientation and other grounds. Same-sex marriage has been legal since 2006, and same-sex couples can also jointly adopt children. However, as with all cosmopolitan cities, hate crimes do occur in South Africa, and Cape Town is no exception. Therefore we recommend that you stay observant at all times, especially when outside of LGBT only, or predominantly LGBT only spaces.
Featured image: Unsplash