Cape Town winters are known to be wet and grey. What locals like to keep quiet is the fact that in between the miserable days are beautiful, blue-skied, crisp ones. That’s why it’s called ‘The Secret Season’. Fewer tourists are about, there are no crowds to deal with, and even on wet days, there’s plenty to do and see.
Here we list just a few of the things to do when the foul winds from the north-east blow in the clouds and rain. There’s no need to be suffering from Cabin Fever in Cape Town!
1. Take The Train To Kalk Bay And Lunch At The Brass Bell
Take the train from central Cape Town to Kalk Bay. The station in Cape Town is under cover and getting off at Kalk Bay, it’s two steps into the Brass Bell, which balances on the sea’s edge – the perfect, cosy, place to watch the moody sea.
The train trip takes just under an hour and the last bit – from Muizenberg to Kalk Bay – runs along the sea, offering spectacular sights.
The Brass Bell has numerous different sections, all right on the sea with beautiful views. Savour a steaming bowl of seafood soup while you watch the rain fall on the wild grey seas.
Feeling a little bit of Cabin Fever stuck at home in the rain? Head on down to The Old Biscuit Mill and play HintHunt, the latest game on the block, that’ll see you solving riddles in a little room in order to get out and free yourself from true Cabin Fever.
You play in groups of three to five people and you get an hour to work out puzzles and mysteries and release yourselves from the room. It’s fun, it’s interactive, it gets the old cogs in the brain working, and it’s all indoors!
3. The Heart Of Cape Town Museum
In recognition of one of Cape Town’s most famous sons, Chris Barnard, and his performing the first heart transplant in the world in 1967, the museum is at Groote Schuur Hospital in Observatory. This is where he performed the groundbreaking surgery and the museum chronicles the whole story.
Guided tours are run every two hours, so phone The Heart of Cape Town Museum before going, to book a tour.
4. Drink Red Wine Next To A Roaring Fire
What better way to chase away the rainy day blues, than to sit next to a roaring fire and drink some of the world’s finest red wine, made on our doorstep? The list of places in and around Cape Town that have fires in winter and serve red wine (and great food) is blissfully endless. These are four of our favourites.
Societi Bistro & The Snug
With its bare brick walls, numerous fireplaces and a menu that’ll warm the cockels of your heart, Societi Bistro is a rainy day winner.
If you’re not looking for a meal to accompany your red wine, pop in next door at The Snug. Let’s just say its name is perfect.
Situated on the Sir Lowry’s Pass Road outside Somerset West, Waterkloof is the place to go if you feel like a little drive and some cheese and wine tasting next to the designer open fireplace in the tasting room. In fact, everything here is designer, and beautiful, with a sweeping view across to False Bay.
If a platter is not enough to stave off wet weather-induced hunger, head to the restaurant to sample some of chef Gregory Czarnecki’s incredible cuisine, with a French twist.
Less than half an hour’s drive from Cape Town’s city centre, Constantia Glen is perched on top of a hill with breath-taking views across the valley to the mountains. The glass-walled restaurant is warm and cosy, with stoves to ensure that the grey cold stays outside where it belongs.
Do a wine tasting and enjoy one of their charcuterie or cheese platters. In winter they usually offer steaming bowls of three different kinds of soup with fresh, crispy, bread. You can get a big bowl of one, or a trio of small bowls of all three – for those of us who want to taste everything!
5. Indoor Bowling
Want a fun-filled day out of the rain? Head into the suburbs to Let’s Go Bowling indoor bowling in the Stadium-On-Main Centre in Claremont.
As long as you don’t mind renting bowling shoes, all you need is a couple of mates and some team spirit and you’re A for away! Striiiiike!
6. The Labia
Down past the Mount Nelson tucked in the bend of Orange Street lies another grand old Cape Town dame: The Labia Cinema. Stop sniggering, it’s named after Princess Labia of Italy, and was initially the Italian Embassy ballroom.
It’s the oldest independent cinema in Africa and shows independent, art films. Various film festivals are also run here and they have great 2-for-1 specials (including a meal at restaurants in the neighbourhood) on different nights of the week.
Best of all, they have a fully-stocked bar at the cinema, so grab your popcorn and a warming glass of red and forget about the grey day outside.
See their website for what’s showing on their four screens.
7. Get Cultural: Museums
Cape Town, and South Africa, have a rich and chequered past. There are a number of museums scattered about the city – that are warm and dry on a drizzle-filled afternoon – that tell the stories of the people of our land.
In Adderley Street, learn about the slave trade at the Slave Lodge, then open up your umbrella and put on your galoshes for a short walk through the Company’s Garden – past Parliament and Tuynhuis – up to the South African Museum. Warm up with a cup of hot chocolate in their cosy coffee shop before learning about the animals, the geological and archaeological origins and the people of South Africa.
From there, its a hop-skip-and-a-jump across to the Jewish Museum, where the history of the Jewish people of South Africa is beautifully laid out. Make an effort to pop in to see the Netsuke exhibition on the bottom floor – tiny, intricate Japanese carvings.
In Buitenkant Street, the District 6 Museum colourfully chronicles the history of this vibrant area, torn apart by the forced removals during Apartheid.
8. Coffee (& Cake)
Cape Town is Hipster Central. Hipsters like coffee. In fact, so do the rest of us. Result: coffee shops (and really good ones at that) are around every corner. It’s hard to pick only four, but for the purpose of not making this blog 16 000-words long, we have chosen four of our favourites.
Situated in the heart of Cape Town, Truth. Coffee is a hive of activity. The decor is Steam-Punk – think industrial, richly-patterned trimmings. The staff, too, are decked out in Steam-Punk-style, giving the whole place a rather romantic, movie-type feel. Well, romantic in a loud, busy, trendy way.
The coffee is roasted on the premises (thus the noisiness) and rumour has it that the Eggs Benedict may just be one of the best Cape Town has to offer. Truth. also has free wi-fi and plug-in points for laptops, so you can easily spend a rainy morning drinking coffee and catching up with e-mails in this vibey spot!
Down the road from Greenmarket Square, around the corner and into Church Street, you’ll find Deluxe Coffee, a little hole-in-the-wall place that just sells coffee. Good coffee.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat with your Deluxe coffee, head a little further up toward the mountain to another side street – Roodehek. There you’ll find Yard – a seriously hole-in-the-wall spot that incorporates The Dog’s Bollocks – known for it’s incredible burgers in the evenings – and, tucked in right at the back, The Bitch’s Tits. It’s there you’ll find Deluxe coffee. They serve a killer breakfast too.
Hard Pressed Cafe
A relative newcomer to the Cape Town coffee scene, Hard Pressed Cafe in Buitengracht Street opened its doors in 2014.
It’s a funky little place with a great selection of vinyl records to buy while drinking your coffee and munching on any of their freshly-made sandwiches and snacks.
If you’re looking for a view of the wild wintery sea while you drink your coffee, head out to the Empire Cafe in Muizenberg. Don’t feel like driving in the rain? Catch the train and take an umbrella – it’s a short walk from the Muizenberg Station.
The view from the second floor window is over Surfer’s Corner, and the bakery on the premises make croissants, cakes and other delicacies that fill the air with deliciousness.
9. See Some Art
What better way to spend a rainy day than soaking up a bit of culture in one of Cape Town’s many art galleries? See the permanent exhibition of art through the ages at the South African National Gallery in the Company’s Garden, and then amble through their changing exhibitions.
South Africa has a diverse and fascinating art world. See what and who are being exhibited in the various Cape Town galleries, such as the Michael Stevenson in Woodstock, the AVA Gallery in Church Street, and the Brundyn+ in Buitengracht Street.
10. Go Rock Climbing
No, no, you didn’t read that wrong. Here in Cape Town a bit of rain doesn’t put us off getting down (up?) to some good bouldering and clinging onto rock-faces. Enter CityROCK indoor climbing gym in Observatory.
From total beginners to experts training to climb a 30 (that’s a hard climb, for those not in the know), CityROCK has a wall to suit you. And they’re not wet and slippery… because it’s all inside!
11. Go A Little Einstein @ The Cape Town Science Centre
Just up the road from CityROCK, on Main Road in Observatory, is the Cape Town Science Centre. Aimed mainly at encouraging the learning of science, technology, mathematics and engineering in kids, it’s an incredibly fun place for adults too.
They have over 250 interactive exhibitions showing off the marvels of all things science. Need I say more? Perfect rainy day activity.
12. Visit The ‘Ariums
Cape Town has two of the best ‘ariums in the country – the star-filled Planetarium and the fish-filled Aquarium.
Too cold and wet for the beach? Don’t let that deter you from marine activities.
Pop down to the V&A Waterfront and visit the Two Oceans Aquarium – a delight for kids and adults alike.
With an enormous, central, shark- and ray-filled tank at its centre, penguins upstairs and a whole range of seaside creepy-crawlies to see up-close, it’s easy to spend a full day here.
Next to the South African Museum in the Company’s Garden is the magical Planetarium.
Forget about the rain outside, and the clouds covering the sky, tilt your seat back as the lights dim and you watch the stars and galaxies projected onto the enormous dome above. It’s breath-takingly beautiful!
13. Give A Little Of Your Time
Oh, you thought it was all abut you? Nope, it’s not.
How about spending a rainy morning volunteering at one of the literally hundreds of places that are trying to make the world we live in a better place?
There are loads. Here is a list of a couple you could get hold of:
- Scalabrini Centre: help refugees to draw up CV’s and restore their basic human rights
- Friends of The Hospital: read/play with the kids at Red Cross Children’s Hospital
- Ons Plek: a shelter for girl street children
- Yiza Ekhaya: community project based in Khayelitsha which offers food, care and safe shelter for 250 children & adults on medication
- SANCCOB: hang out and help out with the li’l penguins
- Nazareth House: provide residential care to abandoned and neglected children, as well as the elderly
14. Cave Golf
Down at the V&A Waterfront, next door to the Scratch Patch (if you have kids, this is another rainy day treat), lies an intricate little 18-hole Putt-Putt course. Best of all: it’s indoors and quirkily designed as if you’re playing golf in a cave.
Rumour has it that it’s not an easy course, either, with some tricky holes to test your golfing skills!
15. Butterfly World
Head out on the N1 toward Paarl, take Exit 47 and, just down the road to the right, you’ll find Butterfly World, with its 1000 m2 greenhouse. Inside, it’s warm and humid and filled with tropical plants, gorgeous free-flying butterflies and an array of creepy-crawlies and other creatures.
After you’ve marvelled at all the beauty, drive a little further into the winelands and enjoy lunch by the fireside at one of the many wine farms in the area .