21 Unique Bars in Cape Town

Last Updated on November 1, 2023 by thecapetownblog

One of the things I love the most about Cape Town is that it’s not a city of chains. Sure, you can find McDonalds and Starbucks here, but there are also tons of independent places to eat, drink, and be merry. 

While I can hardly say that I’ve been to every cool bar that Cape Town has to offer, I have spent well over a year exploring the Mother City, so I’d like to think that I can make a few decent recommendations about where to grab a drink while you’re in town. 

I’ve worked tirelessly to get drunk in as many bars in Cape Town as possible so that I could put together this guide for you about the best places to grab a drink. You’re welcome.

1. Van Hunks

I had to put this one first. I just had to. 

I’ll be honest with you, when you first walk into Van Hunks, you might not see why it’s one of the best bars in Cape Town.

For me, it’s all about atmosphere. Cheap drinks, singalong music, friendly people, and staff who remember your drink order if you frequent this place enough. That’s exactly my kind of vibe.

I always have a ton of fun when I visit Van Hunks, and it just feels like home now. Seriously. My best friend texted me the other day to say she was “on her way home” and I immediately knew she wasn’t talking about her apartment. 

Price range: Cheap

Food? Yes! Try the chicken samosas.

Address: 1 Upper Union St, Gardens

Open times: 10 am – 2 am (ish)

Go for: really good vibes

2. Cellar Club Tunnel 

Okay, so I’ve listed Van Hunks as unique just because I love it so bloody much, but the Cellar Club Tunnel allows you to drink in a very unique location – a 160 year old tunnel! 

The harbour basins at the Waterfront were built in the 1860s, and the tunnel that now houses the Cellar Club was used to move stone during this process. It was sealed off for a while, but now it’s been transformed into a chic spot to drink wine. 

The selection of wines changes every week so you get something different every time, and you can order by the glass too if you prefer. If you do opt for a tasting, it’s 69 rand (£3.50) for three wines, and the pours are very generous. 

The Cellar Club is temporarily closed this winter, but it will hopefully open again soon – I’ll keep you posted!

Price range: Cheap

Food? No, but you can order in from elsewhere!

Address: 9 Dock Road, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Open times: 2 pm – 8 pm from Wednesday to Sunday

Go for: a cool setting 

3. Cause & Effect 

Cause & Effect is known for its quirky cocktails. Whether you want a smoking concoction, a glass that’s shaped like Table Mountain, or a Rock to Fakie, which actually comes with a miniature skateboard ramp, you can find it here.

I really like the way their menu is designed, because it’s laid out like a map so that you can find a flavour profile that suits you. That’s how I found my regular, Larry the No Drama Llama, which is a passion fruit martini in a llama shaped mug, with some candy floss on top because, well, why not?! 

Cause & Effect currently has two locations in Cape Town, but I’ve heard that the Camps Bay strip one isn’t so great, so I say head to the waterfront. It’s actually right opposite the Cellar Club Tunnel I mentioned above so you could even hit two birds with one stone…

Price range: Expensive 

Food? No

Address: 280 Dock Road, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront

Open times: 10 am – 1 am on weekdays, 9 am – 1 am on weekends

Go for: crazy cocktails!

A smoking cocktail at Cause and Effect

4. Cafe Caprice

Situated along the Camps Bay strip, Cafe Caprice is a bar slash restaurant during the day, and one of Cape Town’s best places to party at night, especially during the summer. It overlooks Camps Bay Beach, so it’s a good spot for a sundowner, and there’s usually a fun, lively energy here. But the real reason I’m recommending it is for the granadilla cocktail. 

In case you didn’t know, a granadilla is basically what South Africans call a passion fruit. It’s my absolute favourite thing on this earth to eat, and Cafe Caprice has an amazing cocktail called a Granadilla Lolly, which I just can’t get enough of. Also, it’s meant to be the place to party on Sunday nights during the summer, but that’s a school night and I’m more interested in my fruity drink, TBH.

Price range: Mid-range

Food? Yes – the burgers are really good! 

Address: 37 Victoria Road, Camps Bay

Open times: 9 am – 12 pm, open until 1 pm on weekends 

Go for: the Granadilla Lolly

5. Rick’s Café Américain 

This Casablanca-themed cafe-bar is a classy spot with a nice, relaxed atmosphere. It’s perfect for dinner and a few cocktails to start your night. I really like the food here, and the staff are always incredibly lovely. Plus, they’ve got a nice rooftop area with a great view over Kloof Street, which is one of the best streets in Cape Town in terms of nightlife.

Price range: Mid-range

Food? Yes – and it’s all delicious

Address: 103 Kloof Street, Gardens

Open times: 11 am – 2 am 

Go for: the old Hollywood glamour

6. Grand Pavilion

The Grand Pavilion is a classy champagne bar along the Sea Point promenade. With ocean views, a sophisticated atmosphere, and lots of premium booze available, it’s the perfect place to celebrate a special occasion or head on a date. They’ve also got predictably upscale food here (think oysters and ridiculously expensive prawns) if you fancy a bite to eat. 

Price range: Expensive

Food? Yes 

Address: 277 Beach Road, Sea Point

Open times: 11 am – 2 am 

Go for: a very classy night out

7. The Lawns at the Roundhouse

The Lawns is perhaps my favourite spot to day drink in Cape Town (other than the wine farms, of course). Just picture it: you’re sitting outside on a summer’s day sipping a cocktail with mountain and ocean views.

Okay, so if you want the ocean views, do call ahead and make sure you reserve a table on the upper levels, but still, I really think that this is the perfect place for a daytime event.

The lawns closes during the winter, but opens all summer, every summer!

Price range: Mid-range

Food? Yes – get the fish and chips! 

Address: Round House Road, Camps Bay (it’s at the end of a dirt track)

Open times: 12 pm – 11 pm, open at 9 am on weekends

Go for: day drinking in the sunshine

8. Culture Wine

Culture Wine is perfect for a classy evening sipping some of Cape Town’s best varietals. With a carefully selected menu and a chilled, low lit atmosphere, this is the perfect place to unwind on a Friday night. Plus, there was some (relaxed) live music when we were there and we loved the band (although now I’ve forgotten what they were called…)

The bar is in heritage square on Bree Street, very close to some of Cape Town’s other popular bars, including House of Machines and The Gin Bar, both of which are coming up later on this list. It’s a really good place to start your night!

Price range: Expensive

Food? Yes – really good charcuterie boards

Address: Round House Road, Camps Bay (it’s at the end of a dirt track)

Open times: 12 pm – 11 pm, closed on Sundays

Go for: good wine and a classy atmosphere

9. The Athletic Club & Social

The Athletic Club & Social is the place to be if you want to let loose somewhere cool and kind of upscale (but not intimidatingly so). 

I really love the vintage vibe at the Athletic, and you can practically feel the energy of some fabulous 1920s, Oxbridge-educated socialite oozing from the walls. Or you can just get really drunk on great cocktails and dance until your feet hurt.

Things don’t really get started here until after 10 pm, but once they do, it gets pretty busy. With three different bars, each with its own unique beats, you can definitely dance until the wee hours here. Just try to arrive early-ish to beat the queue (or you can slip the bouncers a little bribe, I won’t judge you).

Oh, and just FYI, this joint is over 25s only! 

Price range: Expensive

Food? Yes – there’s a dining room. I haven’t eaten there but it always smells incredible.

Address: 35 Buitengracht St, CBD

Open times: 12 pm – 11 pm on weekdays, 12pm – 2 am on Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday

Go for: great cocktails (try El Diablo) and a fun party

10. The Dark Horse

The Dark Horse is a dimly lit bar at the end of Kloof Street with the best margaritas in town. It’s got a small rooftop area, great bar food, and a good location in the sense that it’s close to the action, but far removed enough that you can enjoy a chilled drink there without the night having to go any further.

It’s a good first date spot, because it’s casual enough that you don’t feel obligated to stay for a long time if your date turns out to be…well, a weirdo. It’s also a nice enough spot to stick around for a few hours if you do end up having fun!

Price range: Mid-range

Food? Yes, great bar food

Address: 145 Kloof Street, Gardens

Open times: 4 pm – 11 pm from Tuesday to Thursday, 1 pm – 11 pm on Friday and Saturday, closed Sunday and Monday

Go for: the best margaritas in town 

11. Gigi Rooftop

Gigi Rooftop is the perfect spot for classy cocktails. It’s above the Gorgeous George hotel, but you can also eat here. The small sharing plates are really good! 

Honestly, I’m not crazy about the cocktails here, but the setting and atmosphere more than makes up for that. The inside is beautiful, with a glass ceiling, fairy lights, and lots of plants, and the outdoor terrace is classy and comfortable, with a very inviting swimming pool. 

Price range: Expensive

Food? Yes

Address: 118 St George’s Mall, Cape Town City Centre

Open times: 12 pm – 11 pm 

Go for: your Instagram feed 

12. Open Wine

Not to be confused with Culture Wine, Open Wine is another great spot to try new South African wines. They’ve got an outdoor patio or a small, intimate indoor space, and they sometimes offer free wine tastings on weekends. The only problem is that if you’re not drinking, they don’t serve much else other than wine. 

Price range: Mid-rage

Food? No

Address: 72 Wale Street, City Centre 

Open times: 1 pm – 11 pm 

Go for: wine tasting

13. House of Machines

Smack dab in the middle of town, House of Machines is a laid back, quirky bar whose motto is “don’t be a dick.” Maybe that’s why the crowd here is always fun and friendly and the music is so good. They often have live performances, too, and apparently their Old Fashioned cocktails are the best in town (although I don’t drink them myself, so I can’t officially confirm this.) 

Price range: Cheap

Food? No

Address: 84 Shortmarket Street, City Centre 

Open times: 7 am – 2 am, closed Sunday

Go for: a fun, unpretentious night out

14. The Leopard Bar at the 12 Apostles Hotel 

The Leopard Bar is one of the best spots in the city to grab a sundowner. It’s a little bit out of the way, as it’s about 10 minutes north of Camps Bay, but the journey is worth it for the views of the ocean and Lion’s Head

This bar is on the 3rd floor of the 12 Apostles Hotel, and as you may be able to guess from the name, it’s leopard themed. I know that the high tea here is popular, but I love coming to sit on the terrace and watch the sun go down with one of their excellent Bloody Marys in hand. 

Price range: Mid to expensive

Food? Yes – the steak is really good 

Address: 12 Apostles Hotel & Spa, Victoria Road, Camps Bay

Open times: 11 am – 2 am 

Go for: the best sundowner in the city 

The sunset from the balcony of the Leopard Bar at the 12 Apostles Hotel

15. Gin Bar

The Gin Bar (also known as “the Secret Gin Bar”) is tucked away behind a cafe, giving it a speakeasy vibe. It’s not actually a secret at all though, as this is a really popular Capetonian hangout. 

As you’d expect, there are plenty of different gins on offer, as well as lots of fancy tonics and herbs and whatnot, so even if you’re not much of a gin drinker, you can probably find something here (and if not, they have beer and a tiny bubbly bar next door). 

This place starts off chill but definitely has a good buzz about it by around 9 or 10 pm. It’s not really somewhere you go to dance, but there’s a good energy and you can definitely have a fairly lively night here without going too crazy. 

Price range: Mid to expensive

Food? Yes – the steak is really good 

Address: 64A Wale Street, City Centre (behind Honest Chocolate)

Open times: 5 pm – 1 am, closed Sunday

Go for: masterful gin concoctions 

16. Asoka

Legend has it that Asoka introduced the porn star martini to Cape Town and since that’s my all-time favourite cocktail, I feel that this more than merits a place on my “best bars” list. 

Asoka is a bougie place, but it’s my kind of bougie. It’s approachable bougie. I’m a dive bar kinda gal, but I really enjoy an evening here. I will say that I don’t love the music so I don’t come here on Tuesdays when they get DJs in and turn the place into a dance party, but I’m always happy to stop in for a cocktail or two before I inevitably head to Van Hunks, which is right around the corner.

Price range: Expensive

Food? Yes 

Address: 68 Kloof Street, Gardens

Open times: 5 pm – 2 am

Go for: excellent cocktails 

17. Publik 

Publik is a teeny tiny wine bar on the intersection between Kloof Nek Road, Upper Buitengracht Street, and Lower Buitengracht Street, which is a bit of a nightlife hotspot. It’s got a variety of boutique wines that you won’t often find in the supermarkets, and the food here is amazing. We got a bunch of small plates and they were all delicious, but I still think about the lamb belly to this day. 

Price range: Mid

Food? Yes – and it’s delicious

Address: 11d Kloof Nek, Tamboerskloof

Open times: 4 pm – 11 pm on weekdays, 5 pm – 8 pm on Saturday, closed Sunday

Go for: the lamb belly

18. Leo’s Wine Bar 

Good old Leo. This wine bar is perfect for after-work drinks. The way that people spill out happily onto the pavement, wine in hand, reminds me of happy hour drinks in London somehow. I’ve never actually lived or worked in London (thank god) but I always felt a stab of envy whenever I saw those happy hour drinks going on. Don’t ask me why. 

I’m getting side-tracked. Leo’s wine bar is another great spot for trying new wines (or grabbing a glass of your old favourite) and they regularly have food pop-ups, so it’s also great for discovering new eats in the city. And if you’re there on a non-pop-up night, you can always grab a pizza bagel from the adjoining bagel shop, Max’s.

Price range: Cheap

Food? Yes – and it’s delicious

Address: 120 Bree Street, City Centre 

Open times: 5 pm – 11 pm on weekdays, closed Sunday and Monday

Go for: after work drinks

19. The Power and the Glory

The Power and the Glory (or P&G, as everyone calls it) is a buzzy bar on the Kloof Nek intersection. It’s got the same old school, classy charm as the Athletic Club and Social, although the vibe is vastly different. It’s a cosy bistro during daylight hours and I like to imagine that back in the day, writers might have finished novels here. Or who knows, maybe they still do! 

P&G is very small and it’s pretty casual. If you want to dance, you can head upstairs to the Moveable Feast, but most people just come to P&G to drink wine and chew the fat. Since this place is so small yet so popular, crowds often spill out onto the pavement. 

Price range: Mid

Food? Yes – hot dogs

Address: 13d Kloof Nek Road, Tamboerskloof 

Open times: 8 am – 2 am 

Go for: the intimate hipster vibe

20. Kloof Street House

Set in an old Victorian mansion, Kloof Street House is the kind of place I can imagine eccentric artists having wild absinthe parties back in the day. This bar wouldn’t be out of place in the next Great Gatsby remake (because we all know that one is coming sooner or later, right?)

You can certainly treat yourself to a nice dinner here, but I’ve only ever come here for drinks, and it has never disappointed me. It is very popular, though, so it’s best to book in advance.

Price range: Expensive 

Food? Yes – fine dining

Address: 30 Kloof Street, Gardens

Open times: 10 am – 2 am 

Go for: the intoxicating sensation that you’ve just stepped into a Fitzgerald novel 

21. Una Más 

Una Más is Spanish for “one more” and that’s exactly what the spicy paloma cocktails here will have you crying out. It’s a small mezcalería along busy Regent Road in Sea Point, so it’s great for people watching and getting your night started before you head over to the city centre to continue partying – or home to bed, the choice is yours. 

Price range: Mid

Food? Yes 

Address: 77 Regent Road, Sea Point

Open times: 5 pm – 11 pm Monday, 12 pm – 11 pm Tuesday and Sunday, 12 pm – 12 am Wednesday to Saturday

Go for: a jug of spicy palomas

For more fun things to do in Cape Town, check out these guides:

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