Cape Town’s V&A Waterfront is one of the city’s most beloved locations. A scenic, coastal drive from The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa, the complex is an exciting collage of culture, boutiques, bars and restaurants. All come together to form Cape Town’s premier esplanade. Here, we present our guide to the V&A Waterfront.
A South African jewel
The V&A Waterfront is almost as old as Cape Town itself. It began as a small jetty in the 1650s to restock passing Dutch East India ships before they continued to Java and Batavia. Over 200 years later, the harbour was expanded to safely accommodate an increasing number of vessels. Construction was commenced in person by Queen Victoria’s second son, Prince Alfred, whose landmark visit to Cape Town was the first ever by a member of the Royal Family.
Over the next 60 years, another harbour section was added, this time to ease shipping made necessary by the discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa. It was named the Victorian basin in honour of the late empress; together, the two piers were rechristened the Victoria and Albert Waterfront in 1988.
How to spend a day on the V&A
Hours drift into minutes when walking along the V&A Waterfront, admiring the shimmering reflections of its many cultural landmarks on the waters below. Begin your day with a refreshing sea-breeze run along the two main running routes, or simply wander the quaint quays, admiring architecture including the red Victorian-Gothic clocktower and the Tiepolo-blue Old Port Captain’s building. Then spend the rest of the early hours watching the waterfront whir into life at one of the many cafés lining the newly built quayside terraces.
Finish the morning touring one of the V&A’s many cultural attractions. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is perhaps the most stunning, a former grain silo complex that was once sub-Saharan Africa’s tallest structure. Purposefully redesigned, the brutalist building’s masterfully hewn concrete galleries exhibit the world’s largest collection of contemporary African art. Smaller, yet no less charming, is the African Trading Post, occupying the Old Port Captain’s building. This boutique private collection-cum-store is dedicated to promoting and safeguarding African tribal art.
Also of note is the Two Oceans Aquarium, which immerses guests in the inhabitants of Cape town’s clash of Atlantic and Indian oceans. Specialist tanks house predators such as rays and sharks, and exhilarating experiences include scuba diving and live feeding.
In the afternoon, wander through the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre, home to over 450 retail outlets and the most popular shopping destination in the Cape. Ranging from jewellers to art merchants, the centre has an unparalleled collection of boutiques and big-name brands alike.
When it comes to celebrating the technicolour Cape Town sunset, the V&A holds nothing back. Take to the reddening skies on the trip around the iconic Cape Wheel; toast the rose-glowing sun at one of the V&A’s al fresco terrace restaurants; or book a sunset cruise around the harbour. Upon your return, enjoy a nightcap at The Twelve Apostles’ cliffside The Leopard Bar.
Stay at Red Carnation Hotels’ The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa to enjoy Cape Town’s stunning natural scenery and stylish modern neighbourhoods.