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Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar, Cape Town
Photograph: Claire Gunn

The 12 best bars in Cape Town

Whether you’re after a meticulously mixed martini or a cold brew with a Table Mountain view, Cape Town has the bar for you

Richard Holmes
Written by
Richard Holmes

With its unrivalled coastal scenery, it’d be easy to believe that Cape Town’s cocktail offering is about little more than seaside sundowners. But come nightfall, the city’s bars spring to life, with world-class mixologists tapping into a burgeoning craft spirits scene to create authentic experiences rooted in South Africa’s ‘Mother City’. If you’re exploring Cape Town and find yourself thirsty, these are the watering holes to check out.

🍷 The best wine farms in and around Cape Town 
😋 The best restaurants in Cape Town
🛏 The best Airbnbs in Cape Town
🍳 The best breakfast and brunch spots in Cape Town
☕️ The best cafés and coffee shops in Cape Town

Planning your next trip? Check out our latest travel guides, written by local experts.

Time Out Market Cape Town
  • Time Out Market

Chef Matt Manning brings his hugely popular Culture Wine Bar to Time Out Market Cape Town. The extensive wine list includes an impressive range offered by the glass, allowing you to sip your way from the cool-climate vineyards of Elgin to the pioneers breaking new ground in the Swartland. Culture Wine Bar captures the best of the Cape in the glass.

Cape Town’s best bars

1. Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen

Having featured several times in the prestigious World’s 50 Best Bars lists, Cause Effect Cocktail Kitchen is all about celebrating the flavours and culinary heritage of the Cape, with owner Kurt Schlechter and his team of talented mixologists creating an ever-changing array of cocktails. Expect reinvented classics and offbeat signatures on a menu with a sense of whimsy, but also a serious approach to waste and sustainability. Caus Effect also celebrates the region’s award-winning brandies, with guided tastings of vintage spirits.

2. Fable

This slick bar promises cocktails with a story, and it doesn’t disappoint. Each carefully curated concoction at Fable tells the tale of a local legend, from ill-fated lovers to ghostly ships haunting the seas off Cape Point. If that’s altogether too complicated, there’s an extensive collection of classic pours, craft brews and local wines. Regular DJ sets add to the promise of a lively night out, with flavour-packed food and bold drinks to match.


3. The House of Machines

Ask a local for the best negroni in Cape Town and chances are they’ll point you towards The House of Machines, a diminutive bar in the city centre. In office hours it’s a popular spot for remote workers, but come evening THOM shakes itself off to become a lovably noisy rabble-rouser of a cocktail joint. Don’t expect umbrellas, foams and frivolity here: at THOM they’re more into craft beer and barrel-aged spirits poured properly. With live music most nights and barkeeps unafraid to speak their mind, it’s a bar with plenty of attitude. Just the way the locals like it.

4. The Willaston Bar

You’ll want to smarten up a little before booking a table at this classy hotel bar. Set on the sixth floor of The Silo Hotel – itself perched atop the world-class Zeitz MOCAA art museum in the V&A Waterfront’s Silo District – The Willaston Bar offers dazzling city views in a deeply elegant setting. Sink into barstools of soft Italian leather and ask the bar staff to pick something for you, or to mix up a surprise. They shake up a fine martini here, but the wine list is equally worth exploring, with an excellent selection of local and international estates.


5. Gigi Rooftop

One of the city’s most popular rooftop bars, Gigi Rooftop is hidden away above Gorgeous George, a design-driven hotel in the heart of the city centre. In a space filled with tropical foliage and natural light, in-house mixologist Leighton Rathbone shakes up a tantalising cocktail menu that includes all the classics alongside bespoke pours utilising local spirits and indigenous flavours. The bar comes alive at sunset, with views out across the city rooftops. 

6. The Gin Bar

It’s no surprise what’s on offer at this bar, which is set in a tiny courtyard. The Gin Bar sings the praises of South Africa’s artisanal distillers, with more than 80 local gins available alongside a handful of international brands. That’s an excellent excuse to dabble in a little G&T experimentation, or let the ever-friendly bartenders impress you with one of their House Remedies, a curated selection of house G&Ts “to cure all manner of ills.” The attached Bubbly Bar does the same for Cape Classique – South Africa’s champagne-style sparkling wine – as the main bar does for gin


7. Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar

Reached by tackling three flights of narrow stairs, Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar is the very definition of a local secret. Taking its design cues from Japan (there’s also a fantastic, izakaya-inspired eatery on the ground floor), expect red-lacquer furniture and embroidered macaque monkeys adorning this 200-year-old attic space. At the bar, dive into the bespoke cocktails made with Japanese whisky, gin and sake, or explore the extensive wine list of boutique South African producers.

8. The Athletic Club & Social

The speakeasy game is strong in Cape Town, and particularly so at The Athletic Club & Social, which stretches across three stories of an inner-city venue. It’s a large space, but made up of many intimate corners, allowing you to choose the vibe that’s right for you. Find a cosy nook with your plus-one or groove to a few tunes in the basement. But whatever your night entails – trust us here – get there in time to grab a sunset table on the balcony. The cocktail menu ticks-off all the classics, as well as an impressive array of signature drinks, paired neatly with an extensive canapé menu.


9. Una Más Mezcaleria

Cape Town is slowly catching on to the rising tide of premium tequila and mezcal, and nowhere in the city offers a selection as impressive as Una Más Mezcaleria. You’ll find more than 90 agave spirits on the menu, from premium imports to a handful of top-notch local varieties. While they won’t complain if you ask for the salt and lemon, a better bet is to order the premium sipping tequila, served in traditional clay copitas.

10. StrangeLove Cocktail Lounge

Set on a mezzanine above the gleaming tanks of Hope Distillery, StrangeLove gives patrons the opportunity to sip a cocktail while gazing at the very still in which it was produced. Admire the Scandi-chic furnishings and lush greenery softening the semi-industrial space, and look forward to an immersive cocktail experience built on a small selection of handcrafted spirits. It’s only open Thursday and Friday evenings, so book ahead.


11. The Art of Duplicity

There’s more than a little intrigue involved in visiting The Art of Duplicity. You’ll need a booking and a password to step inside this trendsetting cocktail bar, which channels the subterfuge and styling of a 1920s speakeasy. Set in a restored Victorian-era warehouse, The Art of Duplicity is the work of serial entrepreneur David Donde – also behind Truth Coffee – and award-wining bartender Brent Perremore. Due respect is given to classic cocktails, which sit alongside the venue’s own creations, all served with a large pour of speakeasy charm.

12. The Dark Horse

Sometimes, you don’t want waistcoated bar staff and cocktail wizardry. Sometimes, you just want a great bar with cold beer, decent spirits and a lively local vibe. If that’s the case, The Dark Horse is the watering hole for you. There’s a compact cocktail menu and a selection of local wines and craft brews, all best enjoyed on the rooftop terrace, which dishes up glorious views of Table Mountain. Peckish? You’re in luck, as the talented chefs from The Black Sheep restaurant across the road are behind the menu of seasonal small plates. 

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