Cape Town Nightlife: Best Nightclubs and Bars (2020)
Note: This Cape Town nightlife review was written by a South African reader who lives in the city.
With breathtaking scenery and a great diversity of cultures, Cape Town is one of the most unique metropolises in Africa.
Among the many reasons tourists flock to the city is to enjoy its nightlife, which is probably one of the best on the continent. It is especially popular among backpackers, at least for the bars that are located in the city center.
Cape Town’s nightlife is a large melting pot of different venues, from African dancehalls to Western-style nightclubs, each with their distinct vibe and crowd. In a city so large and renowned for its crime rate, you are certainly wondering where you should go for fun, and whether it is safe to do so.
Here, I will give you recommendations for 10 must-try bars and nightclubs, as well as some tips about what to expect when going out at night in Cape Town.
Hotels Near Cape Town Nightlife
As you can see on this map, most of the best bars and nightclubs in Cape Town are located in the city center, between Long Street and Bree Street.
This is a rather safe area to stay in, where you can walk around without any problems during the day. At night, I recommend using taxis, though, as robberies are quite common (see my safety tips at the end of the article).
The hotels I recommend near the nightlife of Long Street/Bree Street are the following:
⭐⭐⭐⭐ Mandela Rhodes Place Hotel (serviced apartments) - US$150/night
⭐⭐⭐ Holiday Inn Express City Center - US$90/night
⭐91 Loop Boutique Hostel - US$50/night
There are also some bars and nightclubs in District 6, particularly at The Firm complex. It's a bit more trendy and less touristy.
10 Best Nightclubs and Bars in Cape Town
Below are my 10 favorite bars and nightclubs of Cape Town:
There are many pubs and clubs along the coastline, but Shimmy Beach Club is unrivaled when it comes to summer parties (from the end of December until March). It wasn't rated among the top 100 clubs in the world by International Nightlife Association for nothing.
Shimmy Beach Club prepares the guests for a perfect combination of luxury and entertainment through several sub-venues. The restaurant offers some of the best seafood meals in the city, while the poolside and the deck are ready for events from bachelorette parties to DJ performances (The South African electronic music band Goldfish particularly likes this place).
Since its opening in September 2017, Reset has become the pioneer in Cape Town's electronic music scene. It features two different dancefloors (Tunnel and Groove Bar) where you can listen to various genres including techno, deep house, EDM and minimal house.
Just because you are in Africa doesn’t mean you can’t have some Latin-style fun. In fact, Cape Town’s Latin Dance scene is quite large. One of the popular venues among dancers is La Parada, but the trick is to visit it on a Friday. After tasting the delicious tapas platters, go downstairs to the basement to have a free session on introductory salsa. After the class, stay for the social Latin nights to practice what you learned. You don't even need a partner, as everyone will eventually ask or be asked to dance without hesitation.
Harrington's Cocktail Lounge (The Firm)
Harrington's Cocktail Lounge is in Harrington's Street, a vibrant nightlife area in District 6. More specifically, it is part of The Firm, a complex that also includes the District nightclub and Surfarosa dive bar.
Stepping inside, you will first notice a somewhat kitschy decoration, but don’t let that put you off. It is a really fun bar that hosts a wide range of activities from gigs of local bands to 80s-90s themed parties. They also have plenty of events such as wine tasting and happy hours with half-priced tapas.
Beerhouse on Long Street is an all-time classic in Cape Town. It’s not surprising to find it packed inside no matter what time of the day you go. The broad selection of beers has every option you can think of and beyond (99 types of bottled beers and 25 types of tap beer).
Besides the balcony and seated areas, the place has a moderate-sized dance floor. Music is mostly top 40/rock/classic. The place is also renowned for its karaoke and pub-quiz nights, so you can find a million excuses to pay a visit. Recently, they've also opened a branch in Tygervalley.
If you are a fan of techno/electronic music, look no further. This small club with an underground vibe attracts the best DJs in Cape Town. Entrance fee is 100ZAR on the weekend. Cool crowd.
Decodance in Sea Point is one of the longest-running night clubs in Cape Town, renowned for its 70s-80s-90s parties. It is also one of the biggest in the city, boasting multiple dancefloors playing different music genres, smoking and non-smoking areas, and three bars to distribute the drinking crowd evenly. Another cool thing with Decodance is the cheap entrance fee, especially for women who can gain free entrance before 10 pm.
The Secret Gin Bar (at Honest Chocolate)
A cozy chocolate shop by day, Honest Chocolate opens its doors at night to cocktail-lovers. Walking through the coffee shop will lead you to the backyard, where you will find the not-so-secret speakeasy bar. The gin menu has a wide selection of herb and tea-infused gins. The venue has little space, so make sure to visit early to find yourself a spot.
Being in the most LGBTQ-friendly country in Africa, Cape Town is regarded as the gay capital of the continent. Located in the De-Waterkant area (a.k.a Cape Town’s gay village), Pink Panther is one of the longest-running night clubs in Cape Town. From its incredibly friendly owners and attractive waiters to the themed parties and DJ performances, Pink Panther is a place you shouldn’t skip regardless of your sexual orientation.
The new sensation of Burg Street is Stilettos Elite Gent' Club. This upmarket strip club greets everyone, men and women, with their sexy hostesses, talented dancers, and a variety of events. The options for dance performances are plenty. You can choose from a variety of private rooms and a selection of dances such as lap, couple and table. This is the ultimate place to host your bachelor party. Entrance fee is 150ZAR. Free for women who are accompanying guys.
Cape Town Nightlife Tips
Cost of clubbing:Most nightclubs will have an entry fee of 50-100 ZAR, so remember to bring cash with you.
Wear smart casual and be prepared for the sudden changes in weather.
Sadly, Cape Town (as the rest of South Africa) has a particularly high crime rate. Because of that, many people will rather avoid the country.
That said, those fears tend to be exaggerated. The majority of violent crime happens in the townships far outside of the city center. In the central area, you are more likely to be the victim of incidents like mugging and pickpocketing. It is not that common, though, and if you stay vigilant and street-smart, you should spend the nights problem-free.
Never leave any valuables unattended (for instance, don't leave your phone on your table at a bar, especially when drunk).
Try to always use Uber when going from one club/bar to another at night, even if they are only 300 meters apart. If you do walk, stay in a group and don't let random people approach you.
Avoid taking your mobile phone out of your pocket: I was once robbed of mine while looking at Google Maps (I was lost and I needed directions).
By the way, if you are going to South Africa for a holiday, you should subscribe to travel insurance. It will really save you from having to pay thousands of dollars in case an accident happens to you. I bought mine with WorldNomads and it is affordable (about 8USD per day).
Getting Around at night
Cape Town does not have a mode of reliable public transport, so Uber is the ultimate transportation method at night.
Although South Africa is currently legalizing small-scale marijuana production, it is still illegal to buy and sort of drugs on the street. You must beware of people trying to sell drugs, especially on Long Street.