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Rainy Days in Cape Town

Being from Cape Town I like to think that I live in the land of eternal sunshine – most Capetonians do. This isn’t too far from the truth as unlike London’s weeks of drizzly grey, Cape Town winters are peppered with glorious sunshine. And I’m not talking about a feeble, washed-out winter sun but rich, golden days with warm colours, pleasant temperatures and no wind. Perfect hiking weather!

But sometimes it does rain, and when it rains it tends to come down in buckets, forcing people to stay indoors. So what do you do on rainy days in Cape Town? Some would say head for the V&A Waterfront or another of the city’s many shopping centres, but a couple of hours of pounding polished passageways is hardly my idea of fun.

Instead, here are a few suggestions guaranteed to add a silver lining to even the greyest of Cape Town days. 

Rainy Days in Cape Town - Hout Bay Market
Get every type of pizza (and salad and seafood and pastry) at the welcoming Bay Harbour Market.
Rainy Days in Cape Town - Selling her wares
Browse stalls selling clothes, local crafts and souvenirs.
Rainy Days in Cape Town - Mingling at the market
On Friday evenings there's live music and a festive atmosphere.

Indoor Market Eats & Treats

Cape Town loves its markets! The city’s first truly successful market was The Old Biscuit Mill in Woodstock, and I’ve spent many a happy Saturday morning savouring its eats and treats. Nowadays, however, I tend to find myself elbow-to-plaid-elbow in hipsters, and that’s after I’ve driven several parking-finding circuits around Woodstock’s narrow streets.

A far better option is the Bay Harbour Market, housed in an old warehouse in Hout Bay. Open Friday nights, Saturdays and all day Sundays too, this weekend market sells beautifully made clothes and crafts, along with a fantastic selection of food – think oysters and champagne, juicy steak rolls, French crepes and German wurst. And while lunch time can get crowded, even when it's busy this indoor market manages to maintain its laid-back Cape Town vibe.

My advice: grab a craft beer, sample some nibbles, and surround yourself with the sights, live music and delicious smells of “Cape Town’s cosiest winter market”.

Rainy Days in Cape Town - Grande Provence in the Winelands
Enjoy a superb three-course lunch at Grande Provence in Franschhoek.
Rainy Days in Cape Town - Wine at Groot Constantia
Groot Constantia is the ideal place for a rainy day's glass of wine!
Rainy Days in Cape Town - Groot Constantia
The winelands are great in any weather.

Ward Off Winter Chill in the Winelands

There are few better ways to while away a rainy afternoon than catching up with friends over great tasting food and wine. For a touch of tradition go wine tasting on South Africa’s oldest wine farm – Groot Constantia – followed by a meal at one of the estate restaurants: opt for French-inspired classics and Cajun spices at Simon’s or Cape Malay curries and traditional bobotie at Jonkershuis. Both restaurants have a fireplace to keep you warm and toasty.

Well worth visiting in any weather, the Cape Winelands town of Franschhoek is liberally seasoned with fine restaurants and grand old estates. Here a top rainy day pick is Grande Provence Heritage Estate where you can sip and swirl award-winning wines, treat yourself to a gourmet three-course lunch (think French cuisine with an Asian twist) and wander around a gallery showcasing a wonderful collection of contemporary South African art – all without leaving the estate.

Rainy Days in Cape Town - Haas in the Bo Kaap
Haas is known for its superb coffee and quirky collectibles - it's a great place for a lazy afternoon indoors.
Rainy Days in Cape Town - Flavours of the Bo Kaap
Emma and Kate enjoy the final part of their cooking experience.
Rainy Days in Cape Town - a cooking experience
Learn to fold and make samosas on the Cape Malay cooking tour.

The Many Flavours of the Bo-Kaap

Crouched low on the slopes of Signal Hill, the brightly coloured houses of the Bo-Kaap form the heart of the Cape Malay community. Learn about this tight-knit neighbourhood’s rich cultural heritage as you roll out rotis, fold somosas and cook a fragrant curry in the kitchen of a Bo-Kaap home. For this and other hands-on cultural cooking classes, I recommend Pam McOnie, a local foodie and specialist guide who is well connected to cooks and their kitchens from the neat homes of the Bo-Kaap to the lively quarters of a township. Recently, I went on a Cape Town Eats Gourmet Walking Tour with Pam, and she did a fantastic job of sharing her enthusiasm and knowledge for the city, its cultures and cuisines!

In the Bo-Kaap, you’ll also find one of my favourite coffee spots: Haas. Cape Town has so many excellent coffee shops that it seems almost unfair to single out just one. Then again, Haas is unique enough to have been voted one of the Top 20 reasons to be in SA by “Wallpaper Magazine”. Choose from single-origin beans and exotic blends from around the world; then take a seat amongst the cushions, ceramics, collectables and curiosities. All the artwork at Haas is for sale, so after your coffee pick out a quirky reminder of your stay in Cape Town.

Rainy Days in Cape Town - Jazz Safari
Go on a jazz tour and be invited into the homes of local jazz musicians for an intimate live performance and a great night out.
Rainy Days in Cape Town - The District 6 Museum
Learn about the impact of Apartheid in the District 6 Museum.
Rainy Days in Cape Town - Learn about history at the District 6 Museum
The museum strives to keep alive the memories of the people of District Six.

Cape Town Stories: Music & History

Most of Cape Town’s museums lie within the city centre, so if you’re prepared to brave the weather you can walk between them. As someone who is interested in personal histories, my must-visit recommendation is the District Six Museum. Housed in the old Methodist Mission Church, the museum’s moving displays of letters, photos and personal memorabilia really drive home the impact that apartheid had on families, friends and the once-vibrant community of District Six.

Another way to discover more about Cape Town and the lives of the people that live in it, is through music. Coffeebean Routes taps into the city’s urban stories and cross-section of cultures by inviting visitors into the homes and studios of local artists and musicians. Go on their popular Jazz Safari and enjoy an intimate jam session in the living room of one of the city’s top jazz musicians, then it's more music over a home-cooked dinner before maybe catching the late set together at a local jazz venue.

Rainy Days in Cape Town - Plantetarium
Visit the South African Museum and take in a show at the neighbouring Planetarium.
Rainy Days in Cape Town - The South African Museum
Let kids discover the wondrous Whale Well in the museum.
Rainy Days in Cape Town - Cape Town's Aquarium
The Two Oceans Aquarium is a firm family favourite!

Great for Kids: Under the Sea & In the Sky

At the beginning of this blog I declared that I steer clear of malls, and while this is true there are other excellent rainy day reasons to visit the V&A Waterfront – like the Two Oceans Aquarium. Kids love the aquarium and so do I! I can spend hours gazing at the tanks of luminous jellyfish, alien-like crabs, mesmerizing kelp forest and the predator exhibit – its thick glass separating me from the wings of a giant stingray or cold, grey stare of a ragged-tooth shark.

Or go stargazing at the Planetarium. The ultimate in armchair travel, at the Planetarium you simply sit back and stare up at a pitch black dome where they magically recreate the night sky in a scattering of constellations and planets. Whatever the weather outside, the Planetarium sky is always clear, and when the cosmic show is over you can wander through the neighbouring South African Museum - the dinosaur exhibit and Whale Well are always a hit with kids! 

Find Your Own Adventure

These are just a few of my indoor favourites, but take a drive along the peninsula or into the Winelands you’re sure to find your own cosy lunch spot or lovely little gallery. And if you already know of that perfect rainy-day place then please do share it in the comments below.

Written by Sandra Mallinson. Connect with her on Google+

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