Rainbow Romance: a Gay-Friendly Guide to Cape Town

Why Cape Town

South Africa’s 1996 Constitution specifically protects full and equal rights for LGBT people. In 2006, the rainbow nation legalized same-sex marriages - the first country in Africa and the fifth in the world to do so.

Naturally, Cape Town is home to the most developed gay and lesbian community on the African continent - Britain's The Guardian newspaper called it ‘one of the 10 most popular gay travel destinations in the world’, while the US publication Out and About named it a ‘world-wide favourite’.

I’ve never been prouder of our Constitution than I was on the day my godfather was finally able to marry his long-term partner in a small ceremony in the vibrant neighbourhood of De Waterkant. It is the heart of the rainbow district and home to many of the city’s official 100 gay and lesbian venues – the perfect venue to celebrate a rainbow romance.

Here is our guide to celebrating your rainbow romance in Africa’s most beautiful city.

Rainbow Romance - de Waterkant
The colourful & eclectic enclave of De Waterkant is the heart of Cape Town's rainbow district, close to many top attractions in the city.

Where to Stay

Choose a romantic hotel or private villa that is central to Cape Town’s main attractions and near the top gay and lesbian venues, which are mostly in and around the enclaves of De Waterkant and Green Point.

Here are some of our favourites:

Cape Royale Luxury hotel and Spa Walk to the V&A Waterfront or De Waterkant from this gay-friendly luxury hotel with in-room kitchens for independent living and a selection of top restaurants nearby.

Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront One of Cape Town's best sunset spots, this comfortable, oceanfront hotel is a quick stroll away from the delights of the V&A Waterfront as well as the seaside restaurants and bars of the Mouille Point strip.

100 Loader Penthouse Epitomising Cape Town-cool at the heart of the city's stylish De Waterkant district, this sensational 1-bedroom penthouse offers nothing but the most luxurious urban living.

13a de Smidt With a rooftop terrace boasting 360-degree views of the harbour, city and mountain, this sleek 3-bedroom apartment is 'a must' for travellers wanting to experience Cape Town in unassuming style.

Rainbow Romance - 13a de Schmit
13a de Smidt is a stylish luxury apartment offering spectacular views all around Cape Town.
Rainbow Romance - Cape Royale
The Cape Royale Luxury Hotel and Spa is ideally located close to the V&A Waterfront & De Waterkant.

Out & About

Cape Town is an easy-going city with a playful atmosphere. You’ll find a buzzing nightlife with venues for dancing and cruising, fine dining and cabaret shows, sophisticated coffee bars, world-class shopping and every incentive to be out and about in the fresh air – award-winning beaches, picture-perfect Winelands and mountains to hike, bike or climb.

You’ll find gay venues listed on street maps at the city’s tourist information kiosks and see the multicoloured rainbow flag flying proudly from many businesses in the city.

Somerset Road - known as ‘The Strip’ - runs through Greenpoint and De Waterkant. It’s home to the most popular gay venues and is lively well into the early hours.

Here’s our pick of the most popular spots:

Crew is famous for its handsome bartenders and for playing the best music in Cape Town. Stylish open-plan interiors, a super spacious dance floor and very VIP areas make Crew the hot spot to see and be seen.

Address: 30 Napier Street, De Waterkant Tel: +27 (0)73 204 3706.

Café Manhattan bar and restaurant is a popular but laid-back meeting place. The service is excellent, the menu perfect for the morning after or a leisurely lunch and there is regular entertainment in the form of art exhibitions and live music (most Thursdays).

Address: 74 Waterkant Street, De Waterkant Tel: +27 (0)21 421 6666.

Beefcakes Burger Bar is styled like a 1950’s American diner and boasts the ‘biggest and best’ burgers in Cape Town. It’s a great place to relax and have fun - there are regular shows featuring stand up comedians and drag queens, and even 'bitchy bingo' evenings.

Address: 34 Somerset Road, Green Point Tel: +27 (0)21 425 9019.

Rainbow Romance - Manhatten
Cafe Manhattan is a laid-back bar & restaurant situated in De Waterkant. Photo by Anton de Beer.
Rainbow Romance
Cape Town continues to fly the rainbow flag high. Photo by Ludovic Bertron

Pride Events

If you’d like to co-ordinate your romantic break in Cape Town with one of the city’s annual gay and lesbian events, consider a late summer visit in February to March to take advantage of Cape Town’s Gay Pride week or visit in spring (October to November) for the Out in Africa film festival.

Cape Town Gay Pride takes place in late February or early March annually and features 11 days of gay and lesbian events and parties attracting over 10 000 revellers to the city from around the world. 

Mother City Queer Project started in 1994 as a dress-up party to celebrate the dawn of democracy in South Africa; it now attracts partygoers from around the world and is a must-do for many gay and straight Capetonians alike. MCQP takes place in December.

Out in Africa is South Africa’s gay and lesbian film festival that runs in art cinemas around October/ November each year. In addition to superb cinematic contributions from Africa, the festival brings together a truly global offering each year. 

The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras is a colourful pride festival that takes place over a few days in April or May. Although located outside of Cape Town, the few hours' drive along the Garden Route to Knysna is worth it to join in the fun of the Mr Mardie Gras South Africa and Madam Wigstock pageants. 

Written by Donyale MacKrill. Connect with her on Google+

Sign up & join our travel community for real reviews, expert insights and helpful tips for planning a successful safari.

comments powered by Disqus