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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 and eclectic suburb of De Waterkant is the heart of Cape Town's rainbow district, and is 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 quick a 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.

61 Loader:  Spectacular views, luxurious decor and easy access to the city make this 3-bedroom apartment 'a must' for travellers wanting to experience Cape Town in style.

Rainbow Romance - Where to stay in Cape Town
A private luxury apartment, like 61 Loader in De Waterkant, is the perfect combination of easy lock-up-and-go convenience and stylish comfort.
Rainbow Romance - 100 Loader Penthouse
For a luxury penthouse feel, why not stay at 100 Loader?
Rainbow Romance - Radisson Blu
The Radisson Blue has some of the best sunset views in Cape Town.

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 gay 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 V.I.P areas make Crew the hot spot to see and be seen. Address: 30 Napier Street, De Waterkant Tel: 021-418-0118.

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: 021-421-6666.

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: 40 Somerset Road, Green Point Tel: 021-425-9019.

Rainbow Romance - Manhattan Club in Cape Town
Cafe Manhattan is a laid-back bar and restaurant situated in De Waterkant. Photo by Anton de Beer.
Rainbow Romance - Cape Town Gay Pride
Cape Town's Gay Pride festival is fun and flamboyant! Photo by Max Barners.
Rainbow Romance - Cape Town Rainbow
Cape Town continues to fly the Rainbow flag. Photo by Ludovic Bertron.

Pride Events

If you’d like to coordinate 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 revelers 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. 

Written by Donyale MacKrill. Connect with her on Google+

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