South Africa’s 1996 Constitution specifically protects full and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community – all forms of anti-gay discrimination are banned. In 2006, the rainbow nation legalised same-sex marriages, the first country in Africa and the fifth in the world to do so.
South Africa is an accepting country and a shining beacon for gay travel in Africa. And some of the best experiences, gay-friendly accommodation, bars, and hotels are found in the country’s Mother City of Cape Town.
What Makes Cape Town LGBT-Friendly?
The Mother City is home to the most established 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'. Consistently ranking among the world’s top gay-friendly cities has earned Cape Town its nickname, Africa’s 'gay capital'.
De Waterkant is the heart of gay Cape Town’s rainbow district and home to many of the city’s official 100 gay and lesbian venues. This chic enclave of Green Point is known for its upscale retail stores, fashion boutiques, art galleries, award-winning eateries, and leafy streets lined with brightly coloured cottages. If you’re looking for the best night clubs and gay bars in Cape Town, look no further than De Waterkant.
We’ve been tailor-making gay-friendly trips to Africa since 1998. Here is our LGBT-friendly guide to Cape Town…
Where is the Best Gay-Friendly Accommodation in Cape Town?
Most of the top gay hotels in Cape Town are in and around the enclaves of Green Point and the V&A Waterfront. These ideal locations make it easy to choose gay-friendly accommodation near Cape Town’s best beaches and main attractions, and some of the top LGBTQ+ venues in South Africa.
Here are some of our favourite gay-friendly hotels in Cape Town:
Radisson Red Hotel, V&A Waterfront
Situated in the modish Silo District of the V&A Waterfront, the Radisson Red is a modern exemplar of Cape Town’s creative scene. Built alongside the architectural masterpiece of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, this gay-friendly hotel in Cape Town offers over 200 distinctively individual suites, sunrise yoga sessions, a roof-top food truck, and superb views of Table Mountain.
Lawhill Luxury Apartments, V&A Waterfront
Sophisticated, stylish, and boasting magnificent Table Mountain and marina views, this gay-friendly accommodation offers LGBTQ+ travellers a taste of luxury living at the ‘hottest address in Cape Town’. We love the elegantly furnished three-bedroom penthouses that offer world-class hospitality, daily housekeeping and concierge services, plus private swimming pools and sun decks. It is a glamorous, independent retreat for families and groups of friends.
Sugar Hotel, Green Point
Situated in a cosmopolitan area, Sugar Hotel is ideally located within easy access to the bustling city centre, the V&A Waterfront, and Cape Town’s LGBT-friendly neighbourhood of De Waterkant. This gay-friendly hotel is a stylish Afro-chic blend of contemporary lines, soft neutral tones, and a splash of authentic Africa.
Queen Victoria Hotel, V&A Waterfront
This gay-friendly accommodation is a luxurious haven and the perfect place from which to experience the Mother City in style. Queen Victoria Hotel is ideal for travellers who enjoy a sophisticated vacation that’s a little removed from the crowded spots. It’s located in a quiet road, but still within walking distance of the V&A Waterfront's boutique stores and world-class restaurants.
Winchester Boutique Hotel, Sea Point
The Winchester Boutique Hotel sits right on an incredibly scenic sea-facing promenade, a local favourite for morning and evening walks. Overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, this gay-friendly hotel is a short drive from the city centre and gorgeous beaches like Camps Bay and Clifton. The Winchester is an iconic hotel with a rich heritage preserved by its historic Cape Dutch architecture, paying homage to a romantic and sophisticated bygone era.
The Clarendon Collection, Fresnaye & Bantry Bay
Boasting luxurious boutique hotels in two of Cape Town’s most sought-after neighbourhoods, the Clarendon Collection attracts a clientele that appreciates the finer things in life. With effortless elegance, understated luxury, personal touches and clockwork efficiency, these gay-friendly hotels in Fresnaye and Bantry Bay offer low-profile hideaways that are perfect for discreet vacations.
Gorgeous George Hotel, Cape Town City Centre
Comprising a set of cosy studios and larger suites, Gorgeous George Hotel is situated at the very heart of the Mother City. It’s located in a beautifully restored historic building, blending Art Deco with modern industrial chic. Putting an emphasis on local farm-to-fork produce, the in-house restaurant delivers unforgettably delicious cuisine from its roof-top setting. It’s the ideal gay-friendly accommodation in Cape Town for a sleek urban experience.
Nightlife: Where Are the Best Gay Bars in Cape Town?
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. And then there are the award-winning beaches, picture-perfect Winelands and mountains to hike, bike or climb!
You’ll find Cape Town’s LGBT-friendly 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 Green Point and De Waterkant. It’s home to the most popular LGBTQ-friendly venues and gay bars in Cape Town, and is lively well into the early hours.
Here are our picks of the most popular LGBTQ-friendly venues and gay bars in Cape Town:
One of the oldest gay bars in Cape Town, 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).
This popular burger bar is styled like an American diner from the 1950s and boasts the ‘biggest and best’ burgers in Cape Town. Beefcakes is a great place to relax and have fun. There are regular shows featuring stand-up comedians and drag queens, and even 'bitchy bingo' evenings.
Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre
Filled with old-world charm and quirky touches like retro telephones which can be used to order drinks or have a chat with people at other tables, Alexander is one of the most popular gay bars in Cape Town. The venue also boasts a 40-seater theatre that delivers about 10 fabulous shows per week, and a kitchen that serves delicious meals until midnight.
Considered the city’s premiere mixed-culture entertainment venue, Zer021 Social is one of the most accepting gay bars in Cape Town. Founded in 2012, Zer021 Social has become a hot spot and safe space for the urban LGBTQ+ community of Cape Town. With regular shows by drag performers, musicians and deejays, it’s a beautiful boiling pot where Cape Town’s diverse cultures come together to have a fabulous time.
The Gin Bar
Boasting ‘more gins than you can shake a stick at’, this hidden gem is nestled in a romantic Mediterranean-style courtyard behind Honest Chocolate: a quaint café that produces artisanal chocolate made from single origin, ethically sourced cacao beans. With over 100 gins on the menu, The Gin Bar is a firm local favourite for a delectable juniper-flavoured spirit and something sweet.
With a strong focus on ‘new wave’ wines made by local artisans, this neighbourhood bar serves delicious vino from sustainably farmed vineyards. Publik is an unpretentious and hospitable space where you can enjoy unique varietals with fantastic charcuterie and cheeses. Look out for its popular winemaker evenings and pop-up dinners.
Tjing Tjing is the ideal spot to kick off a night on the town. Situated in the attic of a 200-year-old, three-storey building, Tjing Tjing is a trendy roof-top bar that’s beautifully styled with leather seats and lanterns. Upon entering Tjing Tjing House, you’ll find Torii Restaurant – a vibrant space offering food typically found in a Japanese yokocho (alleyway) – and Momiji Lounge on the first floor, a tranquil restaurant that delivers a creative and modern Japanese dining experience.
Pride Events & Cape Town’s LGBT-Friendly Festivals
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 the Cape Town Pride Week, or visit in spring (October to November) for the Out in Africa film festival.
Cape Town Pride Festival
The annual Cape Town Pride Festival usually takes place in late February or early March and features 11 days of LGBTQ+ events and parties, attracting over 10 000 revellers to the city from around the world. The festival provides a platform for South Africa’s LGBT+ community to raise awareness of LGBT+ issues and promote equal rights. It comprises gay-friendly events like the annual Pride Parade through the heart of Cape Town’s CBD, the crowning of Mr and Miss Cape Town Pride, a roller disco, and hiking in the Mother City’s various nature reserves.
Mother City Queer Project
This annual event started in 1994 as a themed costume party to celebrate the birth of South Africa’s new constitution and its acknowledgment of gay rights. It now attracts thousands of partygoers from around the world and is a must-do for many gay and straight Capetonians alike. MCQP takes place in December and showcases fabulous costumes ranging from over-the-top creations by professional designers to wonderful handmade masterpieces.
Out in Africa
Out in Africa is South Africa’s gay and lesbian film festival that runs in art cinemas around November each year. In addition to superb cinematic contributions from Africa, the festival brings together a truly global offering each year. The purpose of the festival is to showcase films from around the world, stimulate and promote a home-grown film industry, and to address the lack of visibility of LGBTQ+ individuals in South African social and cultural life.
Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival
The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras & Arts Festival is a colourful gay pride festival that takes place over a few days in April or May. Although it’s hosted in Knysna, about a six-hour drive from Cape Town, the journey along South Africa’s breath-taking Garden Route is well worth the trip. It’s one of South Africa’s biggest LGBTQ+ festivals and include events like the Wigstock Drag Queen Festival, athletic competitions, and an art festival.
Our Favourite Restaurants in Cape Town
From hot new chefs and go-to favourites to hip tapas spots and pizza joints, the range of restaurants in Cape Town seems to grow year on year. But there’s a lot more depth to the Mother City’s culinary hive. Here are our tried and tested favourites:
This 50-seater urban eatery sits on the fifth floor and boasts incredible views of Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. Japanese cooking principles underly the African-inspired menu at FYN, elevated by unique wine pairings.
Headed by a multi-award-winning chef, La Colombe is a stylish jewel in the Constantia Winelands’ crown. Very creative French-Asian dishes are conjured up at this incredible restaurant, using foraged ingredients that are beautifully plated into culinary masterpieces.
Kloof Street House
Set inside a stylishly furnished Victorian house, the sophisticated Kloof Street House is known for its brasserie-style menu that puts an eclectic spin on South Africa’s favourite comfort foods. Look out for the live jazz afternoons on the first Sunday of each month, best enjoyed over oysters and champagne.
This popular Indian-tapas eatery’s menu comprises eight unbelievably delicious dishes that are served with sambals, poppadoms and tandoor. If you’re looking for heavenly curries, look no further than Thali.
Hemelhuijs is a small oasis in the heart of the city centre that’s famous for its freshly squeezed juices, paradisical cocktails, fantastic coffee, and creative seasonal menu.
Belly of the Beast
This fine dining restaurant serves a maximum of 24 guests per service, as the owner-chef believes that smaller-scale cooking enhances the depth of flavour in each ingredient. There are no set menus at Belly of the Beast – you’ll be served a sustainable feast comprising a selection of delectable courses.
Salsify at the Roundhouse
Boasting beautiful Atlantic Ocean views, Salsify at the Roundhouse delivers refined dishes that are skilfully and sensitively prepared. Seafood features prominently on the menu, paying homage to the owner-chef’s father who was a professional fisherman.
The serene Kyoto Garden is consistently ranked among the best Japanese restaurants by Cape Town’s top chefs and connoisseurs. Gorgeously crafted sushi and flash-grilled fish are served in a minimally decorated yet inviting space.
Things to Do in Cape Town
Whatever your interests, you can experience a plethora of activities in Cape Town’s LGBT-friendly and accepting atmosphere. Here are a few of our favourites:
Hike Up Lion’s Head
Lion’s Head is the distinctly shaped mountain peak alongside Table Mountain. The proud 'lion' overlooks the city centre and Table Bay on one side, and the scenic beaches and mountains of Camps Bay on the other. On a clear day you can see all the way to the mountains of the Cape Winelands and to Robben Island.
Go to the Beach
It’s no secret that Cape Town has some of the best beaches in the world. Clifton’s gay-friendly 3rd Beach is a popular rendezvous spot for gay men in Cape Town. The atmosphere is buzzy and merry, the beach is not as crowded as its more popular neighbours, and the weather conditions are always perfect for catching a tan.
Go Wine Tasting
The gorgeous Cape Winelands is home to some of the country’s oldest and most prestigious wine farms dating back to the 1650s. Day tours to the popular towns of Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Paarl are easy to arrange, and a must-do during any visit to Cape Town.
Visit the Zeitz Museum
The world’s biggest and best collection of contemporary African art is housed at the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. It’s Cape Town’s answer to the Tate Modern in London or Guggenheim in New York City.
Picnic in Kirstenbosch Garden
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is an ideal stop in combination with a trip to the Constantia Winelands or Cape Point. Lay out your blanket and dig into your basket among the indigenous proteas and fynbos that make up the incredibly diverse floral kingdom against a stunning mountain backdrop.
Ready to Plan Your Visit to Cape Town?
Get in touch with our team of Africa Safari Experts to help tailor-make a trip that’s right for you: