Nestled on the rugged coast of South Africa, Cape Town is a city of extremes, in every sense of the word. Often known as “the pink city” it is a bastion of LGBT+ culture and community in Africa, boasting world-class gay nightlife, whilst the dramatic and spectacular landscape that surrounds the city offers endless possibilities for exploration and adventure. Cape Town’s famous history of racial turmoil and systematic oppression can still be felt on the streets today, and there are numerous venues and museum spaces dedicated to honouring the city’s troubled history.
A world-class culinary scene, increasingly prominent artistic community and some of the best gay nightlife in the continent make Cape Town an unmissable destination for gay travelers and there are countless things to do in this incredible city.
Moving, humbling and fascinating. The District Six Museum seeks to preserve the memory and act as a reminder of the devastation thrust upon a once vibrant and eclectic area of Cape Town. District Six was known for its artistic community, bohemian lifestyle and multiracial population, with its citizens living peacefully and proudly amongst one another. However, during the apartheid of the 1960s and 70s, the area was designated a ‘whites-only’ district and 60,000 members of the community were forcibly removed and relocated to the bleak, infertile and sandy Cape Flats township.
The museum exists inside an old methodist church and visitors can tour the extensive collection of artefacts, original documents, personal accounts and photography that document the horrific oppression that took place in the district. The museum contains multiple recreations of traditional District Six housing and visitors are encouraged to immerse themselves in the area’s sombre history.
Cape Town is overwhelmingly gay-friendly, meaning that the majority of nightlife venues in the city are popular amongst the gay population and business will treat patrons with respect and dignity regardless of sexual orientation and gender identity. However, there are a number of gay-specific bars and clubs, the majority of which can be found around the De Waterkant area.
The epicentre of gay nightlife and one of the most popular bars in Cape Town is Beefcakes. Campy, fun and unserious, Beefcakes plays host to a revolving roster of South Africa’s fiercest and most unapologetic drag queens as well as world-class DJs and cabaret performers. Designed to emulate a typical 1950s Miami Beach club, Beefcakes is a great place to warm up for a big night out, grab a gourmet burger or catch a drag show whilst sipping a delicious cocktail.
Cape Town’s club scene is as lively and energetic as its gay community, with a wide and varied range of venues that are sure to pique the interest of any gay traveler. Some of the best gay clubs in the city include The Pink Panther Social Club, StarGayzer and Crew.
Looming over Cape Town and casting an enormous shadow, the Table Mountain is a spectacular and awe-inspiring sight. In contrast to the oppressive silhouette the mountain casts, its summit is an area of immense biodiversity, earning it a place as one of The New Seven Wonders of the World. The 57-square kilometre area that makes up Table Mountain is home to 1470 floral species, many of which are endemic to the area and essential parts of the local ecology.
Travelers can access this expansive natural garden by the cable car that has been operating since 1929. Travelling up the mountain takes roughly five minuted and panoramic 360-degree views can be appreciated from the cable car. For the most adventurous of travelers, there are also a number of hiking trails and pathways that snake their way up the side of the mountain. The hikes typically take between one and three hours and offer a far richer experience of this stunning location.
Cape Town does pride like no one else. Spanning a week and involving numerous events, parades and parties, the festival is a celebration of the immense diversity in the city. The pride celebrations kick off with the Cape Town Pride Pink Party, before four days of parties spread across the city’s multiple gay venues commences. The best locations to enjoy the pride atmosphere are at Crew bar, The Prison and Zer021, where visitors will find a range of pride focused events.
Throughout the pride celebrations, there are a number of cultural and literary events such as the city’s Bookcase, a collection of literary works from Cape Towns LGBT+ population. The works a range of genres and all aim to tell the stories of LGBT+ people in the city and their experiences. However, the culmination of the Pride Festival is the large parade on the final day, where thousands of LGBT+ Cape Towners descend on the streets to march in pride and solidarity.
Cape Town is fun, vibrant and full of energy, but for all the gloriousness of this city, there are equal amounts of tragedy and oppression. One of the most important locations in Cape Town is Robben Island- the prison where Nelson Mandela and fellow anti-apartheid activists were imprisoned for 18 years at the height of political and human-rights struggles in South Africa.
Travelers can reach the prison by ferry from Cape Town harbour and trips run frequently throughout the day. Tours are available once inside the prison and the resident guides are fully knowledgable of the islands 500-year history, spanning multiple occupations and moments of great political significance. Visitors are shown the entire prison complex before arriving at the cell where Nelson Mandella spent the majority of his sentence, an experience that is guaranteed to move and inspire any traveler.
by George Pizani | More: Gay Cape Town