Downtown Cape Town's most beautiful bars

by Simangele Mzizi 16 Apr 2023
TjingTjing rooftop bar

They're elegant spaces with curated menus and plush interiors to ensure ultimate relaxation. Here are some of the best bars to be enjoyed in the Cape Town city centre.

A unique (and exquisite) space in town with a Japanese slant, Tjing Tjing Rooftop Bar was voted one of the best new bars worldwide by Condé Nast Traveller in 2012. At the top of Tjing Tjing House, situated in a 200-year-old Heritage building in Longmarket St, the bar is ensconced in an old attic enveloped in wooden mansards. The furnishings are eclectic, echoing those on the other three levels of the building, with a striking shrine-red bar (designed by industrial designer Warren Franken) being offset by a wall of owner Ilze Koekemoer's black-and-white photographs of Tokyo and Kyoto. This is a cool, vibey space that opens up to an airy outside rooftop terrace. The drinks menu is meticulously crafted with bespoke cocktails, including classics by request, Japanese whisky, gin and sake as well as an extensive wine list, including Tjing Tjing's house wine. Tasty snacks, known as otsumami, add to the offering.
165 Longmarket St

Tequila enthusiasts will feel right at home at Hacienda in Bree Street, which marries contemporary modern Mexican cuisine and Tequila from the Bajío region. Patrons visiting the space can soak up the bustling street while perched on high bar stools or at an outside table. The interior has earthy tones with brown leather seats, wooden tables and exposed brick walls in some places. The beautiful bar area, the star of the show, is a tequila lover’s dream with its stunning lights and a wide selection of the best tequilas in the world. Guests can also enjoy exceptionally crafted cocktails, margaritas, beers and wines. 
92 Bree St

Gigi Rooftop Bar
Gigi Rooftop Bar.

After a quick stroll down St Georges Mall, a sharp left and a lift up to the 6th floor, you arrive at Gigi Rooftop Bar inside the posh Gorgeous George Hotel. Here you’ll find a sophisticated bar and restaurant, the interior of which is adorned with art, mirrors on the ceiling, inviting plush leather seats and neatly arranged tables and chairs. When you step outside, you are greeted by the words “hello gorgeous”, lush hanging plants, comfortable seating and a beautiful dipping pool. It’s no wonder guests are encouraged to overstay their welcome and indulge in expertly crafted cocktails and mouthwatering food. 
118 St Georges Mall

Athletic Club & Social
The Athletic Club & Social.

What’s in a name? Word is this sumptuous venue, comprising three bars and a restaurant, pays homage to the building’s former owner, a pharmacist and sports fanatic, who operated a speakeasy in the basement. This is why sports memorabilia is to be found throughout the venue, allowing patrons to trace South Africa’s sporting history on the walls. Guests can either enjoy a range of drinks on the terrace, share a meal over candlelight or listen to music in the hidden basement bar. 
35 Buitengracht St

House of Artezian
House of Artezian.

Artezian is another recent addition to the Central City’s diverse offering. It is a tapas restaurant, bar and art gallery that also provides entertainment. The name is derived from the flow of natural water when it pushes up from under the ground … almost like a spring. Nothing is pedestrian at Artezian including signature cocktails such as “Captain Bob” made with smoked chilli pineapple, Bobbejaan liqueur, lime juice, simple syrup, navy strength gin and chilli oil.
217 Bree St 
Instagram: @artezian_on_bree

MCC Room
The Gin Bar is a favourite among gin lovers.

The Gin Bar boldly declares that its space is so good you’ll want to keep it a secret. Interestingly, this inner city gem is hidden in a historical building with a secret Mediterranean-style courtyard which you enter through Honest Chocolate Café. Once inside, gin lovers can indulge in over 70 of South Africa’s top craft gins available. But don’t let the name fool you, the atmospheric, double-volume venue is also a beer and wine bar and boasts a bubbly bar (MCC Room), with a range of drinks from local crafters. Another interesting tidbit is that The Gin Bar used to be occupied by an undertaker. So, you can imagine other fascinating stories to be heard while enjoying appetising drinks.
64A Wale St

Harrington Cocktail Lounge
Harringtons Cocktail Lounge, an East City favourite.

This classic cocktail lounge, restaurant and boutique bar is located in the CBD’s East City and offers a bird’s eye view of Table Mountain and the bustling nightlife of the area. The drinks menu is varied and includes interesting house cocktails such as East & West, a cardamom and grapefruit forward Bloedlemoen gin-based creation. The menu also has classic cocktails and a wide selection of spirits including an 18-year-old Jameson that goes for R3 200. The space is beautifully designed with lush décor which includes beautifully polished wooden accents, large windows and velvet bottle service booths. There is also a dedicated smoking lounge and a boutique DJ booth to ensure a pleasant experience for all.
61B Harrington St

The Rockefeller, Cape Town’s glam Foreshore aparthotel, has a sophisticated rooftop bar inspired by music, architecture and art. Studio Cape Town is unique in town and is a collaboration between hotel developer Ryan Joffe and Grammy award-winning South African musician, Zakes Bantwini, who also curates the venue’s music. Award-winning interior architect Tristan Du Plessis was brought on board along with artist Fhatuwani Mukheli, whose art decorates the space. During the day, the Studio space – which has a cool pool area – is reserved for residents and hotel guests. After 18h00, the pool closes, and Studio takes over. On most nights, the venue is open to the public unless there is an exclusive reservation or private function. What’s more, Studio doesn’t get load shedding, meaning it is always party-time.
12 Christiaan Barnard St 
Instagram: @studiocapetown

When it comes to bars with spectacular views, few come close to the 14stories Rooftop Bar at the SunSquare Hotel. It offers views of iconic sites such as Table Mountain, Signal Hill and the V&A Waterfront. The good news is the drinks menu of champagne sundowners or signature cocktails, and the light menu of casual snacks is just as formidable. The cherry on top is the venue can be enjoyed all year round thanks to an indoor lounge.
23 Buitengracht St

A CBD institution, The Grand Daddy Hotel, which has been operating for 127 years, has a variety of exciting spaces waiting to be explored and enjoyed, including its Sky Bar. It has a great vibe and unique look when you consider its famous trailers. There are also fantastic views of bustling Long Street, an important lifeline to the city centre and a key contributor to its economy. To unwind, guests can choose from cold beers, champagne and classic cocktails.
38 Long St

Infinity-Restaurant- Hotel Sky
Slick Hotel Sky's Infinity Restaurant and Bar.

Hotel Sky’s Infinity Restaurant on the 26th floor features a stunning bar which has mesmerising 360-degree mountain and sea views. The plush venue has a bold Afro-chic interior that has been decked out with glitzy chandeliers, animal prints and tropical wallpaper. Drink options are limitless and include an extensive wine list, cocktails, a fabulous selection of French champagnes plus some lovely MCCs and Proseccos.
9 Lower Long St 

1.    Culture Wine Bar | 103 Bree St |
2.    The Drinkery | 100 Shortmarket St | Instagram: @thedrinkeryza
3.    Ghibli Bar Radisson Blu Hotel | 22 Riebeek St |
4.    Harald’s Bar & Terrace |29 Heerengracht St |
5.    Allure Rooftop Lounge | 71 Waterkant St |

IMAGES: Hotel Sky, Harringtons Cocktail Lounge, The Gin Bar, House of Artezian, The Athletic Club & Social, Gigi Rooftop Bar, TjingTjing