ONE WAY of gaining mastery on Cape Town is to withdraw all knowledge about South Africa - no comparisons to Sydney or San Francisco or crime statistics are necessary. Cape Town is home to South Africans who have migrated south, foreigners who spend summers here, international jetsetters and even great achievers in diverse disciplines. Best-selling author Wilbur Smith describes Cape Town as the city that has everything. Apt if you start unveiling the tourist attractions and seeking for more significant interests.
The flight into Cape Town from anywhere in the world is a protracted one - flanked by two different oceans, the city receives heat from the Indian Ocean and cold from the Atlantic Sea, a perfect balance of the elements. Flying into Cape Town gives the best perspective of the smoky grey mountains, the open plains and the blazing oceans.
The question of where to stay in Cape Town is common as the options are endless. The overtly stately Ellerman House (ellerman.co.za) offers a discreet sanctuary with dramatic views of the clear ocean and top service. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the Daddy Long Legs Art Hotel (daddylonglegs.co.za), which started as a humble art project and has turned into a space for forward thinking travellers interested in individually designed rooms and simple value for money.
After you've checked in, unwind in one of the many spas available in the city - Enmasse (enmasse.co.za), is a unique concept: inspired by ancient cultures and practices, it assimilates them into modern day conditions through oil-free, fully clothed Thai massages. If you'd rather spend your days in the sun, the lesser-known Glen Beach, between the overpopulated Camps Bay and the show-off Clifton, is of the best surf spots in the city. Rent a bicycle (capetowncyclehire.co.za) or take a minibus on all major street corners for R5 to get to this paradise.
A hard day on the beach can take its toll, so jolt yourself back into life through the city's coffee culture. Origin Roastery (originroasting.co.za) pioneered the gleaning of unroasted beans from targeted geographical regions, while Delux Coffee Works (deluxecoffeeworks.co.za), with its trendy clients and hardcore beans, is possibly the best way to wake every morning.
And then there's the food. As with any major city, a diverse amount of cuisines are available - this coupled with fresh South African provisions makes eating out truly an experience. Start your day a different way, with an organic, Namibian-inspired breakfast at Bird Cafe (127 Bree Street, City Centre): free-range chicken pies, scones reminiscent of Queen Victoria, farm 'moer' coffee and fresh minty coolers. For lunch, head to 360 Rotisserie Chicken (rotisserie360.wordpress.com), which provides fresh, preservative-free farm chicken sandwiches and salads with homemade jams and chutneys.
More than anything, Cape Town is about open spaces, so head north of the city towards the West Coast, where the arid landscape and sand dunes inspire (sanparks.org). While you're there, drive east and check out the vast wine country (ricketybridge.com).
Cape Town's bright lights in a small city and immeasurable sense of culture is part of what makes it one of the most livable cities in the world.