You really can’t overstate the case for visiting Cape Town. First, there’s the in-your-face beauty of a craggy mountain range that drops precipitously into a glittering sea, its flanks carpeted in greens and delicate florals – the Cape Floral Kingdom, smallest yet richest in the world.
Then there’s the pristine white beaches lapped by – it must be said – a chilly Atlantic, their curves defined by giant granite boulders to bake on, and burbling mountain streams in dappled forests.
The proximity of nature is a constant source of amazement here, whether it is spotting zebra and wildebeest grazing on the slopes of Table Mountain from the highway, watching whales breach from a restaurant deck overlooking False Bay, supplicating before the Twelve Apostles mountain during a yoga class on Camps Bay beach or being halted by cavorting baboons near Cape Point.
Yet Cape Town has a cool urban edge, too: excellent art galleries, hip bars, world-rated restaurants, design-savvy shops, and home to Africa’s innovative artists and designers, drawn by the city’s innate beauty.
Certainly it has always been the most cosmopolitan city in Southern Africa: the Dutch who planted the first gardens and built the sombre Castle of Good Hope in 1666 were followed by the French, who augmented the wine-making skills and gabled homesteads of the original colonists; Malay slaves brought spices and minarets; the English left Georgian mansions and Victorian terraced homes, and refugees from all over Africa have made their way south to seek their fortune in the shadow of its flat-topped mountain.
Food, jazz and gospel tours introduce a broad spectrum of cultural experiences, and no visit is complete without at least one full day exploring some of the surrounding vine-carpeted valleys, their rich terroir spawning not only award-winning wines but superb produce, accounting for some of the best (and most affordable) fine dining in the world.
It’s a city that has only really been open to the world for the last two decades, and – at R17/18 to £1 – still offers excellent value for money, and a sense of new discovery.
Small wonder then that Cape Town won – for the third year in a row – the Telegraph reader’s survey award as the Best City in the World to visit and has just come tops in The World’s 50 Best Honeymoon Hotels and Destinations.
Despite this, the city remains highly seasonal, which keeps a cap on development – and the number of beds. Like most things, it pays to plan ahead.