A commercial yet still working waterfront with attractions, shops, and restaurants galore. It's not just for tourists; locals come for movies and the boutiques, cafés, and bars.
SEE Robben Island Museum
Nelson Mandela Gateway, 011-27/21-413-4200, robben-island.org.za
Dramatic and uplifting tour of the maximum-security prison on nearby Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years. Guides are ex--political prisoners who share their harrowing memories. The museum chronicles the anti-apartheid struggle. $25, includes round-trip ferry ride.
EAT Quay Four
Quay 4, V&A Waterfront, 011-27/21-419-2008, quay4.co.za
Casual, perpetually busy place for great fish and chips and a brew on the pier. Grab an outdoor seat next to the water and watch the boats and frolicking seals in the harbor.
EAT Simply Asia & Noodle Bar
Food Court, Victoria Wharf, 011-27/21-425-5555, simplyasia.co.za
For healthy fast food that's full of Asian flavor and spice, sample the take-out noodles from this Thai/Chinese stir-fry joint. Be sure to ditch the food court and eat outside, where you can listen to frequent concerts at the nearby amphitheater.
DRINK Alba Lounge
Pierhead, 011-27/21-425-3385, albalounge.co.za
One of the V&A Waterfront's few watering holes that attract mostly locals, Alba has comfy couches and good drinks, like the Harbour Sunset, made with tequila, peach schnapps, mango juice, and grenadine.
DRINK Bascule Whisky Bar and Wine Cellar
Cape Grace Hotel, West Quay, 011-27/21-410-7100, capegrace.com
Stocks more than 460 types of whiskey, and holds regular tastings and live jazz concerts every Wednesday, 7 p.m.--9 p.m. There are even private lockers where members can store their liquid gold. Prices go up with age: from $2.30 for basic J&B to $2,485 for 50-year-old Glenfiddich.
DRINK Waterfront Boat Company Sunset Cruise
Quay 5, 011-27/21-418-5806, waterfrontboats.co.za
Hour-and-a-half twilight booze cruise of the harbor and nearby beachfronts. The choice is yours: Either sail on a yacht or whiz around on a motorboat. Departure times change with the season. Reservations recommended. $29, sparkling wine and soft drinks included.
SHOP African Art Factory
Block E, Old City Hospital Complex, 2 Portswood Rd., 011-27/21-421-9910, africanartfactory.co.za
Retail outlet for international craft trading operation that helps local entrepreneurs with development, marketing, and export. It sells imaginative beadwork and high-quality ceramics, textiles, and glassware. Short walk from the V&A Waterfront up Portswood Rd., entrance opposite Breakwater Lodge.
SHOP Carrol Boyes Functional Art
Store 6180 Victoria Wharf, 011-27/21-418-0595, carrol boyes.co.za
S.A.'s most famous designer makes addictively collectible pewter tableware adorned with whimsical illustrative touches, such as serpents or couples locked in an embrace. Although she now has a shop in New York City, it's worth coming here for the fantastic selection and better prices.
225 Victoria Wharf, 011-27/21-425-6232, yde.co.za
Short for Young Designers Emporium. One of a national outlet of chic clothing boutiques that showcase local prêt-à-porter designs for 20- and 30-something tastes. Stocked with garments from some of the country's best labels, like Flava and Superstar.
SPLURGE Civair Helicopter Flight
E. Pier Rd., 011-27/21-419-5182, civair.co.za
View the splendor of the Cape from above on a private helicopter flight that passes over City Bowl, Signal Hill, Twelve Apostles, Constantia vineyards, beaches, and more. Twenty-minute flights start at $294 for one or two people. Note: The per-person price comes down if there are more people on board.
There are more cell phones than landlines in South Africa, so if you need to stay connected, rent a cell at the airport when you arrive. Go to Vodashop Rentafone in the domestic or international Arrivals Lounges, or book online at rentafone.net. Rates run $3.75 per day for phone and SIM card rental, and 39¢ per minute for outgoing calls; incoming calls are free.