Speaking of dubious exports, vigilance is required when shopping for African crafts and tribal art: Vendors at the outdoor bazaar in Greenmarket Square might offer you a “traditional Zulu mask, special price,” despite the fact that Zulus have no tradition of maskmaking. Walk a few blocks to the Collector on Church Street, where dealer Colin Sayers stocks rare Luba bowls and Chokwe initiation figures. Meanwhile, lining the cobbled streets of the Waterkant district—once as edgy as Woodstock and now thoroughly gentrified—are boutiques such as Africa Nova, with a well-edited stock of crafts and contemporary design, and Private Collections, which might be the largest emporium of high-end Indian antiques outside India.
The longer you stay in Cape Town, the more people will urge you, kindly, to leave, at least for a day or two: Within an hour’s drive are dozens of absurdly scenic spots, including the fabled Winelands region. Farther east, a more private and insidery escape, not yet mentioned in the guidebooks, is the eco-chic Farm 215, with three solar-powered cabins that overlook rolling fields of the indigenous flora known as fynbos. But one advantage of Cape Town is that even just outside the city limits are retreats like the funky harbor Kalk Bay, where the cluttered boutique Quagga, jammed with rare books and Africana, looks like the forgotten attic of Isak Dinesen. Kalk Bay’s coffee shops, yoga studios and overloaded fishing boats make it feel very Seattle meets Provincetown meets Trinidad. In other words, totally Cape Town.
CLICK HERE for links to sleeping, eating and gallery hopping in Capetown.