Looking for the perfect base camp to explore the Cape Town City Bowl on foot? TravelGround recently attended the launch of Hollow on the Square when it reopened after renovations. This gave us the opportunity to have a peek at not only the hotel’s offering, but also its immediate surrounds.

As it turns out, Hollow on the Square is the best location for those who want to be right in the middle of the Mother City’s vibey ambience, colourful history and diverse culture. Some of Cape Town’s prime points of interest to business travellers and tourists alike are within walking distance. The CTICC is just a minute away, the V&A Waterfront a mere ten minutes by foot, and for those wanting to venture farther, the MyCiTi and Hop On Hop Off Tourist Bus stops right outside the square. Historical attractions such as The Castle of Good Hope, the District Six Museum and the colourful Bo-Kaap are all within a 15-minute stroll.

Within the same radius, opportunities for shopping, dining and attending live performances abound. Below we’ve listed 10 proven favourites among both locals and tourists. Taking into account the varying distances from the hotel, our guide serves as a handy tool to plan and map your walking tour of the city.

1. Active Sushi on the Bree

In the mood for sushi? This joint is just a five minute walk from the hotel. Their all you can eat deal for R199 will surely get your energy levels covered for your next stretch of city exploration. You could also try some novel creations such as sushi burgers, sushi donuts, sushi burritos or sushi pizzas. And don’t forget that they deliver too!

Address: 4 Bree Street
Distance: 5 minutes
Hours: Mon – Sat 11:30 – 22:00

2. Alexander Bar, Café & Theatre

Alexander’s fantastic ‘Conversation Bar’ was specially designed to be conducive to creative rambling while indulging in their wide array of drinks and light meals until midnight. The theatre upstairs offers a variety of live performances, from music to comedy to drama. Come join in on Wednesday quiz nights or watch as skilled improvisers build interesting plots on cues from the audience!

Address: 76 Strand Street
Distance: 6 minutes
Hours: Mon – Sat 11:00 – 1:00; Sun/Public Holidays 15:00 – 0:00

3. The Village Idiot

The Village Idiot fosters a real South African vibe by combining locals’ love for braai, sport and kuier (socialising) with in-house DJs setting the tone until the early hours. It’s a hot spot in summer with braai events on the balcony overlooking the vibrant street activity below, and especially becomes busy during major sporting events broadcast on several screens and a projector. Make the most of the opportunity by ordering a braai board with a selection of barbecued meats and ending it off with traditional milk tart, coffee and rusks.

Address: Loop Street 32
Distance: 6 minutes
Hours: Tue – Thu 15:00 – late; Fri & Sat, 12:00 – late

4. Trafalgar Place Flower Market

An iconic scene that the nearby Adderley Street is known for is that of  ladies selling flowers at Trafalgar Place, a tradition dating back at least a century. It is said that when slavery was abolished in 1834, trading at Trafalgar became a means for newly-freed slaves to make a living. This is why most of the flower sellers are of Malay origin, running businesses that were handed down from mother to daughter over several generations. True to the Cape, sales include colourfully dyed fynbos and proteas, along with all the commonly known flowers you would expect to find at a florist such as daisies, lilies and roses.

Address: 13 Adderley Street
Distance: 9 minutes
Hours: Mon – Sat 7:00 – 20:00

5. Café Roux

Cafe Roux in Shortmarket Street is a twin of its namesake in Noordhoek and is a fantastic venue showcasing musical performances and stand-up comedy. It seats up to 100 people and can be hired for functions. We just love how simple and unpretentious their menu is ─ plain ol’ Italian pizza, pasta and salad with the emphasis on seasonal fresh ingredients all year round.

Address: 74 Shortmarket Street
Distance: 9 minutes
Hours: Mon – Sun 16:00 – late

6. The House of Machines

It’s not often that a celebration of the modern male creates an inviting space for all, something THOM definitely achieves. Man’s love for machines, sport and style are perfectly reconciled by its founders, one of whom is a fashion designer. Not only is it a café, bar and venue with live music performances ─ it also houses a workshop selling apparel and bicycles.

Address: 84 Shortmarket Street
Distance: 10 minutes
Hours: Mon – Fri 7:00 – late; Sat 9:00 – late

7. Greenmarket Square

This trading plain’s history is almost as old as the city itself. The origins of this location can be traced back to 1696 ─ first as the station of a watch-house from where law and order was maintained, and later developing into trading grounds for passing ships where slaves sold vegetables grown in the nearby Company’s Garden. The bartering tradition still continues today, only this time with arts, crafts and fabrics from all over Africa, in a setup where buskers and street artists contribute to the atmosphere. You can even take a step back and watch the whole spectacle from one of the cafés bordering the square.

Address: Between Shortmarket and Longmarket Streets
Distance: 10 minutes
Hours: Mon – Sun 9:00 – 17:00

8. Clarke’s Bar & Dining Room

Clarke’s caters for the healthy, eco-conscious city dweller. They are dedicated to real food ─ fresh and authentic, and they even make their own almond milk. Plastic straws are out of the question, but you can buy a reusable plastic straw from them. Their dedication to Capetonians’ wellbeing extends to their retail section at the back offering items that are usually hard to find in Cape Town, such as kombucha on tap.

Address: 133 Bree Street
Distance: 12 minutes
Hours: Mon – Fri 7:00 – 12:00; Sat 8:00 – 12:00; Sun 8:00 – 15:00

9. The Fugard Theatre

If you’d like to get a taste of the cultivated side of Cape Town, do attend a performance at this world-class theatre. Named after the iconic South African playwright Athol Fugard, it opened its doors in District Six in 2011. Lovers of the fine arts can look forward to the likes of ballets, operas and cinema nouveau.

Address: Caledon Street
Distance: 17 minutes
Hours: Mon – Fri 9:30 – 18:00; Sat 9:30 – 22:00; 14:00 – 18:00

10. The Company’s Garden and Restaurant

Even before the first Europeans arrived at the Cape in 1952, sailors who went shipwrecked here had to sustain themselves by growing crops along the Fish River. Some time after they were saved, the Dutch East India Company decided to establish a refreshment station where passing ships could stock up on fresh produce ─ hence the ‘Company’s Garden’ was born. Since then the garden went through various phases under different Cape governors, shifting from an aesthetic and later to a recreational purpose, while also extending and retracting the size and location of the garden in different directions up to where it is today. Although only three hectares now, it used to be 18 hectares in its heyday.

These days the garden serves as a historical monument that also houses a museum, planetarium and gallery. Above all, it serves as a haven in the middle of the city where you can just go for a stroll, feed the squirrels, sit in the shade and people watch.

After exploring all the sights and sounds in and around the garden, the location is best used for its original purpose ─ a refreshment station. Take a seat in the garden restaurant and enjoy that well-deserved tea and koeksisters, or if you need to replenish all that spent energy, try their Cape Malay lamb curry.

Address: 15 Queen Victoria Street
Distance: 17 minutes
Hours: Mon – Sat 7:00 – 17:00; Sun 9:00 – 17:00

Back to the Hollow

When retreating to your hotel base at the end of a fun-filled day, enjoy cosy indoor dining in front of the fireplace, choose your favourite drink at the bar, or move outside to the hotel’s street cafe facing the historical Tulbagh Square where your dining experience is complemented by the occasional live performance.

Sounds doable? This is just one among many accommodation options in this corner of the city. Below are some more inner city lairs:

Clockwise from top left:
| The Square and Compasses | 3 Canterbury Square | Modern Designer Apartment | Harbour Bridge Penthouse | Four Seasons Woonstel |

Whether you’re born and bred Capetonian, repeat or first-time visitor, we hope our guide will satisfy your appetite!

Feature image: The House of Machines (Facebook)