If you’re looking for a book, a party, a raucous dinner or simply a long afternoon spent at an exotic bar watching street-level Cape Town stroll by, come on down to Long Street. This is where the music, the food and the fun is a serious 24/7 business.

Did you know?

Because of the shadows, Long Street buildings are best photographed in the early morning.

London has her SoHo, New Orleans has her French Quarter, while Cape Town has her irrepressible Long Street.

By day, most of the 3.8km-long street leading up from the harbour to the city heights is a cheerful frenzy of coffee bars, exotic restaurants, legendary bookshops, African craft markets and backpackers' lodges. The pavements throb with the movements of travellers, touts, breakfasting locals, shoppers and a couple of gents taking their morning exercise up at the Turkish Baths.

In the early afternoon the Purple Turtle bar fills up with regulars, young adventurers emerge from backpackers’ for a stroll down Long Street, and the ever-present street police keep an eye on everything and everyone. That’s why there’s such a relaxed feel to walking Long Street.

If you’re a fan of old architecture, Long Street will keep you busy for days. Let’s take the Victorian-styled Carnival Court, for instance. This used to be where the young toffs of Cape Town would keep their apartments. From the wrought-iron balcony, you watch the world go by up and down Long Street.

Long Street’s buildings, its Victorian follies and intricate ironwork, have been mostly well-kept. That’s because a number of preservation societies, heritage groups and architects constantly protect these structures from the wrecking ball. In fact, many of the buildings have been restored over the years.

The Blue Lodge, which is currently a backpackers' lodge and internet café, was once on the brink of utter dilapidation when it was rescued in the mid-1980s. Now it’s one of the brightest, most painstakingly restored and possibly the best-known building in the street.

The Dubliner at Kennedy’s used to be quite a run-down hotel until it was turned into a very popular Irish-themed bar and restaurant.

The Pan African Market building was once the YMCA, reportedly full of rowdy young bucks beginning to make their way in the world.

And the vibe of Long Street is still delightfully rowdy. From sundowner time until the early morning, the restaurants, bars and late-night clubs are all about party, party, party!

The street has all kinds of private decks, balconies, rooftop lounges and other vantage points where exclusive parties are held. On street level, pavement dining in summer (October to April) is all the rage. And the barmen of Long Street have become famous for their skills with exotic cocktails.

In fact, when Cape Town wants to gather en masse to celebrate something, Long Street is the city’s first thought.

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