Historic Long Street, Cape Town
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.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Cape Town Tourism Information
Tel: +27 (0) 21 487 6800
Grand Daddy Hotel
Tel: +27 (0) 21 424 7247
Carnival Court Backpackers
Tel: +27 (0) 21 423 9003
How to get here
Long Street runs up the hill from the corner of Coen Steytler Avenue near the docks up to Buitensingel Road, from where it becomes Kloof Street. It lies between Loop and Adderley Streets in the city centre.
Best time to visit
Long Street has its morning qualities, its afternoon qualities, its sundowner-to-evening qualities and its late-night party qualities. It is an all-year destination.
Around the area
Go for an early morning walk around the nearby Bo-Kaap area and across to the Grand Parade, greeting the friendly flower sellers of Adderley Street en route.
The best advice when visiting Long Street is to catch a taxi from your accommodation (if you’re not actually staying in Long Street) and walk up and down the street. Sample as much as you can in the time you have available.
What will it cost
Pubs and restaurants have different fare at different rates, but most offer good value.
Length of stay
You might just like Long Street so much that you find yourself going there on a repeat visit or 2. Plan for lots of time spent in this great street.
What to pack
Packing depends on the action you’re after. It’s casual by day (always keep a windbreaker handy) and trendy casual by night, when the party’s on. If you’re planning to photograph the architecture in the street, don’t forget your widest-possible lens.
Where to stay
You could stay at the Carnival Court or Blue Mountain Backpackers – or perhaps the eccentrically stylish Grand Daddy Hotel in Long Street.
What to eat
There are many places to eat and drink in Long Street, but if you want to start off exotic then why not a cocktail at the Mojito Bar, followed by seafood at the Long Street Café? Or, possibly, Mozambican prawns at Mama Africa’s? Or exotic burgers at the Cafe Royale? You could also have a drink on the roof of the Grand Daddy Hotel, which is home to a retro trailer park, and which has great views.
Check the listed Cape Town Tourism website for events in the Long Street area during your stay.
Something portable yet memorable from the Pan African Market, which in itself is worth an hour’s window shopping.