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V & A Waterfront (Cape Town, South Africa)

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Situated at the foot of Table Mountain, within a stone’s throw from the Cape Town Stadium and in the heart of Cape Town’s working harbour, the V&A Waterfront offers the visitor an abundance of unforgettable experiences. Indoor shopping and entertainment venues seamlessly merge with ocean vistas and mountain views and the fresh sea breeze and warm African sun add zest to a cosmopolitan, vibrant atmosphere. More than 80 restaurants bring a fusion of international food, from rustic al fresco fish and chips to starched table-cloth cuisine. Come and spend the day with us – there is just so much to do, so much to discover.

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      16.01.2012 12:15
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      Busy shopping and entertainment area in Cape Town

      The V & A Waterfront is situated by Cape Town's harbour and is a modern and busy shopping and entertainment area. It is close to the football stadium and you can see Table Mountain from here also (clouds permitting). It is from here that you can access boat trips around the harbour and also to Robben Island, the former prison that held political prisoners such as Nelson Mandela. It is quite a vast development and includes some hotels and top-end luxury apartments, plus private mooring spots for your yacht.

      The full name is Victoria and Alfred (not Albert as I first assumed) Waterfront. Alfred is Queen Victoria's second son, who tipped the first load of stone to build the breakwater that began the building of a harbour here in 1860 (two years previously, thirty vessels had been wrecked in winter storms here).

      SHOPPING

      Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre is a massive two level centre which features a variety of shops. As a general rule I found the 'High Street' mainstream shops on the lower level such as Woolworths (like Marks & Spencer in the UK), up-market gift and souvenir shops, chemists, bookshops and fashion chains. The upper level is more designer shops, sports chains (Nike etc) and luxury international brands.

      The Alfred Mall just along from here is smaller and contains small boutiques and independent or specialist shops. There is also a large warehouse with a craft market and wellness centre. I really enjoyed browsing the market; there are some interesting gifts that you don't always spot elsewhere. It isn't the cheapest market, but some of the paintings are really amazing.

      Across the moving footbridge (it moves to allow boats through) is the access to Robben Island and a few cafes. There is a smaller centre behind it containing offices, banks and some further shops but I didn't really explore this part.

      EATING

      Victoria Wharf also has a range of places to eat here: fast food joints, chain family restaurants, coffee shops and some really large, modern restaurants outside by the water, where we ate a few times (reviewed separately). If you are looking for a nice evening meal you will definitely find somewhere to eat a long this stretch of the waterfront. For more casual dining, there are places within the mall or visit some of the cafes across the footbridge toward the Robben Island Gateway.

      ENTERTAINMENT/THINGS TO DO

      There is a small outdoor amphitheatre that holds some events during the day to entertain shoppers, near the fast food area. This is seasonal and they were not showing whilst I was there in the winter. You can access boat trips here, not just to the afore-mentioned Robben Island, but harbour tours, fishing trips, party boats, dinner cruises etc. We also saw a 'Tug Boat' tour for those with young families (with the most annoying, repetitive tune - I doubt you will disembark with your sanity intact). Quite a few tour operators have sites around here so you can use the waterfront to look at other places to visit in the city. The 'Red Route' and 'Blue Route' open top sightseeing bus also stops here (by the Aquarium). The Red Route takes you around the city; the Blue Route takes you further out of town.

      As well as the craft markets and shops to browse there is Nobel Square with statues of the four South African Nobel peace prize winners (Nkosi Luthuli, Archbishop Tutu, F.W de Klerk and Nelson Mandela). The statues are a bit disproportionate, but a great photo opportunity. As you wander around this part you may also spot some basking seals. Signs warn you about interacting with them as they are wild animals of course, but they didn't seem to mind their photo being taken from a discreet distance (although they were asleep). When I was visited there was also a Crate Man made up of Coke bottle crates.

      There are cinemas here also if you wanted to visit. The SK seemed to be more of an art cinema, whilst the Nu showed mainstream blockbuster movies.

      The city aquarium is based here, although I did not visit it personally, two friends of mine did and said it was very good. They have sharks here apparently, and a good selection of fish and marine animals (including penguins - but not the African ones) from both the Atlantic and Indian oceans that border South Africa. It is ZAR104 for adults (£9.15/$13.90) with discounts for children (under fours are free).

      GETTING HERE

      It is actually walking distance (1km) from the business district and Sea Point areas where a lot of hotels are. However, you can easily get a taxi for about ZAR40 (£3.50/$5.35) to these areas. Local buses would also stop here as does the Red and Blue Route sightseeing bus. There are also several parking areas (mainly underground) but as we didn't use these, I cannot comment on the standard or how well lit they are.

      SUMMARY

      If you are holidaying in Cape Town you will no doubt visit here at some point as there is so much to potentially do as a tourist, as well as being a main shopping area and a good place to come for a meal out. I visited for two evening meals and two daytime shopping/lunch visits as I was based quite close by.

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