South Africa has no shortage of excellent nightlife options, which means it is no easy feat to pick the country’s best bars, clubs, and pubs. With thousands of nightspots in huge cities, tiny mountain towns and lazy beach hamlets, the task is daunting, and there’s no possible way to capture everyone’s favorites.
Regardless, here is our best effort. We’ve rounded up 12 of the best bars in South Africa that stand out for their popularity, quirkiness, historical significance, or cutting-edge trendiness. Enjoy, and feel free to disagree with us.
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This article originally appeared on AFKInsider.com.
31, Cape Town
This nightclub in Cape Town doesn’t let you forget where you are. Situated 31 floors above the city center in the ABSA building on Riebeek Street, the club offers a trendy and sophisticated vibe and breathtaking views of the waterfront, Table Mountain, and more. While the drinks don’t come cheap here, the experience is worth it, and it’s definitely one of the best bars in South Africa.
Gino’s Sky Bar, Durban
Located in downtown Durban, Gino’s Sky Bar sits on the roof of the famous Roma revolving restaurant in the John Ross House, and offers top-notch views of the city. The bar itself is sleek and stylish, and is perfect for after-dinner drinks or a romantic evening out.
Tjing Tjing, Cape Town
Tjing Tjing is a cocktail and tapas bar located on Shortmarket Street in downtown Cape Town. Unlike many bars in South Africa, it has a pared-down Asian feel, with Tokyo-inspired wallpaper and a bar of deep burgundy. You’ll find a good range of craft beers–try the local Jack Black lager–alongside a cocktail list that infuses the classics with a jolt of the 21st century. Upmarket bar nibbles come courtesy of the Dear Me kitchen downstairs; don’t leave without trying the crispy risotto balls and sticky Asian pork belly sandwich.
The Assembly, Cape Town
The Assembly has quickly become known as one of the hottest live entertainment venues in Cape Town, with a varied and popular line-up of musical talent and a retro, lively atmosphere. With acts ranging from electronica to punk to pop, and the occasional comedy set, The Assembly has a little something to offer everyone.
Cottage Club, Cape Town
This intimate venue is nestled on the slopes of the Kommetije mountains. Created and managed by famed local folk musician/singer/songwriter Bill Knight, the Cottage Club is the place to go for local folk music. The homely décor ensures that attention remains on the talent, and the bar ensures that no patron ever goes home thirsty. The Club is also an NGO dedicated to the celebration, nurturing and development of local music, especially original music and Kaapse music.
Ronnie’s Sex Shop, Route 62
This is certainly one of the ‘sexiest’ bars in South Africa. Though the name suggests otherwise, Ronnie’s Sex Shop isn’t actually full of bedroom toys, but is rather a unique and eclectic bar on Route 62 in Western Cape that demonstrates its manager’s refusal to take life too seriously. Tourists, locals, bikers, and those simply curious about the name are frequent clientele at Ronnie’s, making for a mix of patrons that are as varied as the décor. The pub can trace its history back to the day that Ronie’s friends stopped by the would-be farm stall for a brew, and the group decided to open the place up to the public.
Star of the West, Kimberley
Located in Kimberley, Northern Cape, Star of the West is the oldest tavern in town. It opened its doors back in 1870 to serve the miners who flocked to the region in the midst of the diamond rush. The original materials that make up the pub itself have been almost perfectly restored, preserving the old-style feel of the place. Luckily, the bathrooms and the drink menu have been slightly altered since the 1870s, giving visitors indoor plumbing and a drink choice that extends beyond moonshine.
The Jolly Roger, Parkhurst, Johannesburg
This Joburg institution, located in Parkhurst, gets down to basics, but in the best way possible. Big-screen TVs, jukeboxes, live bands, slot machines, pool tables, and the cheapest beer in town make the Jolly Roger a favorite with locals. The Jolly Roger offers basic but filling pub food (presumably to soak up all the beer), and a lively atmosphere any day of the week you might choose to wander in — but especially when a big soccer or rugby match is happening.
Pig ‘n Whistle, Bathurst
The famous Pig n’ Whistle Inn in Bathurst is on the list mainly for its impressively long history of serving up beer in South Africa. In operation since 1832, it is the oldest continuously licensed place out of all the bars in South Africa, and even offers varied live music, open markets, and other events for patrons. It will soon be renamed The Historic Pig & Whistle Inn, and will operate an attached guesthouse, presumably for customers who have had a few too many to make it home.
Khuwana Tavern, Pretoria
This Pretoria favorite, named after the word for “beer pot,” stays true to its name. Khuwana Tavern is one of South Africa’s largest beer outlets, selling more beer annually than any other pub in the country. Located just north of Pretoria, the tavern is also known for its extensive and tasty menu, featuring regional specialties such as peri-peri chicken roasted over an open flame.
Located on the 22nd floor of a Braamfontein building, Randlords has a massive outdoor deck on two levels with 360-degree panoramic views. The look here is contemporary porno-chic, with lots of white, black and leather, faux-fur rugs and beaded swings hanging from the ceiling. Sip on a snazzy signature cocktail such as pink martini, choc-mint martini, or a summer cup – ginger liqueur with smashed strawberries, lemons, cranberry juice and lemonade. Randlords is open mainly for private functions – but the bar is open to the public, with DJs or live bands, once a month.
Kitchener’s Carvery Bar, Johannesburg
Joburg’s second oldest bar in hip inner-city Braamfontein is a characterful street corner pub that looks like it hasn’t ever been redecorated. During the day it’s frequented by old men who drink pints of beer and tuck into hearty pub grub such as foot-long bockwurst, steak, egg and chips and Portuguese prego rolls, and by night it’s a mix of students, hipsters and young trendy types partying hard. The city’s best-known and underground DJs play here, and Kitchener’s also hosts indie bands and comedy nights.
The Foundry, Johannesburg
This urban-chic craft beer bar and gastro-pub in Parktown has a massive selection of beers, ciders, wines, cocktails and whiskies. The bar attracts a young, trendy crowd, who pair their beer with the hearty, creative cuisine that comes out of the adjacent restaurant. The Foundry’s stunning interior comprises exposed bricks, ceilings panelled with reclaimed wood, hand-blown glass lights and black-paned glass windows.
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