First things first, you need to visit Cape Town. It is an absolute must! The first time we visited we had no idea what to expect or what it would be like to be gay in Cape Town. However, we quickly fell in love with this incredible city and found that ‘gay Cape Town, South Africa’ really does exist!
Cape Town as a destination is truly spectacular. It is a modern city surrounded by breath-taking nature. Its mountain ranges including the iconic Table Mountain are awe inspiring, its white sand beaches perfect in the summer and of course we have to mention the many rolling hills filled with beautiful wineries.
Beyond its natural beauty, there is an abundance of exciting wildlife to see. Here you can go whale watching, visit ostrich farms, see seals at the V&A Waterfront, hundreds of penguins at Boulders Beach and for the brave, go great white shark cage diving!
Luckily for us, Cape Town also happens to be a very popular gay travel destination (which we never knew) and has been for a number of years. Perhaps after reading this gay guide to Cape Town it will come as no surprise that we decided to live here for 3 months!
So lets get on to our Cape Town Gay Guide and see what it has on offer!
First Impressions: Is Cape Town Gay Friendly?
Based on first impressions, this was very hard to tell. We didn’t notice any other gay couples in the street or in day to day life, and as a result did not see any public affection between gay couples.
However, after spending some more time here we have learnt that gay or straight, public displays of affection are not a typical thing for the locals of Cape Town.
On one of our first nights out to a backpacker/local bar on Long Street we started to get a better insight. This was by no means a gay bar, but with alcohol flowing we started to notice quite a few gay couples seemingly very comfortable in this environment – this was a very positive thing to see!
Given some time, we found that Cape Town is very gay friendly indeed. Lets take a look at what makes Cape Town so gay friendly.
Gay Rights in South Africa
We recently ran a poll on Instagram and asked some questions about the rights and laws below. 41% of people assumed that same sex marriage would not be legal (which it is) so there are definitely some misconceptions to address. Here is the current situation:
- Same Sex intercourse: Male legal since 1998, Female always legal
- Age of consent equalised in 2007
- Gender identity: Allowed to legally change since 2003
- Discrimination protections: Yes
- Marriage: Legal since 2006
- Adoption: Yes
South Africa in its post-apartheid era (c1993 onwards) has made a lot of very positive steps. It was the first country in the world to put discrimination protections based on sexual orientation into its constitution and was the fifth country in the world to legalise same sex marriage – the only country in the entirety of Africa.
It is worth noting that while we are focusing on Cape Town in this guide, head outside the major cities and tourist areas and the picture may not be quite as positive. Homophobic viဝlence still exists in certain parts of South Africa and public opinions on whether homosexuality is right or wrong can be quite negative. However, as a tourist visiting the ‘touristy’ parts, especially Cape Town, you should feel very welcome.
Cape Town Gay Scene
The gay scene is relatively small here in Cape Town but it does have a good selection of options when it comes to nightlife. Of course, there is so much more to Cape Town than gay bars and clubs, but for the purposes of our gay guide to Cape Town, lets take a look:
Gay Clubs Cape Town/ Gay Bars in Cape Town
Cape Towns gay bars and clubs are distributed across the entire city with the highest concentration being around the Waterkant area.
There is little distinction between gay clubs and gay bars in Cape Town. Don’t expect to find a huge gay superclub, but you can definitely have a night out and dance with some hot gay guys.
Below is a short summary of the gay bars on offer. We also wrote a dedicated Cape Town gay bar guide.
Pink Panther Cape Town
This is our favourite place to go out for drinks and to dance. This has one of the larger dancefloors, a good mix of music and topless bartenders. What more do you need?
The cost is R50 ($3.50) to get in.
Address: 120 Strand St, De Waterkant, Cape Town, 8001
Crew Bar Cape Town
Crew Bar is known for its hot go-go boy bar staff, weekly theme nights and for its house music.
Prices here are a little more expensive than other bars, but for the views of the bar staff, we didn’t mind so much!
Every now and then they do have some good drinks offers such as drinks for 16ZAR ($1) 7-10pm.
Address: 30 Napier St, De Waterkant, Cape Town, 8001
Zero21 Cape Town
Zero 21 is a little bit out of the way from the typical tourist area but can easily be reached in 10 minutes by a taxi.
This is a gay social club with drag shows, cheap drinks and a cool local vibe.
Address: 46 Canterbury St, Zonnebloem, Cape Town, 7925
Café Manhattan Cape Town
This is the oldest gay bar in Cape Town and a place we would suggest for chilled drinks and a chat with friends. Café Manhattan also does really good burgers and has a Happy Hour every day between 4pm – 6pm and again from 9pm until 11pm.
Café Manhattan is based in the heart of de Waterkant village and is open daily until 11pm.
Address: 74 De Waterkant, Cape Town
Amsterdam Action Bar
This was a gay bar but has been permanently closed!
Gay Cruising Bars in Cape Town
If you are looking for gay cruising in Cape Town then there a a few cruising bars to check out:
Versatile Cape Town
This is a bar that offers theme nights every night starting from 5pm (6pm Saturdays) with a cover charge applying from 11pm. It is one of the only places that is men only.
Current theme nights here are:
- Sunday/Tuesday – No theme, bar only.
- Wednesday: Underwear night.
- Thursday/Friday: Naked night.
- Saturdays: Fetish/Underwear/Naked!
Address: 18 Cobern St, De Waterkant, Cape Town, 8001
This is a gay cruising bar and sauna.
In terms of the facilities: they have private cabins, a steam room, sauna, jacuzzi, movie rooms, a sundeck for some incredible views and then of course dark rooms and so on.
Address: 18 Jarvis Street, De WaterKant, Cape Town, South Africa.
Gay Friendly Bars in Cape Town
These are not gay bars per se, but known to be gay friendly or gay owned.
Beefcakes Cape Town
Beefcakes is where you go for diner style burgers, drinks, drag, but most of all for the Beefcake waiters themselves – they are seriously hot!
The drag show is actually quite hilarious and the food reasonable at 79ZAR for a burger. If you are really there for a fun night you can take a body shot from one of the waiters – I have to say we were very tempted.
Address: Sovereign Quay, 36 Somerset Rd, Greenpoint, Cape Town, 8052
Gate 69 offers full on comedy and drag shows – on a much bigger scale than you will find in a bar or a club!
You need to prebook your tickets if you want to see a show here, and just like in a theatre, the cost of a ticket varies depending how far from the stage you sit. The shows regularly change and the cost of a ticket includes a three-course dinner.
Tickets are 520-599ZAR.
Address: 87 Bree Street, Cape Town, 8001
For more gay friendly bars including Alexander Bar, The 41 and Prison Bar check out our full Cape Town gay bar guide.
Gay Beaches in Cape Town
There are two gay beaches in Cape Town, Sandy Bay Beach and Clifton Beach no.3.
Neither of these are particularly obvious as ‘gay beaches’ as we did not see any rainbow flags flying but instead were told by one of our friends about them. However, once you arrive and see the clientele, it becomes pretty apparent that you have found the gay beach!
Sandy Bay Beach
This is the ‘gayer’ of the two beaches being the nudist beach. It is quite some effort to get to as you need to drive to the nearest car park and then trek for 20 minutes through sand dunes.
What struck us most about this beach was that there were very few tourists, and best of all, no one trying to sell you anything! It was secluded, relaxing and beautiful.
Clifton 3 Beach
There are 4 beaches in Clifton with each separated by a line of boulders (these reduce the wind).
Clifton 3 is known as being the gay beach and is much more accessible than Sandy Bay – but you do need to keep your speedos on here!
To get here, you can either get the bus to the stop ‘Clifton 3’, a taxi or drive yourself. From the roadside just walk down some steps and you are there!
For both the beaches, you are on the Atlantic side so the sea is freezing. You have to brave it at least once and take a quick dip!
For full directions and details, check out out full guide to gay beaches in Cape Town.
Gay Hotels in Cape Town
You might not need to look for specifically gay hotels in Cape Town since it’s a very gay friendly place. However, if you are looking to support those that perhaps go the extra mile, or are gay owned then take a look below.
The Glen Boutique Hotel & Spa
The Glen Boutique Hotel & Spa is a beautiful hotel offering 24 rooms from luxury suites to their penthouse. The rooms here are stylish and stunning!
The hotel is gay owned and gay friendly so attracts a mix of customers. It is located in Sea Point, a short drive from Cape Town city centre.
The centrepiece of the hotel is its beautiful pool and if you really want to relax, the jacuzzi!
Take a look at The Glen here.
Cost: from R1,800 ($130) per night
Address: 3 The Glen, Sea Point, Cape Town 8005, South Africa
Cactus House is an exclusively gay male guesthouse in Cape Town
They are based at the foot of Table Mountain. The house has five stylish en-suite bedrooms with large oversized showers, king sized beds in the Deluxe and Superior rooms and queen size in the standard room.
Most rooms have a balcony with daybeds or outdoor seating and views of Table Mountain, Signal Hill and Lions Head. There is also a pool which is perfect in summer.
It also gets excellent reviews on TripAdvisor. Take a look at Cactus House here.
Cost: Rooms from R500 ($35) per person per night
Pink Rose Guesthouse and Spa
Just 25 minutes from downtown Cape Town the Pink Rose Guesthouse and Spa is a gay guesthouse which opened in 2009.
They are a small B&B with 5 rooms, a pool (clothing optional), Jacuzzi, sauna and gay massage services. If you want to stay somewhere a little quieter away from the CBD, take a look at Pink Rose Guesthouse.
Cost: Rooms from R845 ($60)
Address: 15 Lantana Street, Helderview, Somerset West, 7130, South Africa
Gay Friendly Hotels
For hotels that aren’t gay owned or ‘gay hotels’ there are plenty of gay friendly options including:
Taj Cape Town
This has to be in our top ten hotels we have ever stayed in. Situated in the heart of Cape Town city centre is the luxurious 5 star Taj hotel. The breakfast, the food, facilities and service are all first class.
We loved the decor and style of the rooms and during our visit went up to see the presidential suite which was simply out of this world. Make sure you book a room with a view of Table Mountain.
We stayed here for our final two nights in Cape Town and suggest you do the same. Check out availability here.
Cost: c$250 per night depending on room and season.
Address: 1 Wale St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000
Lagoon Beach Hotel
We fell in love with this hotel simply because of the view. The hotel is on the beachfront just outside the centre and if you book a Table Mountain view room we guarantee you will be blown away. After 2 months in Cape Town we were blown away indeed!
The breakfast here was excellent, as was the pool area (2 pools) and all other facilities.
The hotel also offers free shuttles to and from the V&A Waterfront.
Cost: c$80-300 per night depending on room type and season.
For up to date prices and availability take a look here.
Address: Lagoon Beach Road, Milnerton, 7435 Cape Town
Park Inn by Radisson Cape Town Foreshore
This is a 4 star hotel with stylish rooms, a rooftop bar and a plunge pool.
It was also the hotel to sponsor gay pride in Cape Town and was previously the location for the monthly LGBT Village drinks.
It also boasts great views of the iconic Table Mountain! Take a look at this hotel here.
Cost: c$100 per night depending on season.
Address: Park Inn by Radisson Cape Town Foreshore, 29 Heerengracht St, Foreshore, Cape Town, 8000
The Twelve Apostles Hotel and Spa
If you feel like treating yourself, head to the beautiful Camps Bay and check out Twelve Apostles. This is a luxury hotel with exceptional service, friendly staff, outstanding food and incredible views. They also offer a shuttle bus taking you into Camps Bay and the V&A Waterfront.
Cost: c$400 per night depending on season
Address: Twelve Apostles, Victoria Road, Camps Bay 8000 South Africa
Gay Tours Cape Town
There are a few gay tour operators in Cape Town including Cape Town Gay Tours and Friends of Dorothy gay tours, however we only managed to experience one gay friendly tour whilst here which was with Amatungulu Tours.
Amatungulu Tours operate a specific LGBT division, LGBTQVacation. We had a fantastic day out learning about their itineraries, how they operate, and most importantly, how they cater to the LGBTQ travel market. Find out more about our experience here.
Gay Pride – Cape Town
We have been to many gay prides all over the world. We were lucky enough to arrive in Cape Town just as Cape Town Pride was starting and we loved it.
It was perhaps the most unique pride that we have been to, in that this pride showed the most diversity we have ever seen. Many of the prides we have attended and enjoyed all around Europe are mainly 85% white men. Here in Cape Town you saw even mixes of every gender, age, sexual orientation etc – it was something special.
Take a look at our full write up to Cape Town pride here.
Cape Town is a truly beautiful place. It has everything you could want from a destination including a welcoming and gay friendly environment! Gay travel aside, if you come and visit Cape Town you will have the experience of a lifetime, there were many good reasons for us coming to live here and we hope you get the chance to come and see for yourselves!
If you have any more LGBT tips then let us know in the comments below! We hope you visit and have the most amazing time!
Read more about Cape Town here and get inspired:
- Cape Town Pride: Everything you need to know
- Gay Bars Cape Town: The Complete Guide
- How to find the gay beaches in Cape Town
- How to hike Table Mountain (the easyish way)
- 12 tips for keeping safe in Cape Town!
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