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The Long Street Experience

While the vividly painted faces of old Victorian buildings, advertising a seemingly endless string of youth hostels and overland tour operators may understandably mislead you, Long Street is not just a place for backpackers. It has a hip urban feel that attracts young and old alike, making it one of the most interesting places in the city to spend a few hours or a few days.Many of the city's tourist attractions are located on or around Long Street. Take a dip at the Turkish Baths on one end and then walk down towards the International Convention Center on the other, visiting historic mosques and churches and popping into the Association of Visual Arts or the Gold Museum along the way. The peaceful Company Gardens, flanked by the Slave Lodge, the National Gallery and the South African Museum, are in the immediate vicinity and provide a lovely spot for a break from the urban buzz of Long Street itself.

Greenmarket Square and the Adderly Street Flower Market lie in between Long Street and the Castle of Good Hope. And if you want more ideas for sightseeing, or have simply lost your bearings, the all-knowing Cape Town Tourist Information Center is just one block down from Long on Castle Street.Long Street is also a mecca for shoppers looking for creative, locally designed items. Stores to look out for are Mememe, Milk and Misfit.The interior shops and galleries on Church and Long can satisfy your interior decorating needs, with sleek furniture and ethnic accents or more serious photographs, paintings and sculpture from contemporary South African artists.

Or head to the Pan-African Market or the daily flea market in Greenmarket Square, where vendors hawk everything from commercial T-shirts to intricate beadwork and tapestries, and are always willing to bargain for "a special price, just for you." Specialty stores include Clarke's Bookshop, probably the most serious bookstore in all of Cape Town, and Caroline's Fine Wines, the place to go for spot-on wine suggestions.Long Street is also known for its nightlife and hip dining scene. Sophisticated bistros like 95 Keerom and Ginja, which both recently won special recognition from South Africa's Eat Out magazine, are perfect for dinners with clients or first dates.

The chic Gallery Café, with its glassed-in second floor balcony overlooking Long Street, is a soothing place to sit for a lunch or evening meal. Ethnic restaurants range from the upscale Mesopotamia to the student-oriented Mojito and the Caravan Café. Vegetarians are well catered for at Lola's, and for an informal meal, it is hard to beat Royale's gourmet ostrich burger and a Bar One milkshake. After dinner, head out for some live music and dance into the morning hours at Kennedy's Cigar Bar, Jo'burg or Mama Africa. Sip wine on the sidewalk tables at the popular Long Street Café.

Or relax in style in the bar at the seriously trendy Metropole. The bars and clubs lining the street are packed on the weekends, with a mixed local and international crowd. Of course there is always the fascinating game of people-watching from one of Long Street's many sidewalk cafes.The area has a decidedly more bohemian air than the upscale, super-secure Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, but an afternoon or evening on Long Street is a fantastic way to witness first-hand the energy, diversity and even contradiction that lies at the heart of the new South Africa.

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City Guide SA is a comprehensive one-stop travel resource providing visitors to Cape Town with up-to-date information on where to stay, eat and play. For your convenience City Guide SA offers a unique virtual concierge service and online booking facility.

By: Kerry Bystrom



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