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Queer Times in Cape Town

It goes without saying that Cape Town is probably the queerest city in Africa, but I’d argue that it’s one of the top cities for LGBTQ travelers anywhere on the planet. This thriving metropolis is blessed with an almost embarrassing array of natural beauty, and the city’s progressive attitude is positively refreshing.

Enver Duminy, CEO, Cape Town Tourism, attributes the city’s special nature to several factors:

“LGBTQIA people in South Africa have the same rights as non-LGBTQIA people,” he said. “This is enshrined in our Constitution, which was the first in the world to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation, and the fifth country in the world, but first in Africa, to legalize same-sex marriage, child adoption and surrogacy treatments.”

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“Plus, there’s so much for everyone in Cape Town, from adventure travel to enjoying the best restaurants and wines. We have won numerous accolades, including breaking a record by being voted ‘Greatest City in the World’ for the sixth consecutive time in the annual Telegraph Travel Awards. We have also been voted ‘The World’s Leading Festival and Event Destination’ for 2018 in the World Travel Awards, reflecting the city’s capacity to delight our visitors.”

Duminy is quick to list the many attractions that make his city such a bucket list destination.

“There are the world-renowned big attractions, including the Table Mountain Cableway, Robben Island, the V&A Waterfront (Africa’s most-visited venue), the National Botanical Gardens at Kirstenbosch, Cape Point and Groot Constantia wine estate, as well as many Blue Flag status beaches, lovely coastal drives and parks and forests,” he said.

“Besides these, our local neighborhoods are full of unique character and we have fantastic wine routes to enjoy. Cape Town has been voted as a top global destination for bars and restaurants, too.”

You can catch Sam Marais, a witty and fascinating local, performing in drag as Samantha Knight at the popular Beefcakes restaurant and club (and you definitely should!). Marais outlined what he thought would be a perfect 24 hours for a queer visitor in Cape Town.

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“Lion's Head is a very popular hiking experience in Cape Town, so I'd start with that bright and early, before obviously going for brunch in Camps Bay. Make sure that it's a light brunch because from there I'd make my way down to Clifton 3rd Beach (Cape Town's Gay Beach) and enjoy the sun, icy waters and spectacular view (beach and boys alike—we're famous for our hot guys)."

"An early dinner and some drinks might be in order after that, so visit Manhattans in De Waterkant (which is the original gay village of Cape Town). After dinner, I suggest flocking down to Pink Panther, which is a relatively new and fabulous gay club just around the corner from Manhattans.”

A lesbian couple stands holding the rainbow flag
PHOTO: A lesbian couple stands holding the rainbow flag. (photo via chabybucko/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

For those considering a visit, Duminy recommends these upcoming events:

—One annual event popular with LGBTQ visitors is the mass marriage ceremonies held on Valentine’s Day on Robben Island. LGBTQ couples have been married there every year since the tradition began, highlighting South Africa’s progressive marriage laws.

—Cape Town is popular as a honeymoon destination, the Mother City is full of romantic restaurants and wedding venues, and there are churches and ministers who conduct LGBTQ weddings.

—Every year we’re the proud hosts of the Cape Town Pride festival. This, as well as the Out in Africa film festival and Mother City Queer Project later in the year, involve many LGBTQ and LGBTQ-friendly Capetonians and visitors from further afield, too. Cape Town Pride involves 10 days of events that are all focused on highlighting many LGBTQ-friendly experiences.

Cape Town, South Africa
View of Cape Town, South Africa, from above. (Photo via Hapag-Lloyd Cruises)

“Our own experience under apartheid was one driven by division among race and social standing,” Duminy said. “The long-lasting damage that discrimination causes gives us a first-hand understanding of the challenges that others who are discriminated against in their own neighborhoods, cities or countries face every day. We are not perfect, but we believe that being a welcoming and open society by embracing our differences means that you can visit and be yourself without feeling left out."

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