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LGBTQI+ Tourism in Cape Town

2 August 2021

Cape Town has a proud legacy as one of the world’s top LGBTQI+ tourism destinations. What can you expect when you visit this charming and vibrant city?

South Africa has a progressive Constitution, and in 2006 we became the fifth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriage. Cape Town is an especially inclusive part of the country, with a strong LGBTQI+ community.

When you visit Cape Town, you’ll naturally want to see the city’s most famous attractions, such as Table Mountain, Robben Island or the V&A Waterfront. These destinations are inclusive and open to visitors from all walks of life, welcoming millions of international tourists every year. 

However, if you’re looking for more specifically LGBTQI-focused venues and events, here are a few that come highly recommended.

Festivals: Pride, MCQP and Pink Loeries

Pride Festival Cape Town
Photo by Mercedes Mehling on Unsplash

Cape Town Pride is arguably the city’s biggest LGBTQI+ celebration, featuring around 11 days of events and parties. The annual festival takes place in February or March and attracts over 10 000 partygoers from all over the globe.

The fabulously festive Mother City Queer Project (MCQP) costume party in December is one of Cape Town’s biggest and most popular yearly attractions for LGBTQI+ locals and tourists alike. 

The Pink Loerie Mardi Gras and Arts Festival takes place a little way outside of Cape Town, down the coast in Knysna on the gorgeous Garden Route. The five-day event features art shows, dance parties and live performances, ending with a grand parade and after-party.

Inclusive Restaurants and Bars

Cape Town is a widely inclusive city and any restaurant will be welcoming, but these are a few of the LGBTQI+ community’s favourite dining and drinking spots:

Café Manhattan in the Cape Quarter Lifestyle Village is known as one of South Africa’s oldest established gay-friendly venues. Manhattan is a café, restaurant and bar with a welcoming atmosphere.

Zer021 Rooftop (formerly Zer021 Social Club) was founded in 2014 in Green Point, Cape Town’s “Pink Village”. This vibey live entertainment venue has since moved to Zonnebloem in the CBD, and remains a safe and inclusive space for all.

Beefcakes is a restaurant and party venue in Green Point, with décor inspired by 1950s Americana and a dash of camp. The menu features gourmet burgers and tasty cocktails, served up by strapping (often topless) waiters. Every night features live entertainment with drag shows, comedy and cabarets on stage.

Cape Town is known for its dazzling nightlife, and the city is home to plenty of gay-owned and gay-friendly clubs where you can dance the night away.

Gay-Friendly Beaches in Cape Town

Cape Town is home to some of the world’s most magnificent beaches, whether you’re looking to swim, surf, kayak, ski or just relax and enjoy the sunshine. You can visit any public beach in Cape Town, but there are a couple of spots that have become known as popular hangouts for LGBTQI+ folks.

Clifton Third Beach: Clifton is an affluent and trendy suburb on Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard, known for its sparkling blue waters and white sandy beaches. There are four beaches along the Clifton shoreline, and Third Beach has become the unofficial but widely recognised “gay beach” of the area. 

With excellent shelter from the wind, Clifton Third is a great spot to tan and enjoy the summer sun – surrounded by beautiful beach bods. The beach is west-facing, which means you can enjoy gorgeous ocean sunsets in the evenings.

Sandy Bay: Sandy Bay is Cape Town’s only nude beach, as well as being gay-friendly. This is a sheltered and secluded spot with warm white sands, set among the peaks of the Twelve Apostles mountain range. This is the perfect place to go au naturel and get an all-over tan.

(Note: Cape Town beaches are beautiful and tranquil but can sometimes be a target for pickpockets and thieves. Be sure to visit the beaches in groups at peak times, and don’t leave your valuables unattended.)

Gay-Friendly Cape Town Accommodation

There are so many inclusive hotels, guest houses and apartments to choose from when planning a visit to Cape Town, including luxury suites, budget-friendly accommodation and everything in-between. You can narrow your search down to find local gay hosts using a booking site like misterb&b

Cactus House, an all-male guest house in the chic urban neighbourhood of Oranjezicht, is currently Cape Town’s only exclusively gay hotel.

Visit Africa’s Rainbow City

For those in search of adventure, excitement and unsurpassed beauty, a trip to Cape Town promises to be an unforgettable experience!

“For LGBTQ travellers, Cape Town is the undisputed queer capital of Africa, with an inclusive culture and community that grows stronger each year.” 

– Jeniffer Chiat (June 2020)

“Africa’s pinkest city is a glam-to-the-max destination that any LGBTQI+ traveller should have on their bucket list.” 

– Lonely Planet

Featured image: Photo by Dustin Humes on Unsplash