A Cape Town Christmas is wonderfully festive, but in ways that you might not expect. Indeed, there is not a snowman in sight, though we make up for it with lots of sun, sand, slops and Sauvignon Blanc.
So what does a summery African Christmas look like? And how should you join in on the festive fun? We have some ideas, and a deliciously indulgent Christmas Cookie recipe to share. It is still the season of giving.
Spend a day at Kirstenbosch Gardens, and appreciate the seasonal blossoms, the greenery of the towering trees and the life it all teams with.
Some of our indigenous fynbos are still flowering, including the beautiful orange pincushions and pink Ericas. Hard to miss in December are the magnificent Cape chestnuts covered in large panicles of exquisite, delicate blooms. Another flowering tree to look out for is the weeping boer-bean, with its coppery new growth and deep red, nectar-filled flowers that attract many birds.
However, it is the Agapanthus that steal the show. In shades of blue and white, short and tall, they are everywhere.
Lastly, look out for pelargoniums, also known by many as geraniums. They flower profusely in shades of red, purple, pink and white and many have beautiful, fragrant foliage.
Cape fauna is flourishing too. On the ground, look for the Cape River Frog, our huge variety of tortoises (South Africa has the richest diversity of tortoises in the world) and enormous Western Leopard Toad. In the air, spot the Table Mountain Beauty butterfly, raptors like the Rock Kestrel, Peregrine Falcon, as well as Cape Sugarbirds and Orange-breasted Sunbirds displaying and feeding. If you have little ones, they will love exploring the streams of Kirstenbosch in search of tadpoles too!
Granadilla ice lollies and endless beach days
Beach bats, powdery white sand, ice lollies, and slices of cool watermelon. Most Capetonians (and many visitors) head to the beach during December, where we spread out for the day and enjoy the rays (remember the sunblock), a packed picnic, and occasionally brave the chilly (or refreshing) waters.
Famous beaches include Camps Bay and Clifton (where vendors sell the famous granadilla ice popsicles, but others like Muizenberg (for surfing), or Blouberg (for the postcard view) are equally as glorious. Read up on our best beaches and how to enjoy them here.
Picnic in a Sculpture Garden
Just a quick 20-minute drive out of Cape Town, you can plan your picnic outing in the lush sculpture gardens next to Norval Foundation and the price of the picnic includes admission to the museum’s gallery spaces.
With striking mountain and vineyard vistas, the gardens are contained, safe for kids and home to impressive sculptures, some of which kids can actually climb around on – like the oversized upside-down giant by artist Angus Taylor. Norval Foundation also offers a range of crafty children’s workshops which could coincide perfectly with your picnic.
Expect to find baskets brimming with fresh, local and seasonal produce – in keeping with the Skotnes’ philosophy of supporting local, small-batch food suppliers. Baskets also include a range of desserts made by the in-house pastry chef.
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Fun at the V&A Waterfront
There is so much to do on our doorstep! The V&A Waterfront has a list of excellent festive events you can read more about here. Whatever you decide, make sure to swing by the Moët & Chandon Golden Tree – a sight to behold, it’s wrapped in a shimmering gold ribbon and created using over 2000 recycled champagne bottles.
Chilled wines and summery eats
Traditional Christmas meals still certainly have a place on the table, so don’t fret about a lack of ham, turkey, or roasted potatoes. However, scorching temperatures also call for cooling salads, alfresco dining, and refreshing drinks.
We live in wine country, and now is the perfect time of year to enjoy a bottle of local bubbles (Methode Cap Classique), and dive into the Chenin, Cool Climate Chards, or Sauvignon Blancs. Marlvin Gwese, our Head Sommelier recommends the Silverthorn Green Genie (MCC) to begin with, but equally so our Stellenbosch Sauvignons, and Hemel en Aarde Chardonnay. If you are a guest, be sure to join him for a Cape Wine Experience lesson at the bar!
When you have decided on your drinks, pair them with some of our wonderful local cheeses, or light salads and soak up a sunset or two.
Our Cape Grace Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps Cookie Recipe
Our patisserie elves are certainly a talented bunch. While they usually keep their recipes top-secret, they can be persuaded to share one or two on very special occasions. For Christmas this year, they have revealed the recipe for our much-loved Chocolate Espresso Snowcaps. We hope you enjoy making and eating them with those you love the most during this festive season.
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant espresso
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2/3 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1 tablespoon milk
Castor sugar, for coating
In a medium bowl, sift together flour, cocoa, espresso, baking powder, and salt. With an electric mixer, cream butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg until well combined; mix in cooled chocolate.
With the mixer on low, gradually add flour mixture; beat in milk until just combined. Flatten dough into a disk; wrap in plastic. Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
Preheat oven to 180°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Shape dough into 3 centimeter balls. Pour castor sugar (about 1/2 cup) into a medium bowl; working in batches, roll balls in sugar two times, letting them sit in sugar between coatings.
Place on prepared baking sheets, 6 centimeters apart. Bake until cookies have spread and the coating is cracked, 12 to 14 minutes; cookies will still be soft to the touch. Cool cookies on a wire rack.
We hope you have a wonderful, restful Cape Town Christmas. Whether you are staying with us or just visiting – sharing our holiday spirit (and the best of Cape Town) with you is what makes this experience so special to us at Cape Grace.
Blog post by Tarah Darge