Having been in Cape Town for nearly a month and a half now, I’ve practically started considering the city as a second home. However, looking back in my early days in Cape Town, I actually was very unsure about how I would eventually feel about this city. As a first-timer to Africa, there were glimpses of the culture shock and occasional anxiety that I hadn’t experienced in quite a long time. Despite being the most Western and most modern city in Africa, it can still be overwhelming for even the most seasoned of backpackers. That was a sentiment that I found pretty common, especially with my fellow solo travelers.
One of the biggest make or breaks when it comes to backpacking is finding the right accommodation. Finding a place that makes it easy to meet other travelers is crucial, especially for those of us traveling solo. While I haven’t had anything too sketchy happen to me in Cape Town, most travelers are aware of the horror stories surrounding parts of South Africa.
Right in the center of Cape Town’s historic district is 91 Loop, a boutique hostel that does it all. At 91 Loop, you’ve got everything you could ask for as a backpacker or a budget traveler. I stayed there for my last week in Cape Town and genuinely wished I had stayed there for the other stretches of my Cape Town adventure.
The Perfect Location In The City Center
91 Loop is close to a lot of the most historic parts of Cape Town. The location is right in the center of the city bowl, making everything within the city pretty accessible. If it isn’t walking distance, it’ll likely be a quick Uber ride away.
Iconic areas like Bo-Kaap and Green Market Square are less than five minutes walking distance away. The colorful houses in the former slave district of Bo-Kaap are some of Cape Town’s most famous attractions. The bustling Green Market Square is a famous plaza right next to the hostel and gives you a glimpse at what Cape Town used to be like.
Other landmarks like the Iziko Slave Lodge, the Grand Parade, Parliament, and the Company Gardens are very close as well. Art galleries, boutique shops, and traditional African markets makes 91 Loop a very well-rounded home base.
For nightlife goers, like yours truly, the booming strip of clubs on Long Street and Kloof Street are well within (drunken) walking distance. Dozens of other bars and restaurants are even closer, including some of my favorite spots.
Harvest Cafe and Deli is five minutes away right at the foot of Bo-Kaap. La Parada and Africa Cafe are perfect spots for dinner and are just around the corner. Reset, one of Cape Town’s most poppin’ house clubs, is literally one block away. Aces and Spades, Yours Truly, Arcade, Coco, and many others are also just a block or two away from the hostel. You’ve got everything you need here, fam.
Daily Activities All Over Cape Town
Cape Town is a beautiful city with a history and culture as vibrant as its people. Walking around the city is an adventure itself but ignoring the history of the city is an injustice to yourself and Cape Town. Taking advantage of the free walking tours and other Cape Town activities hosted by the hostel will help you discover the city beyond just what you see on the surface. The city’s history has been far from pretty. Educating yourself to what once went on in the city can be extremely fascinating.
Aside from the activities ran by the hostel, which include things like group hikes or wine tours, a backpacker travel agency is attached to the back of the hostel. If the hostel can’t sort something out for you, those guys definitely will. Even if you are the most clueless traveler, they can help you sort out all of your plans in Cape Town and beyond. You’re definitely taken care of while you’re here.
Buzzin’ Nightly Social Events
While there’s always something to do during the day, Cape Town truly comes alive at night. The city is always buzzing with life once the sizzling African sun starts to set and the people come alive. 91 Loop is close to a lot of Cape Town’s most popular bars and clubs but it also happens to host many of its own events itself.
It is the starting point for Tuning the Vine, what one might consider Cape Town’s classiest “bar crawl.” 91 Loop gets packed as Capetonians flock to all-you-can-drink wine, gins, and beer. There are about a dozen different stops nearby along the three hour wine crawl, including some of the more upscale restaurants in Cape Town. Usually, I can’t afford to even look inside some of those places so waltzing in like some sort of wine connoisseur definitely helps stroke one’s ego.
91 Loop guests get discounted tickets and don’t have to mission out to get wine drunk, so it’s a clear win-win for staying here. Tuning the Vine is a can’t miss event while you’re in Cape Town.
With its big event space downstairs at the Honeybadger restaurant and bar, 91 Loop often hosts live music and DJs, and sometimes full on concerts. Thursdays are the night to go out in Cape Town. The Thursday I spent at 91 Loop made it so that I didn’t even have to mission out to have a good time. Hosting live bands and DJs spanning a variety of genres from 4 PM – midnight made for one hell of a night. Hostel guests could just pop in without having to pay for tickets either.
There is a good balance at 91 Loop, though. When there’s no large event taking up the bar and courtyard, the social scene gets a little bit cozier. For the majority of the week, it’s just you and the other hostel guests mingling over cold beer and a game of Picolo that will aggressively escalate as the night goes on. The staff does a great job of getting the night going, whether it’s a few tame board games to start off or foosball. A lot of foosball.
Outside of the fun nightlife events, there’s always the courtyard to socialize in and figure out a plan to take on Cape Town’s nightlife with other travelers.
Coffee shop vibes during the day
As a digital nomad, having a hostel that can have nightlife vibes at night and coffee shop vibes during the day is the most ideal thing ever. Balancing work, travel, and social life is often tough. I mean, there’s only so many hours in a day. However, when you have a one-size-fits-all place to call home, it becomes a lot easier.
My favorite part about 91 Loop was that there were coffee shop vibes during the day and then a buzzing bar atmosphere at night. I’ve holed myself in a corner of the cafe for hours while working then seamlessly transitioned into downing an aggressive amount of gin and tonics. 91 Loop is far from just a crazy party hostel but you can definitely have a good time while you’re here.
The social scene at 91 Loop has a very nice balance. Meeting other travelers is as easy as it gets here, especially once the night starts rolling. However, the vibes are usually pretty chill enough that you can tuck yourself away and get some space if you need to.
It’s the little things, hey?
Sometimes it’s the little things that add up just the right amount to make a place feel like home. For backpackers that have roughed it through other parts of Africa, 91 Loop almost can feel like a 5-star resort. Small perks like free towels, free breakfast, and daily housekeeping are a welcome change to the camping and backcountry life that backpackers and budget travelers probably grow accustomed to in Africa.
Pool tables and foosball tables also happen to be very underrated additions to any hostel. Those matches get very heated. Basically, it has everything that a backpacker could want in a place to call home.
Or at the very least, come for Arnold.
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7 thoughts on “Where To Stay in Cape Town For Backpackers”
Cape town is in my backet list and great to have found this post. This part of the world will be very far from where I stay but still I need to plan in the next 3-5 yrs time. I love to experience the African market vibes.
I have been there. It is indeed a lovely place to explore so I agree with all your points and places.
Woww I love how vibrant Cape town is! I feel like my favorite thing would be the food as well as going to see the different vendors around the area. Such treasures!
What a wonderful place to visit, Cape Town! I would love to head there, your tips are so helpful too for a first time traveler
this is so helpful for backpackers. Cape Town would be such an amazing trip
Now, Cape Town looks like a lot of fun. I am adding it to my travel list.
Cape Town looks incredible and wish I had backpacked as a youngster. Will have to settle for the comfy way now