Welcome to the Neighbourhood: Ashanti Lodge Gardens
Starting Point: Ashanti Lodge Entrance
Hello. Welcome to Cape Town.
You should be standing just outside the front gate of Ashanti Lodge, facing the road.
My name is Craig Johnstone. I am one of the two owners of Ashanti Lodge and Travel Centre. The Ashanti brand has been around for a quarter of a century, providing fellow travellers with accommodation, tours and travel advice. We have three different properties, two in-house travel desks and an online travel agency.
Today we will be exploring the area surrounding our backpackers in Gardens – a famous city suburb of Cape Town. It's located slightly out of the city, away from the noise and chaos, but it's still close enough to walk into the city easily.
If you still have your back to the lodge, head left up the road now, towards the mountain.
VoiceMap uses your location to play commentary automatically, so you can put your phone away and focus on your surroundings. Silence between tracks is normal, so if you don't hear from me, don't panic! Just keep going. There's a route map on the screen, but only use it if you get lost or stuck.
Keep walking to the intersection up ahead.
De Waal Park and Union Street
Stop here for a moment. To your left is an open grass area which contains a reservoir for Cape Town's drinking water. If you look diagonally through the trees you'll see a long white wall in the distance. Behind it is De Waal Park – a great place for picnics, sunbathing or exercising. The park is dog friendly so there will always be some furry friends running around, and during summer, there are free concerts. You can speak to reception to find out more about the De Waal Park concerts.
Now look across the road to your right. That's Union Street. It will lead us to Kloof and Long Street, which run straight through the centre of Cape Town. Union Street is mostly a residential street apart from the Ashanti Guest Houses and a hotel called the Lady Hamilton.
Let's go. Cross the road carefully, and head down Union Street.
As you keep walking, look to your left. The two orange buildings are Ashanti's two self-catering guesthouses. They operate as part of Ashanti Lodge Gardens but give guests a private, more exclusive stay with en-suite bathrooms, satellite TV and a self-catering kitchen.
In December 2009, a guest staying at Ashanti decided to paraglide from Lion's Head into the city. He was warned that gliding into the city was not safe, but he went ahead anyway. Ironically, he ended up crashing right here, into the roof of the Ashanti Guest House, where he stayed. Luckily he survived and wasn't badly hurt. Maybe he was just trying to fly back to his bed.
Continue walking straight.
Checkers, Pharmacy, Bottle Store
Keep walking straight.
On your right is a gated parking lot. It's the back entrance to a small shopping centre, the closest one to Ashanti Lodge. You'll find a grocery store called Checkers, a pharmacy, a bottle store as well as a few cafes and restaurants along the front of the shopping centre. Make sure to buy a hand-made samosa from the little old lady sitting just before the entrance to Checkers. They are delicious and you'll be helping her support her family.
Continue walking to the intersection up ahead.
Kloof Street, Van Hunks, Asoka, Mixa's, Da Vincis, Saigon and more
Stop here at the corner for a moment. This is Kloof Street, one of the most famous streets in Cape Town. If you look in front of you, across the intersection, you'll see a grey building called Van Hunks. They offer good happy hour specials as well as some delicious food.
If you look left up the street, you will notice that the string of restaurants just continues; you have everything from Vietnamese, to Italian, to Mozambican and a whole host of other places serving amazing food.
We'll turn right, down Kloof Street now. Straight away on your left you will spot a small art gallery and on the right you will see the front end of the shopping centre with Mixa's restaurant on the corner. That's a good place for cheap but decent food. We will carry on down this bustling street for a bit.
By day Kloof Street is a busy creative retail zone and an excellent pedestrian experience. You'll find everything from hair salons, unique cafes and restaurants, health shops, fashion stores, spas and hotels. Kloof Street is a great mix of both locals and tourists. It's a similar experience to being in Long Street, just more laid back.
Keep going straight.
Carry on walking straight. On your left you will spot a restaurant with some bright orange signs. That's Arnolds. It's great for those super early breakfasts as they open around 6:30am during the week, and even serve breakfast all day. They are also quite famous for their game dishes. You'll find platters, ostrich burgers, crocodile goulash, wart hog ribs and many other things on the menu.
Kloof Nek Street, Table Mountain
Stop for short moment. The road on your left is called Kloof Nek Street, not to be confused with Kloof Street, the road you are on.
Continue straight now, and I'll tell you more.
Many travellers get these two roads mixed up when driving around Cape Town. The key thing to remember is that Kloof Street is filled with restaurants and shops, while Kloof Nek Street will take you up to Table Mountain.
You'll find the cableway as well as starting points for hiking trails at the top of Kloof Nek Road. The road is very steep, so it's probably best to drive or take a taxi.
Carry on heading down Kloof Street.
Ocean Basket, Hudson's and more
As you keep walking straight, you'll see a string of restaurants on the right-hand side. The first is Ocean Basket, a Portuguese-themed seafood restaurant offering delicious seafood at really good prices. After that it's Yours Truly, a trendy bar with a good vibe. Next up is an Italian pizzeria called Mitico and finally Hudsons Burger Bar.
Continue straight, staying on the right-hand side. On the opposite side of the street is a small shopping centre. This is the lifestyle centre. You can find some nice coffee shops and bakeries in there as well as a health goods grocery store and a spa. There are also safe ATMs inside.
On the outer corner you will find Kauai, a famous health-food chain in Cape Town specialising in fast food that doesn't clog the arteries. Their smoothies and wraps are highly recommended.
For the ladies there is a female-only gym, spa and beauty salon. First time entrance is free so if you like, take advantage and treat yourself.
Keep walking straight.
Park Street, Jerry's Burgers, Fat Cactus
Now stop here and look up the road going left.
That's Park Street, a great side street for eating and socialising. You'll find the famous Jerry's Burgers, with their delicious range of seven sins burgers. Fat Cactus serves amazing Mexican food and even more delicious frozen margarita jugs. Opposite Fat Cactus is Rick's Cafe Americain, a restaurant inspired by the movie Casablanca.
Okay, now continue down Kloof Street.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
On your left is a famous South African fast food chain called Nando's. And just ahead before the corner, on the right-hand side of the road is New York Slice, serving yummy New York-style pizza.
Keep walking to the corner ahead.
To Long Street, Mabu Vinyl
Stop here on the corner of a street named Rheede Street. Take a look straight ahead, further down Kloof Street. If you were to carry on you would pass even more restaurants, clothing stores, shops, a grocery store called Spar and a McDonald's right at the end. From McDonald's onward, the street changes its name to Long Street, which is without a doubt the most famous street of Cape Town. With plenty of markets, shops, bars clubs, restaurants and lots of energy, no visit to Cape Town is complete without visiting Long Street. Do be careful of pick pockets at night though, especially the children, and never use an ATM on Long Street.
But we are now going to turn right down Rheede Street. Let's go.
[2 SECOND PAUSE]
Straight away on your left is a small store called Mabu Vinyl. It's a landmark record store in Cape Town that has been around for years. If you've watched the documentary Searching for Sugar Man you should know this store. Stephen Segerman is one of the owners. He first searched for the legendary singer-songwriter Rodriguez, who many South Africans believed to be dead.
You'll also find Sawadee on this street. They serve some of the best Asian food you will ever have. Continue straight, all the way to the end of this road.
UCT Art and Drama Campus
Ahead of you is the Cape Town University of Art and Drama campus. We are going to cross over to the other side of the street at the traffic lights.
The Labia Theatre
Now turn right and walk with the art campus on your left.
This is Orange Street. Where the road bends to the left, you can see the Labia Theatre on the other side of the road. This art house theatre opened in 1949 and is a secret favourite among Capetonians. They mostly show art house films with a couple of mainstream movies in between – it's a great alternative to the big commercial cinemas. They have a canteen serving yummy treats, such as popcorn that doesn't cost an arm and a leg and a delicious vodka slushy.
They also do great dinner and movie deals at some of the local restaurants around here. Ask reception for more info on this.
One of my favourite events held here is the Halloween Festival. During the month of October, a series of old silent horror movies are shown and a live band is brought in to do the soundtrack while you watch.
Continue straight ahead.
Company's Garden, Cross the road
Stop here briefly at the pedestrian crossing. A little further ahead and to the left is the entrance to the Company Gardens. This is a calm, central green area in the centre of Cape Town. You'll find a peaceful coffee shop and restaurant, as well as the Iziko South African Museum and Planetarium, and the South African National Gallery inside the gardens.
You can also buy a bag of nuts from the shop at the restaurant to feed the squirrels. Keep your eyes open for the elusive albino squirrel.
Now cross the road at the pedestrian crossing.
Mount Nelson Hotel
Now turn left, and keep walking. The giant pillars on your right mark the entrance to the Mount Nelson Hotel. We are going to carry on past it to the next corner. The hotel is very prestigious and houses the likes of royalty, politicians, movie stars and even rock stars. If you feel like splashing out on some tasty treats, their high tea is world famous.
Keep going straight.
Turn up Hof Street, History of Ashanti
Now turn left into Hof Street and make your way up the hill, passing the brick spire on your right-hand side.
You are now back on the street where you started. We are going to walk up it until we see Ashanti Lodge again.
You may have noticed that Ashanti has old Victorian architecture. It's a 150 years old and is a heritage building. Most of the wood in the floors and fixtures is original.
The building was originally a private manor and was on one of the first four farms to be built in the current city bowl. If you have seen the pool area you would have noticed the private bedrooms that run along the side. Those were originally stables for horses. The bedroom right on the end still has a giant metal rail running through the roof. This was where they would lift and hitch the cartridges onto the horses.
Ashanti Lodge is 25 years-old, and was the 2nd backpackers in Cape Town. It offers accommodation a step above what you would expect from a backpackers hostel. You can find great services like money exchange, a travel centre to book tours, a restaurant and a bar, as well as friendly and helpful staff.
If you need help with anything, just come and see us at reception.
Keep walking up the hill. As you get closer to the lodge you will notice Table Mountain and Devil's Peak coming into view on your left.
On your left, just before the tennis court, you will see the Nelson's Eye Restaurant. It's a small non-pretentious dinner restaurant offering a range of amazing flame-grilled meat dishes. It's known to be the best steak house in South Africa – not to be missed by any meat lover. You pay slightly more than at other South African restaurants, but for what you get, it's worth every cent.
You'll have spotted the big orange building by now. We're back where we started. Welcome back to your new home away from home.