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Woodstock: The heartbeat of a creative city

Apr 07, 2017

One of Cape Town’s oldest neighbourhoods is also one of its trendiest, and home to a flourishing art and design scene.

Woodstock has undergone major changes from a seaside fishing town with its own beach in the 1800s to a mixed-race, working class industrial neighbourhood that survived the forced removals of apartheid, to one of the city’s hippest spots for food, fashion, art and design. The area offers a unique blend of community life and inner city living with corner cafes and second-hand furniture shops alongside pockets of hipsterdom. World-renowned restaurants, artisanal coffee shops, street art, design studios and art galleries are scattered throughout the area – many in revamped buildings now repurposed after the decline of the area’s once-thriving textile industry.

Stardust
Situated in a heritage building that was once a bank, Stardust offers theatrical dining at its finest and serves as a launchpad for many an aspiring singer’s career. Singing waiters and quirky design elements, such as an upside down piano hanging from the roof, add to the occasion and furniture is reinforced to encourage patrons to dance on the tables.

La Bottega
Tucked away in the Buchanan Square business park, this restaurant with its relaxed atmosphere serves casual Italian food, tapas and craft beer and offers a welcome respite from the buzz of activity (and traffic) on Sir Lowry Road below. Its comfortable, covered deck area is perfect for lounging.

The Kitchen
This busy, energetic family-friendly café is famous for its delicious range of more than 20 salads, light lunches and great coffee. It’s a small room with limited seating, but attracts a dedicated following of locals and visitors from around the globe, most notably Michelle Obama.

Palms Centre and Market
A decorator’s dream, this home improvement shopping centre offers exclusive furniture and décor, including fabrics, linen and upholstery, and is also home to the SMAC art gallery. The centre hosts a Saturday market from 09:00 to 14:00, with more than 40 food traders — free entry, free parking and occasional live music. You can also visit Riot upstairs for your fix of local craft beer.

The Animation School
This award-winning, specialist animation training school offers a three-year fulltime diploma, producing creative talent to compete with the best in the field globally.

Sidestreet Studios
A collection of three once-derelict buildings offering small, affordable studio space, free WiFi and shared office services for creatives. It also includes a residency programme for artists, providing them with accommodation (including a pinball machine) and studio space in exchange for selected pieces of artwork.

New Brighton Bakery
Enjoy the aroma of fresh coffee and good eats at this hidden cafe, bearing Woodstock's former colonial name, with a relaxed atmosphere in the company of books, African art and plants.

Art Galleries
As the heart of the city's design district there are a number of art galleries in the area promoting works by local, international, emerging and established artists. Don't miss: Goodman Gallery, Stevenson Gallery, Whatiftheworld, Artitis and Blank projects.

Bibliophilia
A hidden gem, this quirky bookshop specialises in art, design and photography oriented collections of new and classic books.

Hollywood Costumes
New on the block, Hollywood Costumes offers costumes and props for the film industry but is also geared to serve locals heading to their next fancy dress party. A wide range of costumes and party accessories are available for rent or for sale, and the shop also includes a specialist steampunk section.

Maker Station
A space to make things, this building rents out space, tools and expertise to help DIY enthusiasts, hobbyists and designers with their projects. It includes a metal shop with welding and finishing tools, a small forge and foundry, as well as a woodworking shop and an engineering workshop.

The Bromwell
A once seedy hotel, this restored pink building with a permanent doorman in bowler hat and waistcoat, offers a quirky, sophisticated selection of décor, furniture and art aimed at the fashion-conscious in search of a personalised boutique experience.

Woodstock Exchange
Once an industrial space, this building is now a modern, creative hub and home to designer shops and creative services; artisanal coffee shops and eateries; the SAE Institute offering studies in animation, film making and sound production; as well as small business incubator the Bandwidth Barn. You can also start your GPS-based street art audio tour of Woodstock here using the Voicemap app for smartphones.

The Woodstock Foundry
A former cast metal foundry, this building houses a small but eclectic mix of retail offerings that double up as studio and workshop spaces. With a small courtyard featuring cobblestones, bricks and plants, you can find high-end furniture, designer jewellery, a botanical florist, Tribe coffee, a hip hair salon or nachos and margaritas at the Fat Cactus. It’s also home to SmartArt, who specialise in converting any image into a striking, vinyl wallpaper creation at an affordable price.

The Beer Merchant
These are your go-to guys for local craft beer (bottled or on tap), brewing equipment, beer-making courses and a tasting experience dubbed “College of Beer”. If you can’t find your favourite local (or international) brew at the local bottle store, in all likelihood you’ll need to look no further than Beer Merchant.

Woodstock Grill and Tap
This speciality steakhouse not only offers a mouthwatering variety of free-range and grain-fed beef, sourced from farms around the country, but is also home to Woodstock Brewery – so you can pair your food with a beer that’s brewed as locally as it gets.

Salt Circle
This trendy boutique shopping mall features quality craft and interior design shops, an eco-friendly furniture shop and a small book shop. Occasional food trucks pop up in the courtyard over the weekends.

Old Biscuit Mill
The Old Biscuit Mill is a magnet for throngs of trendy locals and hungry tourists who descend on the bustling Neighbourgoods food market on Saturdays. It also includes local designer boutiques, antique shops, galleries and some of the best restaurants in the world, including the tapas-style Pot Luck Club with its glass windows and panoramic views of the city. The latest addition is the Virtual Reality Arcade offering immersive gaming and entertainment. Arriving by cab or public transport is recommended on Saturday mornings when parking is in short supply. 

Last modified on Monday, 10 April 2017 15:10
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CityLife is the newspaper for people who live, work and play in the Cape Town central city area – and our many visitors. It’s a blend of news and information about people and places in one of the most exciting cities in the world.

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