The best festive pubs and bars in South Africa

Posted on 15 December 2011

On the 1st day of Christmas my true love gave to me 1 pint of Guinness …
On the 2nd day of Christmas my true love gave to me 2 shots of tequila …
On the 3rd day of Christmas my true love gave to me 3 quarts of Black Label …
By the 26th day of Christmas I was searching for my liver and a partridge in a pear tree …

Tis’ the season to be jolly and we’ve rounded up the 22 best bars and pubs in South Africa for you to do just that. Many of them serve food (eating is not cheating) and a few even have something festive lined up for you in their Christmas stocking. Happy holidays and … cheers!

Western Cape

Fireman’s Arms, Cape Town

Established in 1864, the Fireman’s Arms in Buitengracht Street is one of the finest and oldest pubs in Cape Town.  In my mind it is one of the true “pubs” out there. There’s pub grub available as well as plenty of beer on tap. They’ve put up festive decorations and you’ll find turkey, duck and chicken on the menu for the week leading up to Christmas day. Closed 24th – 25th December and 1st – 2nd January. Tel 021-419-1513,

Grand Daddy Bar, Cape Town

The Grand Daddy Hotel in Long Street is fast becoming the place to be. There’s a sense of opulence in the foyer, whilst the Airstream Rooftop Trailer Park provides a sense of fun. During December they have Ladies Night with entertainment on Wednesdays, Mojito nights on Thursdays and rooftop sundowners on Saturdays and Sundays.  For R250 you can partake in their Christmas Lunch Buffet on Christmas Day and why not get glam for their 1920s Glitz and Glamour New Years Eve party. Bookings are essential. Tel 021-424-7247,

Kimberley Hotel, Cape Town

This Cape Town landmark on Roeland Street was built in 1895 and was the starting point for horse-drawn carriages leaving Cape Town for the diamond town of Kimberley. It has been lovingly restored, whilst keeping that old-world atmosphere. The bar is a fascinating place where you are likely to meet many different types of people from many different places (there is also a backpackers upstairs). The meals are tasty and quite frankly, almost dirt cheap. They are open 365 days of the year and are going to be providing a sumptuous Christmas lunch on Christmas day. Details yet to be disclosed… Tel 021-461-2160

Pirates Steakhouse and Pub, Cape Town

Pirates Steakhouse and Pub’s slogan reads ‘Good Food. Good Prices. Good Vibes.’ Considering what a swashbuckling good time I always have there, I couldn’t agree more.  The bar is well-stocked and popular into the early hours. Their menu is extensive and prices are very reasonable. New Year’s Eve involves a 3-course meal for R150 with an 80’s band to entertain you as well as DJ in the pub for late night revelers. Closed 25th December and 1st January. Phone 021-797-5659,

Peddlars on the Bend, Cape Town

During its 15 years, Peddlars has built a substantial following of loyal customers and is one of the landmarks of Constantia.  It has a unique ambiance  with dining both in the restaurant, the garden and the bar. With beers on tap, an impressive wine list and a diverse menu, it could be just the place to escape when you’ve had enough of family. Closed 25th December and 1st January. Tel 021-794-7747

Forresters Arms, Cape Town

Forries as it is affectionately known, is a Newlands landmark, having been built as an inn in 1880 as a halfway station between Cape Town and Simons Town. It’s an old-world pub that remains popular amongst the locals and occasionally the bikers ride in too. There’s a wide selection on the menu and plenty of drinks to choose from. If you haven’t had enough turkey and gammon on Boxing Day, join them for their Festive Carvery from 11am to 5pm. R98 for a standard helping and R125 if you have a bigger appetite. Closed 25th December and 1st January.Tel 021-689-5949

The Jolly Roger, Cape Town

The Jolly Roger in Plumstead is becoming the next cool happening spot and one of my favourite locals. They have the cheapest draught on Main Road, live bands, a pool table, jackpots and slots and guarded parking. They are open every day of the year from 10am to 2am and I hear they are going to be offering a delicious Christmas lunch on Christmas day. Almost as delicious as their barman. They are also going to be having a bit of a New Year’s Eve bash. Give them a call to find out more about what they have planned (or more about the barman if you wish). Tel 021-797-7272

Van Hunks, Cape Town

On the corner of Kloof and Union Street in Gardens there’s a restaurant and bar named after a Cape Town legend.  The ambiance is certainly legendary and so are the meals. You’ll find it quite charming and the lively bar could be a good  place to escape from the Christmas frenzy. There’s a December lunch special (R65-00 for 2) and they are hosting a New Year’s Eve party with a braai, snacks and drink specials – R30 gets you in the door. Closed 24th – 26th December. Tel 021-422-5422,

Paternoster Hotel, Paternoster

If you are on the West Coast for the holidays, pop into the Paternoster Hotel, built in 1863 from limestone from the area. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly with a personal touch and lots of olden day charm.  They are having a Christmas buffet on Christmas Day at noon for R250 per person. Join their New Year’s Eve dinner dance from 7.30pm at R150 per person.. Booking and prepayment is essential. If you have a really wild time you are welcome to leave a piece of your underwear behind in the infamous Panty Bar. Tel 022-752-2703,

Ronnie’s Sex Shop, Karoo

You won’t find any toys for the bedroom at Ronnies on Route 62, but you will find a pub with a playful character. A pitstop for many a roadtripper, biker and just plain curious, Ronnie’s Sex Shop has been pouring beer since Ronnie’s friends popped by for a cold one and they decided to turn the would-be farm stall into a pub. You won’t find any Christmas fare either, but if you feel like a break from all the tinsel or your Aunt Mildred, swing by. You can guarantee you will have interesting company and if the party gets a little loud, there’s nobody for miles around to complain. Closed 25th December. Open on 1st January from noon (just in time for the hair of the dog). Tel 028-572-1153,

Barrydale Karoo Hotel, Barrydale

You’ll feel right at home at this funky country hotel that offers warm Karoo hospitality. The bar is an old-fashioned meeting place, where you can sample wines and ports produced in the Klein Karoo region, or dip into the impressive list of single malt whiskeys, imported champagne, MCCs, cognacs and cigars. Or just have a beer and get comfortable. They have got Christmas sorted with a special Christmas deal, involving carols, candlelit dinners, Christmas lunch, the works. There’s also a New Year’s Eve ‘Skopgat en Lag!’ with local comedian Irit Noble and rockabilly band Them Tornadoes. Give them a call or see their website for more details and to book. Could be the best fun you have in the desert. Tel 028-572-1226,


Joe Cools Bar & Grill

Joe Cool’s has been doing a lot of advertising on the radio lately so I reckon something special is happening there. Why not go see for yourself? There’s an upper deck overlooking the sea, a lower deck overlooking the sand and no less than 5 bars! This is an entertainment institution right on North Beach and sounds like the perfect place to sip pina colada in your board shorts. Or ogle at the surfers in their boardshorts.  Closed 1st January. Tel 031-332-9697

Britannia Hotel

Built in 1897, the Britannia Hotel in Umgeni Road forms part of the heritage of Durban. You’ll find a restaurant and a Sports Bar with a relaxed and cosy atmosphere. It’s not posh, but it’s comfortable. There’s no Christmas fare menu, but you won’t be looking for gammon here. It’s their bunny chow you should be after. It’s said the Britannia bunnies are legendary. Closed 25th  December. Tel 031-303 2266


The Jolly Roger, Johannesburg

The Jolly Roger in Parkhurst has been a Joburg staple for over a decade. There’s large screen TV’s, a jukebox and plenty of beer. Cheap and cheerful (and often noisy and boisterous), it’s a fun place to grab a drink and a pizza. They do something rather special on Christmas Day – they open at 6pm and the first 300 people through the door get a free beer and a present. Now that’s the spirit of giving! They will also be open on New Year’s Eve with drinks specials. In fact they are not really closed at all during the festive season so if you feel the need to grab a beer and put some coins in the jukebox, The Jolly Roger is the place to go. Tel 011-442-3954‎

Katzy’s, Johannesburg

There isn’t a night time venue in Jozi that offers quite what Katzy’s in Rosebank does. It’s the place to be seen and has a stellar wine, cocktail and cigar list with more than 100 different whiskeys, cognacs and bourbons to choose from. If you need to eat, there’s also the Grillhouse menu. They are planning an epic New Year’s Eve party, details soon to be disclosed. Visit their website for more details. Closed 24th-27th December and 1st January. Tel 011-880-3945,

Paddy’s, Johannesburg

This popular Irish pub in Randburg not only serves Guinness, it also has a pizza oven, pool tables, darts boards and great tunes on a jukebox. It’s a favourite spot to watch sport and sink a few beers and pool balls. Paddy’s are hosting a New Year’s Eve family lunch on 31st December from noon. There’ll be a live band and kids eat free. Closed 25th December and 2nd January. Tel 011-781-6224,

Zoo Lake Bowling Club, Johannesburg

Grand it may not be, but glorious it is. You can hit this Parkwood pub in your tracksuit and feel completely at home. The drinks are ridiculously cheap and you can eat good pub food for a fraction of the price anywhere in Joburg.  Patrons range from families with small children on a Saturday afternoon to party animals on a Friday night. Closed 24th-25th December. Tel 011-646-1131

Khuwana Tavern, Pretoria

Khuwana is an African word meaning beer pot and one could not hope for a better name for one of South Africa’s biggest outlet of beer (apparently they sell more beer than any other South African pub). The popular Khuwana Tavern just north of Pretoria is as famed for its food as it is for its beer –  the Mozambican peri-peri chicken, done over an open flame, is easily the best in the country. Much better than turkey! They are open on Christmas Day so if you feel like Christmas with a difference, pay them a visit in the Mandela Village settlement and share a quart or two with the locals. Tel 012-711-1208

Eastern Cape

Le Petit, East London

This upmarket restaurant on Beach Road in Nahoon has a pub upstairs called The Swiss Loft. It is open in the evenings and is popular with the younger set. You can enjoy a tasty pub meal with your drinks, but if you fancy a more posh affair, the restaurant serves of fine cuts of meat and game, with buffalo, crocodile, eland, springbok and ostrich giving it a hearty South African flavour. Closed 25th – 26th December and 1st January. Tel 043-735-3685

Rat & Parrot, Grahamstown

The Rat & Parrot is probably Grahamstown’s best known bar and attracts customers of all ages. The Rhodes students may have all gone home for the holidays, but it is doubtful that you will alone at this popular establishment. They are having a New Year’s Eve bash with drinks specials and no cover charge. Closed 24th – 26th December. Tel 046-622-5002

Pig ‘n Whistle, Bathurst

Another oldie, the famous Pig ‘ Whistle (soon to be renamed The Historic Pig & Whistle Inn) has been keeping the public in beer since 1832 and is the oldest continuously licensed pub in South Africa. Apart from being able to say you had a pint in one of the oldest and coolest pubs in South Africa, they have a few events lined up for you too. Silvercreek Mountain Band will be playing you folks some folk music on 16th December and there’s a crafters’ market on the 17th. You will have to find somewhere else to eat on Christmas and New Year’s Day, but the bar will be open. If you have too many pints and lose your legs, simply enquire if there’s room at the inn. No donkey required. Tel 046-625-0673,

Northern Cape

Star of the West, Kimberley

The Star of the West first opened in 1870 to give sustenance to the hordes of thirsty miners who had joined the diamond rush. Today it continues to quench the thirst of the town’s miners, along with hordes of visitors visiting this Northern Cape city. Most of the original Star of the West pub remains thanks to the painstaking restoration so you can relish in drinking in a monument. Although you can be glad the toilets have been modernised – no more buckets in the corners!  Tel 053-832-6463


Please drive safely this festive season. If you’re going to be pub crawling – get a taxi!

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