Cape Town, known as the “Mother City” for its laid-back, feels-like-home vibe, is a spectacular destination for a wide variety of travelers. With a moderate climate similar to San Francisco, Cape Town is year-round treat for the senses.
With beaches and mountains, up-and-coming industrial districts, and posh seaside hangouts, Cape Town is a dynamic mix of delights. There’s no shortage of delectable food, vibrant art galleries, trendy bars, and eye-popping markets.
Plenty of folks travel to Cape Town for its landmarks. But what we love most about this gorgeous city is how easy it is to bask in its natural beauty. From Table Mountain to Table Bay, a visit to Cape Town is all about being outdoors.
You could easily spend several weeks checking out each of the city’s great areas. But to narrow it down for you and make sure you see the best of the best, we’ve rounded up our favorites below.
We recommend doing a half-day tour of Cape Town to get situated. You can then explore the city on your own, using Uber to get around. Or we would be happy to arrange one of the many other great ways to explore Cape Town.
The City Bowl
The amphitheatre-shaped heart of Cape Town, the City Bowl, is home to a dazzling variety of wonderful neighborhoods, some trendy and electric, others quiet and historic. The region is cradled by the magnificent Table Mountain, Signal Hill, Devil’s Peak, and Lion’s Head. It overlooks Table Bay. At nearly every turn, you’ll be spoiled with incredible views, all while enjoying everything a city like Cape Town has to offer.
Pro tip: Art lovers are sure to delight in First Thursdays. City Center galleries stay open until 9pm and serve complimentary wines. You’ll find many of the best stops along Long Street (a treasure trove of historic Victorian architecture) and Loop Street.
Read on for details on a few of our favorite neighborhoods within the City Bowl.
Kloof Street Area & City Center
For fans of: mixing with the locals; this is where Capetonians go to relax and unwind. Its proximity to Company Gardens, Bree Street, and Long Street makes the area a perfect match for urbanites.
Pro tip: This area feels more urban than others; as such, you don’t get the full experience of Cape Town’s stunning natural setting.
While Bree Street gets a lot of buzz as the hippest neighborhood in town right now, Kloof Street remains the uncontested favorite of the City Bowl. For trendy bars, great food, eclectic shops, this is the place to be.
And if you’re a fan of indoor-outdoor dining experiences, Yours Truly, has decks out front, in the back, and upstairs. The verdant, warmly-lit space doubles as a coffee shop by day and a beer garden by night. Something for everyone!
This bustling mile-long mecca of food, culture, and pure fun runs straight through the heart of the residential Gardens district. Whether browsing through great vinyl records or enjoying high tea at the nearby Mount Nelson Hotel, you’re sure to enjoy a great local vibe on Kloof Street and elsewhere in the Gardens.
For fans of: quiet residential neighborhoods close to all the action. This the perfect place to stay if you want sweeping views of the area and easy access to the City Center. It’s also ideally located at the foot of Table Mountain.
This gorgeous upmarket neighborhood at the base of Table Mountain overlooks the City Bowl and Table Bay. And Table Mountain National Park is its backyard. If you’re looking for stunning views, a quiet retreat from the city buzz, and terrific boutique guest houses, look no further.
The neighborhood is also home to the Oranjezicht City Farm the namesake of the Waterfront market mentioned above.
From here, it’s just a 20-minute walk through the Gardens district to the popular Kloof Street. And the City Center is only about a 10-minute drive away. For a peaceful retreat with easy access to plenty of Cape Town’s busier areas, Oranjezicht is a perfect choice.
(Why NOT to Stay in) Woodstock
For fans of: all things trendy, gritty, and cool. This working class neighborhood has become a magnet for creativity with loads to see and do.
Pro tip: Woodstock feels far-removed from the rest of Cape Town. And it’s not as nice when walking alone, especially at night.
This gritty, eclectic neighborhood is getting a lot of buzz right now with some trendy hotel openings. The street art is fantastic, delicious restaurants are cropping up all the time, and the festivals and productions there are a sure delight.
Spend a few hours exploring The Woodstock Exchange, a “multi-purpose space where Capetonians flock to work, play, interact, exhibit and flourish.” It’s one of the coolest shopping destinations in town. Then check out the delicious offerings of The Old Biscuit Mill. Stop into the outstanding local workshops and stores chock full of handmade goods. Grab a pint or two at Woodstock Brewery, one of the best craft breweries in the country.
For a truly one-of-a-kind, exclusive dining experience, you’ll want to stop into The Test Kitchen, the most in-demand restaurant in Cape Town and one of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. In 2018, it was named the Best Restaurant in Africa. This is one not to be missed.
And if you’re in the area on a Saturday, be sure to check out The Neighbourgoods Market, a hip, eco-conscious treasure trove of seasonal plants, herbs, and fresh produce, plus a host of boutique wines from area vineyards.
Despite the draw of its artsy, up-and-coming vibe, we think Woodstock makes a better half-day trip than a home base. It’s still quite edgy and industrial for our liking, and it can feel far from all the other areas of Cape Town. If safety is a primary concern (as it is for us!), we recommend you stay in a more comfortable, established neighborhood.
For fans of: beautiful views, the hustle and bustle of ports, and great shopping within easy walking distance. Some of Cape Town’s best hotels are found here.
Pro tip: The V&A Waterfront can feel touristy and too artificial for some people. If authenticity and local flavors are important to you, we recommend you stay elsewhere.
This recently rebuilt port boasts gorgeous views overlooking Table Bay with Table Mountain as a backdrop. It’s easy to understand why it’s the city’s second most visited tourist attraction and one of the most popular destinations in all of Africa.
The Waterfront is both a working harbor and a fantastic destination for seaside dining and luxury shopping. The Waterfront is also the perfect jumping-off point for access to Robben Island, sailing, yachting, and more.
If you’re in the area during the weekend, be sure to stop into the Oranjezicht City Farm Market in nearby Granger Bay. The market is open from 9am to 2pm on Saturdays and 9am to 3pm on Sundays, year-round, rain or shine. This neighborhood non-profit farm project celebrates local food, culture, and community through urban agriculture. Snag some fresh oysters, fresh squeezed orange juice in glass bottles, artisanal breads…the options are endless!
For a wonderfully unique and immersive art experience, visit the Donald Grieg Gallery and Bronze Foundry. Grieg’s stunningly sensitive, dynamic bronze sculptures showcase his wonderful artistry and his intimate understanding of animal anatomy. The gallery is truly a delight for art lovers and animal lovers alike.
And of course, no visit to the Waterfront is complete without a stroll through the spectacular Zeitz MOCAA. It’s home to more than one hundred galleries of 21st Century art from Africa and its diaspora, spread over nine magnificent floors.
Sea Point Promenade
It is possible to walk all along the seaside of Cape Town from Mouille Point to Bantry Bay via Sea Point Promenade. While we enjoy Mouille Point and Sea Point, we have a special affinity for Bantry Bay which has some of the most beautiful homes in Cape Town.
Not a promenade and not a beach, here, cliffside hotels and private residences (of the millionaire kind) are built into the cliff face, overhanging the ocean. Stop in at one of the hotels for lunch and gawp at the awesome sea views--or the properties themselves!
The Atlantic Seaboard
Southwest of the City Bowl at the base of Signal Hill and Table Mountain, the Atlantic Seaboard is the perfect seaside destination for your Cape Town stay.
The Cape’s coastline alternates between magnificent cliff faces and long swaths of soft white sand. Areas of the coast feel surprisingly remote and wild (especially given the proximity to the City Bowl), and others have a decidedly Mediterranean vibe.
The turquoise waters off the coast are a sight to behold, but don’t expect to dive right in year-round! They’re fed by the cold Benguela Current, so a wetsuit may come in handy, depending on the time of year you visit. In the summer, daylight lasts until 9pm, so you’re sure to get your fill of seaside delights!
If beaches are a priority for you, we highly recommend Camps Bay and Clifton. Both are only about a 15-minute drive to the City Center (30 minutes in the summer).
Camps Bay & Clifton
For fans of: the quintessential “beachy feel” and those with gorgeous bronzed bods admired by lesser mortals; this stretch is THE beach for the “who’s who in the summer.”
Pro tip: This area can feel a little quiet in June, July, and August (Cape Town’s winter), although the views are fantastic.
The drive to Camps Bay follows a beautiful road through the mountains. This upmarket seaside retreat is just a stone’s throw from the City Bowl. We love the fine white sand beach, natural rock swimming pool, and stunning views.
There’s also a bevy of delicious dining options, many of which overlook the promenade. Get your fill of first-rate seafood, laid-back cafe bites, and inventive cocktails and views of the Atlantic to boot.
Be sure to catch a glimpse of the Twelve Apostles at sunset. These rugged buttresses form the sea-facing side of the Table Mountain range and actually number well over a dozen, rising up majestically from the coastline below.
Camps Bay is a favorite of locals and visitors alike, and it’s equally well-suited to families and summer revelers. Keep in mind, though, that the summer months (November to January) can be very windy, and traffic tends to jam things up. For a more laid-back experience, you might consider the shoulder seasons!
Clifton is consistently ranked as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Comprised of four individual stretches of sand at the foot of Lion’s Head Peak, Clifton is a beach-lover’s paradise. These white-sand coves are separated by massive granite boulders that provide a great windbreak from the notorious summer winds (and make Clifton a nice alternative to Camps Bay that time of year).
One thing to note if accessibility is a concern: each beach is accessed from the main road above by a steep staircase.
Clifton 1st Beach is great for active, sporty types interested in volleyball, touch rugby, and Frisbee. It’s the most secluded of the four beaches. This is also where you’ll find the strongest surf if you’re looking to suit up and catch some waves.
Popular with the international set, 2nd Beach is the place to be if you want to work on your (topless) tan. (Really, though, please wear sunscreen!) And 3rd Beach is a favorite with the gay community.
With ample space to spread out, terrific facilities, lifeguards, and plenty of snacks and drinks, 4th Beach is ideal for families. It’s also a popular spot to anchor yachts on summer weekends, and the beach has a glamorous vibe to match.
Pro tip: 4th Beach has Blue Flag status, so if sustainable, eco-conscious seaside tourism is a priority for you, this is a great spot to be.
A Little Beyond Cape Town
There are two other neighborhoods we love that often get overlooked because of their distance from downtown Cape Town. These are popular places to settle in if you’d like to stay longer in Cape Town and get away from people for a bit.
Constantia is a favorite among local Capetonians but not top-of-mind for most tourists. There are two main attractions to this area: it’s the oldest wine region in the area (with some of the region’s top restaurants), and it’s also home to the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden.
Pro tip: Visit the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. This is one of the most beautiful areas of Cape Town. We recommend spending an evening enjoying the gardens and having dinner at one of the top restaurants around there.
Situated at the foot of Table Mountain, the Garden is also a great place to start a few hikes!
This is the last place on the Atlantic Seaboard before Chapman’s Peak. Very laid back and beautiful, the big draws here are the views and the port. The Bay Harbour Market is a very popular activity on the weekends, great for people-watching.
The one drawback we find with Hout Bay is that it’s a bit far from other areas of Cape Town.
Pro tip: Go swimming with the seals, and enjoy lunch at the Bay Harbour Market.
Something for Everyone
Whether you’re looking for glitz and glamour, laid back beaches, a quiet hillside retreat, or a little of all three, Cape Town delivers. It’s easy to understand why the Mother City is beloved by so many. We can’t wait to help you explore this dazzling, welcoming city for yourself.
Discover Cape Town Today
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