The best areas to stay in Cape Town
When you arrive in a new city, it’s hard to know what you’re getting. Choosing where to stay is hard, especially without local insight. Luckily, we have local insight by the truckload, so read on to find out what each area’s character is like.
The Waterfront, while not technically a neighbourhood, is a hub of activity where you’ll find upmarket hotels, restaurants, and bars all conveniently in the same place. It’s relatively safe, and you’ll be able to walk to tourist attraction departure points. It’s also home to the Aquarium, the Robben Island Museum, and is the main stop on the City Sightseeing bus routes. Accommodation here is not cheap, but it’s guaranteed to be of a high standard.
The City Bowl itself is a good choice for those who like to be part of the action. You’ll be close to pumping clubs and bars, and there are fantastic restaurants on every corner. There are upmarket hotels, divey hostels, boutique backapckers, and just about every other kind of accommodation you can imagine. It’s a bustling cosmopolitan mix, and there’s really something for everyone. There are loads of buses, taxis, trains, and Ubers around to get you from A to B.
Woodstock has become a hub for artists and entrepreneurs in recent years. This is where you’ll find many young professionals, exchange students, start-ups, and small businesses. It’s also an old part of the city, and there is a diverse mix of people who call the area home. It’s really close to the city, but a little more affordable to stay in. IT’s on the commuter routes, so there is ample cheap transport, although it’s not always as safe as the tourist hubs.
De Waterkant is a trendy little village, also just shouldering the city. It has a modern feel, with artisan shops and fantastic little eateries and bars.
The Sea Point promenade, which stretches for several kilometres along the Atlantic Ocean, is perhaps Sea Point’s most famous landmark, along with its public swimming pool at the Bantry Bay end. The Main Road is thick with restaurants serving global cuisine – Greek, Italian, and all kinds of Asian – as well as bars, watering holes and shops. It’s a suburb filled with character and quirkiness, and it’s also where you’ll find a number of great gay bars and clubs.
Green Point is Sea Point’s more upmarket neighbour, and the beachfront Main Road is lined with apartment blocks. This is where the Cape Town Stadium is located, so it’s a great choice if you’re in town for sporting events or big concerts. It’s also close to the stunning beaches of the Atlantic Seaboard.
The Bo-Kaap is located just up the hill from the City Bowl, and it’s often referred to as the Malay Quarter. It’s known for it’s rich history and colourful houses lining cobbled streets. Many of the residents are decedents of the freed slaves who first established the area, and it’s authentically Cape Town.
These sister neighbourhoods are largely made up of flashy houses and mansions overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. This is where you’ll find the who’s-who of Cape Town, and where celebrities often choose to stay. Don’t let that put you off though: it’s entirely possible to find relatively affordable accommodation here, and well worth it for the views alone. The beaches are often busy, and for good reason. The sea on this side of the mountain is cold, but the wide, sandy beaches make for excellent sun-bathing, volleyball, and people-watching.
The Deep South is what locals call the suburbs of Noordhoek and Kommetjie. They’re laid-back, almost rural villages with spectacular sea-views. The downside is that they’re located about a 30-50 minute drive from the city, and public transport options are limited. These neighbourhoods more than make up for it with their breathtaking beaches, mountains, natural fynbos, and relaxed seaside atmosphere. There’s seldom a tourist in sight, so if you want to blend in with the locals, the Deep South is a good cjoice.
Hout Bay is about 20-30 minutes from the city, between the Atlantic Seaboard and Noordhoek. It has a seaside-village feel, but is a little more of a hub than the Deep South. It’s on the City Sightseeing Blue Route, so it’s possible to explore the city from here. The beach is lovely, and there are many restaurants, a lively weekend market, and a few bars.
Muizenberg is the old dame of the False Bay coastline. It’s only about 15-20 minutes from the city, and there are a few public transport options. The long, sandy beach is popular with local surfers, and it has a surfer village feel to it. There are surf shops, laid-back bars, and restaurants right alongside the beach, which is lined with definitive colourful beach huts.
Kalk Bay is a fishing village at heart, with a lively harbour at its centre. There are many small boutique shops, selling clothes, antiques, and trinkets. This is where you’ll find some of the best seafood in town, and the pace of life is slow. It’s a good base to explore the South, including Cape Point, and a fantastic place to stay if you want to meet the arty and bohemian locals, but it is a little far from the City Bowl.
Obs, as it’s known locally, is a real melting pot of people. It’s a bohemian backpacking hub, and most of the accommodation available is affordable and bustling hostels. You’ll find lots of arty shops, boutiques with vintage and unusual clothing, and health food stores. There are also dozens of bars and restaurants catering for all tastes, offering a vibrant nightlife scene that goes on until the small hours of the morning. Observatory is on all the main public transport routes and is less than six kilometres from the City Bowl– about a 10-minute drive outside of rush hour traffic.
Newlands is quite diverse in what it offers, with charming little village-style shopping centres, steakhouses, bars, rastaurants, and gorgeous forests and streams. It’s relativley close to the city centre, but well outside of the hustle and bustle. If you’re looking for a quiet guest house, BnB, Airbnb, or hotel, this is a good place to base yourself. It is also home to the Newlands Stadium, so it’s a popular choice for those attending sporting events.
Constantia, along with Bergvliet and Tokai, surrounds the Constantia wine route. Expect sprawling hotel grounds, upmarket estates, and lush, leafy suburbia. This is a great place to stay if you’re looking for upmarket accommodation where you can spend your days tasting wine and experiencing fine-dining.
Khayelitsha is Cape Town’s largest township, and it’s a good place to stay if you’re after really affordable homestays in the “real”, authentic Cape Town. There is plenty to do here, and as long as you listen to your hosts and use reliable, accredited transport providers, it’s safe to visit.
Gugulethu is another of Cape Town’s vibrant townships, and there’s a thriving Airbnb community that allows you to stay in homes in the area. There’s loads to do, including eating at the famous Mzoli’s place, where you’ll find traditional South African shisa nyama, or fire-cooked meat.
Somerset West is about 30 minutes to an hour outside of Cape Town, in the heart of the Helderberg Wine Route. There are many hotels, BnBs, and guest houses to stay in, to suit most budgets. It’s a little far from the city itself, but offers easy access to the Winelands. Stay here for fine-dining and wine-tasting.
Gordon’s Bay and Strand are located just next to Somerset West and have some spectacular beaches. The sunsets you’ll witness here are some of the prettiest in the world. They also offer easy access to the Winelands, and are a great place to stay if you want to escape the city for a few nights. It’s also where you’ll find Crystal Pools, which offers some truly gorgeous hiking with rock pools.
Durbanville is underrated as a place to stay. It’s a fair drive outside of the city, but it offers incredible mountain views and sweeping vineyards. The Durbanville Wine Route has some fantastic estates, with great restaurants.
Bloubergstrand is where you’ll find the picture postcard view of Table Mountain across the water. Accommodation here is mainly hotels and resorts, and the beaches are very popular. It’s also the kitesurfing capital of Cape Town, so if watersports are your scene don’t miss it!