Last updated 24 January 2021
If this is your first time visiting Africa, there's a good chance Cape Town will be on your itinerary. The gateway to Southern Africa, Cape Town is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world. With views of the ocean and mountains, you’re never far from spectacular scenery. But, did you know that your experience in Cape Town can vary considerably depending on where you stay?
Cape Town is a large and busy city, and you can relax and tan on your holiday, or keep busy with sightseeing and activities. Many people think that they have to stay in the city or in the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, but there’s a host of other options out there if you’re willing to keep an open mind.
From leafy suburbs and fast-paced city life, to romantic feet-in-the-sand beach lodges and historical steps back in time, choosing where to stay in Cape Town can be a hard choice. While the waterfront is great if you want to be near the hustle and bustle of the city, if you’re looking for a slower and quieter stay, there are plenty of other convenient and safe neighbourhoods available. Below are a few of our picks for a great stay in Cape Town.
Just be aware that these neighbourhood recommendations assume you have access to your own transport. While Cape Town is a vibrant and modern city, you may want to consider hiring a car during your time here. Public transport is not always the most reliable, or the safest, and calling an Uber has become extremely popular with locals and travelers alike. MyCity Bus is another semi-reliable option to use but it does not cover the entire city, so you will need to check the schedules well beforehand.
Many air, land and sea activities are based here
Two Oceans Aquarium with the amazing diversity of the oceans
Huge range of restaurants ranging from take-aways for a quick bite, to fine dining, pubs and the only comedy club in Cape Town
The V&A Waterfront with Table Mountain in the background
The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is the perfect base for your first visit to Cape Town. There is a lot to do here but it is also a central area to explore from. Accommodation insides the Waterfront ranges from self-catering apartments to a jail-converted hotel to five-star international luxury hotels.
This is an area that never sleeps and weekends are especially busy so if you want to be surrounded by city energy, this is the perfect place to be. The V&A Waterfront is also where you can find Cape Town’s only permanent luxury ferris wheel, the Cape Town Eye as well as the Jolly Roger Pirate Boat that sails daily from Quay 5 offering a fun and adventure-filled experience.
Families will enjoy it here with the Two Oceans Aquarium creatively displaying the diversity between the Indian and the Atlantic Oceans. Just across the road is Mineral World where you can purchase your own take-home bag to fill with precious stones and then finally end off your day with a friendly game of indoor miniature golf.
From The V&A Waterfront, travelers are encouraged to explore the highlights of the city which is easily done on a half day Table Mountain and city tour. While you’re here, make sure to visit Signal Hill for the firing of the noon gun which in itself is quite an exhilarating experience. Flanking Table Mountain are Lion’s Head and Signal Hill. These three mountains and hills are worth checking out, especially if you are an adrenalin junkie as you can abseil down Table Mountain and tandem-paraglide off Signal Hill.
Another bucket list item to include in your visit is a tour of Robben Island. Join one of the multiple daily scheduled boat rides across to the island and join a guided tour bus when you’re there to experience an area like nowhere else in the world. You will also have the opportunity to step inside the cell of former South African President, Nelson Mandela.
Kloof Street in the city is a vibrant area with shoppers bustling around the lifestyle centre and art galleries. As the sun sets the bars and pubs come alive with laughter and the sounds of music filling the air. Some of Cape Town’s award-winning restaurants are found in Kloof Street which makes it a must-visit location for delicious dinners or a nightcap before turning in.
When you are looking at where to stay when you are in Cape Town and want the buzz of the city, the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront really does have something for everyone.
International rugby matches and cricket tournaments
Cavendish Square Mall to satisfy all shopping lovers
Newlands is a green residential suburb located approximately 15-minutes drive from the city centre. Trendy Cavendish Square is a popular shopping mall with international and local brands, a food court, coffee shops, and cinemas.
The area does have a variety of accommodation however in my opinion, The Vineyard Hotel is one of the best hotels for families to stay at. Offering a range of accommodation from superior rooms, to suites to garden cottages, all rooms have access to the crystal swimming pool, international Angsana Spa and popular restaurants on the premises. What makes this perfect for children is the rolling green lawns with many corners to be explored and hiding spots completely suitable for a game of hide-and-seek, while mom and dad enjoy a guided garden walk exploring this award-winning eco-friendly accomplishment. Activities arranged here for children during peak times are amongst some of the best in the city.
Not too far from this hotel are a variety of family-friendly activities. Rush Trampoline Park is fun for kids and a great work-out for parents, ten-pin bowling is available, there’s a gym for those wanting to stay fit and of course, the nightlife over the weekends makes this a popular area.
Newlands Rugby Stadium hosts a variety of exciting local and international rugby matches where loyal, and sometimes rowdy crowds, stream in with painted faces while waving flags and banners. Streets surrounding the stadium are filled with vendors selling snacks, rugby paraphernalia and memorabilia available on match day and the buzz in in the air is thrilling.
Newlands Cricket Ground is home to the Cape Cobras and here you can lie out in the sun on the grass or sit in the stadium seats to watch the game. These cricket grounds are also a venue for Test matches, ODIs and T20s. Newlands and the neighbouring suburb of Claremont should definitely be areas to consider if you are travelling with your family.
White, sandy beaches
Nightlife on ‘the strip’
Incredible sunset views
Enjoy a night out with dinner and a show
Clifton and Camps Bay are sister suburbs with mansions and exquisite homes built on the mountain slopes overlooking the crystal-clear blue sea, and if you are looking for a scenic, laid back area where to stay when you’re in Cape Town, look no further.
Located approximately 20 minutes from the city centre, these areas are perfect for people who want to relax, enjoy beautiful wide sandy beaches, stroll along the ‘Camps Bay Strip’ and sample refreshing sundowners as the Main Road starts to come to life.
For a more subdued evening, head out for dinner and a show. Be entertained at Theatre on the Bay, a 238-seater venue with an intimate stage offering world-class entertainment for dramas, comedies, musicals and cabarets. Be sure to pre-book dinner and enjoy a delicious meal before taking your seat to watch the show.
High tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel
Range of culinary delights and artisanal sweets
Easy to walk around and explore during the day
Culture and history to be experienced in the colorful Bo-Kaap
Gardens is the perfect area where you can stay in Cape Town if you want to feel as if you are a local on the trendy Cape Town scene. Lying just on the outskirts of the city, visitors can find refuge at the end of a busy day in this leafy suburb, built on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. With this vantage point, the views looking down over the city and Cape Town Harbour are amazing.
The location gives visitors easy access to a variety of eateries and coffee shops. The Bombay Bicycle Club restaurant is the little bit of crazy you might expect on a trip to Cape Town. Fitted out with eclectic décor and a fun atmosphere, some tables are tucked away in tiny rooms while others have swinging chair seats suspended from the ceiling.
For a treat, reserve your seat for high tea at the Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel. This 122 grand-old-lady of Cape Town serves high tea at noon and 3pm daily. Enjoy relaxing in The Lounge while music from a live pianist softly floats through the air, creating a leisurely atmosphere. Enjoy a banquet of savory delights and sweet treats, and complement that with a unique tea from the hotel’s impressive loose-leaf tea collection.
The kilojoules gained at tea can be walked off on a stroll through the historical Company Gardens, originally established in the 1650’s to grow fresh food to supply passing ships en route to the East. As you enter this green oasis in the middle of the city, vendors will sell you packets of peanuts to feed the squirrels and birds, almost a tradition when you are here. Stop for coffee at The Company Gardens Restaurant and take a meander around the South African Museum before ending your day watching the night sky in the southern hemisphere at The Planetarium.
If you want to explore a little bit further, head along the city border and closer to the Waterfront to the Bo-Kaap District. So much culture adorns these cobblestone streets, with a striking backdrop of colorful houses in various shades of lilac, blues, pinks and yellow. These houses date back to the 1750s and there many stories on the reasons for the various colours - every tour I have been on gives a different version. The neighborhood is warm and friendly and it is the perfect setting for photographers. You will always find travelers in the Bo-Kaap. They are easy to spot, either grabbing a traditional snack from a local vendor, strolling around with camera in hand, or joining in on a guided walking tour.
For you’re especially interested in culture and food, try one of Bo-Kaap’s incredible cooking classes. These classes are run in the homes of local people who will show you their recipes and teach you their methods. At the end of the class, you’ll be rewarded by a sit-down dinner to eat your creations with your fellow chefs, most likely from all around the world.
Muizenberg for surfing and body boarding, including lessons
Simon’s Town for sea bicycles, kayaking, SUP trips, deep sea fishing, PADI diving
Home to the African Penguin colony
If there is a surfer’s village in Cape Town, Muizenberg has to be it. With delicious ice-creams, bustling coffee shops and on-trend restaurants, Muizenberg is a great place to visit for a surf and tan.Along the beachfront, there are a choice of surf schools should you wish to learn to surf. Or, if you already know how to hang ten and catch those gnarly waves, you are able to rent just a board and wetsuit and enjoy time in the water
Muizenberg is a wonderful beach for families too. Tidal rock pools are popular for children who can search for small fish, periwinkles, starfish and other fascinating sea life. Just keep in mind that sharks do sometimes visit these warmer waters. Shark spotters are located here daily and sound the alarm if a shark has been spotted in the waters, signaling that everyone in the water needs to return to the beach.
Just 10 minutes along the coast, as you drive towards Cape Point, you will find yourself in Simon’s Town. Another fantastic Cape Town neighbourhood, this is the perfect place to stay in you love the ocean. This historical suburb is not only home to the South African Navy, but it also used to be a market where farmers would sell their produce to locals.
Today, passionate sea lovers are able to obtain their PADI certification with Pisces Divers, and once qualified can explore fascinating shipwrecks or have fun swimming with seals. For those who prefer staying on top of the water, the Cape Town Bicycles give you a surreal feeling of freedom as you ‘cycle’ across the sea as part of a tour.
Another fun activity in Simonstown is rent a SUP (stand up paddleboard) or join a class that will have you up on your feet and seamlessly gliding over the ocean within an hour. This area is perfect for SUP-pers because there are almost no waves due to the shape of the bay.
Kayak trips are also popular here because of the flat, clear sea water. Those keen on witnessing the African Penguins should definitely book a kayak tour that you will take you to the world-famous colony at Boulders Beach.
White sandy wide beaches with the historic Kakapo Wreck
Visit the Slangkop Lighthouse
Kommetjie lies in what is known as ‘The Deep South’ of Cape Town and is accessible via the scenic Chapman’s Peak or Cape Point, which you should visit while you are in the area with its natural beauty and natural wildlife populations. Kommetjie has the feel of a holiday town, with an extremely laid-back approach to life and, if you can live with a ‘no shoes’ attitude, you will love it here.
The Slangkop Lighthouse is the tallest lighthouse in the southern hemisphere and made of cast iron and is easily accessible by a short walk from the village of Kommetjie. If pre-arranged, visitors can enter the lighthouse and climb the steps of this circular lighthouse right up to the landing floor at the top with incredible sweeping view of the Atlantic Ocean.
There is a variety of accommodation in Kommetjie, but should you wish to splurge a little, The Last Word Long Beach Boutique Hotel is set in the perfect location giving travelers the chance to relax in their room with uninterrupted views over the Atlantic Ocean, and a stretch of shimmering white beach right on your doorstep.
Stroll along the sand until you reach the historic Kakapo Wreck, which ran aground in fog in 1900 while en route to Sydney, Australia. If you’re a bit hot and bothered after your walk, the clear, frigid water of the Atlantic Ocean will cool you down. This area is particularly great for surfers, SUP’s, kayakers and families looking for a relaxing day out - it doesn’t feel crowded even during peak season.