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Where to stay in Cape Town

Heading to the Mother City but not sure where to stay? Take a look at our pick of the best neighbourhoods in Cape Town

Alex Floyd-Douglass
Written by
Alex Floyd-Douglass
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Where are the best places to stay in Cape Town? Well, that all depends on what you’re hoping to get out of the city. If you’re looking for sundowners overlooking the Atlantic, Camps Bay is the place for you. Prefer a surfer’s paradise? That’s just over the mountains in the sunny suburb of Muizenberg. Getting to know the best (and safest) areas of Cape Town and what they offer will help you get the most out of one of the world’s greatest cities.

Although the CBD (Central Business District) is small, the City of Cape Town officially comprises a large urban area set across multiple suburbs and small coastal towns, many of which are worth exploring in their own right. Within that expanse, these are the best places to base yourself – and while it’s important to remain streetwise throughout Cape Town, we’ve focused here on the safest areas to stay. So, let’s take a look at our curated list of the best neighbourhoods in the Mother City. You can thank us after your epic trip.

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Where to stay in Cape Town

Cape Town’s Atlantic Seaboard technically extends all the way to Hout Bay, but we’re talking about the Sea Point, Green Point and De Waterkant areas, all neighbouring each other on the edge of Cape Town’s CBD. This is considered one of the safer parts of the city and its surrounding areas, but that definitely doesn’t mean it’s boring: there’s plenty to see and do in seaside suburbia, from Sea Point’s promenade to the V&A Waterfront. You’re also likely to meet a wide variety of people here: it’s considered by Capetonians as the friendly LGBTQ+ district near town – complete with a rainbow crossing painted for South Africa’s 2022 Pride Month – as well as a go-to hub for digital nomads.

STAY

Kick off your Cape Town stay at The Winchester Hotel. The historic Cape Dutch hotel sits right on Sea Point’s promenade and has a holistic spa, sea- or mountain-view rooms and a restaurant with South African and European fusion cuisine. If you’re looking to go even more luxurious, check out the One & Only for pure indulgence. For something more affordable, take a look at this awesome Airbnb on Beach Road.

EAT

There’s plenty to pique your appetite along the Atlantic Seaboard: hunt down the world’s best croissants (that’s not just our opinion) at Coco Safar, enjoy fine dining at Sonny & Irene, or get your daily deli fix at Giovanni’s. And if you prize variety above all, head to Mojo Market: situated at the far end of Sea Point, it’s home to a plethora of local food stalls and bars to please all tastes.

DRINK

For ice-cold beers and an afternoon jol, head to the Fireman’s Arms on the edge of the city centre for a truly South African experience. If it’s a Saturday and the rugby’s on, expect a party – win or lose. If you’re looking for something a little more bougie, check out the Grand Africa Café & Beach with a bottle of bubbly as the sun goes down on their private beach.

DO

Catch a Springbok game at the Cape Town Stadium, check out the Time Out Market (coming 2023) while shopping your souvenirs at the V&A Waterfront, head into town for a taste of big city life or get your health fix with a hike up the majestic Table Mountain.

If you only do one thing…

Take a stroll along the promenade and visit the Oranjezicht Farmers’ Market on Wednesday evenings and Saturday mornings. It’s the best way to soak up that Capetonian energy – along with some amazing food and drink options on hand.

Further down the Atlantic Seaboard, Camps Bay deserves its own mention. From pottery-painting coffee shops to endless cocktail bars along the seafront, this place genuinely has something for everyone – and that’s before you even get to the beach. With mountainous backdrops and palm tree-lined rock pools, Camps Bay is up there with the best beaches in Cape Town – although the water is as cold as the ice cream you’ll be wielding, so be warned!

STAY

Looking for a beachfront stay in Camps Bay? Check out the Marly Boutique Hotel. Within stumbling distance from the bars and restaurants, this hotel is stylish luxe and central living all-in-one. Go one step up to the Twelve Apostles Hotel for panoramic views of the mountains and the ocean, while sipping on a complimentary cocktail. Alternatively, live like a local in this incredible penthouse.

EAT

There are a bunch of great restaurants in Camps Bay, although they can vary greatly in price. If you’re hoping for cheap and cheerful, check out Mint Cafe for R99 specials, or Ocean Basket for a taste of – you guessed it – the ocean. If it’s a special occasion, book a table at Tindlovu to experience South African fine dining: try the eight-hour oxtail or the Cape Malay curry.

DRINK

The sounds of cocktail shaking and pint pulling are everywhere in Camps Bay – yep, you’re spoilt for drink choices here. Start at Bilbao for an iconic Insta shot and head upstairs to Chinchilla for rooftop sundowners, before dancing the night away in Café Caprice while you mingle with the locals.

DO

As one of the go-to beach suburbs of Cape Town, Camps Bay is best for a beach day with local picnic treats (read: biltong) and a sun lounger. As the sun goes down, the strip comes alive and you can join the locals and travellers thronging its many bars and restaurants.

If you only do one thing…

After a lazy morning on the beach, rent a hire car and take a drive past the Twelve Apostles rock formations towards Chapman’s Peak Drive. With its 180-degree views of the Cape Peninsula, it’s considered one of the most scenic drives in the world.

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At the base of Signal Hill, on the edge of the CBD, Bo-Kaap is one of Cape Town’s oldest surviving neighbourhoods. Its name means ​​‘above the Cape’ in Afrikaans, but it was formerly known as the Malay Quarter. The story goes that during Apartheid, this was a racially segregated area but when the old regime was abolished, it was suggested that residents painted their homes in vibrant colours to express their freedom. Today, touring the coloured houses is a way to tap into a significant slice of Capetonian culture and immerse yourself in the neighbourhood’s heritage. Be aware that it’s best not to walk around the CBD at night unless you’re in a large group.

STAY

Visit La Rose B&B for an authentic Bo-Kaap stay, where a traditional home-cooked breakfast is served daily on the patio overlooking the neighbourhood. If you’re keen on privacy, check out this stunning Airbnb in Upper Bo-Kaap, with epic views of the CBD. And if it’s something unique you’re after, this terraced home with panoramas of Table Mountain and beyond is the one for you.

EAT

Cape Town is known for its diversity, and in Bo-Kaap, that translates into some delicious food. Cape Malay culture is a mash-up of Muslim influences from all over the world, and when it comes to eating, that means samosas, daltjies (chilli bites) and curries will be in abundance. Check out family-run Bo-Kaap Kombuis to taste the finest local fare.

DRINK

As Bo-Kaap is a Muslim-majority neighbourhood, it’s respectful to dress conservatively here and avoid drinking alcohol publicly. Shift your focus from ice-cold beers to cockle-warming cardamom tea: it’s the perfect chaser for any Cape Malay meal.

DO

Book a Cape Fusion Tour for a half-day cooking course spent visiting the District Six Museum and two community projects, before hunting down spices and cooking up a storm in a local’s home.

If you only do one thing…

As ever, the best way to get to know the neighbourhood is through the eyes of a seasoned local. Join a walking tour around Bo-Kaap where tours depart twice a day: just meet the guide on Church Square and keep an eye out for the green umbrellas. It’s on a ‘pay what you can’ contribution basis, and anything you can spare helps support the local economy.

Known for its beach hut-lined coast, gnarly waves and super surf culture, Muizenberg is a blissful alternative to the more populated parts of the City of Cape Town. Situated on the southeastern side of the Cape Peninsula, Muizenberg is chock-full of backpackers and surfers checking out the local coffee shops and farmers’ markets – when they’re not riding the waves, of course.

STAY

Go minimalist with a beachfront stay right on Surfer’s Corner and enjoy a morning coffee with a side of sea breeze. Level up to luxury in an ocean-view penthouse with high-end finishes by a local interior designer. Or go green and opt for a sustainable studio on the Marina da Gama.

EAT

Check out the Blue Bird Garage Food and Goods Market, which runs on Thursdays and Fridays from 4pm until 10pm. From its freshly-picked produce and unique food stalls to the Bicycle Bar with its very own speakeasy, this place is one-of-a-kind. Other local restaurants include long-standing Lagerchinos and the stalwart Brass Bell up the road in Kalk Bay.

DRINK

Tiger’s Milk is the go-to bar along Muizenberg’s beachfront, with daily specials and stunning views over the ocean. For a quirkier alternative, visit the Urban Soul Cafe & Jazz Bar for a proper South African evening with soulful music and great wine.  

DO

Spend the day on Surfer’s Corner. Whether you’re a seasoned surfer or a newbie to flinging yourself at the waves, there’s enough ocean for everyone – unless you break surf code, which, take it from us, you don’t want to do. Join Gary’s Surf School for a two-hour lesson, followed by a refreshing beverage in one of the local bars. 

If you only do one thing…

Walk the four miles along the coast, past St James and its multicoloured beach huts, and you’re in Kalk Bay: another quaint coastal town with a completely different energy to Muizenberg. If you’ve had enough of surfer’s paradise and are looking for a day spent shopping antiques and unique pieces of clothing and jewellery, this is the place. End your trip with a bite of local seafood at Kalky’s – and maybe a visit from the very famous, albeit very grumpy, resident seal.

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An entirely different experience to the many coastal options on offer in Cape Town, Observatory (and other surrounding towns in the Southern Suburbs) is a melting pot of South African culture and traveller-turned-locals. During Apartheid, Observatory – locally coined ‘Obs’ – was one of the few ‘grey’ suburbs where people of all races lived together. Today, its multicultural vibe rings true as ever and offers up an epic range of things to see and do. 

STAY

Obs is a tiny suburb, and its Victorian-style houses offer slim pickings for holiday accommodation – but this authentic home certainly does the business. If you’re looking for a little more peace, opt for an apartment at the Paragon. Or go for gold in this gloriously eclectic loft with a fairy garden out back. 

EAT

The true essence of Obs is Lower Main Road: the bustling street running through its centre, filled with interesting restaurants and pumping bars. From sushi platters to all-you-can-eat-pizza, there’s cuisine for every palate. Special mentions include Jerry’s for epic burgers, Panchos for incredible Mexican-fusion food and Nourish’d for plant-based delights.

DRINK

Ask five locals what their favourite Obs bar is and you’ll hear five different answers. But when you hash it out, there’s a collective agreement that Stones is the area’s central drinking hub. A pool bar with a notorious balcony and a playlist that never gets old, Stones is the place to be if you’re hoping to meet locals before challenging them to a game of pool you’ll inevitably lose. Take an impromptu pub crawl along Lower Main and ask for a draught of Zamalek in each bar you find. It’ll be a memorable night – promise.

DO

The newly reopened Armchair – a long-standing Obs venue – hosts an array of weekly events including open mic, comedy and quiz nights. They’re all great ways to meet people, so grab a beer and join in the fun. Just don’t sit in the front row on comedy night!

If you only do one thing…

Thrift, thrift, thrift. Obs is known for its vintage and pre-loved clothing stores, so set aside some time in the afternoon to stroll down Lower Main. Don’t miss Never New at the north end. With ’70s records drawing you in and seemingly endless film cameras to play with, it’s pretty lekker.

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