Known as the Mother City in South Africa, Cape Town is famous for its dramatic views, white beaches and, of course, the iconic Table Mountain.
The city’s neighborhoods each have their own unique character and charm, giving travelers the opportunity to explore the distinctive local culture for themselves.
While it is possible to get a taste of several neighborhoods during one vacation, you may find it more rewarding to focus on visiting a couple during your stay. No matter your interests — be it history, food, beach life or art — Cape Town has an area that’s perfect for your visit.
Get local insight on destinations all over the world with our weekly newsletter delivered to your inbox. The V&A Waterfront is a part of Cape Town that all visitors should see © Alistair Berg / Getty Images
Best area for first-time visitors
The V&A Waterfront is Cape Town’s vibrant tourist center, its lively atmosphere drawing travelers to its many attractions. Here, you can marvel at marine life at the Two Oceans Aquarium, discover contemporary African art at the Zeitz MOCAA, or simply enjoy the view while sipping a cocktail.
With numerous shops, restaurants and the popular V&A Food Market, this waterfront neighborhood is ideal for shoppers and foodies. There are many international brands and luxury hotels in the area, and it’s a good place to stay as it’s close to the city’s main attractions.
Best neighborhood for local culture
The picturesque neighborhood of Bo-Kaap, with its brightly colored houses, is known for its rich, multicultural history. Once called the Malay Quarter, the district was home to people from a mix of Malaysian, African, Indian and Sri Lankan heritages, primarily the descendants of enslaved people brought to the Cape in the 16th and 17th centuries. Today, this area captivates visitors with its history, vivid colors and harmonious blend of cultures.
Spend an afternoon strolling along the cobblestone streets of Bo-Kaap, with the scent of aromatic spices from nearby eateries filling the air. Visit the Iziko Bo-Kaap Museum, which showcases the area’s heritage, the District Six Museum and visit the Auwal Mosque, South Africa’s oldest mosque.
Bo-Kaap is a wonderful place to do a traditional Cape Malay cooking class, many of which include a tour of the area. If you choose to visit independently, please be sensitive to the residents when taking photos of the area.
If you want to stay near the beach, Camps Bay is the Cape Town neighborhood for you © LMspencer / Shutterstock
Best place for ocean views
If you’re after a sophisticated beach break, head to Camps Bay. Yes, the water is cold, but you can always sunbathe on the white sand, and the tidal pool is warmer than the sea. The views of Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles are also stunning, especially at sunset.
Just a road back from the beach, you’ll find a strip of cafes and restaurants. Enjoy dinner and drinks with a view at The Hussar Grill, Tigers Milk or Bilboa. If you’re looking to stay near the beach without the busyness of the Waterfront, stay in one of the smattering of boutique hotels in the area.
Best neighborhood for art lovers
The up-and-coming neighborhood of Woodstock has transformed from a once-industrial area into a creative hub for artists, designers and food enthusiasts. You can almost feel the creative energy as you walk through the area, popping into art galleries as you pass by.
Wander through the Old Biscuit Mill, and sample freshly brewed coffee and artisanal food (if you visit on a Saturday, don’t miss the Neighbourgoods Market), then visit the Woodstock Exchange, dedicated to local and creative businesses. There are a handful of hotels in the area, which offer a trendy, artsy experience for travelers who appreciate an edgy, urban environment.
Best place for a local experience
This charming fishing village is a bit of a drive from the city center, but it is well worth the journey. Take the longer route around the coast and over Chapman’s Peak for magnificent sea and mountain views. Once you get to Kalk Bay, enjoy a stroll past the small shops, art galleries and the surprisingly busy harbour, where fishing boats deliver their daily catch. Then, stop for a seafood lunch at one of the many restaurants or cafes on the main road.
There are some beautiful guesthouses near the village, many with lovely views of the bay, so this is a good place to stay if you don’t mind being a bit of a distance from many of Cape Town’s major sites.
Wine lovers will want to linger in Constantia, home to South Africa’s oldest wine estate © Deepthought Imagery / Shutterstock
Best area for wine and food
If you don’t have time to visit the Cape Winelands, head to Constantia instead. This tranquil suburb is renowned for its wineries, including Groot Constantia, South Africa’s oldest wine estate. The wine farms are close together, making it easy to taste several wines in an afternoon. They also have stunning views and elegant restaurants – the perfect spot for lunch.
As well as the wineries, there are several excellent places to eat and drink in the area including Foxcroft, where you can graze on tapas under oak trees, and The Conservatory, known for its indulgent high teas and delicious dinner. Stay in one of the area’s guesthouses or boutique hotels to explore the Constantia Wine Route in greater detail.
Best place for a beach break
Muizenberg is a laid-back coastal neighborhood in Cape Town, known for its family-friendly atmosphere and vibrant surf culture. The Blue Flag beach provides the perfect setting for sunbathing, swimming and surfing, and the water is much warmer than at the Atlantic beaches on the other side of the peninsula. Photographers will love the wide, sandy Muizenberg Beach, an Instagram classic thanks to its iconic, colorful beach huts that add a touch of whimsy to the picturesque scene.
The lively Muizenberg Flea Market, eclectic eateries and friendly residents give this thriving seaside community a lot of charm. There’s also a wide range of accommodation to choose from, including hostels for budget travelers. Just keep in mind that you will have to drive to the major attractions, and the area is best for a summer visit.