City Structure Guide
The following passage describes how Cape Town’s suburbs are laid out. If you find geographical descriptions a big confusing, visit http://bit.ly/EKpy3 for a fully navigable map of the city.
The municipal district referred to as The City of Cape Town is centered on the City Bowl area, which is the area actually known as Cape Town. The area is described as a bowl because of its appearance, being surrounded on three sides by interlinking mountains. Table Mountain, with its plateau-like summit rising from a base of green slopes, shelters the southwest side of the bowl. Lion’s Head (with its distinctive sharp peak) has the northwest side, and, in combination with the green hump of Signal Hill, which snakes from its side to make a barrier to the north, bears a striking resemblance to the king of cats.
This natural amphitheatre-shaped area faces onto Table Bay, and the space between the ocean and the mountains includes the high-rise blocks of the Central Business District (CBD), the harbor, the Company Gardens, and numerous residential suburbs: Oranjezicht, Higgovale, Gardens, Zonnebloem, District Six, Devil’s Peak, De Waterkant, Walmer Estate, Vredehoek, University Estate, Tamboerskloof, Schotse Kloof and Woodstock. Woodstock marks the beginning of a stretch of neighborhoods known as the Southern Suburbs, which straddle the eastern slopes of Table Mountain and the flat land that lies beyond it. They include Newlands, Claremont, Rondebosch and the winelands of Constantia, Tokai and Wynberg. Along the shore of Table Bay, after the harbor, run the West Coast suburbs, which include industrial, warehouse dominated areas such as Paarden Eiland and residential districts like Milnerton, Bloubergstrand, Tableview and Melkbosstrand. Near Melkbosstrand, close to Cape Town’s borders, is Koeberg power station, the only nuclear power station in Africa.
In the opposite direction, through the gap between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, is a long stretch of mountainside that slopes all the way to the ocean. The slopes to the South belong to the Twelve Apostles, a linear range of craggy mountains that are a sort of extension of Table Mountain. To the north, Lion’s Head and Signal Hill loom over the predominantly residential areas, which are mostly centered on the beautiful beaches for which this strip, called the Atlantic Seaboard, is justly famous. From south to north, these neighborhoods are Llandudno, Bakoven, Camps Bay, Clifton, Fresnaye, Sea Point and Green Point. They come full circle around Signal Hill, where Green Point borders on City Bowl and the harbor.
Further south of Llandudno lies Hout Bay, a large valley overrun with lush vegetation. It is bordered by mountains on three sides and a large ocean inlet on the other. The Chapman’s Peak toll road (which has long been out of commission due to uncontrollable rock falls) rounds the high cliffs that jut vertically from the ocean, leading to the western coast of the South Peninsula, where you’ll find the coastal areas of Noordhoek, Kommetjie and Scarborough.
The pass through the north-east end of Hout Bay valley leads to the Constantia Winelands and back through the Southern Suburb neighborhoods to Cape Town. South of Constantia lies the South Peninsula’s Eastern coast, which includes the neighborhoods of Muizenberg, Fischhoek and Simon’s Town, followed by a long stretch of relatively unoccupied peninsular territory culminating in Cape Point.
In the opposite direction, along the coast and inland, you’ll find the Cape Flats, a level area which includes many industrial areas and poor residential neighborhoods, including Grassy Park, Athlone, Epping and Mitchell’s Plain, along with many former African townships, including Gugulethu, Langa and Khayelitsha. North of the Cape Flats, even further inland, lie the Northern Suburbs, which include the major Afrikaner neighborhoods of Parow, Belville, Durbanville, and Brackenfell. Beyond these areas, just outside the city borders, lies Stellenbosch, the area so famous for its expansive winelands.
There are three national roads that start in Cape Town.
The N1 connects Cape Town to Johannesburg, Bloemfonten, Pretoria and Zimbabwe. It starts in the CBD and continues North East, running briefly along the West Coast (before the coast swerves north) and continuing on through the Cape Flats.
The N2 connects Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban. It shares the N1’s starting point, but branches off South East past the Southern Suburbs, the easterly Cape Flats areas, and Cape Town International Airport.
The N7 has its starting point in Mitchell’s Plain, running north to intersect with both the N2 and the N1 before leaving the city’s borders. It connects Cape Town to the North Cape Province and the bordering nation of Namibia.
Cape Town also has a system of M-roads, which become freeways and dual carriageways at various points along their routes. The M3 breaks off of the N2 and travels south along Table Mountain’s eastern slopes, connecting the City Bowl to Muizenberg. The M5, which branches off from the N1 further east, connects the Cape Flats to the Central Business District.
The Cape Flats Freeway (properly known as the R300), connects Bellville and Mitchell’s plain to the N1 and N2.