The Neighborhoods in Brief
Some of the most prominent residential suburbs and areas to live in, which are most popular with expatriates, in Cape Town are covered below.
Encircled by the looming plateau of Table Mountain, the craggy peak of Lion’s Head, and the ambling hump of Signal Hill, City Bowl is central to Cape Town in many ways. It’s the location of many of the best night clubs and restaurants, home to numerous avant-garde art galleries, antique malls and curios markets, two cinemas and Cape Town’s central (and largest) public library. Views can be truly spectacular, combining the daytime beauty of mountain and ocean with the evening glory of the city lights. What’s more, it’s all just a stone’s throw away from some of the most popular beaches, mountain hikes and nature walks, along with the shopping attractions of the V&A waterfront.The suburbs adorning the mountain slopes (Oranjezicht, Higgovale and Tamboerskloof) are the grandest and greenest, featuring everything from old Victorian cottages to sleek and steely postmodern mansions.
They are particularly popular with German expats for their proximity to the independent German school, with its expansive grounds and reputation for academic excellence. Incidentally, the University of Cape Town, ten minutes drive down the highway, has its fine arts campus in Gardens, from which students can catch the Jammie Shuttle to Main Campus every 20 minutes.The CBD is almost entirely taken up with office blocks and high rise blocks of flats. While not quite on a par with Camps Bay, this is generally the most expensive area, per volume, to rent an apartment – you can expect to pay five to seven thousand rand for a decent studio flat.
Low cost rentals are probably most easily come across in the neighboring area of Vredehoek, but be wary. While hardly on a level with the Cape Flats, this area is a veritable magnet for burglars. Don’t bother looking at an apartment in this area unless it’s on or above the third floor, and has full-time security guards (Disa Park is the only establishment that meets this criteria).
- Deutsche Internationale Schule Kapstadt (German International School of Cape Town; Co-ed, Combined Primary and High School); http://www.dsk.co.za
- St. Martini Pre-Primary School, 240 Long Street,CBD; http://www.stmartini.org.za
- Ecole Francaise du Cap Francois Le Vaillant (French International School of Cape Town); http://www.ecolefrancaiseducap.org/
- Herzlia High, Middle and Primary School, Highlands Estate, Vredehoek (Jewish, Co-ed); http://www.herzlia.com
- Woolworths Adderley Street: 021 481 7111
- Woolworths Gardens : 021 461 9550
- Woolworths Kloof Street: 021 480 3111
- Spar: Grand Central Shopping Centre, Cape Town: 021 461 3789
- Pick n Pay Gardens: 021 461 1046/7
- Checkers, Gardens: (021) 4805680
The CBD has restaurants to please every palate and nationality, including quite a few African themed establishments. A few of them are described in greater detail under ‘Food’.
- The Labia on Orange
- The Labia on Kloof (See details under ‘Entertainment’)
While there aren’t many places to engage in sport per se, there are a large number of gyms, as well as martial arts schools, in this area.
- Virgin Active Cape Town; http://www.virginactive.co.za
- Dragon Power martial arts and fitness centre; 9th Floor Tulbagh Centre, Hans Strydom Avenue
- Zonnebloem; http://www.dragonpower.co.za
- The International Kim Loong Wushu Centre (Tai Chi, Kung Fu, Chi Kung); http://www.kimloong.org
- Lifestyles on Kloof Centre; http://www.zonefitness.co.za/
- Renzo Gracie Jiu Jitsu Academy; http://www.renzogracie.co.za
Victoria & Alfred Waterfront
The eminently successful malls and craft markets of the V&A Waterfront make it a top Capetonian tourist attraction. Aside from the cinemas and shopping, the mall offers frequent outdoor shows, dining fit for any palate, and boat rides to Robben and Seal Island (indeed, seals can often be seen cavorting in the water amongst the boats of the harbor, which still operates).
The increasing value of the apartments overlooking the Waterfront is a reflection of two things: the shortage of space, which has been effectively swallowed whole with the introduction of several new hotels (The Cape Grace, Waterfront Village and the One and Only Hotel), and the spectacular views they offer, with the harbor and ocean to one side and Signal Hill and Table Mountain to the other.
The area is popular with expats looking for a combination of urban and pleasure-boating lifestyles, and is truly unbeatable for the convenience it offers. Its proximity to Green Point, with its array of night clubs, is another attraction. It really is only for the comfortably rich, though, and is a far-cry from the luscious greenery of Oranjezicht or Hout Bay.
Minibus taxis rank next to the Red Shed, where artists and craftsmen exhibit their wares. Point-to-point taxis can be found outside the Main entrance of the Victoria Wharf Mall.
There are no schools in this area. See entries under Green Point and CBD for nearby schools.
Branches of Woolworths (021 415 3411) and Pick n Pay (021 418 3614/5) are located inside the V&A shopping Mall.
The mall has numerous restaurants, including Indian, Japanese (there are three sushi restaurants), Italian and French establishments.
The Nu Metro Cinema in the mall offers mainstream Hollywood pictures, while the Ster Kinekor Cinema Nouveau focuses on art house and foreign films.
There are no sports facilities in this area. See listings under Sea Point and Green Point for details.
Sea Point, Green Point, Mouille Point and De Waterkant
These areas border on the Waterfront, between the coast and Signal Hill. The small neighborhood of De Waterkant, with its cobbled streets and quaint appeal, is known for being among the most fashionable and chic areas in the city when it comes to living, shopping and eating out – of particular note is the Cape Quarter, a Tuscan-styled square on the border of Green Point.
Green Point, with its plethora of shops, restaurants, clubs and bars, is in turn known for being the locus of gay culture in Cape Town. In recent times it was home to a number of Cape Town’s most popular mainstream nightclubs. They’ve since been sold and demolished to make way for new building developments, leaving the future of Green Point’s nightlife uncertain.
Mouille Point and Sea Point alike are wonderful for a morning jog or cycle along the Promenade, which runs all the way from the Waterfrontt to the end of Sea Point. Along it you’ll pass a maze, a miniature golf course, and a public outdoor pool (The Pavilion) fed by the Atlantic ocean, where life guards and long distance swimmers go to train in the frosty cold water.
Architecturally, that same stretch has been taken up entirely by high-rise blocks of flats and hotels. Main Road, which runs from town to Sea Point, is known as a gathering point for pimps, prostitutes and drug dealers, despite increasing police efforts to eject them from the area. There are many great shops and restaurants along this strip, but once the sun sets you’d be wise to keep your wits about you.
These areas are far from the Metrorail, but are well served by busses and minibus taxis, which run primarily along Main and High Level Road.
There are no international schools in this area. There is one good private school, however, listed below.
- Reddam House Atlantic Seaboard; http://www.reddamhouse.org.za
- Shoprite Sea Point: 021 430 4680
- Pick n Pay Sea Point: 021 434 8987/8
- Woolworths Green Point 021 433 0535
- Woolworths Sea Point (Piazza St. John): 021 430 4811
- Superspar Sea Point: 021 439 0913/4
Main Road Sea Point is primarily taken up by take-out places, while Mouille Point is home to some truly excellent establishments, including Pepenero (Italian) and Wakame (Sushi).
The last cinema in this area shut down with Sea Point’s decline in the 90’s. Luckily, the Waterfront is near enough that this doesn’t really constitute a problem.
- The Metropolitan Golf Course; http://www.metropolitangolfclub.co.za.
- Virgin Active Sea Point (The largest branch in these parts) http://www.virginactive.co.za (includes tennis courts, squash courts and a lap pool)
- The Pavilion (outdoor olympic swimming pool) Sea Point Pavilion, Beach Road, Sea Point, Call 021 434 3341
- Green Point Stadium (55 000 seat stadium), Granger Bay Boulevard, Green Point (Not for public use)
Clifton, Camps Bay and Bakoven
If your dreams of Cape Town have you sipping cocktails and lazing on the beach watching the sun set over the ocean, this is the area you’ll want to call home. The strip running from Bantry Bay through Clifton, Camps Bay and Bakoven to Llandudno features some of the most gorgeous beaches in the country, and many of the homes overlooking them are the height of expense and luxury. In Clifton, houses lining the five sheltered beaches are in such high demand that they’re mostly rented out during summer time, at absurd rates (R20 000 a day is not uncommon). Just over the hill you’ll find Glen Beach, a rocky cove known as the top spot for experienced surfers.
In contrast to the hilly terrain of Clifton, Camps Bay beach lies on a flat stretch, which makes the numerous hotels and restaurants that overlook it easily accessible after a bit of fun in the sun. Caprice bar and Ignite night club are two particularly trendy spots for drinking and merriment just about any night of the week.
While houses and apartments in Camps Bay and Bakoven (the areas are essentially one neighborhood, with nothing but names to differentiate them) are generally pricy, there are deals to be found on flats and cottages for the less wealthy homemaker. These areas have speedy access to the CBD via Kloof Neck road, which breasts the gap between Table Mountain and Lion’s Head.
There are no international schools in this area.
Pick ‘n’ Pay Camps Bay: 021 438 2328/2049
Restaurants: There are several excellent establishments along Camps Bay beach front (Victoria Road), including Tuscany Beach Restaurant, Café Caprice and Baraza. One street up, you’ll find the Codfather, a well regarded sushi establishment. It’s situated above Dizzy’s Café, an Italian themed restaurant and bar that hosts frequent live music performances. Clifton has one large venue, La Med, which is a bar and grill overlooking a football field. It’s very popular with local high school students.
There are no cinemas in this area.
- Camps Bay Squash Club http://www.cbsquash.co.za
- Camps Bay Sports Club (Tennis courts, soccer field) http://www.thebay.co.za
- Camps Bay Bowls Club (Lawn Bowls) http://www.newbiebowls.com
Continuing south along the coast, it’s a ten minute stretch of unoccupied seaside road to Llandudno. There are no shops or commercial enterprises allowed in this Welsh-named suburb, but the beautiful beach and large waves are a great draw-card for surfers, as well as numerous celebrities and billionaires (among them Richard Branson and Sol Kerzner). Llandudno is also at the cusp of the entrance into Hout Bay, with its mall, restaurants and supermarkets, and is thus conveniently situated despite its no-shop-policy. Tucked round a curve of the coast, accessible only through Llandudno, is Sandy Bay, South Africa’s unofficial nude beach.
This area has no international schools. It has one well regarded primary school, however, and Hout Bay, with its international high school, is literally seconds away.
- Llandudno Primary http://www.llandudnoprimary.co.za/
There are no supermarkets in this area. See listings under Hout Bay.
Restaurants: See Hout Bay listing.
This neighborhood is roughly equidistant from the cinemas of the V&A Waterfront and Cavendish Square (about 25 minutes drive away).
The name means ‘Wood Bay’ in Dutch, as this lushly green, moist valley was once the centre of lumber jacking for the Dutch colony in Table Bay. The area is enclosed by mountains – Little Lion’s Head, Karbonkelberg, Kaptein’s Peak and Sentinel to the West; Constantiaberg, Skoorsteenskopberg and the Vlakkenberg to the East; and the backside of the Twelve Apostles to the North West; bracketed by Suikerbossie Pass to Llandudno on the one side and Constantia Nek pass to the other. To the South lies a vast inlet of the Atlantic ocean. The renowned Chapman’s Peak Drive, carved into the mountainside where the cliffs jut from the ocean, leads off South-East to Noordhoek, Kommetjie and Cape Point, the Southmost tip of the continent. By night Kommetjie’s lighthouse, still operational, becomes visible from Hout Bay, a blinking beacon on the horizon.
The area is known for its incredible views, particularly those from Chapman’s Peak, and houses dozens of luxurious, highly secured estates. Yet it’s also home to some of South Africa’s poorest, with Imizamo Yethu (or ‘Mandela Park’, as it’s also known), a shack settlement of about 20 000 people, taking up a substantial chunk of the Eastern slopes. The estate’s effects on the suburb are controversial – some contest that it’s the main source of crime in the area, and the only reason Hout Bay real estate hasn’t achieved the soaring value of its neighboring areas along the Atlantic Seaboard. Others see it as promoting integration, and a valuable reminder of the damages wreaked by apartheid, a system to which many of the retirees living in the bay owe their wealth.
The area is very popular with expatriates, particularly Germans. Property values vary widely, with apartments and houses available at relatively low prices. Two Hotels – Hout Bay Manor and the Chapman’s Peak Hotel – vie with numerous guest houses and B&B’s, attracting visitors for their food as often as accommodation. Hout Bay offers a broad spectrum of fine dining, with cuisine ranging from Eastern to French and Italian, as well as conveniently situated supermarkets, take-out and delivery services.
Public transport is limited to busses and minibus taxis, which leave the bay for virtually all areas via the two mountain passes out of the bay.
In terms of tourist attractions, visitors to Hout Bay are spoilt for choice. The East and West forts, built during the 18th century, are still open for visitors (The East fort is in fact the oldest operating gun battery in the world), and the storied harbor continues to provide mooring to recreational, fishing and tour boats, the last of which provide regular trips to Duiker Island, a tiny patch of rock where seals and numerous breeds of marine birds can be seen. A little closer to home, the World of Birds is an animal sanctuary situated in the middle of Hout Bay, which aside from taking in stray and injured beasts, is the largest bird park in Africa, and also home to numerous species of monkey and reptile.
Furthermore, the slopes that surround the bay offer excellent opportunities for the mountaineering enthusiast. The bay itself is one of only sixteen recognized ‘big wave’ surf spots on earth, and until recently was the site of the annual Red Bull Big Wave Africa Tournament, with competitors riding swells of up to 14 meters.
- International School Of Hout Bay, Valley Road, Hout bay, Call: 021 7908149
- Hout Bay Superspar: 021 790 2683
- Checkers Hout Bay: 021 7918260
- Woolworths: 021 790 1013
La Cuccina is the popular Sunday breakfast joint. Luigi’s and Casa Reccio on Main Road offer up good Italian fare, while Chapman’s Peak Hotel is known for its excellent seafood. Asu-Ma’s, right next door, makes particularly good sushi, and a tolerable miso soup.
There are no cinemas in this area.
- Curves Gym, 60 Victoria Avenue, Call 021 791 3222
Immediately South East of Cape Town, Woodstock lies between the docks of Table Bay and the slopes of Devil’s Peak, about a kilometer east of the CBD. Like many suburbs in Cape Town, is split in two by the main road. Upper Woodstock, with its back to the green slopes of Table Mountain, features many large, beautifully restored Victorian homes, as well as some charmingly rustic dining. Lower Woodstock, well, ‘lower’ says it all – this area survived the Group Areas Act to become a mixed-race suburb which, with its run down and ruined tenements, has gained a reputation for high levels of violent crime, drug dealing and gangsterism.
Commercially, the area is somewhat more successful, featuring a very large stretch of department stores, auto repair shops and wholesalers, in addition to dingy pawn shops, cafes and eateries galore. It’s experienced a sort of cultural renaissance of late with the refurbishment of the Old Biscuit Mill, a secure and rather bohemian mall that hosts an arts, crafts and health food market on weekends. It’s also a frequent site of band gigs, as is the nearby Albert Hall. Woodstock is also becoming increasingly popular with artists, photographers and casting agencies, as the low cost of real estate makes arranging studio space a far less daunting task.
All this activity has many estate agents whispering ‘urban renewal’, but the jury is far from being in on the fate of this suburb. Most still consider it little more than the place to go when your car’s on the fritz (Voortrekker road, which runs off of Salt River Circle, houses the city’s major scrap yards). The proximity to the University of Cape Town also makes it attractive to students looking for accommodation. The area is efficiently served by the Metrorail, running into Cape Town and out to the Southern Suburbs, as well as by taxis and busses on their routes along the Main Road.
There are no international schools in this area.
Kwikspar Woodstock 021 465 8135
Aside from Karoo Moon, a rather good delicatessen and eatery in the Old Biscuit Mill complex (373-375 Albert Road), there are no restaurants of any particular repute in this area.
There are no cinemas in this area. It’s roughly equidistant from the Waterfront and Cavendish Square.
There are no prominent sports facilities in this area.
Known colloquially as ‘Obs’, this area was named for the first Royal Observatory, founded in 1820, which remains the headquarters of the South African Astronomical Observatory, and features museum exhibits of historical telescopes and other stargazing instruments.
The area is a stone’s throw away from UCT, particularly its Medical School and Academic Hospital, which neighbors on Groote Schuur, the public hospital where Chris Barnard performed the first heart transplant (Valkenberg psychiatric hospital is also in the area.). As such it’s a popular area with students, no less because it’s considered to be the most bohemian area in Cape Town.
The Community Centre hosts the Holistic Fair on the first Sunday of every month, where various items of New Age and ‘spiritual’ paraphernalia are sold. The grounds border on Lower Main road, where no less than a dozen night clubs do business, catering to every subculture with themes ranging from gothic to Rastafarian, alongside second-hand book, antique and record stores, as well as restaurants of every stripe, from the Mexican flavors of Pancho’s to The Dragon Chinese and Sushi Zone.
In December, the entire street is shut down for three days to make way for Obs Fest, the biggest street festival in the country, with bands, DJ’s and mischief aplenty.
While Obs is popular with Americans and Northern Europeans, these are primarily students looking for cheap, short-term lodging while they study. Housing tends to be shabby despite its hippie appeal, and crime, particularly auto and home break-ins, remains a big problem, as does the blooming drug trade. The area is also particularly rife when it comes to the homeless, who congregate around its bottle stores. While Obs has its attractions, it’s widely agreed that they’re better enjoyed from afar. This is not problematic – Observatory is well served by the rail, running from Cape Town to Simon’s Town, with trains every forty minutes during the week, and every hour on Sunday.
There are no international schools in this area. However, Rondebosch and Newlands (see below) have several excellent schools you might want to take a look at.
Spar: 021 448 0409
Restaurants: There are numerous, diverse restaurants along the Lower Main Road strip, among them Mexican (Pancho), Thai and Japanese (Sushi Zone)