Cape Town might just be one of the coolest cities in the world: a place where art, culture, and vibrant nightlife coincide with nature.

You have beautiful beaches and a national park at your doorstep, as well as enough restaurants and bars to fill your calendar for months.

We’ve created this no-stress guide to Cape Town to help you navigate the city based on your travel style.

As awesome as Cape Town is, there are also neighborhoods you want to avoid due to high crime activity. Moreover, this large city is split into two main regions, the Atlantic Seaboard and the City Bowl, and you want to pick the right neighborhood and region of Cape Town based on your travel interests.

That’s where we come in.

This guide will cover the best neighborhoods in Cape Town and which ones to avoid. No matter what type of traveller you are – a hardcore foodie, art gallery connoisseur, a beach bum or hiking fanatic, or all of the above – there is something in Cape Town for you.

Quick Tips

  • Where to stay in Cape Town first time – Gardens
  • Where to stay in Cape Town on a budget – Woodstock
  • Best area to stay in Cape Town for nightlife – CBD
  • Coolest place to stay in Cape Town – Observatory
  • Best neighborhood in Cape Town for families – Camps Bay

In a hurry? Here’s my top neighborhood for first timers:

FIRST TIME IN CAPE TOWN

Gardens

Gardens is an inner-city suburb of Cape Town right next to the CBD. Laid-back but with plenty to see and do, Gardens is close to major attractions and nightlife while still providing a more local experience.

Places to visit:
  • Learn more about African archaeology and zoology at Iziko South African Museum.
  • Appreciate more art in galleries like Erdmann Contemporary and Salon 91.
  • Shop, dine, and have fun along the lively Kloof Street.

Top 3 Recommendations for Where to Stay in Cape Town

Looking for a specific place to stay? Below we have listed our top picks for places to stay in Cape Town. Keep reading though. I’ll break down the best spots in Cape Town by neighborhood and interests next.

Best Hostel in Cape Town: Cat & Moose Backpackers Lodge

Housed in a historic building, this hostel boasts a courtyard with a plunge pool, a balcony, and a TV lounge. Basic self-catering facilities are available as well.

There are mixed dorms and double en-suite rooms. Other plus points include a tour desk, book exchange, luggage storage, currency exchange, free Wi-Fi, housekeeping services, lockers, and round-the-clock security.

Best Hotel in Cape Town: The Grand Daddy

In a central location in the CBD, The Grand Daddy has an onsite restaurant that serves delicious Mediterranean fare and a cool rooftop bar. Various rooms and suites are available or you can opt for something a bit more unique and stay in a beautiful and modern caravan.

All rooms have a private bathroom, a TV, and free Wi-Fi, and breakfast is included in the nightly price. Massages can be arranged and other facilities and amenities include laundry services, babysitting services, and car hire.

Best Airbnb in Cape Town: Designer Apartment With Cape Town City Views

This gorgeous apartment in the heart of Cape Town is ideal for four guests. There are two bedrooms, a bathroom, and a large open-plan living room, dining area, and a kitchen. The modern kitchen has everything you need to cook up a feast and there’s a handy washing machine too. Guests can relax in the small shared garden.

Cape Town Neighborhood Guide

FIRST TIME IN CAPE TOWN
Gardens Neighborhood, Cape Town
FIRST TIME IN CAPE TOWN

Gardens

Gardens is an inner-city suburb of Cape Town right next to the CBD. Laid-back but with plenty to see and do, Gardens is close to major attractions and nightlife while still providing a more local experience.

ON A BUDGET
Woodstock Neighborhood, Cape Town
ON A BUDGET

Woodstock

Although a bit rough and ready around the edges, arty and hip Woodstock has seen urban renewals and is now a popular escape for creatives.

NIGHTLIFE
CBD Neighborhood, Cape Town
NIGHTLIFE

CBD

The CBD is Cape Town’s busiest and most vibrant area. With lots to see and do by day and by night, it’s also the best Cape Town neighbourhood for nightlife.

COOLEST PLACE TO STAY
Observatory Neighborhood
COOLEST PLACE TO STAY

Observatory

Observatory is home to a vibrant art community and the area has a strong bohemian air. There are plenty of offbeat bars and restaurants and several places of interest.

FOR FAMILIES
Camps Bay Neighborhood, Cape Town
FOR FAMILIES

Camps Bay

The sandy beach, plentiful restaurants, street entertainers, and fun activities make this one of the best Cape Town neighbourhoods for families.

Cape Town is a large city with two main areas: the Atlantic Seaboard and the City Bowl. Divided by the iconic Table Mountain, these areas are sub-divided into different neighbourhoods and areas. Outside of the city proper, there are many townships and suburban areas.

Although Cape Town is a popular tourist destination, there are some neighbourhoods that outsiders should avoid for their own safety as well as places that should only be visited during daylight hours. There are also areas where it’s essential to explore with a local guide. Plus, with so many awesome things to do in Cape Town, you want to choose your homebase wisely! It is important that you fully research an area before booking your Cape Town accommodation, which is where we come in!

Within the Atlantic Seaboard area, Fresnaye is one of Cape Town’s most up-market and expensive neighbourhoods. Green Point is a chic residential area with many boutique accommodations and the Cape Town Stadium.

Mouille Point is a quiet area, famous for its lighthouse, that offers an ideal base for those who enjoy sea views and a peaceful vibe. Sea Point has a number of family-friendly activities and attractions and offers a stay by the seaside.

Clifton is home to some of the city’s most popular beaches. Camps Bay is another popular area with plenty to see and do. Llandudno and Bakoven are a bit more secluded.

The City Bowl area is home to the CBD, with its business facilities, offices, restaurants, shops, and art galleries. Bo-Kaap is a vibrant and colourful area that often features on travellers’ itineraries. While rich in culture, it can be a bit sketchy at nighttime.

There are plenty of high-end accommodations in the residential areas of Higgovale, Ioof, and Oranjezicht on the outskirts of the City Bowl. The V&A Waterfront is a popular tourist area, with plentiful sights and amenities. De Waterkant is the main LGBT area and boasts a thriving night scene and many shops and restaurants.

Gardens is lively and Hout Bay is a lovely seaside area. Observatory is a quirky area with a bohemian vibe and Constantia offers easy access to the wine-growing areas. Woodstock is seeing lots of rapid developments. There are popular areas along False Bay.

The Cape Flats is an area that should be avoided because of high crime rates. Other areas that are not recommended include Nyanga, Deift, Mitchells Plain, Bellville, and Kraaifontein. Of course, areas listed as not safe may have pockets that are fine, and dangers can still be present in other areas.

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Cape Town’s 5 Best Neighborhoods to Stay in

So, where are Cape Town’s best neighbourhoods for your stay? Here are some recommendations for your visit to the Mother City:

1. Gardens Neighborhood – Where to stay in Cape Town for First-timers

Gardens is an inner-city suburb of Cape Town right next to the CBD. Laid-back but with plenty to see and do, Gardens is close to major attractions and nightlife while still providing a more local experience. There are plenty of shops and restaurants, and the area attracts families, couples, groups of friends, and solo travellers. There’s a large expat community here too.

Gardens Neighborhood, Cape Town
Iziko Museum | source: Josephou (Wikicommons)

Top Things to Do in Gardens

– Enjoy diverse attractions in the Company’s Garden, a pleasant park and heritage area that dates back to the mid-1600s and has historic statues, a fish pond, a bird enclosure, arts and crafts, a memorial garden, a rose garden, laws, and more.

– Learn more about African archaeology and zoology at Iziko South African Museum.

– Admire the collections in Iziko South African National Gallery.

– Appreciate more art in galleries like Erdmann Contemporary and Salon 91.

– Shop, dine, and have fun along the lively Kloof Street.

– Visit the famous music shop of Mabu Vinyl, which appeared in the film Searching for Sugar Man.

– Savour high tea at the opulent Mount Nelson Hotel.

– Watch a movie at the historic Labia Theatre.

– Spot diverse architecture, including colonial-esque buildings.

– Take a trip up the iconic Table Mountain. Check Times and Rates here!

Wonder how to spend a weekend in Cape Town? Head over to our insider’s Weekend in Cape Town guide!

Best Hostel in Gardens: Ashanti Lodge Gardens

Situated near the edge of the Gardens district close to the CBD and at the base of Table Mountain, the award-winning Ashanti Lodge Gardens has mixed and female-only dorms and great facilities.

There’s a swimming pool, restaurant/bar, terrace, BBQ, and common room. The vibe is sociable and it a great place to meet new people.

Best Hotel in Gardens: 12 Hofmeyr

The rooftop terrace, complete with a hot tub and BBQ, provides great views of the harbour and Table Mountain. Massages and yoga classes are available too. Guests can use a shared kitchen. Rooms are en-suite and beautifully decorated. Amenities include a hairdryer, free toiletries, satellite TV, a safe, and free Wi-Fi.

Best Airbnb in Gardens: Ideally Situated Central Cape Town Apartment

Accommodating four people in two separate bedrooms, this stylish apartment also has two bathrooms, a spacious living room, a dining area, and a modern kitchen. There’s a washing machine and a dishwasher. Dine and relax on the balcony for fresh air and views, and make full use of the communal swimming pool.

2. Woodstock Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Cape Town on a Budget

Although a bit rough and ready around the edges, arty and hip Woodstock has seen urban renewals and is now a popular escape for creatives. It’s also one of the cheapest Cape Town neighbourhoods to stay in because the vibe can be a bit grittier than in other areas, so if you’re traveling to South Africa on a budget, this neighborhood is perfect for you!.

Woodstock Neighborhood, Cape Town
The Old Biscuit Mill; source: Kostas Limitsios (Flickr)

Top Things to Do in Woodstock

– Visit the vibrant weekend market at the Old Biscuit Mill.

– Go to the Old Biscuit Mill during the week for a calmer atmosphere to enjoy the art galleries and shops.

– Hit up the bars and restaurants along Roodebloem Road.

– Wander along streets lined with interesting street art.

– Fill your stomach at Cinta Food Market.

– Get active on the Woodstock Cave hike.

– See the Rhodes Memorial.

– Pick up unusual goods and antiques in the many quirky and vintage stores.

– Inspire your inner creative at the Woodstock Co-Op.

– Sample delicious drinks at the area’s craft-beer breweries.

– Shop and eat at the Salt Circle Arcade, complete with food trucks, second-hand stores, and unusual shops.

– Hunt for bargains along Victoria Road.

– Cool down at Trafalgar Swimming Pool.

Unfortunately, there aren’t any hostels listed in Woodstock. Worry not, though—you and your friends can share a cool Airbnb or hotel room instead!

Best Hotel in Woodstock: Woodstock Luxury Home

The charming guest house offers a safe and secure home-from-home feeling. The owners are helpful and welcoming. The home has two bedrooms with double beds and a sofa bed in the lounge. There’s ample storage space and the home is air-conditioned. The kitchen is well equipped, and there is free wi-fi and a TV.

Best Airbnbs in Woodstock:

Beautifully Renovated Woodstock Home

There are three beds in two bedrooms to sleep up to four guests. A further two people could sleep on a double sofa bed in the living room. Self-catering is easy thanks to the modern kitchen. Situated on a quiet street, the gorgeous home has a rustic vibe. Guests can enjoy relaxing in the sunny garden, complete with a BBQ.

2 Bedroom house in trendy Woodstock

The semi-detached two-bedroom house has a well-equipped kitchen in an open-plan setting with a spacious lounge. Guests can also have a fun BBQ in the garden. The washing machine adds to the convenience and the home has Wi-Fi.

3. CBD Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Cape Town for Food & Nightlife

The CBD is Cape Town’s busiest and most vibrant area. With lots to see and do by day and by night, it’s also the best neighborhood for nightlife and is a favorite for backpackers in Cape Town. Restaurants from around the world, shopping to suit all tastes, museums, parks, and more can all be found in the hustle and bustle of Cape Town’s CBD.

CBD Neighborhood, Cape Town

Top Things to Do in CBD

– Stock up on healthy food at Earth Fair Food Market.

– Visit the Castle of Good Hope.

– Learn more about the apartheid era at District Six Museum.

– Delve into South Africa’s dark past at the Slave Lodge.

– Have an emotive educational experience at the South African Jewish Museum and Cape Town Holocaust Centre.

– Relish a delicious meal along Bree Street.

– Hop from bar to bar on the effervescent Long Street.

– Ride the Table Mountain cableway and soak up the stretching views.

– See the Houses of Parliament.

– Shop along Adderley Street and take a break in one of the cosy cafes.

Best Hostel in CBD: 91 Loop

91 Loop is a popular backpacking hostel in Cape Town’s CBD. Modern, clean, and sociable, the award-winning arty hostel has its own restaurant-bar, a sunny courtyard, and laundry facilities. Other pluses include a tour desk, luggage storage, and a pool table.

Breakfast and Wi-Fi are free. There are dorms and private rooms. Round-the-clock security, key card access, and lockers add to your peace of mind.

Best Hotel in CBD: Cape Diamond Boutique Hotel

This centrally located boutique hotel provides a historic vibe and high standards of comfort. Rooms are en-suite and come with a TV, phone, Wi-Fi, a safe, fridge, and a wardrobe.

Each room is individually decorated, and there are rooms for one and two. The hotel has a restaurant and a lift, and services include laundry facilities and daily housekeeping.

Best Airbnb in CBD: Big Central Apartment

This one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Cape Town has a sofa bed in the living room, so can sleep up to three guests. There’s a kitchen too. The industrial-style apartment also has a TV, Wi-Fi, a washing machine, a dining area, and trendy décor.

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4. Observatory Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Cape Town for Hipsters

Observatory is home to a vibrant art community and the area has a strong bohemian air. There are plenty of offbeat bars and restaurants and several places of interest. Overall, this is one of Cape Town’s coolest neighbourhoods for you to stay in.

Observatory Neighborhood
source: flowcomm (Flickr)

Top Things to Do in Observatory

– Attend a tour of the South African Astronomical Observatory and turn your gaze towards the stars.

– Visit the Heart of Cape Town Museum and see where the world’s first heart transplant was performed.

– Develop an alternative skill set at the Circus School.

– Have a few drinks in the eclectic bars along Lower Main Road.

– Take the kids to Cape Town Science Centre.

– Step back to the Victorian times with a meal at A Touch of Madness.

– Enjoy a round of golf at the River Club.

– Tackle the indoor climbing walls at CityRock.

– Admire the works at Ahem Art Collective and Maboneng Township Arts Experience.

– Keep your cool at Observatory Swimming Pool

Best Hostel in Observatory: Bohemian Lofts Backpackers

Close to the train station, this friendly, laid-back, and clean hostel has dorms for six (complete with security lockers) and private rooms for two, three, and four (some of which have balconies).

Explore Cape Town with ease thanks to the onsite tour desk and mingle in the small and cosy lounge area. There’s a shared kitchen and a basic breakfast is provided each morning. Wi-Fi is free.

Best Hotel in Observatory: Meg’s Charm

A delightful guest house with a homey TV room, a shared kitchen, Wi-Fi, BBQ, and pretty garden, Meg’s Charm has cosy and comfy double room. The en-suite rooms have plenty of storage space and a TV.

Best Airbnb in Observatory: Large brand new 2 bedroom apartment close to town

This new apartment is a cool and trendy pad for four. With two separate bedrooms plus a living room, everyone can have their own privacy. There’s also a kitchen if you want some home-cooked meals. There are laundry facilities and a gym within the apartment building, and guests have access to free Wi-Fi.

5. Camps Bay Neighborhood – Where to Stay in Cape Town for Families

For a taste of the seaside, head to Camps Bay. The area has good transportation links to other parts of the city and it’s home to some of the best guesthouses in Cape Town. The sandy beach, plentiful restaurants, street entertainers, and fun activities make this one of the best Cape Town neighbourhoods for families.

Camps Bay Neighborhood, Cape Town

Top Things to Do in Camps Bay

– Soak up the sun, swim in the sea, and play on the sands.

– Get active in the great outdoors and tackle the Tranquility Cracks Hike, the Grootkop Walk, Porcupine Ravine, Lion’s Head hike, or the Camps Bay Pipe Track Walk.

– Pick up unique souvenirs at Camps Bay African Craft Market.

– Admire the expensive mansions that overlook the sea.

– Watch a stunning sunset over the ocean.

– Cycle along the scenic Victoria Road.

– Savour a delectable ice cream from Sinnful.

– Learn to surf.

– Watch a performance at Theatre on the Bay.

– Experience the nightlife along Beach Road.

– Dine on global cuisine in the area’s myriad and diverse restaurants.

Best Hostel in Camps Bay: Camps Bay Resort

Camps Bay Resort has a selection of studios, rooms, and apartments available to rent. Although not strictly a hostel, it’s still a fab place for groups of friends, families, and couples to stay.

Most rooms have a kettle for your morning brew, and some have small kitchenettes. There are two swimming pools to enjoy and the accommodation has laundry facilities.

Best Hotel in Camps Bay: The Bay Hotel

Just a short stroll from the beach, The Bay Hotel has a variety of room types and an impressive four swimming pools, several tennis courts, a spa, a fitness centre, and three onsite eateries.

Child-minding services can be arranged for an extra fee. Various activities can be arranged onsite. The spacious rooms are all en-suite and have a TV, phone, Wi-Fi, wardrobe, kettle, and hairdryer. Some rooms have a balcony and/or a separate seating area.

Best Airbnb in Camps Bay: Garden flat with pool walk to Beach

This one-bedroom ground-floor apartment has its own garden with a small pool. It can sleep up to four people. There’s a kitchen, complete with an oven, stove, microwave, and various appliances, and BBQ. The beach is a short walk away and the washing machine is handy after days in the sand.

Final Thoughts on Where to Stay in Cape Town

Cape Town is an awesome city, where culture and art meet cliffsides and ocean. That said, Cape Town can be overwhelming, and there are definitely seedy neighborhoods you want to avoid. But that’s what this guide is for!

And remember, if you can’t decide where to stay – go with Gardens, our top pick for where to stay in Cape Town for your first time. It’s conveniently close to most tourist attractions. Cat and Moose Backpackers is our favorite hostel, and if you want your own private room, we recommend The Grand Daddy for its excellent location.

Did we miss any of the best areas for where to stay in Cape Town? Do you have a favorite neighborhood or area of Cape Town that we missed? Comment below! It will help future  travelers ?

Safe travels!

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If you’re feeling a little extra concern for your security while visiting Cape Town, then be sure to read our in-depth Cape Town safety guide, which includes lots of tips and statistics.

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