Discover the Real Cape Town in These Unmissable Neighborhoods

Make the most of your visit in outdoorsy Sea Point, buzzing City Bowl, the picturesque V&A Waterfront, and hip Woodstock.

Discover the Real Cape Town in These Unmissable Neighborhoods

Make the short drive from Sea Point to the Clifton beaches and dip in the icy Atlantic.

Photo by Richard Cavalleri/Shutterstock

Widely considered South Africa’s prettiest city, Cape Town is brimming with brilliant beaches and lush, hikeable mountains, especially in neighborhoods like Sea Point and Green Point along the Atlantic seaboard. The city is also among the most creative and cosmopolitan in the country, with bustling areas like City Bowl, packed with restaurants, shops, and art galleries.

Whether you want to browse contemporary art on the V&A Waterfront or shop for local goods in the colorful area of Woodstock, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Cape Town. Read on for a guide to the city’s coolest neighborhoods to visit and what to do in each one.

1. Sea Point and Green Point

Go for: copious coffee, local shops, and a swimming pool set on the sea

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Swim laps in view of the ocean at the Sea Point Pavillion Swimming Pool.

Photo by Shutterstock

Located along the Atlantic Ocean, Sea Point and Green Point are great neighborhoods for spending some time outdoors. In the mornings and evenings, you’ll find joggers running along the promenade and swimmers doing laps in the much-loved Sea Point Pavillion Swimming Pool, which is set right on the sea. If you’d rather swim in the ocean, make the short drive to Clifton’s First, Second, Third, or Fourth beaches—just know that the water will be freezing because these beaches sit on the Atlantic, rather than the warmer Indian Ocean.

Thanks to the area’s early risers, good coffee is easy to find here. Try Arthur’s Mini Super, an Instagram-friendly spot for flat whites and toasted sandwiches, or Pauline’s, a favorite for its minimal interiors and consciously sourced beans. There are also several shops along the main strip of Beach Road, but the one worth checking out is Sans, which offers a fantastic selection of local produce, wine, and homewares.

2. City Bowl

Go for: popular boutiques, cutting-edge art, and some of the city’s top restaurants

City Bowl, which sits in the heart of Cape Town, is home to some of the city’s top dining and shopping. It’s also very walkable, so you can easily explore on foot. Just be sure to keep your belongings close; since it’s a more touristy area, there’s a fair amount of petty crime.

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Mungo in City Bowl is a must-visit for heirloom-quality woven goods.

Courtesy of Mungo

Start the day with coffee and pastries at Jason Bakery on Bree Street, then shop at popular stores like Missibaba (for handmade bags), Kirsten Goss (for jewelry), Mungo (for woven towels and bed sheets), and Chandler House (for ceramics and local art). AKJP Studio is also unmissable for its selection of locally designed clothing. Come lunchtime, grab a salad at a stylish café like Hemelhuijs or the General Store before browsing art galleries, such as Salon Ninety One. Around the corner from Smith, you’ll find the Gin Bar, where you can sip a midafternoon cocktail in a lovely old courtyard. Upstairs in the same building, there’s the Melting Pot, a street food–style restaurant serving crispy fish tacos and tuna tataki.

Finding a place to stay in this dynamic neighborhood is easy thanks to the recent opening of three noteworthy hotels: Gorgeous George and Labotessa in City Bowl itself and Dorp in neighboring Bokaap (known for its colorful historic row houses lining the cobblestone streets).

3. V&A Waterfront and Silo District

Go for: a major art museum, a delicious farmers’ market, and a rooftop cocktail bar with harbor views

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The V&A Waterfront is a treasure trove of great art, food, and views.

Photo by Codegoni Daniele/Shutterstock

The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is best known for its namesake shopping mall, but there’s much more to explore here besides stores. In the Silo District, located near the Cape Grace hotel, visitors will find the renowned Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa, housed in an old grain silo. Next door, the Yard is a multi-use space with an Indian Mediterranean fusion restaurant, a bar, a coffee shop, and a retail space selling locally made goods.

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Browse contemporary works by top South African artists at Southern Guild.

Photo by Hayden Phipps

A two-minute walk away, the Southern Guild gallery showcases contemporary design by groundbreaking South African artists. Splurge on a sculpture or piece of furniture, or head over to the Watershed, a craft market with stalls from local favorites like Hannah Lavery and Famke Jewellery.

If you’re visiting on a Saturday, swing by the farmers’-style OZCF Market for coffee, pastries, and fresh produce. The Silo hotel, located above the Zeitz Museum, has a terrific rooftop bar with 360-degree views of the city, but be sure to make a reservation if you want to stop in for a drink. If they don’t have space, try nearby Bascule Bar, a cozy, maritime-themed spot with an array of whiskeys.

4. Woodstock

Go for: trendy markets, destination dining, and galleries showcasing South African art

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When in Woodstock, shop for local products at the popular Neighbourgoods Market.

Photo by Shutterstock

One of Cape Town’s edgier neighborhoods, the mostly residential Woodstock features a string of trendy markets, cafés, galleries, and shops. At mixed-use space the Old Biscuit Mill, visitors will find appealing boutiques like Imiso Ceramics and restaurants such as Pot Luck Club from well-known local chef Luke Dale Roberts, as well as the Saturday-only Neighbourgoods Market, which draws a large crowd with everything from cakes to coconut water.

A short drive away, cool complexes Woodstock Exchange and the Woodstock Foundry feature a handful of hip shops and restaurants. Since the neighborhood is a hub for creatives, you’ll also find a number of excellent galleries, including Stevenson, SMAC Gallery, and Goodman Gallery showcasing South African contemporary art.

>>Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Travel Guide to Cape Town

Mary Holland is South African writer and editor based in New York Cit.y
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