The best places to live in Cape Town
Expats are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing between the many areas and suburbs in Cape Town. Each of its inner-city neighbourhoods, seaside communities and serene sections of suburbia has its own appealing aesthetic, so all expats have to do is decide which option best suits their tastes and needs – and, of course, their wallet.
City living in Cape Town
The City Bowl area, Camps Bay and the Atlantic Seaboard are prime residential districts for living close to the city. Though conveniently situated, property prices in these areas are some of the highest in Cape Town.
Depending on the area they decide to live in, expats will have access to high-end family homes along with apartments in the area, typically occupied by the young and trendy.
Among the many advantages of life in Cape Town is the opportunity to live in the heart of the city without experiencing the crush one might expect from a big urban centre. Some of the most popular and affordable areas for expats living in the City Bowl are Gardens and Vredehoek. Vredehoek sits under Devil's Peak, and can get very blustery when the wind blows.
Closer to the city centre on the slopes of Lion's Head are the more upmarket areas of Oranjezicht and Tamboerskloof – attractive, leafy suburbs known for Victorian houses and apartments with awe-inspiring views of the mountain and the shimmering lights of the suburbs surrounding the city. A bit further up the hill, the affluent neighbourhood of Higgovale stands sentinel, with gorgeous views over the city and quiet streets lined with large houses.
To the west of the City Bowl on the seaboard circling Signal Hill and Lion’s Head are the suburbs of De Waterkant, Green Point, Sea Point, Mouille Point, Clifton and Camps Bay.
Green Point and Mouille Point are centred around the Cape Town Stadium and close to the V&A Waterfront, boasting a vibrant mix of densely packed trendy apartments and bars. Further down Main Road is Sea Point, a mixture of high-rise apartments and sea-facing houses jostling for space on the slopes of Signal Hill. These areas are known for their array of boutique-style bistros and trendy retailers along the picturesque beachfront promenade.
Yet further along the coast is Clifton, known as Africa’s own St Tropez and home to Millionaire’s Row. Some of South Africa's most expensive real estate can be found here, with apartments selling for millions – even parking bays have been known to change hands for exorbitant prices. Despite being a short drive away from the city centre, Clifton feels far removed from the city’s bustle and its luxury properties overlook picturesque beaches framed by dramatic boulders.
It can get very windy in Cape Town, particularly in the summer months when the Southeaster blows. There are some suburbs like Bantry Bay and Clifton that are relatively wind free, but others such as Camps Bay where the wind can be fierce. Most residents are not too bothered by the wind, but it can drive others to distraction. When it blows, lying the beach is an unpleasant experience.
Cape Town suburbs
Though some entail no more than a 20-minute commute, Capetonians classify nearly anything that demands driving time as part of 'the suburbs'. These areas are family-friendly and offer housing options that are much more spacious and reasonably priced than in the City Bowl.
Long-term expats often drift away from the city centre to Cape Town's leafy Southern Suburbs. Many families choose to live here for their larger houses and gardens, not to mention the area's access to some of the best educational institutions in the country.
The areas around the University of Cape Town, such as Mowbray, Rosebank and Observatory, are fairly inexpensive, Bohemian enclaves populated by students. Middle-class bastions such as Rondebosch, Newlands and Claremont are family favourites, offering freestanding homes, good schools and nearby parks.
Further around the mountain are Constantia and Bishopscourt, which boast enormous properties in a forest setting. The luxury properties in Bishopscourt, home to a multitude of businessmen and local celebrities, are some of the most expensive in South Africa.
The main disadvantage to living in the Southern Suburbs is rush-hour traffic to and from the city, though many living there feel that it's a price worth paying.
The Southern Peninsula encompasses Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, Fish Hoek and Simonstown; quiet seaside settlements linked by a scenic road and railway line winding along the coast. These areas are becoming increasingly popular with first-time home buyers, although their distance from the city will mainly appeal to expats with an aversion to the city or an addiction to surfing.
One of the more popular areas for expats wanting to live outside the city is Hout Bay. Residents will enjoy a gorgeous view, a local beach and a charming harbour. On the downside, there have been tensions between established properties and the informal settlements on the outskirts of the town.
Expats looking for safety, good value and a calm, suburban atmosphere might find Northern Suburbs areas such as Durbanville and Bellville to be a great fit. Several major shopping malls are situated in this area, not to mention the famous Durbanville wine route, leaving residents with plenty of entertainment options.
Though commerce and business are conducted in the city centre, Cape Town's industrial sector is based in the Northern Suburbs, providing job opportunities in the area. While it's possible to live in the Northern Suburbs and work in the city centre, the gruelling commute of more than an hour each way can be draining.
►Learn more about finding the perfect accommodation in Cape Town
"When expats first arrive in Cape Town, they tend to live in the city centre or along the coast, but once you get to know the city a bit better, people start to venture into the suburbs where you get better value for money." Read more of British expat Shantalie's insights in her interview about living in South Africa.
"City centre is a great 'start-up' zone to gain familiarity of the city, communities, and the nightlife that the city has to offer. The city is buzzing 24/7, so it can be quite noisy. Naturally, rent is more expensive with limited space in city-centre locations." Expat Lisa shares her thoughts on life in the Mother City in her interview about living in Cape Town.
Image credits: Cape Town at night by Dimitri Simon; Fish Hoek by Jako Janse van Rensburg. Both sourced via Unsplash.
Are you an expat living in Cape Town?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Cape Town. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
Expat Health Insurance
Cigna Global Health Insurance
With Cigna, you won't have to rely on foreign public health care systems, which may not meet your needs. Cigna allows you to speak to a doctor on demand, for consultations or instant advice, wherever you are in the world. They also offer full cancer care across all levels of cover, and settle the cost of treatments directly with the provider. Cigna is currently offering a 10% discount for seniors (over 60) on their Silver package.
Sirelo has a network of more than 500 international removal companies that can move your furniture and possessions to your new home. By filling in a form, you’ll get up to 5 quotes from recommended movers. This service is free of charge and will help you select an international moving company that suits your needs and budget.