What's Cape Town's most fashionable district? How did Orange Street get its name? Which is the most colourful neighbourhood? Get to grips with the main neighbourhoods of Cape Town with this overview, and soon you'll be exploring the city like a local.
City Bowl: Heart of the City
From the Table Mountain Lower Cableway Station, you look out over the central residential suburbs of Tamboerskloof (Drummers’ Ravine), Gardens, Oranjezicht (Orange View) and Vredehoek (Peaceful Corner), and beyond here lie the high-rise blocks of the business district. Together these form the City Bowl, a term inspired by the surrounding mountains. Closest to the mountain is Oranjezicht, a quiet district that was, up until 1900, a farm of the same name. On the boundary with Gardens are the De Waal Park and Molteno Reservoir, originally built in 1881 as a main storage facility for the city which now provides a peaceful wooded spot from where you can enjoy a view of the city.
V&A Waterfront: Heart of the Harbour
From here the land slopes gently towards the harbour and the V&A (Victoria and Alfred) Waterfront, with the commercial heart of the city laid out in between. This was where the Dutch East India Company first created fruit and vegetable gardens to supply the ships’ crews, who suffered from scurvy. Across Orange Street is Government Avenue, a delightful pedestrian route past Company’s Garden and many of the city’s main museums. Originally sheltered by lemon trees, it is now lined with oaks and myrtle hedges, and is one of Cape Town’s most popular walks.
The V&A Waterfront, Cape Town’s original Victorian harbour, is the city’s most popular attraction. The area was restored in the early 1990s, and today it's a lively district packed with restaurants, bars and shops. Original buildings stand shoulder to shoulder with mock-Victorian shopping malls, museums and cinemas, all crowding along a waterside walkway with Table Mountain towering beyond.
Still a working harbour, you can take a boat cruise from companies along Quay 5 in front of Victoria Wharf, from short half-hour harbour tours to two-hour sails to Camps Bay by schooner.
Stretching for more than 20 blocks, Long Street is one of the trendiest and most energetic streets in Cape Town, especially at night. Lined with street cafés, fashionable shops, bars and clubs, it has a distinctly youthful feel about it; new boutique hotels, posh apartment complexes and upmarket restaurants are injecting the area with a new sophisticated edge.
About 600 meters west along Wale Street is Bo-Kaap, Cape Town’s historical Islamic quarter and one of the city’s most interesting residential areas. Developed in the 1760s, it feels a world away from the nearby central business district, with winding, cobbled streets across the slopes of Signal Hill, its closely packed houses painted in lime, pink and blue.
De Waterkant, Green Point and Sea Point: Suburban Delights
De Waterkant—once a run-down area of flaking bungalow—is now Cape Town’s most fashionable district, with beautifully restored Victorian and Georgian homes painted in bright hues crammed into a tight cobbled grid of streets, climbing up towards Signal Hill. This is the city’s main gay area, and a hub of excellent nightlife, super-trendy restaurants, bars and boutiques. Most of these are in the Cape Quarter, a shopping/dining complex with two piazzas surrounded by restaurants with central water features and trees with twinkly lights.
About 500m beyond, along Somerset Road, is the start of Green Point. From here, Somerset Road turns into Main Road and then runs through Green Point and the length of Sea Point. Both are upmarket suburbs of high-rise apartment blocks on the side of Signal Hill with ocean views and all the conveniences along Main Road, such as shopping malls and restaurants.
Flanking the roundabout is the Cape Town Stadium, built for the 2010 FIFA Football World Cup at a cost of US$600 million. At 52 meters high and surrounded by 60 hectares of parkland, it accommodates 55,000 seated spectators—even more for major concerts when standing on the pitch is included.