Getting Oriented

Cape Town lies at the northern end of the Cape Peninsula, a 75-km (47-mile) tail of mountains that ends at the Cape of Good Hope. Drive 15 minutes out of town, and you may lose yourself in a stunning landscape of 18th-century Cape Dutch manors, historic wineries, and white-sand beaches backed by sheer mountains.

Everyone uses Table Mountain for orientation. Cape Town's aptly named heart, the City Bowl, fills the basin between the lower northern slopes of the mountain and the rim of a busy harbor. Though it's called interchangeably "City Centre" or "Cape Town Central," the City Bowl actually encompasses Cape Town Central as well as adjacent neighborhoods of Gardens and Bo-Kaap. Cape Town is compact, and neighborhood boundaries can be fluid, but navigation is generally not a problem.

Cape Town Central. Cape Town's central business district is bounded by Buitenkant Street to the east, Buitengracht Street to the west, and the Company's Garden to the south is and the Foreshore to the north. Included in this district is the standout CT International Convention Centre (CTICC), the head offices of banks and big businesses, Parliament, the central railway and bus stations, some great architecture, and a good number of tourist attractions.

Woodstock. Cape Town’s booming creative hub, close to the city center, has good restaurants and the city’s trendiest weekend market.

Bo-Kaap. Gracing the lower slopes of Signal Hill, wedged between the hill, De Waterkant, and Cape Town Central, this small City Bowl neighborhood is the historic home of the city's Muslim population and remains so to this day. Its main thoroughfare is Wale Street.

Gardens. This neighborhood is a mix of residential, entertainment, and shopping. It begins at the southern end of the Company's Garden, stretching south toward the base of Table Mountain and Lion's Head. Most shops and restaurants are centered on Kloof Street.

Tamboerskloof. A popular area beneath Signal Hill is filled with coffee shops, restaurants, and boutiques down toward Kloof Road.

Oranjezicht. Right below the Table Mountain massif, this area in the middle of the City Bowl is home to the trendy Oranjezicht community farmers’ market, a few cafés, and De Waal Park.

V&A Waterfront. Once a seedy harbor, the V&A (Victoria & Alfred) Waterfront, often simply referred to as the Waterfront, is described by at least one data-capturing source as South Africa's most popular tourist destination. Nowadays, this commercial area between the bay and Table Mountain is a top spot for restaurants, bars, and upscale residential buildings. Cruises out onto Table Bay depart from here.

Green Point. The gay hot spot is home to the iconic Cape Town stadium and the neighboring Green Point Common.

Mouille Point. Cape Town’s iconic lighthouse sits on the wonderful promenade lined with cafés and restaurants.

Sea Point. Lovely promenades, good restaurants, and large, grassy recreational areas make up Sea Point.

Clifton. This elite beachside residential area is fronted by granite rock formations that extend all the way to Llandudno.

Camps Bay. A wide, popular beach sits across the road from the city’s trendiest café strip.

Table Mountain National Park. Running north–south through the Cape Peninsula from Cape Town, Table Mountain National Park's 220 square km (85 square miles) include Table Mountain itself, most of the high-lying land in the mountain chain that runs down the center of the peninsula from Table Mountain south, the Cape of Good Hope nature reserve at the peninsula's end, and the stunning scenery and beaches in between. The park is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and False Bay to the east.

Southern Suburbs. Southeast of the City Bowl and at the base of Table Mountain's "backside" are the mainly residential neighborhoods known collectively as the Southern Suburbs, where the fantastic Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens is located, along with a few other worthwhile attractions.

Cape Peninsula. The Cape Peninsula, much of which is included in Table Mountain National Park, extends for around 40 km (25 miles) from the city through to Cape Point. The peninsula's eastern border is False Bay, whose Indian Ocean waters are (relatively) warmer and calmer than those of the peninsula's wilder, emptier, and arguably more beautiful Atlantic side. A coastal road and railway line connects east-coast towns.

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