While South Africa is dotted with a number of urban centers, there can be little doubt that the top three SA cities are Johannesburg, Durban, and Cape Town.
Each of these cities has a unique character that draws different types of people.
See which one appeals the most to you!
Johannesburg / Jo’burg / Jozi
For young, vibey, fast-paced living. The pulsing city with a heart of pure gold, Johannesburg is known as Egoli (place of gold), Jo’burg, and today also carries the trendy name of Jozi.
A relatively young city, Jo’burg traces its modern history back to 1886 when it sprang up as a gold-rush shanty town.
Today this thriving bustling city is the most densely populated South African city, home to 3 225 800 people and growing.
Jo’burg has a pleasant balmy climate for most of the year and is renowned for dramatic afternoon thunderstorms in summer. The nights can get pretty cool, especially in winter.
The city of Johannesburg has no mountains or coastline to shape it, and it is an enormous, sprawling urban jungle.
Some of the top attractions in and around Jo’burg include the Sterkfontein caves, the township of Soweto, The Apartheid Museum, the Mai Mai Herbalist market and Rosebank craft market.
Jo’burg is a shopper’s paradise – there are numerous malls – and the Sandton area is particularly popular with shopaholics.
Durban – Durbs-by-the-Sea
Steaming hot, yet so damn cool!
The settlement of Port Natal only really started in 1823, although Vasco da Gama has ‘discovered’ it back in 1497.
Most people equate Durban with a laid back, ‘chilled’ atmosphere, and also with extremely humid heat, almost all year round. For many Durban is the place to live if you love to surf, but there is more to this city than awesome waves, golden beaches, sugar cane plantations and palm trees.
Durban lies in the heart of the Zulu kingdom, land of King Shaka, which gives the entire region a rich cultural history that can be felt just by walking through the hot streets. A large ‘Indian’ community also calls Durban home, and these people add their own flavor to the city’s effervescent, colorful population.
Durban offers great shopping at malls and markets, historical and cultural attractions and plenty for families to do. Perhaps the most well-known tourist spot is uShaka Marine World which boasts an aquarium, dolphinarium and snorkel reef, a world of water slides and marine-theme shopping.
Cape Town – The Mother City
Paradise found – between the mountains and the two oceans
Cape Town as an urban settlement began in the mid-1600’s as a trading post for ships passing the tip of Africa en route to The East.
Today Cape Town is loved for its breathtaking natural beauty, with Table Mountain dominating the views from almost anywhere in the city. The beaches on both the Indian and Atlantic sides offer crystal blue waters, white sandy beaches and beautiful bodies all summer long.
From any of the chi-chi restaurants, cafes and wine-bars along the coastline you can even enjoy watching whales playing in the bay.
With numerous museums and art galleries, theatres and craft markets, Cape Town is undoubtedly the Culture Capital of SA. If the money is found in Jo’burg, the creativity springs from Cape Town’s vibrant multi-cultural population.
Don’t miss the top tourist attraction in the country – The Victoria and Albert Waterfront – a fabulous development on the foreshore which offers a world of entertainment and shopping.
A lot more laid back than Jozi, but more cosmopolitan than Durbs, Cape Town is the place to be for the arty, nature-loving yet trendy individual.
So which of these fantastic cities sounds like your perfect place to be? We suggest you don’t restrict your self to just one – visit them all and enjoy the best of the South African urban experience!