The best cities to visit in South Africa
From towering mountains to beach adventures and incredible foodie experiences, South Africa’s cities are truly special places. In each one you’ll find something different to love, be it the local creatives who keep arts districts thriving, or museums and memorials preserved in the neighborhoods where history has played out.
What makes South Africa's cities unique?
Each city in South Africa has a distinctly different vibe. Durban is surfer central with miles of golden sand to enjoy, while Cape Town is famous for its access to the glorious Winelands and the Table Mountain summit. Port Elizabeth has an abundance of charming old buildings, and capital Pretoria is the administrative hub of the country.
The top cities in South Africa to include in your itinerary
These are the top five cities in South Africa you should consider to get an authentic view of what South Africa really has to offer.
Discover the Winelands in Cape Town
This coastal city has a distinctly relaxed vibe, and it might have something to do with its proximity to the country’s most revered vineyards and wine estates. Take a guided tour of the famous Winelands on the outskirts of Cape Town to explore idyllic vineyards and taste superb local wines. From here, you can also visit Robben Island to learn about Nelson Mandela’s time in prison. Don't forget to take a cable car to the summit of Table Mountain to enjoy the fantastic views over the city.
Sunbathe in Durban
Another coastal urban sprawl, Durban is a seriously laid-back place. Explore its Golden Mile of sand and spend your day swimming in the warm Indian Ocean. In the evening, head to one of the local restaurants to try a delicious Durban curry or bunny chow (hollowed out bread filled with curry). Kids will love the uShaka Marine World.
See some history in Port Elizabeth
This bustling port city has an abundance of historic architecture dating from the early settlement period. Take a guided tour of the buildings, including the beautiful public library and opera house. An hour's drive from the city is Addo Elephant Park, where you can see the gentle giants on a guided drive.
Jive all night in Johannesburg
Johannesburg is a thriving inland metropolis in South Africa, with exceptional restaurants, a brilliant nightlife scene and some of the country’s most sobering activities. Take a tuk-tuk tour of the Soweto township to understand the impact apartheid had on the residents here, dine in a traditional South African restaurant, then spend an evening mixing with the creative types in the Maboneng neighborhood.
Get political in Pretoria
Some might believe there’s nothing to do in South Africa’s administrative capital, but give Pretoria a chance. Visit the Union Buildings and learn about the political system here, or enjoy the lively nightlife around Hatfield Square, which is popular with the city's students. In November, the beautiful purple-flowered jacaranda trees that line the streets are in full bloom.
Tips for planning a city break in South Africa
Hire a car to best explore South Africa’s cities, as public transport isn’t always readily available and they’re often too large for walking. If you plan to visit all of the above cities, aim to plan a two-week break. Some cities are better in summer, such as Cape Town and Durban, where there are brilliant beaches to enjoy.