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Cape Town is undoubtedly one of the top tourist destinations in the world. But many who’ve come here on a fleeting holiday have decided to set down some roots and live here for a few months or years, or even for the rest of their lives. There’s a reason why Cape Town has become a globally sought-after destination for both holiday-goers and expats, and it’s not just about the natural beauty.
There’s a vibrant spirit in the city and its surrounds that has a magnetic pull, making it difficult for even the most superficial traveller to permanently leave Cape Town behind. Even a short period of living in Cape Town will have a profound impact, and here’s why.
Cape Town gets the work/life balance just right. Long day at work? Why not head to the beach to unwind before a relaxing sunset? Busy morning of classes ahead? Grab a perfectly pretentious flat white to kick-start your day. There are restaurants, wine farms, coffee shops and all the activities you need to give you one of the most balanced lifestyles imaginable. Though it sounds like a line out of a cliched marketing brochure, Cape Town is remarkably liveable, and it’s also still somewhat affordable. If you’re coming with even a small stockpile of foreign currency, it’s likely to be cheaper than any other international destination that can live up to Cape Town’s high standards.
Cape Town is the ultimate city for nature lovers. If you’re looking for a quick escape from the city, you can be on a beach, at the foot of a mountain or lost in a forest in a matter of minutes. On a windless summer’s day, you’ll find trails and beaches populated with beaming local fitness freaks clad in the latest activewear, and it’s hard not to absorb some of the outdoor enthusiasm and positivity.
South African central business districts are somewhat notorious as far as crime and quality of life go. Though strides are being made in many CBDs around South Africa, Cape Town has led the way as the country’s most vibrant, safe and accessible city centre. There are restaurants, coffee shops, stores, bars, clubs and apartments in and around the city that make it a great place to live. It’s also pretty safe to walk around during the day, but like any city in the world, you have to keep your wits about you, especially after dark.
Cape Town is, on the whole, a safe city for visitors and residents lucky enough to live in the wealthier suburbs. That said, this is not Canada or Scandinavia — you’ll need to lock your cars, keep valuables out of sight and avoid wandering aimlessly down dark alleys. Some time living in Cape Town will help improve your awareness of potentially dangerous situations and teach you not to fear every person walking in your direction who looks a bit different to you; you’ll leave with street smarts that’ll stand you in good stead for any future travelling around the world.
A good time is never far away when you’re living in Cape Town. Throughout the year, but particularly during the summer months, there are events, parties and festivals taking place all the time. Movie festivals, food and drink gatherings, sporting events, large weekend concerts… It takes special effort to be bored in a city like this, regardless of whether you’re here for two weeks or two years.
If the packed events calendar doesn’t do it for you, there are dozens of incredible road-trip options out from the Mother City, such as those to the Overberg, Garden Route and the West Coast. If you’re looking for something a bit closer to home, there are easy day trips to wine regions and some amazing small towns.
Though it’s easy to visit Cape Town and live in a bubble of sunset cocktails and overpriced cappuccinos, living here provides you with opportunities to understand how the country is grappling with inequality, poverty and unemployment. If you venture out of your comfort zone, or volunteer at one of the many organisations based in the city, you’ll learn a lot about the good work many people are doing to overcome years of oppression and inequality. But even if that’s not the sole purpose of your visit, and you’re not eager to move too far out of your comfort zone, living in Cape Town with some sensitivity and self-awareness will be an eye-opening experience.
South African history is complex and fraught with stories of oppression and remarkable triumphs of the human spirit. This is a driving reason behind many peoples’ decision to live here for at least some part of their lives. Cape Town has played a critical role in the country’s development, from the arrival of the first colonisers in the country in the mid-1600s, right through to the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela during the height of apartheid. If you’re looking to understand where South Africa has come from, and where it’s going, Cape Town is a great city in which to base yourself.
In spite of South Africa’s undeniable issues, even a short stint here will show you that it’s not all doom and gloom on the southern tip of the continent. An extended stay here will show you that in spite of the difficulties, the country still operates on an effective level, there’s a remarkable free press, judicial system and robust democracy, and that large cities such as Cape Town are on a par with many around the world. You may also get to know just how multicultural and diverse the country truly is, and that no visit to a single South African city can stand in for an understanding of the vast African continent.
Because of all of the above, Cape Town has become a melting pot of interesting and adventurous people from around the world. You’ll meet warm and welcoming South Africans, a few actual Capetonians, wide-eyed enthusiastic tourists and a strong contingent of expats who’ve decided to call this city home for at least the foreseeable future. This will all make it very hard to leave, and even harder to stay away.