Like most cities, the nature of Cape Town changes significantly once darkness settles. Given the generally high levels of Cape Town crime, we suggest that you go to specific places by metered taxi, or (if you prefer to move from venue to venue) stick to this list of recommended areas. These areas are not connected to one another by any safe walking route, so if you wish to go from one area to another, metered taxis are again your recommended course.
The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is Cape Town’s premier tourist hub. Boasting over 450 retail shops that trade from 9 to 9 six days a week and 10 to 9 on Sundays, it also has more than 80 restaurants and bars with everything from burgers to silver service dining. There are also cinemas, banks and the Two Oceans Aquarium. The entire precinct is well lit, rigorously patrolled by private security guards, and has over 800 CCTV cameras that are centrally monitored by a control room that can dispatch armed security or medical services to any point within minutes. Venues are mostly licensed until 02h00 and you’re generally quite safe until then – although the general energy of the Waterfront usually starts to dip nearer midnight. If you’re in a group you should experience no problem, but if you’re alone we suggest that you leave before closing time. If there is a downside, it’s that by local standards things are a little more expensive.
Greenpoint: Somerset Road
Just up from the Waterfront is the city’s “Pink Quarter”. Greenpoint is particularly renowned for its gay clubs and bars. The Cape Quarter is the centrepiece of the area; a retail precinct of about 100 specialist shops and restaurants. Almost all are completely unique, or part of very small franchises. The whole area prides itself of quality, and there’s an amazing vibe at night. While it has good security and police CCTV, you’re mostly protected by the presence of other people – the entertainment area is limited to just 4 city blocks. You’re safe as long as it’s busy – and a 24-hour petrol station and shop help it stay that way until the early morning. There are dark streets around, and – although it is one of the safest parts of the City Bowl -these should be avoided.
The upper section of Long Street is the part of Cape Town where you’re most likely to get to enjoy local culture with average Capetonians. Bars and restaurants are generally better priced, and there are several to choose from including a cigar lounge, a pool hall, nightclubs, and backpacker hostels. The area is generally very busy and noisy; best travelled by foot, but with a lot of homeless children – who will harass you for money. Avoid eye contact and keep their hands off you as much as possible. This is an area to watch out for pickpockets and bag snatchers. Lighting is pretty good for a block either side of Long Street itself and there’s an area security force, patrols by the City’s Metro Police, and the national SAPS – guided by CCTV cameras. But be warned that beyond the well lit two block-wide strip, things get less safe pretty quickly. When you’re done, leave by metered taxi.
Camps Bay is a little out of the way, but has an incredible concentration of world-class restaurants, groove lounges, nightclubs and cafés – even a theatre. It runs alongside a stretch of pristine beach and the entire area is heavily patrolled by private security forces and police, including the beach itself. It is quite safe to walk around most of the area until venues close at about 02h00. It’s part of the reason, however, that many of the venues are expensive – even by international standards. A taxi ride to or from the City Bowl can also be a little costly.
Observatory is a somewhat Bohemian suburb favoured by students, backpackers and an assortment of non-mainstream sub-cultures. It’s about 10km from the City Bowl, but offers live music on most nights and is generally unpretentious and quite cheap. The main “strip” of entertainment venues is very clearly limited to a two-block by six area (like Long Street) which is well lit, but not especially well policed. Your safety in ‘Obz’ relies on the presence of other people. Absolutely do not walk alone in seemingly quiet streets in this area – especially if they’re badly lit.