South Africa is home to some of the most jaw-dropping landscapes globally. There are various species of exotic wildlife in the country, plenty of diversity, and it’s an excellent destination for expats. The population is roughly 57 million, and the country continues to expand and become more vibrant from year to year.
Also known as “The Rainbow Nation,” South Africa has nine provinces and numerous major and minor cities to choose from for living. This is where your preferences come into play. Some cities are more metropolitan and fast-paced, similar to Chicago or New York, while others are more coastal and relaxed.
As is the case, anytime you think of moving to a new place, it’s essential to research the areas you might want to reside in. Some areas are safer than others, with more things to do, and other cities don’t have many activities, but they’re scenic and tranquil. We’ve included them all on our list of the best places to live in South Africa.
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Top South African Cities For Living
Here are the best cities for those relocating to South Africa. We start from number 25 and end with the best city in South Africa for residents.
25. Coffee Bay
Coffee Bay has numerous attractions for such a small city. Getting its name from the hundreds of coffee trees that grew from beans that plunderers or shipwrecks had scattered, it’s a quaint location for those that want a total getaway. It sits along the Wild Coast, a part of the South African coastline that hasn’t been touched by industrial development or commercialization.
There are miles and miles of green valleys and hills that lead to crystal turquoise waters. You won’t find an assortment of bars, clubs, and urban entertainment in Coffee Bay, but rural life is a massive hit with the local residents. The current population is unknown, but it was only 258 people about a decade ago.
Clanwilliam can proudly lay claim to the breathtaking Cederberg mountains situated on its very doorstep. It’s not at all inaccurate to regard Clanwilliam as an excellent home base for exploring some of South Africa’s most majestic scenery. Best known for the multiple tea houses, museums, trails, and farms, Clanwilliam is attractive to retirees and expats.
The cost of living isn’t too high, there are decent entertainment options if you prefer a more easy going lifestyle, the inhabitants are friendly, and the town is easy to navigate. This place is the perfect candidate for anyone looking to forgo the city life and settle down in the rural town of Clanwilliam.
23. Graaff Reinet
Another small city with a prominent character is Graaff Reinet. You’ve probably never heard of this town, but it is one of the oldest cities in South Africa. It has been ordered over the years, keeping the infrastructure intact to enhance the town’s natural beauty. There are many quaint stores, small businesses, leafy streets, enticing cafes and restaurants, and lots of open acres.
Best known for the expansive agricultural produce market, Graaff Reinet flourishes in the mohair industry, ostrich farming, sheep farming, and game reserve. The Valley of Desolation and the Camdeboo National Park are beautiful sights to behold, with many activities to do while you’re there. Moving to Graaff Reinet is perfect for expats and retirees that are looking to unwind in this “sleepy town” nestled in the bend of a river.
22. Cape St. Francis
Cape St. Francis is one of the friendliest destinations throughout South Africa. It’s relaxed, friendly, small, and popular amongst those that love waterfront towns. There isn’t a lot of crime in the city, so the streets are secure and safe, and the vibes are chill within the community. The younger crowd might not enjoy living somewhere so secluded, but you’ll love it if you don’t mind trading clubs for nature.
The surfing and clean beaches are the best features of Cape St. Francis, along with the Irma Booysen Floral and the Seal Point Lighthouse. So enjoy yoga on the beach, hiking, spa treatments, extraordinary seafood, swimming, and more. Housing is affordable here, and the population is small.
Soweto was a key component during the struggle of apartheid, and there are several significant historical sites sprinkled throughout the township. Some even go so far as to say that Soweto is where you get the authentic South African experience. Soweto was once the home of Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, and tourists and locals are free to take a stroll in the neighborhood to learn more about the history of South Africa.
With a little over 1.2 million population, Soweto is a densely populated and large city that offers easy access to Johannesburg via a commute by transport hubs. Again, you can enjoy pleasant weather, low-cost housing, and a secure environment with many options for retirement, jobs, shopping, education, and multicultural experiences.
20. East London
One of the most beautiful cities along the gorgeous Indian Ocean, East London is perfect for those who want to mix scenery with urban living. While not heavily industrialized, this is a seaside town with an excellent selection of bars and stores, beaches, sightseeing, restaurants, and more. You can also see wildlife grazing and strolling about, plenty of natural history museums, tourist attractions, and many basic amenities.
If you love the idea of living on the coast, but you don’t have a lot of cash to spare, this is the best option. It’s charming, small, friendly, and has everything you need for a high quality of living.
If you want to live in a place where there are a lot of outdoor activities and a lot to see, Knysna is a solid option for nature enthusiasts. There are forest trails, sandy beaches, dolphin and seal sightings regularly, and more. You can also find secluded sections of the city that are more relaxing, allowing you to settle into a comfortable lifestyle. The population consists of retirees, tourists, and families for the most part.
The weather is in the 70s or higher all year round. This seaside town along the famous “Garden Route” has much to offer in terms of the cost of living as well. Homes are reasonably priced, and there are good schools in the area and a growing employment sector.
While many people have never even heard of thist town, that’s kind of what makes it an excellent place to move to. There aren’t a lot of tourists and visitors, and it’s one of the quieter towns on the list. The population is under 2,000, which indicates just how low-key and intimate this municipality is within South Africa. Gariepdam is the complete opposite of big city life.
You won’t get a ton of thrills and frills, but you have the necessities, which many residents appreciate. The beauty of the surrounding coast is astonishing, and the inclusive community has a wide array of cafes and shops to purchase whatever you may need. You can also travel to Eastern Cape, Botswana, and North/South Namibia through the connecting roads. This city is one of the best places to move for retirees.
Kimberley is a historic city that is also sometimes called “the city that sparkles.”
It’s in the Diamond Fields district, where there is a rich mining history. Many parts of the city resemble the Old West, with old-school saloons, ghost tours, and multiple museums. There is an excellent selection of schools and post-secondary education institutions for those concerned about bringing a family along.
Kimberley is the capital city of the North Cape province. The town has a stunning mountain landscape surrounding it, and the people are generally friendly. The weather is always lovely, and the job opportunities also continue to increase as the years pass. It’s a relaxing city with many attractive suburbs to accommodate someone that wants to stay in a low-key environment.
Check out Pietermaritzburg, situated along the foothills of the Drakensberg range. Nature lovers and college students would like to live in Pietermaritzburg. Though it is picturesque, it’s also modern and has plenty of shopping malls, cafes, bookstores, and more for those that want entertainment options. The hiking trails are spectacular; a great activity to do with friends or family to stay in shape and explore the magnificent area.
You will also have a decent variety of affordable housing choices even though the city is small. You won’t find as many amenities and attractions as you see in larger cities, but you can find fun places to frequent. They have hip bars, elegant restaurants, art galleries, museums, and more.
Stellenbosch, or Stellies, is a small and stunning town with street cafes, historic buildings, restaurants, vineyards, a prestigious university, and a vibrant community. There are numerous wine estates in the city, which also have other entertainment venues like the Spier Wine Farm. This establishment has plenty of space for family picnics, a theater to enjoy live shows, and Eagle Encounters, which is fun for all ages.
Stellenbosch is a beautiful city to live in if you enjoy farming, are academically inclined, or are a wine enthusiast. Surrounded by the breathtaking Cape Winelands mountain range, you get scenery, relaxation, and a little hustle and bustle all in one. The doc point here is small-town charm and convenience. The arts and culture scene is expansive, and the low population makes for a quiet and enjoyable place to do life.
Mpumalanga is a tiny province that doesn’t miss the mark of excitement, despite the size. Outdoor lovers will appreciate the cooler climates that allow hiking, riding mountain bikes, camping, cliff jumping, and exploring the Blyde River Canyon. It’s one of South Africa’s most iconic sites, situated next to the Kruger National Park, also called a green canyon because of the abundance of subtropical vegetation there.
With green valleys, mountain vistas, river rafting, inner tubing, canoeing, trekking, and lovely waterfalls to abseil, Mpumalanga is a contender for expats looking for a thrill. You can also relax and watch abundant wildlife grazing the savannahs as the sun sets in the city.
Natural beauty is for sure the selling point for relocating to Mpumalanga. With a small population, an easily accessible city center, affordable housing, and a solid education system, Mpumalanga is a great destination for living.
Tulbagh has a rich history dating back to the early 1700s, and it is one of the oldest towns in South Africa. Furthermore, this town happens to be amongst the most visibly stunning places in the country. Thanks to all of the historical architecture that has been preserved over the years, Tulbagh is a fantastic place to retire. What’s more, the community is a secure, safe, and inviting community that has much to offer in the way of growth and tranquility.
The slow pace may not be eventful enough to keep those used to a faster lifestyle occupied. However, it’s intended to be this way—where retirees and families can relax in one of the most spectacular and safe towns in South Africa.
12. Jeffreys Bay
If living by the sea is your priority, then Jeffreys Bay is the destination for you. It’s regarded as a surfing paradise, and it boasts trendy cafes, swanky bars, and surf shops packed with everything you could need for a surfing trip. The social scene is very laid back and chilled, a perfect temperature for single people and young couples.
All amenities and accommodations are affordable and easily attainable, even on the seafront, where lots of action occurs. This place isn’t without a few drawbacks, such as the lack of public transportation, danger may be present in certain areas, and the small size of Jeffreys Bay may not be appealing to everyone. However, if these drawbacks are not deal breakers, this may be an excellent option.
Langebaan is a small beach town with friendly natives, about 100km from Cape Town. This town is renowned for its beautiful turquoise lagoon and immaculate beaches. Langebaan is one of the best small beach towns in South Africa.
This is an ideal option for waterfront living at an affordable price that’s not too harsh on your wallet. Even though it is indeed a popular tourist destination, it never feels overrun or overwhelming. All kinds of people, families, couples and single people can enjoy a peaceful life at Langebaan.
George is also called “The Capital of the Garden Route.” George is a quaint town that perfectly joins together city life with all of the charms of a small town. This town is a mere 15 minutes from the ocean. The city lies between Port Elizabeth and Cape Town; from here, there’s convenient access to the spectacular-looking beaches.
Despite George’s small size, there are many recreational activities to get into. There are bars, clubs, and a wide range of clubs, along with plenty of local businesses for you to shop to your heart’s content. This unique community is both welcoming and close-knit, so if you don’t mind people knowing you on a first-name basis, then this place is perfect for you.
Pretoria is only 34 miles northwest of Johannesburg, and it is indeed the administrative capital of South Africa. Thanks to the many research centers and three universities, it is regarded as a hub of education. Of course, if there are universities, you can expect to see many students who are a considerable part of the fabric town.
The atmosphere is lively, with a population of over two million people. It’s possible that this may not appeal to those in search of a small and quiet place to establish themselves in. However, this is undoubtedly the destination for people looking for lively vibes and excellent prospects.
For those who enjoy the wonders of the great outdoors, Wilderness is a sanctuary with a litany of hiking trails and beautiful beaches to explore. The atmosphere is peaceful and serene; there’s a chance that some people may find the lack of activity off-putting, especially if you’re accustomed to city life. However, if a cozy and friendly space is what you desire, then this is a place you’d want to consider.
The housing market is thriving, and residents can enjoy the trails and beaches near the coast. The Garden Route National Park has monkeys, leopards, eagles, and other wildlife to view. Other activities in Wilderness include snorkeling, horseback riding, paragliding, canoeing, and more. It’s safe to say that this is a family-friendly town that welcomes all ages.
Durban is a large and affordable destination with all the accouterments that make for an excellent place. Apart from the weather that is perfect year-round, the town is a foodie’s paradise, as there are many outstanding restaurants, especially if you’re fond of Indian food. You can also find plenty to do in nearby cities if you don’t mind taking short road trips via the connecting roads.
The citizens are gregarious and won’t hesitate to say a friendly hello. Durban features attractions such as a 16-hectare water park, which is exhilarating. To sum it up neatly, Durban is a fun and entertaining place to live that is just bursting at the seams with endless culture.
Although South Africa is a beautiful place regarding aesthetics, not every place in South Africa isn’t necessarily safe to live in. With that being said, it’s more than wise to take your cue from eafeed.com when it comes to determining whether or not a particular city is a safe place to set up shop. Fortunately, Port St. Johns is a place that the site has vetted, and it is a place where you are guaranteed to have peace of mind.
This city is on the Transkei West Coast, which happens to be a wonderful region of the country. Moreover, the town is slow-paced, peaceful, and virtually stress-free. You can always find much to do here in the way of entertainment. If you want to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle, then Port St. Johns is the place to be.
Port Elizabeth, commonly referred to as “The Windy City,” is a calm and serene place where you can relax and enjoy everything the outdoors has to offer. What’s interesting about Port Elizabeth is that the sun is always shining, and the people are ready and willing to stop and have a friendly chat over a nice cup of coffee. The fact that it’s on Algoa Bay makes it the perfect place to spot beautiful whales and dolphins.
There’s even a boardwalk seaside entertainment complex riddled with family-friendly activities. What’s more, there are tons of boutiques, five-screen cinema, a full-service spa, and adventure gold to get into. Not to mention that the cost of living here is the lowest among major cities in South Africa.
If you have an affinity for small towns, Franschhoek could be just the place you’re looking for. Its nature is serene, and the site itself is historic. You’ll be able to witness some storied Cape Dutch architecture. As it pertains to the pace of life, you can expect to be laid back and relaxed, and even more importantly, the town is very safe.
For the people who love to go out to eat, Franschhoek boasts many places to dine and, as a result, is widely considered the gourmet capital. The cost of living can be a bit excessive; however, when you think of all of the luxuries you’ll have access to, it may just be worth your pretty penny.
Bloemfontein is one of the most popular and best places to live in South Africa. This city is situated directly in the heart of the country, and it happens to be charming and welcoming. For those looking for the luxuries and the conveniences that a city has while enjoying small-town fun, Bloemfontein checks off every box.
This city is known for its prolific fauna, and as a result, the King’s Park hosts an annual Rose Festival whereby thousands of people come out to witness its beauty. The city also has the only city-center nature reserve—the Franklin Game Reserve, which is an ideal place to visit for those who love nature.
The only drawback to selecting this city is its extreme temperature. In the summer, it can be scorching hot, and it can be freezing cold in the winter.
Johannesburg is Africa’s largest city, and it is a beautiful place to live. This fast-paced city is also much more eventful than the other cities on this list. There’s an excellent life/work balance, with vibrant greenery all around. The open space is also highly attractive to those that love outdoor sports such as cricket and rugby. The community in Joburg is big on watching games together and enjoying the excitement of outdoor activities.
This city has entertainment, many job opportunities, great weather, and world-class shopping scenes for you to enjoy. There is a gorgeous safari park, theme parks, access to urban businesses, nearby metropolitans, and more. There are nearly six million people in Johannesburg, so the big city life with close connections to other cities will ensure that residents never have a shortlist of things to do.
1. Cape Town
This city is always a top contender for the best cities to live in South Africa. The city is simply spectacular; the south Atlantic contours one side of the town, and the other side has the majestic Table Mountain. The scenic nature of the city allows for countless opportunities to do a myriad of outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, diving, biking, and more.
The weather is another positive when it comes to Cape Town. The weather is always perfect; it’s virtually never too cold or hot at any time of the year. The city even has a great shopping scene and countless career opportunities for those seeking to better themselves, and the cost of living is respectable to boot.
Moving to South Africa can be a fun and exciting part of your life, as long as you research to find a suitable city for your lifestyle. The best places to live in South Africa are diverse, with some city choices, some rural, and everything in between. Whether you’re an expat, moving for work, school, or just for a change of scenery, there’s a city on this list to accommodate your needs.
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