South Africa is a country with a turbulent history. In the past it has existed as a country divided, dangerous and stunningly beautiful all at the same time.
Thankfully times have changed and South Africa was reborn from the ashes of Apartheid after its abolition in 1994. The country has since flourished, and a new generation of South African people have been united and developed an eclectic and unique culture – and it is more beautiful than ever.
In fact, Archbishop Desmond Tutu called South Africa the “Rainbow Nation” thanks to the incredibly diverse and multicultural nature that has always existed within the country.
Part of this diversity is of course down to the people who make this place so special. But a large part of it is thanks to the awe inspiring geography and nature that calls this country home.
South Africa is home to many of the world’s most unique, rare and downright gorgeous animals to inhabit our planet, and the geographical marvels that are spread far and wide are truly amongst the best in the world.
If you’ve visited it’s easy to see why Tutu’s monika stuck around; once you have stepped foot in this wonderful country you’ll want to come back again and again.
If you’re on the hunt for adventure, looking to explore somewhere new, or simply trying to plan the epic city escape of a lifetime, then take a look at these absolutely unmissable South Africa cities.
Cape Town is of course South Africa’s most well known city – and for good reason.
You’ve likely seen pictures of the extraordinary Table Mountain that looms over the coastal area of the city. It must be one of the few cities in the world with a national park right at its heart!
There is an incredible emerging food scene here with world class restaurants attracting international clientele. Amazing street food tempts travellers and some truly extraordinary seafood caught fresh from the bountiful ocean can be enjoyed.
Marine life is abundant and the water based activities are pretty special in this area too, so if you are looking to get back to nature and repair your mental wellbeing then Cape Town could well be the place for you.
It is the perfect blend of city and wild, all squeezed into one town!
“Jo-Burg”, as it’s affectionately known by the locals, is located in the northern reaches of the country and is sometimes referred to as the ‘city of gold’ due to the large gold deposits found in the area.
Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and is the economic centre of the country – although it is not the capital. It has a population of around 6 million and is arguably the most ‘African’ city in the country, with a huge 76% of the population being made up of indigenous African peoples.
This means there is great food and nightlife culture, so visiting some of the hotspots in the city is a great way to get to know the ‘real’ South Africa.
The city offers a pretty shocking insight into the history of the country with its fantastic museums and Mandela exhibits a constant reminder of the oppression that its people experienced only 30 years ago.
It’s also the perfect location to begin a safari. Joburg is situated between several of the country’s most popular locations to spot the ‘big 5’- that would be lions, elephants, buffalo, leopards, and rhino.
It’s a city of extreme culture and abundant life, so get out there and explore.
Pretoria is one of the best cities in the country – without a doubt. It’s considered the executive capital of South Africa and is home to many embassies representing other African nations.
It is incredibly multicultural with many Asian and Middle Eastern settlers calling the area home. You’ll find an awesome nightlife scene here, with many bars and clubs spread throughout the city.
Pretoria is also a great place to begin your safari adventure, experience some awesome Afrikans food and explore the great outdoors. Try Tswaing Meteorite Crater for an awesome day out.
Pretoria shares its brutal history with its neighbor Johannesburg and was a key city during the Apartheid. There are some incredible museums here to serve as a constant reminder of the pain that built this city.
Visiting the awesome, laid back Pretoria is best during the spring. This is when the Jacarandas are in full bloom and the weather is incredibly pleasant.
Durban was once an industrial center for the country, hosting Africa’s largest international port. And whilst this still rings true the city has diversified enough that it can be considered extremely pleasant for travellers.
With stunning beaches, warm waters and excellent weather year round; most of the locals can be found at the beach enjoying some form of water based activity. If you’re into surfing, SUPing, kayaking or pretty much any other water sport then this is the place for you.
The people are warm and welcoming, and the food is simply stunning. There is a large Indian population here, leading to one of the most spectacular blends of foods you’ll find anywhere on earth. There are markets all over the city filled with spices, wonderful vegetables and stunning street food.
Trying some Bunny Chow whilst you are in the area is a must; it’s half a crusty loaf, hollowed out and filled to the brim with some spicy curry – it’s a staple of the city, and can now be found all over Africa!
Knysna (pronounced “nigh-snah”) is located on the central southern coast of the country in a quiet and mountainous region.
If you’re on the hunt for a town packed with beach vibes, then this is the place to come.
The town sits on the Knysna Lagoon that spills into the outrageously blue Indian Ocean. It’s a place of tranquility and calm making it the perfect spot for a quick break.
There are miles of stunning beach in both directions, plenty of water related activities offered and wildlife cruises. The town itself is filled with quirky shops and spas.
Thanks to its proximity to the sea, the seafood has become a major draw in the area with the local oysters stealing the spotlight. It’s a great place to go whale watching or exploring in the wild coastal cliffs.
Knysna is a super popular location with swimmers and surfers and has developed that ever so desirable ‘surf-town’ feeling that is so hard to put into words.
It’s a true gem of the south coast.
South African City Breaks
South Africa is a giant country with a complex and troubled past. It’s a country of humongous rock monoliths, gorgeous waterfalls and soaring peaks.
It’s packed to the brim with some of the most stunning wildlife on earth. And the ecosystem that it hosts is truly unique.
Thanks to all this it can be easy to forget that it is also home to some frankly wonderful cities.
They are multicultural hubs of excellent food, beautiful people and stunning sights. The metropolitan areas are world class and the list of activities and culture is seemingly never ending.
Make sure you don’t miss out on these incredible places when you’re planning your next city break.
Kate Sheppard is a mum of two, living in Sussex, UK. Kate enjoys writing about all things parenting, lifestyle and travel. Connect with Kate on Twitter: @KateSheppard90 and Pinterest: @katesheppard90