Joburg Cape Town

The age-old battle of the cities: Joburg vs Cape Town

Joburg vs Cape Town: Who is the fairest of them all?

Joburg Cape Town

Let me take a deep breath before I get started talking about Johannesburg versus Cape Town.

Which city trumps the other and why?

This age-old debate between South Africans, and even tourists, continues to get everyone all riled up in defense of one of the beloved cities, and we are bound to deliberate this ’cause’ very seriously at least once in our lives.

I think this is relevant for both locals and tourists because both cities have fortunes to offer its residents and visitors, especially in 2016 with all the new hangouts and restaurants opening up.

Some of you might be concerned that I will be biased towards my hometown, Jozi, but this is not the case. Now that I live abroad, when I come home, I get to experience South Africa with the fresh perspective of a tourist.

In the past two-and-a-half years that I have visited while living overseas, I have discovered the treasures each city has to offer all over again. In fact, I have fallen in love with Joburg more than I ever did before I left.

I also get extremely excited when I hear of friends, colleagues, or friends-of-friends visiting South Africa, and I am the first to jump at the opportunity to compile a detailed itinerary of places to see, food to taste, and things to do across the country.

Unfortunately, some tourists get the wrong end of the stick when it comes to Johannesburg. Well, let’s be honest, Cape Town is almost impossible to find fault with. I get questions and statements like:

Isn’t Johannesburg an ugly, concrete jungle?
How can one cope without the sea in Joburg?
Isn’t it dangerous to leave your house or hotel in Johannesburg?
Apparently Johannesburg is the place to be to make money and find jobs, while Cape Town is the perfect holiday destination.

I truly believe both cities are splendid for different reasons and definitely worth a visit. When it comes to where to live, that is based on a lot of factors, but what I can say is that one can make the best of living in either city by focusing on the good things.

No place is perfect; I have come to learn that pretty well by living away from South Africa.

So now that I am ready to rumble, let’s see the beauty and fun that is Jozi and the Mother City.


People often say you should leave the best for last, but I want to get right into it and start with the dessert.

Beauty can mean a lot of different things for different people. In my case, I am a sucker for both nature and man-made beauty. I appreciate a never-ending sunflower field just as much as I can stare at a building and architecture for hours.

cape town

Cape Town hasn’t been declared one of the most beautiful cities, if not the most beautiful city in the world for nothing. Coming in at an area of 2,461 square kilometers, Cape Town is an amalgamation of breathtaking beaches, majestic mountains (Table Mountain is listed as one of the 7 Wonders of the World), stunning buildings, the best wine routes, forests, and a mix of several architecture styles and cultures ranging from Cape Dutch, Regency, Georgian, Victorian, Edwardian, to Mid-century Modern, Art Deco, and contemporary architecture.

I can go on for hours about what there is to see in terms of nature and city-life, but I think this video speaks for itself.

Okay, yes, so Cape Town is one up on beauty compared to Johannesburg; however, this doesn’t mean that Joburg doesn’t have its own charm and appeal.

Johannesburg is known to be one of the greenest cities in the world. With a total area of 1,644 square kilometers, most of which is covered in trees and foliage, I’d say that is pretty darn good for the largest city in the world that isn’t built near a body of water. At a bird’s-eye view of the city, one can see green everywhere, even in the winter with the ever-green trees.

Late spring is also a sight for sore eyes with the Jacaranda trees in bloom when Jozi is covered in a blanket of a magenta-like purple hue.  One can also catch a glimpse of the cliffs and ravines, nature reserves, little springs and the surrounding African bushveld. There are also plenty of striking buildings and Late Victorian, Edwardian and a touch of Arts and Crafts architectural designs in Johannesburg; even a drive downtown boasts some lovely buildings.



One can never go hungry in either city! Both are a melting pot of different cuisines, both local and international, with 799 restaurants and bars to choose from in Johannesburg and 915 in Cape Town.

If I absolutely had to pick one, Cape Town would come in at first place but not by very much. It’s a kind of Usain Bolt versus Wayde van Niekerk thing: they are both fast but run different races. The Mother City is known to be a food hub as it boasts the best coffee shop in the world called Truth, and two of the best restaurants in the world with The Test Kitchen located at the Old Biscuit Mill placed at No. 22 on the list of the Best 50 Restaurants in the World, and the French vineyard restaurant, La Colombe, listed in the top 100 eat-outs worldwide.

Cape Town truth coffee

I could create a list for days on the bars and eateries in both cities. 2016 has seen the opening of even more innovative and popular cafes, joints, and bistros, so it’s probably best to consult further sources for more accuracy for both Johannesburg and Cape Town.


For the rivalry on the best weather, Johannesburg scores the points.

I love the weather in my hometown, especially compared to where I live now: humidity and rain in the winter are just not for me! While it can get very hot in Gauteng, there is very little to no humidity, and the heat is usually broken with a fresh Highveld thunderstorm in the summer. It can get bitterly ice-cold in the winter usually in the early mornings and at night, but at least it’s not wet.

Johannesburg – van der Westhuizen

Cape Town, on the other hand, experiences more of the “schizo” European weather with 101 wet days in the year on average, which means there is rain in summer and winter. You have to be prepared for 4-seasons-in-1-day. The summers get boiling hot, but it isn’t fun almost getting blown off your feet by the strong winds.


Johannesburg and Cape Town are not like Tel Aviv or New York in that they do get some sleep; however, both have some fun and vibrant bars, clubs, and hangouts across the city for those night owls.

Cape Town is most pumping during high-season with people from all over the world, mostly Johannesburg, seeking a night out on the town. From Woodstock, to Long Street, Bree Street, Camps Bay, and to the City Center, there are loads of places to paint the town red in Cape Town.

Cape Town Camps Bay
Camps Bay

Nightlife in Johannesburg is dynamic and lively. From fancy dance clubs and cocktail lounges, to shebeens and casual bars, the city is for everyone. Melville is one of the most popular areas, especially for hipsters and youngsters, with a plethora of little bars around 7th street.

Joburg: San Deck Sandton
Sand Deck Sandton – African Tourism

Sandton, Rosebank, Rivonia, and Norwood give off more of an affluent and sophisticated kind of vibe with fancy clubs and bars. Newtown in the CBD is also a great place to party for a diverse group of people.

Things to do

It’s hard to get bored in both cities. There are activities to do and places to explore for outdoorsy people and those who like museums, shopping centers, art galleries, and so much more.

I list some of the highlights to experience in each city, but the ideas and places are definitely not limited to what I have mentioned.

Johannesburg makes up for the fact that it doesn’t have beaches with lovely parks, nature reserves, and entertainment areas. Some of the popular sightseeing spots are the Hillbrow Tower, Soweto: Vilakazi Steet and the Soweto Towers, The Apartheid Museum, Constitutional Hill and the Women’s Gaol in Braamfontein, Gold Reef City, a tour at the South African Breweries, the lion park, the Zoo Lake, a drive through town and Saxonwold where you can see some picturesque heritage houses, Parkhurst, and Greenside.

Joburg Soweto towers
I really have just touched upon some of the main things. Joburg also hosts exciting events during the year such as The Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, the FNB Dance Umbrella, and the Johannesburg Easter festival. Jozie is a culturally colorful place with vibrant people.

With Cape Town, I don’t even know where to start. Every time I go there I am amazed all over again by the city’s beauty, cultural spots, activities, and sightseeing tourist areas. All the beaches are out of a movie scene with Boulders Beach being one of my favorite because there are penguins everywhere, Chapman’s Peak, Table Mountain, Signal Hill, the famous Charly’s Bakery, District 6, the V&A Waterfront, Seapoint, Greenpoint, Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, Constantia, Tokai forest, the wine routes in Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Franschhoek; and I can literally go on and on.

Cape Town Penguins at Boulders Beach. South Africa.
Some of the events that Cape Town hosts include: The Cape Town carnival, Cape Town International Jazz Festival, and the Cape Town International Kite Festival.

Art scene

Just when I thought I had listed the main activities above, I’m actually not done yet. Johannesburg and Cape Town boast incredible art scenes and cultural activities, with 27 museums in Joburg and 49 museums in Cape Town.

Johannesburg is the scene of plenty urban renewal projects in precincts like Maboneng and Newtown. Newtown is peppered with museums and theaters, namely: Museum Africa, The Market theatre, Mary Fitzgerald Square, and the Turbine Hall which hosts the Turbine Hall Art Fair event. The Neighbourgoods Market in Juta Street, Braamfontein is definitely worth a visit on a Saturday.

There are also other stunning galleries in the nearby Parkwood and Braamfontein areas like Goodman and Stevenson galleries. This is just a teaser of the magical art scene in Joburg.

Just as vibrant as Johannesburg is Cape Town’s art scene! Woodstock is home to a range of museums and artsy hangouts with one of them being the Old Biscuit Mill and the Neighboruhoods Market where visitors can enjoy scrumptious food, coffee, clothes, jewelry, and handmade goods.

Woodstock - Getty Images
Woodstock – Getty Images

The botanical Company’s Garden is also a popular park and heritage site where one can find the SA Library, SA Museum, and many other heritage monuments. Watch this space for the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art which opens at the end of 2016.


While I don’t claim to be savvy about the different sporting events and teams, I do know that a visit to any of the stadiums during a game or match will give you that electric feeling and a chance to see South African patriotism as its best.

Johannesburg has 17 stadiums, priding itself on the FNB stadium in Soweto built for the 2010 Soccer FIFA World Cup which can hold 94,736 people. Cape Town possesses 13 stadiums; the beautiful white Cape Town Stadium, with a capacity for 55,000 people, and also built for the World Cup, now forms part of the landscape.

Joburg Soweto Stadium

Rugby is possibly the most loved sport in SA and both cities participate in the Super Rugby with the Emirates Lions representing Joburg and the DHL Stormers playing for Cape Town, while the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup feature the Golden Lions for Jozi and Western Province for CT.

Quality of life

For those who want to know where it’s better to make a life for yourself, I can’t answer that for you straight out.

However, here are some things to consider:

Life in Johannesburg is generally considered more expensive because groceries, shopping, restaurants and entertainment, utility bills, and transportation are more expensive than Cape Town. On average, a regular cappuccino will cost R19.45 in Joburg and R18.47 in Cape Town, while a bottle of water will cost R10.89 and R9.98 respectively.

Cape Town Grocery shopping
However, in saying that, rent and property are more expensive in Cape Town, as well as fitness clubs and gyms. Capetonians also earn lower salaries, up to 30-40% less than in Joburg. It is also harder to find jobs in Cape Town because Johannesburg is the economic powerhouse with more opportunities, generally speaking.

There are also other factors like crime rates, schooling, and infrastructure that can determine and influence one’s living choices and preferences.

Everyone has preferences; I love Jozi and the Mother City equally and for different reasons, and I highly recommend that tourists get a taste of both.

For living and setting up a life, well that’s more complicated, and I would have to reside in Cape Town for a while in order to make a final judgement call.