A digital nomad guide to Gardens in Cape Town
Words – Chantal van Baalen
Cape Town has always been one of my favorite places to go to. I have visited the mother city before during a six-month internship. This is when it stole my heart. A few years later I came back for a Workaway position and to visit the Africa Burn festival. So first as an intern, then as a volunteer and tourist and now, five years later I’m back as a digital nomad based in the Gardens district. Is Gardens in Cape Town for digital nomads? Let me explain in this guide.
Why Gardens for digital nomads?
During my previous visits, I have lived in many different areas. The colorful Muslim area of Bokaap, the popular Sea Point, touristy Greenpoint, quiet Vredehoek and hipster Gardens. Off all these places I loved Gardens the most, because it is an area that feels more secure than other areas and really makes me feel at home. Therefore this is the area where I’m based at during my stay.
The main reason for Gardens to be so popular is because of its vibrant Kloof Street. The street itself and its adjacent streets have numerous little cozy bars and restaurants. It will take you weeks, even months to go through all the places that Kloof has to offer. Every bar has its own specials and happy hours and the venues keep changing from time to time. So it’s never a dull moment here. These bars and restaurants are great for drinks or dinner with friends, but a lot of them are also perfect to work from during the day! A list of ‘Cafés to work from in Cape Town’ can be found here. This is just a fraction of the venues that Cape Town has to offer, but it’s a good list to start with.
In Gardens there are a few super cool coworking spaces where you can easily rent a desk for the day or even for the month. Within walking distance you can find other coworking spaces in town. A list of the ‘Best coworking spaces in Cape Town’ can be found here. Whenever you’re a bit tired of the bustling streets of Gardens, you can always visit the beloved De Waal park to read a book, enjoy the sun and the Table Mountain view or cuddle with some of the gazillion dogs that are playing around.
The other thing that makes Gardens a beloved area is its location. Within 10 minutes walking you will find yourself in the city center of Cape Town. A short 5 minute ride will bring you to Table Mountain or Lions Head and many of the hiking starting points. Within a 10 minute drive you will find yourself on the gorgeous beaches of Camps Bay or Clifton. Location is everything!
"It will take you weeks, even months to go through all the places that Kloof Street has to offer"
Accommodation in Gardens for digital nomads
During my time in Gardens, I have tried out various backpackers and hotels for digital nomads. One of my favorite places was Zebra Crossing. A cute low budget backpackers with all the facilities a digital nomad needs. Another place that stole my heart is the Ashanti Backpackers. This is a hostel that will make you stay at least a month instead of the initially planned two nights. Even though the WiFi is a bit questionable, the courtyard with the pool, the cozy bar and the overall amazing vibe totally made up for it. Other accommodations for digital nomads in Cape Town can be found right here.
Because staying in hostels and hotels might get a little expensive after a while, it is possible to use platforms to find a room or apartment. My go-to was Marketplace on Facebook. It’s reliable, it offers cheap accommodation and you can easily stalk your tenants’ or roommates’ profile page. It offers many ‘Professional House Share’ listings with other digital nomads. Another option is Gumtree. It has a huge selection of accommodations, but there are some sketchy listings so pay attention to this! The other option which is mainly for apartments and houses is Property24, which is a bit more pricy but very reliable and interesting if you’re looking to rent something with friends.
Airbnb has recently implemented great specials for long-term staying digital nomads.
Things to do in town
As a digital nomad, you want to get out every now and then, do something fun and reset your mind to be ready for another session of work. Well, in Cape Town you’re at the right address. I’m not going to list all the tourist attractions, others have already done that. But here are the things I love to do to rewind after a hard day or week of work:
Hiking in Cape Town
This is hands down the number one activity in Cape Town. From Kloof Street in Gardens, you can hike, Uber, or take a direct bus to the Kloof Nek 1 bus stop. From here many hiking trails start. The Pipe Track Run and Lions Head trails are perfect if you are by yourself. If you want to do one of the Table Mountain trails, it’s wise to bring someone that knows the way, and it’s safer (and more fun!).
Done with the mountains? The streets of Gardens are also lovely to walk around, showing off its beautiful old Victorian houses, many little parks and cozy cafés that are perfect for a little coffee or beer stop.
Beaches in Cape Town
Pack a bag with some snacks, sunscreen and a towel, take a bus from Gardens towards Camps Bay and 10 minutes later you are standing in the powdery white sand of Camps Bay Beach. Jump into the Tidal Pool for a swim or if you’re feeling strong, jump straight in the ice cold ocean. You can take a little walk to Glen Beach, which is a bit more alternatively vibed and allows dogs. Running out of drinks? No worries, there is always a dude selling ice cold drinks and ice cream. ‘Don’t panic its organic!’
Markets in Cape Town
Nothing beats a good old cozy market to start your day in the best way possible. One of the favorite markets is the Neighbourgoods market at The Old Biscuit Mill in Observatory on Saturdays. A 10 minute drive from Gardens. Offering a HUGE variety of food, (second-hand) clothes, antiques and all kinds of drinks, accompanied by a live band or a DJ playing some chilled tunes.
The Oranjezicht City Farm Market at the V&A Waterfront takes place every Saturday and Sunday and is as it might state, a farm market. It also offers a wide variety of food and clothes and is the perfect place to get some breakfast or lunch.
A 25 minute drive from Gardens is the weekend hotspot for those escaping town; the Bay Harbour Market in Houtbay. An extremely cozy and vibrant indoor-market, offering the latest local trends, handy gadgets, tasty food stalls and a huge bar with good specials. Local musicians fill the hall with their live music. You can visit the venue from Friday after 5pm or Saturday and Sunday from 9am to 4pm.
The markets of Cape Town are usually in the weekends, and as soon as you arrive you feel the vibe of people celebrating their days off. And you totally fit in, celebrating being a digital nomad.
Another superfun mission when in Cape Town is to go to the Greenpoint Lighthouse in the afternoon, have a long sunset walk or run along the boulevard to Sea Point and treat yourself with a Boerewors roll and a banana pancake from the food stalls at the Sea Point Pavillion Swimming Pool. Then, if the night is still young and you feel energized, take it to Mojo Market for drinks, more food and live music!
Getting around in Cape Town
Getting around in Cape Town is super easy! The main public transport is the MyCity bus. You can get a bus pass in any of the selling points, put some money on it and go! It’s incredibly cheap and super easy to use. The bus times are quite accurate and everything can be found on their website
Uber is one of the main ways of transport. It’s also very cheap, especially when you share an uber with friends. Simply download the app, order Uber and pay cash or credit card. When you pay cash, always make sure you have some small money, as the drivers don’t always have enough change.
One of my favorite ways to get around town is simply by walking. So if the place is within walking distance, the sun is shining and you’re feeling fresh AF, go for a nice walk through the lively streets of Cape Town. Feeling a bit anxious? Read all about it in Safety in Cape Town below.
Getting connected in Cape Town
In order to get around without getting lost, a local simcard with internet is highly recommended. The main providers are MTN and Vodacom. There are many of these stores in town where you can get a simcard. Simply bring your passport and a proof of residency, and you will receive the little priceless bastard. The lovely people in the store will help you set it up and make it ready to use. You can top it up in any phone store or grocery store with the amount you want. Then you can choose from the menu what package you’d like. Of course they can also do this for you in the phone stores.
Safety in Cape Town
Cape Town is said to be unsafe, just like many other big cities in the world. The level of crime in South Africa is higher than in other countries, but Cape Town is much safer than for example Johannesburg or Durban.
But I will be honest. The first week ever in Cape Town I got tricked and my debitcard got stolen and emptied. Next to this my phone got stolen in a club. Even though this can’t be justified in anyway, I was very young and stupid and looked like a very fresh tourist. But I’ve learned from this, and I’m here to tell you that you just have to be cautious. The level of poverty is high in Cape Town, and that goes hand in hand with petty crime and robberies.
So here’s a list of how to get around Cape Town without getting into trouble (basically how not to be as stupid as me).
→ When walking around in Cape Town, try to avoid the smaller and quieter looking streets and areas. Always follow the main roads where other people are and where there are shops, bars or restaurants. And you’ll be fine!
→ When you’re being chased by homeless people asking for money, try to ignore them as much as possible. This might be hard as they play the baby card and use a lot of other reasons that will trigger your morals. But it is mostly a scam. They use the money for less moral substances. People that ask for formula or other baby stuff will sell it immediately in the shops to get money for. So simply keep walking, and ignore. You can do it! If you want to help the homeless, save the leftovers from restaurants or own food and hand it out.
→ It’s better not to walk long distances alone through the streets of Cape Town when it’s dark. Especially as a female. Services like Uber is incredibly cheap and totally worth it if you want to stay safe.
→ Whenever you take an Uber or other taxi service, always, ALWAYS check the car when you leave. That includes the seats and the floor. Many purses, wallets, sunglasses, phones (including mine) and other stuff has got lost through this, because you simply had a few drinks and forget it.
→ While walking through busy areas, keep your bag in the front, especially when you are wearing a backpack.
→ There’s a few scams that I keep hearing about. One of them is at the ATM. As soon as you approach an ATM to draw some money from, there sometimes is a guy ‘working’ on it, telling you it’s not working probably and offering you to help. ‘So sweet!’ you think. Next thing you know your card is gone as well as the money.
These are all tips that in my opinion are common sense. But also I had to find out the hard way.