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Cape Town vs. Johannesburg: Which South African City is Better to Live In?

Havana Dauncey
· December 29, 2023
Cape Town vs. Johannesburg: Which South African City is Better to Live In?

Moving to Cape Town or Joburg?

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When choosing where to live in South Africa, it often comes down to South Africa’s 2 biggest cities — Cape Town and Johannesburg.

With the rich cultural tapestries and endless opportunities these two major cities offer, it’s no wonder that millions of South Africans are flocking to their streets containing almost 20% of the country’s total population. These cities stand as distinct symbols of South Africa's past, present and future, each offering a unique blend of experiences. But with each city being a shining light in their own right, it leaves a big question for South Africans looking to start their next chapter and move to a new city.

That’s why we’re here to answer the age-old question: Is it better to live in Cape Town or Johannesburg? Here’s the complete breakdown of living in Cape Town vs living in Johannesburg to help you figure out which city is better for you.

Cape Town: The Mother City's Charm

Living in Cape Town

Cape Town Facts:

  • Population: 4 890 280

  • Area: 2 455 km²

  • Average Annual Salary: R246 000

  • Languages: Afrikaans, English, isiXhosa and Kaaps

  • Local rugby team: DHL Stormers

Here are some of Cape Town’s highlights:

1. Breathtaking Beauty

Cape Town, nestled against the iconic Table Mountain and surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, is renowned for its jaw-dropping scenery. You have majestic mountains, a bustling city and exquisite beaches all within a 20-minute radius, lending itself to postcard-perfect views that never get old. The ascent to the top of Table Mountain provides a panoramic view of the city and suburban neighbourhoods beyond. Pair the natural beauty with some of the world’s best beaches and you have an outdoor adventure lover's paradise.

2. Cultural Heritage

Steeped in history, Cape Town is not only one of South Africa’s 3 capitals but boasts a cultural heritage that reflects South Africa's diverse past. From the vibrant colours of the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood to the historical significance of Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, every corner of Cape Town tells a story. The city's cultural richness is further accentuated by its museums, art galleries and lively street markets.

3. Wine Country Delights

For connoisseurs of wine, Cape Town is a paradise. Just a short drive away lies the Cape Winelands, home to world-renowned vineyards and wine estates. Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl offer a delightful escape into the picturesque countryside, where rolling vineyards and historic estates provide the perfect setting for wine tastings and gastronomic adventures. And if you don’t want to drive that far, you’ll find award-winning wine farms on the banks of the Table Mountain Reserve in the Constantia valley.

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A post shared by Discover Cape Town & WC (@discoverctwc)

4. Mild Mediterranean Climate

Cape Town enjoys a Mediterranean climate, characterised by mild, wet winters and warm, dry summers with the cool south-easterly wind. The city's pleasant weather makes it an attractive destination year-round, with outdoor activities, beach excursions and nature adventures a consistent option.

Living in Cape Town Pros and Cons

Pros of Living in Cape Town Cons of Living in Cape Town
Expansive natural beauty Higher property prices and cost of living
Great weather year-round Safety concerns with relatively high crime rate
An endless amount of activities Bad traffic at peak times
Better loadshedding schedule Limited public transport
Top schools and universities Tourist crowds in peak season

Johannesburg: The City of Gold's Urban Energy

Living in Johannesburg Johannesburg Facts:

  • Population: 6 198 000

  • Area: 1 645 km²

  • Average Salary: R275 000

  • Languages: isiZulu, Sesotho, Setswana, English and Afrikaans

  • Local rugby team: Lions

Let’s take a look at some of Johannesburg’s shining qualities:

1. Economic Hub

Johannesburg, often referred to as the City of Gold, is the economic powerhouse of South Africa. As the largest city in the country, Johannesburg is a bustling metropolis with a scenic skyline and wealthy neighbourhoods that reflects its status as a global business hub. The city's economic potential attracts professionals and entrepreneurs from around the world.

2. Cultural Melting Pot

Johannesburg's cosmopolitan nature is a testament to its diverse population. The city is a melting pot of cultures, with neighbourhoods like Maboneng and Newtown serving as vibrant hubs of creativity and expression. The Apartheid Museum, located in Johannesburg, serves as a remembrance of South Africa’s history.

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A post shared by S.A. Apartheid Museum (@apartheidmuseum)

3. Thriving Entertainment Scene

If you're looking for a city that never sleeps, Johannesburg fits the bill. The city is known for its nightlife, offering everything from sophisticated rooftop bars to energetic nightclubs. The Arts on Main precinct in Maboneng is a haven for art enthusiasts, featuring galleries, studios and performance spaces that showcase the city's creative pulse. Plus, there is no better place to go shopping than Johannesburg with its endless array of top-end shopping malls.

4. Proximity to Wildlife and Nature Reserves

While Johannesburg may lack the coastal charm of Cape Town, it compensates by being in close proximity to wildlife and nature reserves. The famous Kruger National Park is a short flight away, providing an opportunity to witness the Big Five and be immersed in the untamed beauty of the African bush.

Living in Johannesburg Pros and Cons

Pros of Living in Johannesburg Cons of Living in Johannesburg
Professional and economic opportunities High rates of violent crime
Higher salaries Limited outdoor activites
Buzzing city energy and cultural diversity Extreme weather conditions (however, many love the summer thunderstorms)
Relatively good public transport Really bad traffic
High-quality infrastructure, healthcare and education Noise and air pollution

How to Choose the Right Fit For You

Whether Cape Town or Johannesburg is the best city to live in entirely depends on you and what you’re looking for in your next home. To help you weigh up your options, here are some important considerations in making your decision.

1. Lifestyle Preferences

The choice between Cape Town and Johannesburg often boils down to personal lifestyle preferences. If you seek a city where outdoor activities, beachfront living and a laid-back atmosphere take centre stage, Cape Town may be the ideal choice. On the other hand, if you thrive in a fast-paced urban environment with a thriving arts scene and diverse cultural offerings, Johannesburg might be more to your liking.

2. Career Opportunities

For career-oriented individuals, Johannesburg's status as the economic heartbeat of South Africa may tip the scales in its favour. The city's expansive job market and generous salaries offer ample opportunities for professional growth. Cape Town, while not lacking in career prospects, may appeal more to those in certain sectors like tourism, hospitality and the arts.

3. Nature vs Urban Adventure

Consider whether you're drawn more to the tranquillity of nature or the buzz of city life, a coastal paradise or inland urban retreat. Cape Town's natural wonders, including mountains, beaches and winelands, cater to those seeking a serene escape. In contrast, Johannesburg's urban energy, cultural diversity and concrete jungle cater to individuals who thrive in the midst of city lights.

The Final Verdict

In the Cape Town vs. Johannesburg debate, there is no definitive winner — only the city that aligns more closely with your preferences, aspirations and lifestyle. Cape Town's unbelievable beauty and cultural richness stand in contrast to Johannesburg's urban energy and economic dominance.

Ultimately, the choice between these two South African gems depends on what you value most in a city — the allure of nature or the heartbeat of urban life. Whichever you choose, the experience of South Africa awaits, promising a journey filled with adventure, culture and the warm embrace of a nation that celebrates diversity in every aspect of life.

Need a Trusted Moving Service to Get You to Your New Home?

Whether you're moving to Cape Town or Johannesburg, you’re going to need the best of the best movers to help make the transition to your new city as smooth as possible. That’s why Wise Move is here to help!

With extensive networks across the country, Wise Move’s moving company platform connects you with the best, low-cost, local moving services trusted by thousands of South Africans. So whether it’s a big load or small load, down the road or across the country, Wise Move has the moving service that’s perfect for you, your budget and your destination.

Get your quote from Wise Move today and get started on your next adventure, no matter if it’s Cape Town or Johannesburg.

Moving to Cape Town or Joburg?

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