If you follow my travels for a while you should know by now that I have a soft spot for bohemian, artsy, hipster or alternative neighborhoods. Even if I don’t call myself any of these adjectives I feel the best in the areas with such a distinctive vibe and I always try to find these in any place I visit.
To my great surprise quite by accident I ended up staying in such a neighborhood in Cape Town – Observatory! And I couldn’t enjoy it more!
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Background of Cape Town Observatory
Cape Town Observatory is located just 10 minutes by train from downtown yet it couldn’t be any more different. This residential area is build-up with small houses, most of them over century old. The back lanes are quite, colorful, people aren’t in hurry.
Back in the Apartheid times, up until 1990s, Cape Town Observatory was one of the very few “grey” areas where everyone belonged, everyone could live, there was no hate or discrimination.
Today things seem to be the same, everyone is welcome in the Obs (as citizens refer to the place) but the area is mostly occupied by national and international students of nearby University of Cape Town bringing in the young vibe to the place. It is also the largest arts community in South Africa!
Where to hang out in Cape Town Observatory
While most of the area is a calm place with a funky touch, the small part of Lower Main Road, between Darien Square and Station Road, is where the fun happens. It’s barely 200 meters long but everything you wish for in the bohemian heaven can be found there. Quirky shops, cozy cafes, record store, funky restaurants, anarchy center (the only one in South Africa), bookstores, second hand boutiques… everything is there, decorated by the decent street art!
The clientele is typical for this kind of places – a mix of artists, philosophers, hipsters, students, backpackers or local homeless. Everyone is extremely friendly, willing to talk to you about the wide range of topics – from random weather observations to philosophical life issues.
The only reason I stayed in the Observatory was the lack of hostels in more central parts of Cape Town. But I couldn’t be happier as I felt right in that place.
The hostel was located in the most central point of this hip area, overlooking the center of events on the Lower Main Road. Each day I started on the balcony, sipping my tea and observing how Cape Town Observatory wakes up after the crazy night. You can stay at this place too – click here for more details!
Each evening I dined in the funky Cafe Ganesh – a place that felt like township tavern yet served amazing African food for ridiculously low prices. Each time I went for a coffee or drink to one of the numerous places I quickly found new local friends to talk to, even when I was waiting two minutes for a friend there was always someone around trying to entertain me with some small talk or inviting me for drinks…
I spent 5 days in Cape Town and even if I fell for the city I felt like the Observatory is the place where I should be. I very quickly felt like at home then and had a pretty hard time leaving it. Don’t miss Cape Town Observatory, even if just for few hours, to get into the artsy vibe.
Cape Town Observatory – practical info:
The best way to get to the Observatory is to take the train from the Cape Town Central Station. Trains run every 30-40 minutes, all the trains in the direction of Simon’s Town stop in the Observatory (3rd stop). The journey takes around 10 minutes, the first class return ticket costs 17,50 ZAR.
To get to the heart of Cape Town Observatory take Station Road or Trill Road from the train station – Lower Main Road is three streets away.
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