Discover the 5 Most Populated Cities in South Africa

Written by Niccoy Walker
Updated: June 22, 2023
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Other than being the world’s biggest producer of gold, South Africa is famous for its amazing landscapes, cultural experiences, temperate climate, and diverse people. Individuals from all walks of life live and visit this great country, which contains over 59 million inhabitants. Discover the five most populated cities in South Africa and learn about their location, best attractions, and what they are known for.

1. Johannesburg

Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg is the largest city in South


by population. It is also one of the largest by land size.

© Peterson

Population: Eight million (urban), 10.5 million (metro)

Land Size: 1,296 square miles (urban)

Location: Johannesburg is the largest and most populous city in South Africa. It is also considered a megacity. A megacity consists of 10 million or more residents. In fact, it is one of the largest cities in the world. It is the capital of the Gauteng province in the eastern plateau.

Importance and Notoriety: Johannesburg’s population exploded during the gold rush. Apart from being one of the wealthiest cities in the country, it is also known for its complicated history, higher education, economy, shopping, museums, music events, urbanism, and sports.

Best Tourist Attractions: Visitors love the Johannesburg Zoo, Gold Reef City Theme Park, Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden, and Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. Mandela’s House, Maboneng Precinct, and the Apartheid Museum are also popular.

2. Cape Town

Cape Town, South Africa

Cape Town is a popular destination due to its beautiful landscape, Mediterranean climate, and exciting activities. It is the oldest city in the country.


Population: 4.7 million (total)

Land Size: 950 square miles

Location: As the oldest city in South Africa, Cape Town is the legislative capital of the country. It lies on the Table Bay shore near the Atlantic Ocean in the Western Cape province.

Importance and Notoriety: This city is a popular tourist destination for its rocky and mountainous terrain and Mediterranean climate. It is notable for its well-developed infrastructure, shopping, outdoor recreation, Cape Dutch architecture, gardens, Bobotie (sweet spiced meat), Malva pudding, and cricket.

Best Tourist Attractions: Fun attractions include V&A Waterfront, Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, Cape of Good Hope, Table Mountain National Park, Boulders Beach, Two Oceans Aquarium, Castle of Good Hope, and Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa. 

3. Durban

This city is a chief seaport known for its breathtaking beaches and botanical gardens.


Population: 3.4 million (city)

Land Size: 87 square miles (city)

Location: Durban is the largest city in the Kwazulu-Natal province and a significant city center on the Indian Coast. The city is on South Africa’s east coast and lies at the beginning of the Umgeni River.

Importance and Notoriety: It is a chief seaport in the country. It is known for cricket, rugby, botanic gardens, art galleries, shopping, and museums.

Best Tourist Attractions: Visit the Durban Botanic Gardens, Umgeni River Bird Park, Suncoast Casino, uShaka Marine World, Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park, Moses Mabhida Stadium, and Wilson’s Wharf.

4. Pretoria

Although South Africa has undergone severe tribulations, the country is on the rise. Pretoria is famous for its architecture, museums, and art.


Population: 2.9 million (metro)

Land Size: 2,431 square miles (metro)

Location: Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. The city lies along the Apies River and in the foothills of the Magaliesberg Mountains. It belongs to the Gauteng province in Northeast South Africa.

Importance and Notoriety: Pretoria is famous for its jacaranda trees, diverse architecture, parks, museums, music, public art, and rugby.

Best Tourist Attractions: Famous attractions include the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, Voortrekker Monument, Moreleta Kloof Nature Reserve, Rietvlei Nature Reserve, Pretoria National Botanical Gardens, Hazel Food Market, and Loftus Versfeld Stadium.

5. Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth)

port elizabeth, South Africa

Along Algoa Bay in the Eastern Cape province is Gqeberha. This port city features a warm oceanic climate and is famous for its pleasant weather.


Population: 1.1 million (metro)

Land Size: 756 square miles (metro)

Location: Gqeberha, previously known as Port Elizabeth, is a city in the Eastern Cape province and features a major seaport. It sits along the southeastern coast of South Africa on the Algoa Bay.

Importance and Notoriety: This port city features a warm oceanic climate and is famous for its pleasant year-round weather. It is also popular for its architecture, beaches, parks, public artwork, and sports.

Best Tourist Attractions: See the Storms River Bridge, Kragga Kamma Game Park, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Tsitsikamma National Park, Addo Elephant National Park, Sardinia Bay Beach, Maitland Beach, and Cape Recife Lighthouse.

Check out this article to discover the largest cities in South Africa by land size!

Summary of the 5 Most Populated Cities in South Africa

1Johannesburg10.5 million (metro)
2Cape Town4.7 million (total)
3Durban3.4 million (city)
4Pretoria2.9 million (metro)
5Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth)1.1 million (metro)

The photo featured at the top of this post is ©

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About the Author

Niccoy is a professional writer for A-Z Animals and her primary focus is on birds, travel, and interesting facts of all kinds. Niccoy has been writing and researching about travel, nature, wildlife, and business for several years and holds a business degree from Florida State College. A resident of Florida, Niccoy enjoys hiking, cooking, reading, and spending time at the beach.

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