Bishopscourt, Cape Town’s most expensive and idyllically located neighborhood, is a prestigious enclave of large country houses by the eastern slopes of Table Mountain.
One of the city’s oldest suburbs, built on land once owned by the founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, it includes the official residence for Anglican Bishops and Archbishops of Cape Town from which the area got its name.
Former South African president Nelson Mandela spent his first night of freedom at the home with the then Archbishop of Cape Town Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah after 27 years of imprisonment in 1990.
Surrounded by lush vegetation and forests and the majestic Table Mountain National Park mountain range, the area has a dramatic backdrop, jaw-dropping vistas and is sheltered from the strong southeast wind known as the South-Easter.
Once known as a popular spot for diplomats, Bishopscourt now mostly attracts wealthy working professionals with families, who are drawn to its easy links to the central business district of Cape Town and proximity to a number of top schools.
Bishopscourt is one of Cape Town’s southern suburbs. Rhodes Drive, a road bordering the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden, a hillside garden and nature reserve at the foot of Table Mountain, make up its western side. Kirstenbosch Drive makes up its northern edge, while the southern border is made up of Klassens Road, Gloucester Avenue and Canterbury Drive. Edinburgh Drive is on the eastern border.
Bishopscourt is the most expensive suburb in Cape Town, with a median property value of a property of ZAR17.1 million (US$13.5 million), according to recent research by data research group Lightstone Property.
The starting price for properties in Bishopscourt is 14 million South African Rand (US$1.1 million) and can exceed ZAR100 million (US$7.8 million), said Debbie Wood, of the estate agency Greeff Properties, an affiliate of Christie’s International Real Estate.
The average price of a home in Bishopscourt is ZAR28 million (US$2.2 million), Ms. Wood added. For this price, buyers can expect to four to five bedrooms, 3,000 square meters to 4,000 square meters of land, a swimming pool and north-facing mountain views.
Empty plots occasionally come up for sale and they are usually formed from land carved off from other properties. A plot with an acre of land cost from between ZAR13 million (US$1.02 million) and ZAR19 million (US$1.4 million), depending on where it is situated and whether it enjoys mountain views, said Ms. Janene Robertson of Knight Frank in Claremont, Cape Town, which lies to the east of Bishopscourt.
Klaassens, Exeter and Upper Primrose avenues, meanwhile, are among Cape Town’s priciest streets, with homes costing ZAR25 million (US$1.98 million) and upward.
Bishopscourt has single detached residences with lush gardens set along tree-lined avenues. There are about 350 in total and most are set on established plots of land ranging from about 3,000 square meters to 7,000 square meters.
Increasingly, older homes are being demolished and replaced by large, contemporary new builds. Older homes are in a range of architectural styles including ambassadorial, Tuscan, Tudor, Cape colonial and Provencal.
There is a lot of new construction and renovations of older homes happening in the area, Ms. Robertson said. Planning restrictions on 4,000 square meters of land surrounding the neighborhood protect it from becoming overdeveloped, according to Ms. Wood.
Most houses are set in park-like landscaped gardens with large forecourts, detached cottages, swimming pools, tennis courts, gyms, wine cellars and have great views of the mountains, Ms. Robertson said.Most houses in Bishopscourt are set in park-like landscaped gardens with large forecourts, and swimming pools, according to local real estate expert.
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What Makes it Unique
This leafy residential suburb has excellent connectivity to Cape Town. The journey to Cape Town’s Central Business District via the M3 road takes about 20 minutes and it is close to N1 and N2 freeways for links to Johannesburg and Port Elizabeth respectively, as well the Cape Peninsula and its beaches, according to agents.
Bishopscourt is an easily accessible suburb, and most homes have spectacular mountain views, and expansive grounds, said Myrna Duveen of Pam Golding Properties in Cape Town, an affiliate of Savills. “With embassies as neighbors, and relatively few entry points into the suburb, there is also a sense of security, which appeals to families,” she added.
The neighborhood has parks and green areas where residents can walk dogs and play games, while the surrounding area provides plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities. Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden is known for its biodiversity, beauty and tranquillity and Liesbeek River is a popular walking trail.
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Bishopscourt is residential only, but there are amenities in the surrounding areas.
Residents can shop locally at Cavendish Square, an upmarket shopping center in Upper Claremont, which is 10 minutes from Bishopscourt and is home to the popular Vivante Living, a café serving global-inspired cuisine. This area’s restaurants include A Tavola, a well-regarded Italian dining spot.
It is 10 minutes from La Parada, a modern-rustic tapas restaurant and bar, Beau Constantia, a boutique winery, and La Colombe Restaurant, a highly-rated fine-dining restaurant serving contemporary dishes set on a wine estate, all of which are on Constantia Nek, a low pass over the Table Mountain mountain range linking Constantia with Hout Bay.
The Vineyard Hotel is a five-star family-run property in Newlands, a suburb to the north of Bishopscourt, with seven-acre grounds and views of the Table Mountain’s eastern slopes, which hosts wine events and has two fine dining restaurants.
Ms. Wood said that families move to Bishopscourt to be near some of Cape Town’s leading schools. They include Herschel Girls School, a private boarding and day school for girls, and Western Province Preparatory School, an independent prep school for boys, both of which are in Claremont.
There’s also Bishops Diocesan College, a kindergarten, prep and senior school for boys in Rondebosch three miles north of Bishopscourt; South African College Schools, a primary and secondary education institution just north of Bishopsgate in Newlands, and Springfield Convent School, a school for girls for preschool, primary and secondary school in Wynberg, a suburb three miles of south of Bishopscourt.
Who Lives There
The area is popular with families looking to live near excellent schools, Ms. Duveen said. People tend to stay on in their family homes, and property data by Lightstone shows that 48% of owners have lived on their property for 11 years or more, she said.
Bishopscourt also attracts “swallows,” a nickname for international buyers who travel south to escape the cold winters in the north.
Most international buyers are British and Germans who are attracted to the favorable exchange rates and the lifestyle and warm climate South Africa offers.
The Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah lived at Bishopscourt until recently, according to Ms. Duveen.
The couple famously hosted Nelson Mandela on his first night of freedom. Mr. Mandela later bought a home in the suburb on Forest Drive, according to Ms. Duveen.
South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe reportedly bought a house in the neighborhood for ZAR68 million (US$90.7 million) four years ago, and the novelist Wilbur Smith is said to own a home here, according to Forbes.
The market has been sluggish over the past year and there has been a shortage of good stock in Bishopscourt, Ms. Duveen said. “If more homes were to come onto the market, things should improve as it would attract more buyers to the area.”
She added that the Cape Town metropolitan area is seeing a slowing in the growth of property prices following several years of significant price appreciation.
Market analysts say that the market in the city has been affected by the water shortages in Cape Town and the uncertain political and economic environment in South Africa.
The past year has seen about seven sales at an average price of ZAR19 million (US$1.5 million), Ms. Robertson said. There are currently 21 homes on the market and Pam Golding Properties is marketing 14 of them with prices ranging from ZAR14 million (US$1.1 million) to ZAR88.5 million (US$7 million).
Data from the Lightstone Property report previously showed that homes are on average ZAR1.4 million more expensive than the second priciest area, the coastal area of Llandudno, which has a median property value of ZAR15.7 million (US$1.2 million).
Ms. Robertson noted that she has seen higher levels of buyer activity and inquiries. “We still see the market steadily growing in Cape Town, as national migration has increased,” she said.
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