Cape Town extends over a very large area and its many suburbs each have a unique character. Some are so big that they could be regarded as individual cities. The northern suburbs include Goodwood, dating from 1905, Parow with its carillon of 12 bronze bells that play their melodies twice daily and Bellville, which offers more than its share of restaurants and shopping malls.
The southern suburbs are Rosebank, with the Irma Stern Museum of South African Art, Observatory where the SA Astronomical Observatory is located, Newlands, Wynberg with its heritage of eighteenth-century architecture and Constantia, home of the Wine Museum and the Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden.
Adventure And Sport
Abseiling, paragliding: The cool breeze lifts paragliders gently from Lion’s Head over the city centre and abseilers often use Table Mountain as their starting point.
Beaches: The entire Cape Metropole coast extends a warm hand of welcome to sun and surf lovers from all over the world. Among the best-known beaches are the secluded Clifton beaches where the beautiful people gather. Muizenberg’s long, sandy beach and its warm waters with its resort-like atmosphere are popular with families. Gordon’s Bay also offers water with comfortably warm temperatures. Other safe swimming-beaches include those at the Strand and Fish Hoek. Sandy Bay is the “official” nudist beach, reached by a footpath from Llandudno, and the white sands of Camps Bay Beach are fringed by lovely palm trees.
Big Walk: In October, some 20 000 walkers from all ages take part in the Big Walk. The route covers the 40 km between Simon’s Town and Cape Town.
Cycle Tour: The annual 100+ km Argus Cycle Tour attracts more than 30 000 cyclists from all over the world and provides entertainment to thousands of spectators.
Diving: The “Cape of Storms”, as the Cape of Good Hope was once called, and its rocky coastline has brought many a ship to an untimely end. It therefore offers some of the best wreck-diving opportunities in the world. The wrecks differ in age and condition, but they have all become integrated with their underwater habitat and a large variety of marine creatures lives and feeds in and among the wrecks.
Dragon Boat Racing: Another spectacular and exhilarating sport was started in Cape Town in 1992, namely Dragon Boat Racing. It started when two ceremonial wooden dragon boats were presented to Cape Town by Taiwan and since then has become a regular event. It attracts many onlookers and enthusiasts.
Fishing: The sea-around Cape Town has ideal conditions for surfing and deep-sea fishing, as well as for shore-angling. Some of the fish to be caught here are yellowfin and longfin tuna, as well as the broadbill swordfish.
Golf: South Africans love their sunshine and sport and golf is favoured by many. The various golf courses scattered all over the Peninsula provide ample opportunities for relaxation.
Hiking, walking and cycling: Walking, hiking and cycling are wonderful ways of exploring the Cape Metropole and of seeing all the sights at your own pace. The hiking routes of the Durbanville Nature Reserve, Koeberg Private Nature Reserve, Helderberg Nature Reserve, the Milnerton Hiking Trail and the Liesbeeck Hiking Trail provide the opportunity for those who are less fit to take in the sights at their leisure. Lion’s Head, Silvermine and Tygerberg Nature Reserves, Tokai and Newlands Forests, The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve and the Constantia Green Belt can also be explored on foot.
Hobie-catting: Fish Hoek and Hout Bay offer ideal conditions for this activity.
Horse-racing: The Cape Turf Club and the Western Province (WP) Racing Club hold horse-racing events on Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays as well as polo and gymkhana competitions.
Mountain-climbing, kloofing: Lion’s Head and Devil’s Peak flank Table Mountain, which offers many good mountain-climbing and kloofing spots, walks and hikes.
Shark-diving: For an adventure that will be the envy of your friends, contact the private company in False Bay which offers diving with the sharks from within the safety of a cage. Alternatively, if you are really brave and an experienced diver, dive with the sharks at the Two Oceans Aquarium at the V&A (Victoria & Alfred) Waterfront.
Sports: Soccer, cricket and rugby, South Africa’s most popular spectator sports are played at various venues all over the Cape Town area.
Table Bay is a popular stop-over for yachts on leisure trips and round-the-world yacht races and during the summer local yacht owners have frequent round-the-buoys races. The Royal Cape Yacht Club is located at the docks of Table Bay and is the starting point for the world-renowned Cape-to-Rio Yacht Race.
Two Oceans Marathon: The gruelling 56-km Two Oceans Marathon is another popular long-distance event that is held every year over the Easter weekend.
Water sport: Sea-kayaking, surf-bashing in an inflatable boat or splitting the waves with a jet ski are other ways of exploring the region. Kommetjie and Llandudno are also good surfing-spots and wind-surfing is popular at Big Bay and Bloubergstrand.
Art And Crafts
Houses of Parliament: The Houses of Parliament, built in high Victorian style, house a museum filled with works of art and other memorabilia dating back to the first Cape Parliament of 1854.
Long Street: A leisurely stroll along Long Street, which is lined with fine Georgian and Victorian buildings that house modern-day pawnshops and boutiques, often present visitors with unexpected treasures. The Turkish baths at the top of the street are also worth a visit. Please note, however, that there are separate bathing times for men and women.
Metropolitan Gallery: The Metropolitan Gallery in the heart of Cape Town city centre at 35 Church Street showcases South African art in all the media.
Michaelis Collection: The Michaelis Collection contains a valuable, internationally renowned collection of artworks by sixteenth to eighteenth-century Dutch and Flemish masters. It is situated in the Old Town House in Greenmarket Square. Visitors can also browse through the nearby Greenmarket Square flea market and fashion boutiques.
South African National Gallery: Cape Town is the home of the South African National Gallery. The gallery can be reached via the oak-lined Government Avenue that runs through the Gardens, at the top of Adderley Street. The National Gallery’s permanent collection has outstanding examples of British, French, Dutch and Flemish art, but recent acquisitions concentrate on South African contemporary art. It has an extensive collection of beadwork, indigenous sculpture and repatriated artefacts that had been removed from the country over the last 200 years. The reference library is open to the public and these beautiful surroundings lend extra flavour to a cup of tea, which can be enjoyed at the Gallery shop and Café.
Wine and seafood: The Western Cape is the heartland of the wine and seafood industry of South Africa. Wine estates cover vast areas of the province.
Goede Hoop Wine Estate: The establishment dates from 1880 and lies on the slopes of a beautiful valley. Visits by appointment only!
Kaapzicht Estate: The estate was originally established as the farm Friesland in 1712 and was later known as Rozendal. In 1946, the estate became the property of the Steytler family. Today, it produces some exquisite wines.
Culture / Community Tourism
Bo-Kaap: The Bo-Kaap (“Upper Cape” or Malay Quarter), with its winding narrow steep streets flanked by restored early¬nineteenth-century cottages painted in pastel colours, strongly retains the flavour of the past. Originally, this area was used for slave quarters, stables and military barracks. Slaves from Batavia, imported by seventeenth-century Dutch colonists, shared the quarters with the imams exiled from Indonesia for challenging Dutch colonial rule. Their descendants continue to live here and the Cape Malay community, which has evolved over centuries, retains its strong group identity. Most of the inhabitants of the colourful houses are devout Muslims and the call to prayer is a regular sound in the area. The Bo-Kaap Cultural History Museum at 71 Wale Street is housed in one of the oldest surviving buildings in the area, erected in the 1760s. The museum portrays the lifestyle of a typical Malay family of the nineteenth century and also displays a collection of historical carts and carriages. It is a meeting place for Bo-Kaap residents who also host their own exhibitions about Muslim culture here.
District Six: The once vibrant multicultural suburb of District Six, now mostly barren land, lies as testimony to the power of Apartheid to destroy communities. The Group Areas Act, which enforced strict separation of the various race groups, was passed in 1950 and resulted in 60 000 residents of District Six being moved and their houses demolished. Although little evidence remains of its former tenants except for some churches, schools and mosques, many people still mourn the community’s passing. The creativity and rich community life of the original inhabitants is legendary. Relics of this community are housed in the District Six Museum at 25A Buitenkant Street, once the Methodist Church, situated on the outskirts of the city centre. The museum seeks to be a living memorial to all dispossessed communities and to provide for their coming together to share their stories as well as making other contributions. An especially touching display is a map of District Six on which its former residents have indicated where their homes and other landmarks used to be.
Townships: Organised township tours offer visitors the best opportunity to learn more about the people and their lives. Tours include visits to “spaza shops” (township shops), township taverns (better known as “shebeens”) and to some of the local residents’ homes. Another stopover would be the local craft market and many look forward to the visit to a traditional healer and the herbal store. One of the largest residential areas in the Cape, Mitchell’s Plain, spreads across the Cape Flats and was demarcated as a residential area for the Cape coloureds during the Apartheid years. Blacks were restricted to the townships of Langa, Nyanga and Guguletu. More recently, migrants from the Eastern Cape began squatting in Khayelitsha (Xhosa for “new home”).
Entertainment And Shopping
Cape Town has a vibrant nightlife and offers a wide variety of entertainment. Besides the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, with its many bars, restaurants and cafés, the city centre is another entertainment hub.
The Nico Malan Theatre is the chief venue for the performing arts and the Jazz Café in Manenberg plays host to indigenous Cape jazz talent. The club scene is centred in the area around Loop Street and Long Street. There are movie theatres in all areas of Cape Town, some specialising in less mainstream productions. Cape Town is also a haven for shoppers, ranging from luxurious modern shopping centres, street sellers, antique and designer shops in the city to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront and various flea markets.
Camphill Village: Camphill is a unique rural residential and working community. This biodynamic farm in Klein Dassenberg Road, Atlantis, provides work for people with special needs and all the goods they manufacture are for sale to the public. The farm has a herb and vegetable garden and plant nursery and produces dairy, cosmetic and confectionery products. The craft market is open on the first Sunday of every month and picnic spots, guided tours and a children’s corner offer hours of entertainment.
Flea markets: Flea markets are very much part of the Cape Town culture. The Pan African Market in Long Street is believed to be the largest of its kind in the country. It sells African arts and crafts and many of the artists can be seen at work in their studios. Other flea markets include permanent markets at Cape Town Station and at the Victoria & Alfred once used as a military parade ground in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Today, it operates as a giant car park or as a thriving open-air market, depending on the day of the week. The stalls offer an astonishing collection of fabrics, plastic-ware, haberdashery and food. The Khayelitsha Craft Market is situated in Khayelitsha township and offers a variety of uniquely crafted African items. Visit it as part of a township tour. The Philani Flagship Project in Crossroads trades in hand-printed fabrics.
Greenmarket Square: At the heart of the city lies Greenmarket Square, home to a permanent flea market and lined with shops and restaurants. The adjoining pedestrian mall, St Georges Street, has many interesting stalls and shops. Greenmarket Square is bounded by Shortmarket, Longmarket and Burg Streets and used to be a fruit and vegetable market. Today, the market bustles with flea market stalls that sell everything from art to clothes. The flea market is open from Monday to Saturday. Locals and visitors congregate here to shop, eat good food or simply to relax .
Monwabisi: The coastal resort off Baden Powell Drive boasts the largest man-made pool in the Southern Hemisphere and its many other facilities make it a popular resort.
Ratanga Junction: This theme-park offers unparalleled entertainment for young and old and will keep the entire family entertained for hours. Ratanga activities range from adrenaline-pumping rides in day-time to night-time entertainment for adults such as night clubs and pubs.
Shopping Centres: Cape Town has several modern shopping centres, such as Cavendish Square in Claremont, the N1 City Centre with its indoor Putt-Putt centre and Sanlam Centre in the northern suburbs.
Victoria and Alfred Waterfront: The Waterfront is probably one of the first places that people visit when they reach the city. And one visit will probably not be enough as there is just too much to do and see. The Waterfront is easily reachable from the CBD along Coen Steytler Avenue and from the Atlantic suburbs along Beach and Portswood Roads. It is actually a large working harbour, which has been developed into a tourist attraction.
The history of the Waterfront dates back to 1860, when Prince Alfred, the second son of Queen Victoria, tipped the first rock for the construction of the harbour. The original Alfred Basin was too small to handle the increased sea traffic and the larger Victoria Basin was subsequently built. The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront successfully incorporates a working harbour, restaurants, historical sites and entertainment into a year-round attraction frequented by locals and tourists. Embark on a boat trip from the harbour, browse in the flea market, watch street entertainers or take a leisurely stroll along the Waterfront. Eat in restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world or enjoy takeaways by the waterside, surrounded by seagulls, vigilantly keeping watch for that stray crumb. The selection of theatres, cinemas, restaurants, bars and live music venues provides entertainment late into the night. The Waterfront also includes the Two Oceans Aquarium, the Maritime Museum, the Telkom Exploratorium and the Imax cinema with its five-storey-high screen.
Fauna And Flora
Cape Peninsula National Park (CPNP): The Cape Peninsula National Park is one of Africa’s conservation icons and protects such diverse areas as mountains, coasts and marine reserves. It lies at the south-western tip of Africa and encompasses the Peninsula Mountain Chain that stretches for approximately 60 km from Signal Hill in the north to Cape Point in the south. Cape Point is the southernmost point in the Cape Peninsula and not, as many mistakenly believe, the most southerly point in Africa
The proclamation of the CPNP in May 1998 united several parks and reserves as one entity under a single management authority. Today, the Cape Peninsula National Park incorporates Table Mountain and its neighbours, Devil’s Peak and Lion’s Head, as well as three previously existing reserves, the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, Table Mountain Nature Reserve and the Silvermine Nature Reserve. Various other areas have also been identified for inclusion in the future.
Most of the park, except for the Cape of Good Hope area, is unfenced. The CPNP can be accessed at several places, namely the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, the Oudekraal Reserve, the Silvermine Reserve, Boulders Penguin Colony and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. The park is surrounded by Cape Town Metropolitan Area and offers an astounding variety of landscapes, flora and fauna.
Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden: This truly magnificent garden, established as a National Botanical Garden in 1913, is world-famous for its indigenous plants and for its setting on the slopes of Table Mountain. It has a charming restaurant and gift store and visitors can also bring along their picnic baskets. Guides can be arranged and regular guided walks take place on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
The Silvermine Reserve off the Ou Kaapse Weg (Old Cape Road) also features many species of fynbos (proteas, ericas and reeds), and several species of indigenous trees. Included in this section on the eastern side of the Peninsula are the Muizenberg and Kalk Bay Mountains. A mountain-bike route and several hikes lead to Noordhoek Peak and Noordhoek Ridge that has picnic and ablution facilities. The Sunbird Environmental Recreation Centre is on Silvermine Road in the reserve. It has accommodation for some 42 people and offers guided walks, adventure activities, wetlands, hiking trails, night-time exploration and art and craft sessions.
The Boulders Penguin Colony is near Simon’s Town. During the late 1980s a few breeding pairs of the endangered African or “jackass” penguin settled here and since then the colony has grown steadily. The boardwalk from which visitors can observe these cute little creatures has been designed to be wheelchair-friendly.
The Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is part of the rock-bound coastal section. The diverse types of coastal fynbos found in the southern region of the reserve have successfully evolved to survive in the salty, sandy and nutrient-poor soil.
The area protected by the CPNP includes the coastline and the marine species living along the coast. The Cape Peninsula Marine Reserves include the following sections: from Jager’s Walk (Fish Hoek) to Glencairn Beach, from Bakoven Rock (south of Miller’s Point) to Bobbejaanklip (south of Partridge Point), Cape Point to Scarborough, Melkbos Point to Die Josie, and Lourens River (Strand) to the southern breakwater of Gordon’s Bay Harbour.
Cape Point marks the point where the cold Benguela Current and warmer Agulhas Current come together. Because of this phenomenon some 660 of the 2 008 species of marine invertebrates and vertebrates that have been identified along the Southern African coastline from Namibia to Mozambique are found on the Peninsula coast.
No section of the Peninsula is wider than 10 km, a relatively small region to host such a diversity and variety of fauna and flora, geological, cultural and historical assets. The main vegetation is the mountain fynbos of the Cape Floral Kingdom. More than 2 285 species of plants grow on the Peninsula. The main fynbos types are proteas, Cape reeds or grass and ericas, hardy plants that thrive in the less than hospitable soil. But the diversity does not end here – other types of vegetation include renosterveld grassland, ground orchids, beach vegetation and evergreen forests. Many of the approximately 1 470 species of plants found on Table Mountain are found nowhere else in the world.
The diversity of the vegetation of the park is equalled by the diversity of the animal and bird species that use the park for shelter and food. Many medium and smaller-sized animals, such as bontebok and baboons, and a multitude of birds can be seen in the park. One of the reptilian species found here and nowhere else in the world is the Table Mountain ghost frog. The park does not only merit attention because of its natural attractions, but also because of its many sites of archaeological and historical significance. Sites include prehistoric middens left behind by San hunter-gatherers in caves, commemorative crosses honouring the European seamen who first travelled here and shipwrecks that lie along the coast.
The park area offers several other attractions and activities, such as information and education centres, restaurants, tea gardens and souvenir shops. The cable car that travels up Table Mountain and the Cape Point funicular railway, the only such railway in Africa, are both popular activities that allow visitors to view the park in all its splendour. The funicular railway leads to a viewing platform at the old lighthouse on Cape Point, some 678 m above sea level. The lighthouse can also be reached via a hiking trail. Just imagine the breathtaking view that this vantage point has to offer. Other activities in the park include hiking and climbing routes, two launch sites for hang-gliders and parasailers at Lion’s Head and Silvermine, scuba-diving and snorkelling.
Fynbos: The Cape Metropolitan area is home to one of the six floral kingdoms of the world. More than 8 600 indigenous species of plants, some 5 800 of which are found nowhere else in the world grow here. Fynbos grows abundantly on the mountains, coasts and plains. During winter and spring, when the rains bring forth an amazing explosion of flowers, the Cape’s fynbos is at its most spectacular. Many nature reserves have been established to protect the area’s natural riches. Mountain fynbos carpets the lower slopes of the Hottentots-Holland Mountain Range, Strandveld (coastal) fynbos thrives at the Koeberg Reserve in Blaauwberg and the Wolfgat Reserve in the South Peninsula. In the Helderberg and Tygerberg Reserves, proteas and shrubs are abundant and, in the clay mountain soils of
Durbanville Reserve, some of the rarest and most endangered species of renosterveld fynbos grows. For more information on the Fynbos Floral Kingdom, consult the article on fynbos on this CD.
Ostriches: The West Coast Ostrich Farm in Van Schoorsdrift Road, just off National Road N7 to Malmesbury, offers educational and entertaining talks and visitors can see these singular birds in their natural habitat. The adventurous visitor may accept the challenge to attempt to stay on an ostrich’s back while it emphatically does not want you to. The farm also has a restaurant, outdoor boma (a sheltered outside barbecue area) and a souvenir shop.
Robben Island: Robben Island is not only recognised for its historical value and World Heritage status, it also boasts a thriving natural environment. During springtime there is a dazzling array of wild flowers in bloom. About 74 species of birds are found on the island and many seabirds use it as a breeding ground. There is a big breeding population of African penguins on the island. On the boat trip between Cape Town and Robben Island visitors may spot several species of marine mammals such as Cape fur seals, whales and dolphins. On the island, animals such as ostrich, bontebok, springbok and many more can be found.
Tree Lane: The lane is the longest historic bluegum tree lane in South Africa. Enjoy its leafy tranquillity along Road R304, Old Darling Road.
Two Oceans Aquarium: This man-made attraction is the largest and most technically advanced aquarium on the African Continent. It is situated at the Alfred & Victoria Waterfront and tells the story of the two oceans surrounding the Cape, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, by cleverly using some ingenious displays. The displays include kelp forests, as well as inhabitants of the ocean ranging from the smallest (plankton and sea horses), to some of the
largest (sharks and rays). If you arrive at the right time, you can watch while the turtles and sharks are fed by divers. And, if you wish to become a more active participant, a popular attraction is a dive into the shark tank.
History And Architecture
The beauty of Cape Town and its surroundings has inspired the building of graceful and beautiful buildings. Today, the city mirrors the history and architecture of the many generations of people who settled here over the ages. Many of the old architectural wonders have been well preserved and stand in stark contrast to their neighbours, imaginative creations of glass and steel.
Bertram House: There are many beautiful houses in Cape Town, which have been restored to reflect the different eras and the lifestyles of those who lived in them. Bertram House is a late Georgian red-brick house at the top of Government Avenue and contains extensive collections of Georgian furniture, Chinese and English porcelain and English silver. It also has an interesting programme of exhibitions, craft demonstrations, workshops, lectures, chamber music and concerts. Bertram House is furnished in the style of a wealthy, nineteenth-century British residence and the period garden adds to the effect.
Breakwater Prison (Lodge): The lodge is located in Portswood Road at the Waterfront and was built in 1895 to house convicts who were cutting stone for the breakwater. Visitors can still see the treadmill that was installed in 1890 to discipline the prisoners. Today, this building houses the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and the Breakwater Lodge.
Cape Medical Museum: The museum is housed at the New Somerset Hospital in Portswood Road, which was built by Governor Sir George Grey in 1859. It depicts the history of early medical science in the former home of the superintendent of the hospital.
Castle of Good Hope: The Castle in Buitenkant Street is the oldest existing building in South Africa and is one of Cape Town’s landmarks. This stone fort, in the shape of a five-3pointed star, was constructed from 1666 to 1679 and stands across the Grand Parade from the City Hall. Its five bastions are named after the different titles of the Prince of Orange of the Netherlands. Its 10-m-thick walls and five corner bastions mark the skyline with the history of its time. Still used as a military base, its ancient rooms also house a museum with military and maritime artefacts dating back to the seventeenth century. The Castle also houses the William Fehr Collection of paintings and antiques.
Company’s Gardens: The area known as the Gardens, at the top of Adderley Street, is the site of the original Company’s Gardens. The Gardens were established in 1652 by Jan van Riebeeck to supply fresh food to passing ships. Today, the oak-lined Government Avenue is home to friendly grey squirrels and offers tired office workers a refuge from the city bustle. The Gardens has a sun dial that dates back to 1787, as well as a bell tower that dates back to 1855. The avenue also leads to the South African Museum, the South African National Gallery, the Bertram House Museum and the Jewish Museum. South Africa’s Parliament Buildings are nearby and stand around the cobbled Stal Plein (Stable Square).
Grand Parade: The parade is in Darling Street and is one of Cape Town’s historical squares. It was a military parade ground during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Thick red lines are painted on the ground to indicate where the fort, the first building in Cape Town, used to stand.
Groote Kerk: The “Great Church” is the parent Church of the Dutch Reformed Church and also the oldest church in South Africa. It was completed in 1704 and has been enlarged twice. It contains an elaborate carved pulpit and beautiful collections of Cape silver and old family crests. The clock in the bell tower (part of the original building) has a very distinctive two-tone strike.
Holocaust Centre: Cape Town is home to the first and only Holocaust Centre in Africa. The Centre is in Hatfield Street, conveniently located in Cape Town’s “museum mile” and close to the South African National Gallery, the South African Museum, the South African Library and the South African Jewish Museum. The Centre was established to commemorate the
six million Jews who died in the Holocaust during Nazi rule in Germany. It is open from Sundays to Thursdays from 10:00 to 17:00; and on Fridays from 10:00 to 13:00. For more information visit the website at http://www.museums.org.za/ctholocaust
Koopmans-De Wet House: The dwelling is situated in Strand Street and was built in 1702. Its superb neoclassical façade dates back to the late eighteenth century and the furnishings include valuable collections of porcelain, glass, furniture and art works. The house is famous for its unique wall paintings and also for the immense vine-growing in the courtyard, reputed to be the oldest vine in South Africa.
Old Slave Lodge: The lodge is situated at the top of Adderley Street. It is the second oldest building in Cape Town and displays various historical aspects of the Cape. The original building, built in 1679, served as a lodge for slaves of the Dutch East India Company. It could house about 600 slaves and was also used at various times to hold criminals and the emotionally disturbed. In the mid-eighteenth century, an upper storey was added. The slaves were moved to a new lodge close by and the British government set up office here in 1807. After this it was used as a post office, library and the Supreme Court. Today, it houses the South African Cultural History Museum. The history of slavery in Cape Town can also be followed to the slave execution site and the Slave Tree where slaves were auctioned.
Old Town House: The building, completed in 1761, is located on Greenmarket Square and was one of the first double-storey buildings in Cape Town. It has had many uses, including amongst others being the seat of the Burgher Watch, the Burgher Senate, a magistrate’s court and police station. It served as Cape Town’s City Hall until 1905 when the present City Hall, with its baroque embellishments and honey-marble façade in Italian Renaissance-style, was completed on the Grand Parade. The Old Town House is now a museum. The City Hall lies in Darling Street and overlooks the Grand Parade. It also houses the City Library and the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra. The Municipal Carillon in the tower consists of 39 bells and its distinctive clear sound can sometimes be heard over the din of the city sounds.
Maritime Museum: This unique institution is situated in the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. It depicts the influence of the sea on the lives of South African people and the development of the South African Navy. It houses the largest display of model ships in the country, as well as shipwreck artefacts. The Discovery Cove for children and the Ship Model workshops are popular attractions. The Museum Ship SAS Somerset, the last remaining Boom Defence Vessel in the world, is berthed metres away from the Maritime Museum, where a diorama shows how boom defence vessels protected harbours during World War II.
Martin Melck’s House: This handsome Lutheran Church, which was erected surreptitiously, ostensibly as a storehouse in 1774 by Martin Melck, a wealthy Lutheran merchant, is in Strand Street. At that time, the only religion permitted at the Cape was that of the Dutch Reformed Church. The parsonage adjoining it was built in 1787 and the Martin Melck House on the other side of it was built in 1781, after Melck’s death. The complex as a whole is an excellent example of eighteenth-century Cape architecture. Martin Melck’s House now houses its newest addition, the Gold of Africa Museum, featuring a large collection of African gold artefacts.
Noon Gun: At exactly midday every day, a single shot is fired from the Noon Gun atop Signal Hill in the Bo-Kaap district. The cannon was first fired from the Castle in 1806 to signal the correct time to navigators out at sea. It was then moved to Signal Hill, still primarily to communicate to ships but in 1918, the mayor of Cape Town started a new tradition. The cannon was used to signal a two-minute, midday pause to pray for the men who were fighting World War I.
Rhodes Memorial: The memorial is situated in Rondebosch off Rhodes Drive. This Memorial is built of Table Mountain granite in memory of Cecil John Rhodes, who was Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. The area also has a magnificent view of the Cape Flats, False Bay and the Drakenstein Mountains.
Robben Island: The historical Island has played such a significant role in the history of South Africa that it has gained recognition as a World Heritage Site. This island, just off the Western Cape coast, has had an eventful past. It has seen service as an asylum, a leper colony and, more recently, as a jail for political prisoners. South Africa’s former President, the first President of the democratic South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was its most famous inhabitant. As the freedom struggle progressed, the island prison became an important symbol in the fight against political and racial oppression. Tours to the island are highly educational but also include the fun of a boat trip to the island. Advance booking is essential. The boats leave from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. For more information, read the section on Robben Island under World Heritage Sites.
Sendinggestig Museum: The museum is located at 40 Long Street and is an old 1804 slave chapel that houses exhibits on the Christian missions that operated in the Western Cape.
South African Air Force Museum: The museum is in Piet Grobler Street at Ysterplaat Air Force Base, in the suburb of Brooklyn and depicts the history of the SA Air Force with exhibitions of old military uniforms, aircraft and other articles.
South African Cultural Museum: The museum is situated in Adderley Street and features exhibits ranging from ceramics, toys, silver, textiles and artefacts from ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome and the East. Indigenous pottery, the work of modern South African ceramists and a unique postal stone collection can also be seen. Before the Cape was colonised, postal stones were used by passing ships as temporary post offices. The name of the ship and the date when it visited the Cape were engraved on stones to communicate with other passing ships. The Post Office Stone, after the two padraos (memorial crosses) erected by Bartholomeu Dias, one at Luderitz in Southern Namibia and one at Kwaaihoek in Table Bay in 1488, is the oldest known relic left by the Portuguese in Southern Africa. It is also the earliest
inscribed stone in South Africa and was made of a local stone, Malmesbury shale. The stone was originally left on the shores of Table Bay and removed for building purposes. A cast of the stone is also on view in the Table View Library. The tombstones of Jan van Riebeeck and his wife lie in the courtyard of the museum.
South African Fisheries Museum: Cape Town is home to the South African Fisheries Museum. The museum features interesting exhibitions, models of fishing boats and fishing gears.
South African Jewish Museum and Synagogue: This unique and historical establishment is found at 84 Hatfield Street, and houses a rich collection of items depicting the history of Cape Town’s Jewish community and also early South African history. It was South Africa’s first synagogue. The museum is open from 10:00 to 17:00 from Sundays to Thursdays.
South African Museum: The establishment is located in Queen Victoria Street. It was opened in 1825 and is the oldest and largest museum in the country. The museum has recreated scenes of South African life through the ages and houses a rich variety of exhibitions, ranging from nature to people and their history. Its exhibitions include such treasures as a fossil gallery, which depicts the process of evolution in the Karoo, a Whale Well and the only existing example of a quagga foal (an extinct form of zebra). The Whale Well is a multi¬sensory, multimedia display featuring suspended whale skeletons and the songs of whales. The museum also includes some of the finest rock art collections in the world, namely the Cold Stream Stone and the Zamenkomst and Linton panels. For more information, contact its website at http://www.museums.org.za/sam/
St George’s Cathedral: The imposing cathedral is to be found at the bottom of the Gardens, in Government Avenue. The famous architect Sir Herbert Baker designed this magnificent building.
Statues: Life-size statues of Jan van Riebeeck and his wife Maria proudly watch over the city they started and can be seen close to the City Hall in the city centre.
Tuynhuis: Tuynhuis is the official Cape Town residence of South Africa’s President and stands in Government Avenue.
Victoria and Alfred Waterfront: The V&A Waterfront was built in 1860 and is still a working harbour. Many of the original buildings have been renovated and new ones built, all in the magnificent Victorian architectural design. There is a range of historical attractions to visit at the Waterfront. The Old Harbour Tea Room, dating back to 1902, is now an upmarket restaurant and the Robinson Dry Dock dates back to 1876. To this day it still provides repair facilities for the harbour. Other historical attractions include the Time Ball Tower and the Old Clock Tower, which was built in 1887.
Table Mountain: The characteristic flat-topped outline of Table Mountain is probably one of the most photographed and painted skylines in the world. Visible from some 150km away at sea, it has, since the time of the first recorded discovery of the Cape of Good Hope in 1488, brought a feeling of homecoming to many seafarers. The trip up the mountain is an adventure in its own right and the views of the mountain and surrounds are not to be missed. Once at the top, you will stand amazed at the beautiful views of the city of Cape Town, the Cape Flats and the coastline, stretching on one side from Table Bay to False Bay and on the other to the valley of Hout Bay and Kommetjie village. The modernised Table Mountain Cableway features a rotating cable car that gives a 360-degrees view of Cape Town. Enjoy the journey and the view from the natural “table top” that stretches for nearly 3 km from end to end and stop for a while at the restaurant and souvenir shop.
Depending on the time of the year, Cape Town’s icon is often hidden from the eye by a thick blanket of white cloud draped over it by the mighty southeaster wind. According to legend, the clouds are the billowing smoke from the pipes of the Devil and the legendary tobacco addict, Van Hunks, locked in a contest to see who could smoke the most. The prize of the contest was Van Hunks’ soul.
Table Mountain, naturally sculpted from sandstone, rises some 1 086 m above Table Bay. Small, eroded necks connect its two peaks. Kloof Nek is linked to the 669-m-high Lion’s Head, which in turn is connected by what looks like a lion’s body to Signal Hill, once used as a semaphore post for communication with ships at sea. Devil’s Peak stands to attention on the other side of the mountain. The front end of Table Mountain is only the front edge of the 53-km craggy mountain sandstone spine that runs the length of the Cape Peninsula.
The entire mountain area is covered with more than 1 470 species of fynbos and some of the plants and animals on the mountain are found only here and nowhere else in the world. The famous silver tree and the Table Mountain ghost frog are but two examples of the unique members of this natural botanical kingdom.
Trips up the mountain roads offer views of the different worlds of city, sea and land. The road up Signal Hill offers superb views of the city and the Atlantic seaboard. The spiral pathway up Lion’s Head passes through silver trees and spring flowers and at night, the view of the sparkling city lights with a backdrop of a floodlit Table Mountain, is without equal.
There are some 350 routes from the bottom of the mountain to the summit, ranging from undemanding to extremely difficult, and should only be undertaken by experienced climbers. Besides walks and hikes, there is rock-climbing, cross-country running, botany, birding, geology, abseiling and paragliding to be enjoyed. However, most people are quite content to stand in awe of God’s wonderful creation.
Caltex Petrochemical Refinery: The refinery is located in Plattekloof Road and offers guided tours that need to be arranged beforehand with the refinery.
Planetarium: The planetarium is located at the South African Museum in Victoria Street and is accessible to wheelchairs.
Telkom Exploratorium: This exciting place brings the science of telecommunications vividly to life and allows children to participate in the displays.