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Historic Highlights to Unearth close to Cape City

Cape City – and surrounds – is considered one of South Africa’s most traditionally important areas. Not solely was it the house of the Khoisan folks lengthy earlier than the European settlers arrived – but it surely was additionally the primary refreshment settlement station, established in 1652.

Not the entire Cape’s historical past is nice (actually, a lot of it’s fraught with battles, slavery and devastating Cape storms) – however it’s nonetheless essential. Particularly because it has influenced each our modern-day nation and metropolis.

Historical past has at all times fascinated me, so each time I journey, I hunt down historic locations, details and locations of curiosity. On this submit, I share among the finest historic highlights to unearth in Cape City and surrounds.

Historic Highlights to Unearth in and across the Mom Metropolis:

1) The Fort of Good Hope


Constructed by the Dutch East India Firm (DEIC) between 1666 and 1679, the Fort of Good Hope is South Africa’s oldest surviving colonial constructing. It’s a seventeenth century bastion fort that “was declared a nationwide monument (now a provincial heritage web site) in 1936”.

Following its restoration within the eighties, the Fort is taken into account one of many “finest preserved examples of a seventeenth century architectural construction in your complete world”.

Whereas the Fort has a darkish, contentious historical past in lots of respects, it stays an essential piece of each Cape and South African historical past.

At the moment, guests can extensively discover the Fort. You may step again in time, reliving key ceremonies, cannon firings and far more inside its lemon yellow partitions.


Historical past inside its Partitions

Different historic highlights throughout the Fort itself embrace the unique bell tower (inbuilt 1684), which is the oldest in South Africa and weighs some 300 kilograms; the Cape Navy Museum and the William Fehr Assortment, the place you’ll be able to see unimaginable high quality artwork and work with key Cape significance.


The Fort is without doubt one of the most fascinating items of historical past in Cape City. I really like that it has retained a lot of its old-world allure and historic secrets and techniques.

 bFor my evaluation of the Fort, please see right here.

For extra perception into the Fort and different customer data, please see right here.

2) Cape Level and Cape of Good Hope


Due to its location alongside the fierce Cape Peninsula and shoreline, Cape Level has an extended, wealthy Cape historical past.

When Portuguese explorer, Bartolomeu Dias grew to become the primary to around the peninsula in 1488, he dubbed it the ‘Cape of Storms’. This was on account of its infamously treacherous climate (one thing anybody who has lived by a Cape Storm can attest to).


A decade later, Vasco da Gama sailed this identical route, securing a brand new commerce route. With the promise of recent commerce alternatives between Europe, India and the Far East secured, King John II of Portugal renamed it the ‘Cape of Good Hope’.

The Story of Two Lighthouses at The Level

The Level, because it grew to become identified, has at all times been handled with fearful respect amongst sailors. By day, it has served as a navigational landmark. Whereas by night time and with fog encompassing it, it turns into one thing of a siren’s name.


In 1859 on Da Gama Peak, the summit of Cape Level, the unique lighthouse was erected. Nevertheless, its location rendered it ineffective. So, in 1914, a more recent lighthouse was constructed 87 meters, somewhat than 238 metres, above sea degree.

Though, each lighthouses nonetheless stand, the previous one is used as a “central monitoring level for all lighthouses in South Africa”.

This newer lighthouse is essentially the most highly effective lighthouse alongside the South African coast. It emits three flashes each thirty seconds.

At the moment, you’ll be able to go to the previous lighthouse for a giddying view of the shoreline and jagged cliffs beneath.

The Cape of Good Hope

Photograph credit score: Non Cease Vacation spot

Except for the pure magnificence, Cape historical past (together with monuments that honour the Portuguese settlers) and different trendy sights, one of many pure historic highlights inside Cape Level and the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve is standing on the Cape of Good Hope, essentially the most southwestern level of the African continent.


Actually, the Cape of Good Hope part of the reserve is without doubt one of the most underrated highlights, but it gives an incredible expertise.

You may learn my evaluation of this expertise right here.

For extra data on Cape Level and the Cape of Good Hope, please see right here.

3) Wine Farms with Wealthy Cape Historical past

Most of the Cape’s wine farms have an extremely wealthy historical past. Among the most historic that spring to my rapid thoughts are the likes of Blaauwklippen, Groot Constantia, Plaisir de Merle and naturally, Vergelegen.



This Stellenbosch property is without doubt one of the oldest estates round, notably in Stellenbosch. In reality, it was established simply three years after Stellenbosch itself.

Among the farm’s oldest buildings embrace The Jonkershuis (constructed round 1720), the previous wine cellar (inbuilt 1707) and the Manor Home (which is dated as 1789 however could also be a decade or two older). Even the farm’s lovely oaks are estimated to have been planted round 1770!


For extra on the property’s historical past, please see right here.

Groot Constantia

Groot Constantia is famously South Africa’s oldest producing wine farm, relationship again so far as 1685.

Cape governor, Simon van der Stel proudly established the farm and its ensuing wine grew in recognition, reaching distant shores.

In reality, the story goes that even rulers comparable to Frederick the Nice of Prussia and Louis Phillipe bought ‘Constantia Wyn’ at European auctions. The wine can be favourably talked about in Jane Austen’s Sense and Sensibility and Charles Dickens’ The Thriller of Edwin Drood.

For extra on the property’s historical past, please see right here.

Plaisir de Merle


Located close to Franschhoek, this property additionally enjoys a wealthy winemaking- and Cape-history. The manor home, inbuilt 1764 by Jacob Marais, is without doubt one of the oldest and most interesting examples of Cape Dutch structure.

Because the farm loved success, in 1705, Claude Marais (Jacob’s son) took over the farm’s administration and “declared 8000 vines and 6 leaguers of wine”.

Most of the outbuildings, together with the wine cellar, date again to the 1800s and one other particular function on the property is the gorgeous previous water mill. It is a touching duplicate of the one Jacob constructed for his spouse, Maria, in 1730.


For extra on the property’s historical past, please see right here.



Tucked away in Somerset West, Vergelegen is without doubt one of the Cape’s most lovely, historic wine farms.

Based on 1 February 1700 by Willem Adriaan van der Stel, Vergelegen has loved a number of possession eras over time. But, one factor has at all times remained true: its historical past and pure magnificence has been preserved and cherished.


The residential homestead dates again to the 1700s however it’s the gardens at Vergelegen that actually fascinate me. In 1987, a staff was commissioned to revive the gardens to the “historic core of the property” and all these years later, the outcomes proceed to wow.

Vergelegen is at all times including new touches to the property, whereas preserving the previous and showcasing each the nice and unhealthy features of Cape historical past in a poignant, but respectful method.

For extra on the property’s historical past, please see right here or go to the property for a Heritage and Backyard tour.

4) Historic Cities within the Western Cape


The Western Cape is dwelling to a plethora of historic small cities. Just about each city within the Cape is important and affords a wealthy Cape historical past. Nevertheless, among the most traditionally fascinating and widespread embrace locations like Montagu, Tulbagh and the Riebeek Valley.

Most of those cities are shut sufficient to Cape City to take pleasure in as a day journey or a weekend go to, if most popular.



Tulbagh is South Africa’s fourth oldest city. Encircled by mountains, canola fields and picturesque wine farms, this small city can be probably the most lovely round.

What makes Tulbagh really distinctive, although, are the variety of well-preserved and/or restored Cape Dutch nationwide monuments.


Historic Highlights in Tulbagh:

Certainly one of Tulbagh’s most well-known, essential elements is Church Avenue. Right here, you discover South Africa’s largest assortment of Cape Dutch, Victorian and Edwardian provincial heritage websites.

The road contains of fascinating mixture of public buildings and esteemed non-public residences.


One other attention-grabbing, but upsetting side of the city’s historical past is the notorious 6.5 magnitude earthquake that struck the city and surrounding Boland Area in 1969.

Whereas this devastating earthquake induced horrible harm, what adopted was a present of solidarity from the city’s neighborhood and certainly, from folks all throughout South Africa.

For extra data on Tulbagh, you’ll be able to learn my sights information right here.



Having grown up in Montagu, I’m nicely acquainted with the city’s many Cape Dutch nationwide monuments (lots of which could be discovered alongside iconic Lengthy Avenue), fascinating historical past and native sights.

This charming Cape city was formally dubbed Montagu in 1851 by John Montagu, British Secretary of the Cape Colony, though its Cape historical past dates far additional again.

Historic Highlights in Montagu:

A few of Montagu’s most vital historic sights embrace the Montagu Museum Advanced (which consists of Joubert Home and The Previous Mission Church); Previous English Fort (which dates again to 1899); Montagu sizzling springs (which have lengthy been one of many city’s finest sights); the Montagu Nature Backyard (based in 1954) and lots of different historic wonders.


Montagu additionally has a foul historical past of city floods (to the purpose the place, as residents, we virtually anticipate a seasonal winter flood to happen yearly…). Nevertheless, two of the extra devastating ones occurred in 1981 and 2003.

Riebeek Valley


The Riebeek Valley – which contains of Riebeek-Kasteel, Riebeek-West, Hermon and Riebeeksrivier – is without doubt one of the Western Cape’s most particular valleys.

Famed for its olives, wines and weddings, it’s a kind of naturally lovely, tranquil locations left in our world. What’s extra, it’s a haven for households, adventurers, locals and animals.


Add to that, an interesting Cape historical past and farmlands and you’ve got a valley made for exploring, savouring and tasting!

Historic Highlights within the Riebeek Valley:

Among the area’s historic highlights embrace The Royal Resort (a grand previous dame first established in 1862); NG Kerk Riebeek-Kasteel; and Oude Kerk Museum (first inbuilt 1856 and true to nature, rumoured to be haunted).


Actually, I feel what makes the Riebeek Valley really historic although is that, whereas advancing with the instances, it has retained each ounce of its previous world allure.

5) Bo-Kaap


Bo-Kaap, previously referred to as the Malay Quarter, is considered one of Cape City’s oldest residential areas. The earliest improvement of this space, which occurred within the 1760s, was undertaken by Jan de Waal. In that point, the world was referred to as Waalendorp.

Located above the Mom Metropolis’s frenetic CBD, close to Sign Hill, Bo-Kaap is a small, but essential a part of Cape City.

The Abolishment of Slavery in South Africa

Through the 1700s, lots of the so-called huurhuisjes (rent homes) on this half had been set free to immigrants and slaves, lots of whom had been known as Cape Malays.

After the abolishment of slavery in 1834 in South Africa, lots of the freed slaves moved into the brand new elements of Bo-Kaap. Based on legend, the de Waal houses had been meant to be stored white. Nevertheless, after 1834, the now-free Cape Malay slaves selected to color their houses in vivid colors, poignantly signifying their freedom.

With time, Bo-Kaap developed right into a blended neighbourhood. By 1885, Bo-Kaap had largely taken on its modern-day type. What’s extra, the world’s social life was vibrant, various and vibrant.

The attribute brightly colored homes (from the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries), mosques and kramats (Islamic shrines) grew to become part of the world’s tapestry.


Ache of Apartheid

Regardless of its cheery wanting exterior, Bo-Kaap represents way over a serene, vibrant neighbourhood and modern-day vacationer attraction. Slightly, it’s residing testomony to the pains and struggles of each slavery and apartheid.

When apartheid was at its peak in South Africa throughout the Nineteen Fifties and ’60s – underneath the Group Areas Act, Bo-Kaap grew to become a ‘Muslim solely’ space. Different ethnic households had been forcefully eliminated and relocated to different outlying areas.

Heritage and Historical past


At the moment, Bo-Kaap incorporates a wealthy Cape heritage, lovely structure and great previous buildings and monuments. These embrace the Bo-Kaap Museum (the world’s oldest constructing, relationship again to 1768) and the Auwal Mosque. It’s South Africa’s oldest mosque, because it dates again to 1794.

Cape Malay cooking programs, excursions and naturally, the museum are all nice methods to absorb the historical past and tradition of Bo-Kaap.

For extra data on Bo-Kaap and the museum, please see right here.

6) St George’s Cathedral


St George’s Cathedral is without doubt one of the these buildings in Cape City that wants no introduction. Whether or not you consider in the next energy or not, there’s something grounding about this esteemed, stately previous Anglican church.

The Folks’s Cathedral

Above all although, St George’s Cathedral has a strong historical past in South Africa. It is named the Folks’s Cathedral, for its courageous resistance to apartheid. It’s also “the oldest cathedral in Southern Africa and the mom church of the Anglican Diocese of Cape City”.

Except for its wealthy historical past, welcoming, devoted congregation and the numerous position it performs within the broader Cape City neighborhood, St George’s Cathedral is, by all accounts, beautiful to behold. Each inside and outside.

Surrounded by timber and busy metropolis life, this lovely cathedral manages to impart a sort of mild reverence and tranquility into the house round it. Nearly as if, in your hustle and bustle, you’re reminded that you’re treading on hallowed, therapeutic floor.

Step Contained in the Hallowed Halls of St George’s Cathedral

Constructed within the model of St Pancras Church, the unique church opened within the Christmas of 1834. In 1847, it was made a cathedral, coinciding with the extremely anticipated arrival of Robert Grey, the primary Anglican bishop in Africa.

Though he by no means favored the cathedral’s design (he wished one thing grander) – the present design is one other masterful work by Sir Herbert Baker. The cathedral is customary out of sandstone from Desk Mountain, fairly actually cementing it as a Cape City icon.


In 1901, King George V laid the muse stone – and in 1936, ultimately, Herbert Baker’s dreamy design was lastly delivered to fruition. In 1963, the Girl Chapel and south aisle had been accomplished, with the Bell Tower and Hyperlink being added in 1978.

Though the cathedral stays a piece in progress (very similar to all of us, actually), with its traditional cruciform, fairly courtyard backyard, spectacular halls and exquisite stained glass home windows – this gothic church takes your breath away.

Visiting St George’s Cathedral

Members of the general public are welcome to go to St George’s Cathedral. In my expertise, the cathedral workers and neighborhood are very welcoming and informative.

In reality, cathedral members often conduct full excursions of the cathedral.

For extra data on cathedral excursions, please contact +27 (021) 424 7360.

7) Firm Gardens


One other iconic, but historic attraction for solo travellers, households and {couples} within the Mom Metropolis is the quaintly lovely Firm Gardens.

After I lived within the CBD, the Firm Gardens was my inexperienced oasis and sanity on days once I wanted to briefly escape tense metropolis life. I’m positive many Capetonians and international guests share on this sentiment.

Not solely are the Firm Gardens a lovely haven in Cape City – however they’re additionally a residing, respiration piece of historical past.

South Africa’s Oldest Backyard


The Firm Gardens are South Africa’s oldest gardens, having initially been planted within the 1650s.

Because of the fertile floor right here, the Dutch East India Firm created this backyard for rising contemporary produce. This was used to replenish ships rounding the Cape.

Dwelling Wonders Inside


Except for the residing wonders within the backyard, which incorporates some wonderful, previous timber, birds, cute, tame squirrels and exquisite water options, one can even discover many statues (together with these of Queen Victoria and Jan Smuts) and museums and galleries close by.

These embrace the Iziko South African Museum (which options the Planetarium), the Iziko South African Nationwide Gallery and Cape City Holocaust Centre.


Different historic highlights embrace the Rutherford Fountain (first erected in 1864), the nicely pump (embedded in an area tree) relationship again to 1842 and South Africa’s oldest cultivated tree: a saffron pear supported by metal crutches.

Seize a Chew to Eat

A number of years in the past, The Firm Backyard’s Restaurant opened throughout the backyard. It gives a relaxed eatery for backyard guests to take pleasure in pre- or post-stroll.


Should you want a historical past lesson in nature, you’ll be able to’t do significantly better than a obligatory backyard go to.

8) Pipe Tracks Hike


Not many individuals might imagine a hike could be historic. However the Pipe Tracks hike, a preferred Camps Bay route, has a singular historical past. It additionally options some historic highlights to see as you hike!

In-built 1887, this lovely route was designed to service the pipeline that carried water from Disa Gorge (discovered on Desk Mountain’s southern aspect).

It used to go by Woodhead tunnel, onto Slangolie Ravine after which find yourself in Oranjezicht’s Molteno Reservoir. It’s wonderful to see these huge pipes whilst you hike.


One other lesser identified historic function on this hike is a small cave close to a cliff overhang. This was as soon as the hiding place of a Royal Navy deserter. Apparently, he stayed right here, surviving off dassies (rock hyraxes) and shrubs.

If historical past is simply a slight focal point to you, then merely feast on the pure magnificence and beautiful mountain- and ocean-views this comparatively straightforward hike affords.

You may learn in regards to the full hike right here.


9) Noonday Cannon


Situated alongside Sign Hill, in a treed up, army space known as Lion Battery, one finds Cape City’s oldest (and lesser identified) day by day conventional: the well-known noonday gun firing.

You probably have ever pushed or walked within the metropolis throughout midday, notably on a transparent day, then you may have absolutely felt the cannon’s reverberations or heard its loud growth.

Again within the day, Sign Hill was used as a excessive level for flag indicators, used to speak with approaching ships. In time, it additionally grew to become the ultimate resting place for the noonday gun firing.

The Lion Battery was constructed between 1889-1890. For years, it was the firing place for some fairly hectic artillery.

Nevertheless, because of the blast harm being induced to Inexperienced Level, ultimately these weapons ceased firing in 1935.

Cape City’s Oldest Each day Custom: The Noonday Gun Firing


Whereas the midday day cannons (there are two) are the focus, there are quite a few different cannons scattered in regards to the neighborhood.

It’s a fascinating place to discover, as one admires these historic weapons and takes within the scenic metropolis setting.

There are two weapons, or cannons, used within the noonday gun firing. The cannons are fired on an alternating foundation; there’s a sea-facing one and a mountain-facing one.

On the day I visited, the sea-facing cannon was fired. (Though each cannons are loaded in case the primary fails to go off.)


These two cannons, that are nicely over 200 years previous, are Cape City’s oldest day by day custom. Moreover, they’re the one two SBML cannons nonetheless in use on the planet.

It’s believed these cannons had been used within the notorious Battle of Muizenberg (fought in 1795 between the Dutch and the British).

Historical past of the Noonday Weapons


These cannons had been left behind by the British in 1803 and transported to Imhoff Battery close to the Fort of Good Hope.

From 1 February 1806, they had been used for firing. Initially, at sundown, then 13:00 pm earlier than they settled on noonday.

After I visited on 4 March 2016, these 18-pounder nuzzle loading weapons had been (interchangeably) fired 65 837 instances.

It’s a attention-grabbing expertise seeing the battery and watching the cannon firing.

For extra data on the noonday gun firing, you’ll be able to learn my expertise right here.

Cannons in Durbanville

Guests to the Durbanville Wine Valley can even discover some historic cannons in Tygerberg Nature Reserve, Nitida and Sign Gun.

Notable Historic Mentions

Another historic highlights and sights close to Cape City to take a look at embrace:

  • Metropolis Corridor and Cape City Central Library
  • Homes of Parliament
  • Taal Monument (Paarl)
  • District Six
  • The Iziko South African Museum and The Planetarium


Thanks to the next sources for historic details or data cited on this submit:


Please be suggested that this submit is merely a journey information; it’s by no means a historic account. 

So, whereas each effort has been made to supply my data from correct historic or respected on-line sources, I settle for that historic inaccuracies might happen.

Content material author by day and blogger by night time, Tamlyn Ryan passionately runs her journey weblog, known as Tamlyn Amber Wanderlust – Journey Writing and Pictures, from her dwelling base of Cape City, South Africa. Regardless of having a nationwide diploma in Journalism and dealing as a content material author by day, Tamlyn’s most popular area of interest stays journey writing.

Tamlyn is a hopeless wanderer, geared up with an infinite ardour for street journeys, rigorously deliberate, vacation itineraries and, above all else, an innate love for the nice outside.



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