Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa and has a cultural heritage spanning more than 300 years. It has a rich history which is still cherished up until today. The city has an abundance of museums and memorials remembering its past. Cape Town also has a number of historic sites which were preserved and given due recognition for their significant contribution in the development of the city. Here are the best historical sites in Cape Town:
Castle of Good Hope
The Castle of Good Hope was built in the 1600s and is the oldest surviving colonial building in South Africa. The castle is shaped in a pentagon with five bastions. It boasts both elements of Medieval and English Renaissance architecture. The Castle formed part of a formidable defensive system at the Cape that discouraged attacks. The fortress was once the center of civilian, administrative and military life in the Cape. Today, the castle houses the Castle Military Museum, the William Fehr Collection, and the ceremonial facilities for the traditional Cape Regiments.
In the span of three centuries, the Robben Island was used as a military base, a hospital for lepers and a prison for political prisoners. Its most famous prisoner on the island is the South Africa’s first democratically elected president, Nelson Mandela. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Dutch sent political prisoners from the Dutch East Indies to the island. In the second half of the 19th century, it became a leper colony and animal quarantine station. At first, lepers were moved to the colony on a voluntary basis but were forced to live on the island after the Leprosy Repression Act was passed. During the World War II, the island was used as a military base. From 1961, the Island was used by the South African government as a prison for political prisoners and convicted criminals which were closed in the 1990s. In 1999, the island was declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Since then, the island has become a popular destination for global tourists for its rich and wretched history.
The Slave Lodge is one of the oldest buildings in Cape Town. It served initially as a lodge for the slaves of the Dutch East India Company. It is estimated that 7000 to 9000 slaves, including men, women, and children, lived in the Slave Lodge over a period of 132 years. The slaves were kept under lock and key in the Slave Lodge to prevent them from absconding. It has also been used as a brothel, a jail, and a mental asylum. Subsequently, it was used as the first post office, library and Supreme Court of the cape. It was renamed the Iziko Slave Lodge Museum in 1998. Today, the museum is mainly devoted to exhibiting the long history of slavery in South Africa. The museum also has artifacts from ancient Egypt, Greece, Rome and the Far East. An audio-guided tour can be rented which will take visitors on a historical journey through the Slave Lodge and gives insight into the dismal living conditions.
Bo-Kaap is also known as the Malay Quarter. It is a colorful neighborhood not far from central Cape Town with its colorful uniquely-styled houses and steep cobbled streets. The Bo-Kaap is a multicultural area and is home to Muslim mosques and shrines. The Bo-Kaap is well worth a visit and adds to the list of unique Cape experience.
Iziko Bo Kaap Museum
The Iziko Bo Kaap Museum is the last remnant of Walendorp house which was built between 1763 and 1768. It was restored in the 1970s and the Museum was established in 1978 as a satellite of the SA Cultural History Museum. The Iziko Bo Kaap Museum displays all aspects of the people, culture, history, and way of life in the Bo Kaap. It was furnished as a house that depicts the lifestyle of a nineteenth-century Muslim family. It gives an idealized view of Islamic practice in Cape Town. It also highlights the cultural contribution made by early Muslim settlers, many of whom were skilled tailors, carpenters, shoemakers, and builders.
Iziko Koopmans-De Wet House
Koopmans-de Wet House is the first private townhouse in South Africa to be opened to the public and is the oldest house museum in the country. The house was opened as a museum on 10 March 1914 after the deaths of its last private owners, Marie Koopmans-de Wet and her sister Margaritha. It houses some of the best pieces of Cape furniture and silver in the country, in addition to a priceless collection of ceramics. It was declared a National Monument under National Monuments Council legislation on November 1, 1940. The house as it stands today presents Neoclassicism at its best.