Cape Town may be known as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, but it is also South Africa’s most historically important city. The site where the first European settlers first set foot, the home of the world’s most famed political prisoner turned President, Nelson Mandela and the location of the beginning of South Africa’s slave trade, the Mother City’s history is varied and turbulent. The city boasts a fusion of cultures brought about by the slave trade, it has survived Apartheid and eventually, became a massive part in the birth of South Africa’s young democracy.
"Visit Cape Town and history is never far from your grasp. It lingers in the air, a scent on the breezy, an explanation of circumstance that shaped the Rainbow People."
A rich colonial history has endowed the city with some distinctive old buildings. As we drive through the city streets we pass the Cape Town Castle, built in the 17th Century, the oldest surviving building within the city. We also pass the Grand Parade, a place where slaves were sold and the place where crowds gathered to listen to Nelson Mandela’s first address to the country as a free man. A drive through this beautiful city is brought to life by your guides who will share interesting facts and anecdotes.
The Company Gardens, established in 1652, was first built as a refreshment stop for the trade route that rounded the tip of Africa. Master gardener, Hendrik Boom, prepared the soil and sowed the first seeds and the garden grew exponentially, soon providing vegetables, fruit, herbs and medicinal plants to the Cape Colony. A walk through the gardens takes you up Government Avenue, built by Simon van der Stel, past the St George’s Cathedral, the Houses of Parliament, the National Gallery, the Slave Lodge and into the gardens themselves.
The Slave Lodge, brings you a candid look into the Slave trade of South Africa and the effects still felt on communities today. Housed in one of the oldest buildings in the city, once the Old Supreme Court, the museum carries the theme “ from human wrongs to human rights” and showcases the history of slavery in the Cape.
We continue our tour of discovery as we drive through the Bo-Kaap, home to the oldest existing community in South Africa that has not been subject to forced removals
Previously called the “Malay Quarter”, this area housed the many slaves brought out, mainly from Java, in the 17th and 18th Centuries. Their attractive, brightly colored, flat-roofed houses, and decorative mosques have remained relatively undisturbed for all this time.
From Bo Kaap we wind our way through the narrow streets to the historical time signal, the Noonday Gun, which is still in use today. It consists of a pair of naval guns that are fired at 12 noon every day. They are the oldest canons still in daily use in the world.
A visit to Cape Town would not be complete without a trip up the iconic Table Mountain. One of the New7Wonders of Nature and the backdrop to the Mother City, Table Mountain has wowed guests for many years. The easiest way to reach the top is by cable car. The cableway opened its doors in 1929 and has seen over 25 million visitors in the past 90 odd years.
Revamped in 1997, the cable car now offers you unsurpassed views as you make your way up to the summit. With a revolving floor that allows for 360-degree views, it only takes approximately 5 minutes to reach the upper cable station.
Descending the mountain we make our way to Green Market Square, built in 1696 it is the second oldest public space in Cape Town after the Grand Parade. Since its formation, the square has been used for countless activities and today is home to a market filled with curios and crafts. It was first used as a market in the 17th Century and was the site where fruit and vegetables from the Company Gardens were sold.
"... Stroll around the old downtown and it's impossible not to be affected by the trials and tribulations of the struggle. But, in many ways, it is the sense of triumph in the face of such adversity that makes the experience all the more poignant."
Other historical places of interest include The Jewish Museum, District Six, Robben Island Museum, Heart Transplant Museum, and the Diamond Museum.
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