Cape Town is the oldest city in South Africa
with dozens of beautiful and historical buildings scattered around the inner city. Many of these buildings are still in use as commercial or residential properties, while others have been converted into museums. Read on to discover some of the most iconic buildings in Cape Town.
Castle of Good Hope
The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest colonial building in South Africa, built by Dutch colonialists between 1666 and 1679. The pentagonal fort served as the seat of military and government operations for over two centuries. It’s open to the general public and offers a fascinating insight into Cape Town’s cultural past.
Corner of Darling Street and Buitenkant Street, Cape Town, South Africa, +27 21 787 1260
The Castle of Good Hope | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip
Cape Town City Hall
Across the road from the Castle of Good Hope is the beautiful Cape Town City Hall. This large Edwardian building dates back to 1905, and was designed by architects Harry Austin Reid and Frederick George Green, who won a public competition to design the building. The hall’s main chamber boasts an organ with 3000 pipes and regularly hosts musical concerts by the Cape Town Philharmonic Orchestra and other intriguing events. Widespread renovations have reinvigorated the interior of this iconic building, but thanks to its impressive clock tower and honey-coloured limestone facade, it’s still best appreciated from the outside.
Darling Street, Cape Town, South Africa, +27 21 465 2029
Cape Town City Hall | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip
Old Town House
The Old Town House on Cape Town’s central Greenmarket Square was built in 1755 in the Cape Rococo style. The Old Town House served as a watch house, a senate, and a main city hall until the Cape Town City Hall was opened. Today the historical building is a museum that houses the world-renowned Max Michaelis Collection of Netherlandish Art from the 17th-century Golden Age.
149 Longmarket Street, Cape Town, South Africa,+27 21 481 3933
Old Town House | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip
South African Museum
South African Museum
The South African Museum has been a Company’s Garden institution for over a century. Founded by Lord Charles Somerset in 1825, the South African Museum has been situated in its current location since 1897. The museum is operated by Iziko Museums of South Africa and houses fascinating zoology, archaeology, and palaeontology collections, a planetarium, and a variety of temporary exhibitions.
25 Queen Victoria Street, Cape Town, South Africa, +27 21 481 3800
Cape Town Planetarium | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip
The Slave Lodge is the second oldest building in Cape Town and has a stark, sombre history. It was built by the Dutch East India Company in 1679 to house the thousands of slaves brought to Cape Town during the 17th through 19th centuries. After slavery was abolished, the Slave Lodge served as government offices, a supreme court, and the SA Cultural History Museum. In 1998, the building was converted into a museum that today explores the long history of slavery in South Africa. The museum’s permanent and temporary exhibitions raise awareness of and address issues around human rights.
Upper Adderley Street, Cape Town, South Africa, +27 21 467 7215
Slave Lodge | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip
St. George’s Cathedral
St. George’s Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in southern Africa and is the mother church of the Anglican diocese of Cape Town. The beautiful cathedral, boasting high arches and stained-glass windows, was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and completed in 1936. The cathedral is renowned for its oppositional stance during apartheid and is a symbol of democracy in South Africa. Affectionately known as the ‘people’s church,’ the cathedral was a common meeting point for political activists of all races during the apartheid struggle.
5 Wale Street, Cape Town, South Africa, +27 21 424 7360
St George’s Cathedral | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip
The Bo-Kaap Museum was originally a residential house, built between 1763 and 1768, in the former Malay Quarter known as the Bo-Kaap. The house is a rare example of early Cape Dutch architecture. After restorations in the 1970s, the house was opened as a museum showcasing artifacts of Muslim cultural heritage. Today the museum is run by Iziko Museums and offers unique insight into the history of Cape Town and Muslim culture.
71 Wale Street, Cape Town, South Africa,+27 21 481 3939
Bo-Kaap Museum | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip
The Groote Kerk is the oldest church in South Africa, built by Herman Schuette in 1841, and it replaced a former church on the same ground. The Dutch Reformed church houses South Africa’s largest organ with nearly 6000 pipes. During colonial times, the Groote Kerk was attended by slave owners while their slaves waited outside under the ‘slave tree.’
43 Adderley Street, Cape Town, South Africa, +27 21 422 0569
Groote Kerk | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip
Old Reserve Bank Building
The old Reserve Bank Building is a beautiful, iconic Cape Town building that takes some seeking out. You’ll find it on the corner of St. George’s Mall and Wale Street, though today it forms part of the luxury Taj Hotel. The building was designed by South African architect James Morris, and was completed in 1932. Though the lavish interiors have been updated to better serve as a hotel, the spectacular exterior is untouched.
1 Wale St, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, South Africa, +27 21 819 2000
Houses of Parliament
The Houses of Parliament consist of three main sections, with the original building completed in 1884. Collectively they house the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. The original Neoclassical-style building, featuring Cape Dutch accents, overlooks the lush Company’s Garden while the newer buildings are accessible from Plein Street. The Houses of Parliament are still in use by government, and visitors can enter the precinct at certain times of the year by presenting to the visitor centre.
Plein Street, Cape Town, South Africa, +27 21 403 2144
Houses of Parliament | © Jess Stafford/Culture Trip