Cape Town began at the (1) Castle of Good Hope (Buitenkant and Darling Streets; www.iziko.org.za/castle), a stout, star-shaped fortification built by the initial Dutch settlers in 1666. The noon tour on weekdays coincides with the changing of the guard. Immediately southwest, facing the (2) Grand Parade, the former military-parade and public-execution ground, which is now home to a lively market every Wednesday and Saturday, is the (3) Old Town Hall (Darling and Corporation Streets). Nelson Mandela addressed jubilant crowds from the hall’s balcony following his release from prison in February 1990. The Cape Philharmonic Orchestra (www.cpo.org.za) plays regular concerts inside.
Walk south on Buitenkant Street to the (4) District Six Museum (25a Buitenkant Street; www.districtsix.co.za) to learn about the history of this demolished inner-city area, a victim of apartheid’s laws. From the museum, turn right onto Albertus Street, then right again at Corporation Street to reach Mostert Street and its continuation, Spin Street. On the traffic island beside Church Square, look down to see a (5) circular plaque marking the location of the tree under which slaves were sold until emancipation in 1834. The (6) Slave Lodge (corner of Wale and Adderley Streets; www.iziko.org.za/slavelodge), now a museum, is nearby with its entrance on Adderley Street. Where Adderley meets Wale Street stands (7) St. George’s Cathedral (www.stgeorgescathedral.com). Archbishop Desmond Tutu once preached at this “people’s cathedral” and classical orchestral works are sometimes performed here. Continue north and turn right at Burg Street, then continue for two blocks to (8) Greenmarket Square. Once used as a slave market and produce market, today this cobbled square hosts one of the city’s best crafts and souvenir markets. Beautifully restored art deco-style buildings from the 1930s surround three sides of the square, while on the fourth is the (9) Old Townhouse, completed in 1761 and now housing the Michaelis Collection (www.iziko.org.za/michaelis) of Dutch and Flemish artworks from the 16th to 18th centuries. The secluded Ivy Garden Restaurant in the courtyard to the rear is a good spot for refreshments.
Around the corner from the Old Townhouse is (10) Church Street, lined with interesting galleries and antique shops, including the excellent crafts store (11) African Image (corner of Burg and Church Streets; www.african-image.co.za). Head uphill north from here, crossing Long Street—the epicenter of the Cape Town’s nightlife lined with pumping bars, clubs, and cafés—and continuing another four blocks until you hit Rose Street. This is the heart of the (12) Bo-Kaap, an area notable for its brightly painted houses. Visit the (13) Bo-Kaap Museum (71 Wale Street; www.iziko.org.za/bokaap) to learn about the area’s principally Muslim community.
Retrace your steps along Rose Street, to the junction with Longmarket, where you’ll head steeply uphill. It’s quite a workout to reach the hiking track that leads from the end of Longmarket Street to the site of the (14) Noon Gun atop Signal Hill; a cannon is fired here at noon Monday to Saturday. The views are magnificent and afterward you can recover at the (15) Noon Gun Tearoom & Restaurant (273 Longmarket Street) located at the top of the street.
Subscribe to Nat Geo Traveler
Available in print and for iPad®! See destinations come alive with 360-degree photos, videos, and more!