Castle of Good Hope

Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town © HelenOnline
Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town © HelenOnline

South Africa's oldest surviving colonial building, the Castle of Good Hope was completed in 1679. It replaced an earlier mud and timber fort built by the first Dutch Governor: Jan van Riebeeck. Situated adjacent to a parking lot and bus station in Buitenkant Street, its walls mark the original boundary of the seashore where the waves washed up against the fortifications.

Its outside aspect is somewhat foreboding, but inside are some interesting features and collections that have been restored, offering a good insight into the early days of the Cape when the castle was the centre of social and economic life.

The complex is a pentagonal fortification with a moat and five bastions, each named for one of the titles of the Prince of Orange. The entrance is a good example of 17th-century Dutch Classicism, and a bell, cast in 1679 by Claude Fremy in Amsterdam, still hangs from the original wood beams in the tower above the entrance.

The castle contains a Military Museum depicting the conflicts that arose during the Cape's early settlement, and also houses the William Fehr Collection of decorative arts, including paintings, furniture, and porcelain. Of interest are the dungeons, which bear carvings in the walls by prisoners incarcerated centuries ago.

The castle was built for defence, not beauty, and it is a fortress not a palace. Those interested in the history of the Cape will find a visit fascinating.

Address: Buitenkant Street, opposite the Grand Parade

Website: www.castleofgoodhope.co.za

Opening times: Daily 9am to 4pm.

Admission: R30 (adults), R15 (children and students). Other concessions available.