Cape Town Culture and History
Cape Town has a cosmopolitan cultural mix which has been influenced over the years mainly by the Dutch, French and British, with a significant influence also having come from Malaysia. Cape Town is home to artists and performers of every description,.
With a fascinating history going back 350 years, Cape Town offers a huge selection of museums and places of cultural interest to visit. Also to be considered are tours of the townships, a ferry trip to Robben Island or a wander through the District Six Museum.
The so-called Malay Quarter (more correctly named the Bo-Kaap), hugs the lower slopes of Signal Hill and is a maze of narrow alleys and densely clustered flat roofed homes. The Bo-Kaap is home to a large Islamic community, many of whom are descended from slaves imported by the early European settlers from the Dutch colony of Java.
The Company Gardens, located at the upper end of Adderley street, with its stately oak trees, shady paths, green lawns and lily covered ponds has a direct line of descent from the earliest settlers. When Jan Van Riebeck landed in the Cape in 1652, his first task was to plant a vegetable garden to supply the passing ships of his employers, the powerful Dutch East India Company. The modern Gardens are located at this spot and although much reduced from the original size are still a wonderful place to spend a few hours.
Dating back to roughly the same period is the oldest European structure in South Africa, the Castle of Good Hope. The "castle" is actually a defensive fort, construction of which began barely 2 days after the arrival of the first Dutch settlers in April 1652. Although today the Castle is far away from the sea, it was originally built on the beach, Strand Street, which passes the structure is translated as "Beach Street". The area where the cape Town station now stands was originally under the ocean and has been built on land reclaimed over the years so that today the ocean is a couple of kilometres distant.
Cape Town is home to a number of historic buildings, many of them well preserved and can be visited by the public. Bertram House, in the city centre was built in the 1830's when anything much beyond Adderly Stret was farmland. The house is now a museum and gives a wonderful insight into cape Town life almost 200 years ago [Tel: 021 424 9381].
There are many more such gems to be found in and around the city, such as Koopmans De Wet House, the Groote Kerk (Big Church) in Adderley Street. Also worth a visit is the bustling open air market at Greenmarket Square, the Historic buildings and dusty book shops in Long Street (walk its length and find out how this street got its name), the huge underground Golden Acre shopping mall, the old Slave Lodge and the South African Museum [021 424 3330], to name but a few.