Eastern Cape Tourist AttractionsPort Elizabeth City Hall
Where? Govan Mbeki Avenue, Central, Port Elizabeth, Eastern Cape
How? Call +27 (0)41 506-3320
Port Elizabeth is the largest entity of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan, which also includes Uitenhage, Despatch and a number of outlying rural areas in the Eastern Cape. Situated right in the city centre of Port Elizabeth, as it better known amongst locals, is the City Hall; a grand old building that emits timeless elegance as it stands watch over the bustling Govan Mbeki Avenue.
The Port Elizabeth City Hall dates back to the mid-19th century, when the European colonisers were settling on the shores of Algoa Bay and taking advantage of the untouched expanses of farmlands and countryside. Construction of the City Hall began in 1858 and it took four years to complete. Then, another 21 years would pass by before the magnificent clock tower was added to the building, giving it an even greater air of drama.
In November 1974, the City Hall was recognised as a National Monument, thanks to its history and its role in the colonisation and establishment of Port Elizabeth as a town. However, in 1977, tragedy struck and a fire ravaged the hall, reducing it to a smouldering memory of its original grandeur. Thanks to its importance and significance to the city and its people, though, it was restored and rebuilt in a way that honoured its architectural beauty and its historical import. Since being reopened in 1981, the City Hall has hosted a number of exciting events and functions.
Today, the City Hall is a popular spot for concerts, lectures, celebrations, and even some glamorous weddings. The reception room has a capacity of up to 300 people in cinema style and 200 in a banqueting layout. There is also an auditorium that is set up in cinema style and can seat 165 delegates. But, more than this, it is part of many tourist routes, simply for its gorgeous style and its heritage. It is perched on Market Square, which is also home to a replica of the Diaz Cross Memorial, which was erected to recognise Portuguese explorer, Bartholomew Diaz’s arrival in Algoa Bay. The original cross (which can be found near the Bushman’s River Mouth in Kwaaihoek) dates back to 1488.
While visiting the Port Elizabeth City Hall, tourists are invited to explore the surrounding attractions. The Donkin Reserve is just above the main street, about 300 metres from the City Hall. This was revamped in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup™, and is simply lovely to explore. There is artwork aplenty (including stunning mosaics), as well as the original pyramid that stands tall over the city. A tourism office is situated here, as is a coffee shop. Visitors are also able to climb the lighthouse for breath-taking views of the bay.
The beaches for which Port Elizabeth is so well known are a short drive from the City Hall. Kings Beach is a long, sandy beach that promises warm water, and plenty of space for sun-tanning, castle building and throwing around a Frisbee. A few kilometres further are Shark Rock Pier, Hobie Beach, Humewood Beach and Pollock Beach. These are all safe swimming beaches that are also popular amongst surfers.
The Port Elizabeth Airport is just over 6 kilometres away from the City Hall.