Western Cape Tourist AttractionsThe Castle of Good Hope
A unique combination of history, fine wine, traditional food, military ceremonies and craftsmanship awaits you at this pentagonal fortification. Built between 1666 and 1679, the Castle is the oldest surviving building in South Africa. The Castle, was, however, not the first fort to be built at the Cape.
Where? Corner of Darling and Buitenkant Streets, Cape Town Central, Cape Town
When? Open every day except Christmas and new years day
How? Telephone +27 (0)21 787-1260
A quadrangular fort was built after the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck in 1652, where the Grand Parade and the main Post Office are situated today. However, the walls of the fort, which were constructed mainly of clay, collapsed and required constant repairs. In 1664 there were renewed rumours of war between Britain and the Netherlands and they feared a British attack on the Cape. Zacharias Wagenaer was instructed to build a five-pointed stone castle.
The Castle was planned from a central point with five bastions, named after the main titles of Willem, the Prince of Orange. The Western bastion was named Leerdam, followed in clockwise order by Buuren, Catzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje.
In 1936 the Castle was declared a National Monument. The Castle of Good Hope houses the military personnel of the SA army in the Western Cape, the famous William Fehr Collection of historic artworks, the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for traditional Cape Regiments. This gateway - built in 1682 - replaced the old entrance which faced the sea.
The bell tower, situated above the main entrance, was bult in 1684. The original bell - the oldest in South Africa - was cast in Amsterdam in 1697 by Claude Fremy and weighs 670 lbs. It was used to toll the hours and warn citizens of danger and it could be heard 10km away. It was also rung to call residents and soldiers to the Castle for important announcements.
Inside the walls of the Castle, are amongst others, a church, bakery, living quarters, offices, cells and numerous other facilities. The yellow paint on the walls was chosen to reduce the glare from the sunlight and also because it reflects the heat.
The inner courtyard is divided by a wall, initially intended to provide protection to the inhabitants in the event of an attack. The well-known Kat Balcony is an outstanding feature of the dividing wall. The original balcony was built in 1695, then rebuilt in its present form by the VOC between 1786 and 1790. From this balcony, proclamations and announcements were made to the soldiers, slaves and civilians at the Cape. All judicial sentences were read here and official visitors welcomed to the Castle. The balcony leads to the famous William Fehr Collection of historical paintings and period furniture which have a special relevance to the Cape.
The original Dolphin Pool was named after the impressive fountain in the form of a dolphin in the middle of the pool. It was possible to make a replica of the fountain by examining sketches and descriptions made by Lady Anne Barnard during the late 1790's. The fountain has been reconstructed from the remains of the clay floor and walls exposed in 1982. The dolphin resembles a fish that is found in the Mediterranean. In the past, the dolphin or a mythical sea monster was a popular maritime symbol, often used in maps and other objects.
The castle is open daily from 09h00 to 16h00, Monday to Saturday (open Sundays during December) except Christmas day and New Years day. Daily tours are conducted at 11h00, 12h00 and 14h00. The changing of the guard is held Monday to Friday at 12h00. See "Tour the Castle of Good Hope" for additional information, tour times and entrance fees.