The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest building in South Africa. Built between 1666 and 1679 by the Dutch East India Company, better known as the VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie), this pentagonal fortification replaced a small clay and timber fort built in 1652 by Commander Jan van Riebeeck,
The Castle of Good Hope opens daily at 09:00 and closes at 16:00.
Open from Monday to Sunday. The Castle is closed to the public on Christmas day (25 December) and New Year's day (01 January).
Guided tours are conducted by Castle guides from Monday to Saturday
at 11:00, 12:00 and 14:00.
Fee: R20 adults R10 children
Lots of authentic furniture, household goods to see. Visit the dungeon where criminals were kept. Creepy, mouldy, dark and damp.
Switch of the light to get a real feeling of the place. 5 seconds is too long. People were kept her for months and years.
This is a must see.
2006: Five years later nothing much has changed. Work on the balcony is completed and I could take a nice photo. The entrance fee is still the same. R10 also applies to students so I didn't have to pay the adult fee for Garreth which was nice.
Alongside, an archway leads through to the rear courtyard, less elegant than the front one, but still attractive. Midway through the arched passage is a chamber holding the main well for the castle: it originally stood right in the middle of the castle courtyard. Just to the left of the archway as you emerge into the daylight again is the armoury and ammunition store (originally the grain store). The shutters are painted red as a reminder for the soldiers not to smoke ner all those explosives! At the end of this block, on the outer wall, is the remains of the prison cells, although the main prison block is not always open to the public. A bleak windowless torture chamber is at the back of the castle in the far corner of E block. Off to the right here is the old forge, bakery and kitchens, and a square pool (the first swimming pool in Africa?), known as the Dolphin Pool. This part of the castle is still used by the South African Defence Forces and there is no admittance to the buildings. Perhaps one of the most endearing scenes is the present-day canteen and kitchens (what Dean MacCannell calls the "back-stage"!) of the SADF garrison, sitting right underneath the governor's house. This arrangement, of the kitchens on the lower floor, has been in place since the very first days of this castle!
The last building, G block lies on the northern wall, and is now the Castle Military Museum, reviewed separately. Old Portuguese cannons lie outside the doorway, which was the original entrance to the castle - a mural on the far wall shows what it must have looked like when this led out to the beach. Note that the G block windows are arched on the left of the entrance (the officers quarters) and square sash windows to the right (the enlisted men).
It is possible to eat at the restaurant/coffee shop by the entrance, but it looked uninspiring, especially given that good cafes and restaurants are just a few minutes walk away outside!
This new entrance was constructed in 1682 to replace the original front entrance facing the beach, and is the most harmonious example of Dutch architecture on the Cape, with a beautiful arrangement on the pediment. This shows the coat-of-arms of the Netherlands. Immediately below are the coats-of-arms of the six biggest Dutch cities. As a quirk of history, it is worth noting that only Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Delft remain big cities now; Enjkuizen, Middelburg and Van Hoorn have all subsided in importance now.
Inside the huge castle wall, the castle is softer and less forbidding, as the pentagon shape is lined with buildings, with a long facade of buildings - the Kat - crossing over the centre of the fort, so dividing it into two sections. The courtyard is grassed over, which it was not originally, but it certainly keeps the heat down now!
The oldest part of the castle is the long line of wall and building to the right of the courtyard, with the Captain?s Tower above: it was where a lookout watch was kept over both Table Bay and the settlement of Cape Town. It is possible to climb up the staircase in the corner to reach the Leerdam bastion - and it is also possible, from there, to walk along the circumference of the outer wall. On the Leerdam is a row of six flagpoles carrying the six flags to have flown over the castle down the centuries. It is one of the very few places in South Africa that you will see the old South African flag these days.
Underneath B block, in the corner, the old kitchen can be seen, although it has now been excavated to show the original water supply arrangements for the castle. The basement areas had a habit of flooding, and repeated efforts were needed (not totally successful) to prevent water seeping in.
From the outside, the great stone walls seem low and squat, but a sense of proportion returns when you approach the entrance archway, and the arrangement of buildings inside is impressive - although it can get terribly hot in the courtyards in the summer. The Castle of Good Hope was surveyed by Heinrich Lacus and the engineer Peter Dombaer, master mason Douwe Gerbrandtz Steyn and master carpenter Adriaan van Braekel.
The castle was a major feat of engineering for those early soldiers and sailors, as most material had to be brought in from afar. Many of the yellow stones (klompjes) were transported all the way from the Netherlands by ship. The timber came from the woods at Houts Bay, the lime from Robben Island, and yet more stone from quarries on the lower slopes of Table Mountain. The wretched builders were exhausted by the whole business, and mutinined on several occasions. It seems, though, that at one point, even the Governor and his wife joined in, carrying basketloads of soil to the construction site.
The entrance gateway is similar to those seen in Dutch towns, and is modelled on the actual gateway to the city of Dordrecht, to the east of Rotterdam. The route into the fortress twists sharply - a cunning way to prevent the front gates being rushed by a force - and is flanked by whitewashed sentry boxes just big enough to fit a soldier. Above the archway, is a small octagonal bell tower from 1684 holding the oldest bell in South Africa, cast in 1697, which was used to mark the time during the day. The chimes could be heard all over Cape Town, as the cliffs of Table Mountain echoes the sound.
The Castle of Good Hope is arguably the oldest fully intact building in southern Africa, dating from 1666 (the same year as the Great Fire of London) although it wasn?t completed until 1679. It replaced the mud and stockade fort that van Riebeeck had put up some fourteen years earlier nearby. The castle was largely complete, and used, from 1674, and from 1678 it was the seat of "government" of the Cape. Of course, there are many older indigenous structures in southern Africa, but none, apparently, still used. It did make me wonder though if any of the San-Bushmen cave shelters are technically still intact and usable, because some of them date back tens of thousands of years. Anyway, moving swiftly on.
The castle originally stood right on the beach and the main entrance was from the beach. The road running past the castle to the north is called Strand (the Dutch and Afrikaans word for beach), and on occasion high seas breached the front door. After some years, presumably because they were occasionally isolated by storms, the front entrance was made in the western wall, where it remains today. The original plan was on a star-form, a very traditional Dutch style of fortification (incidentally a perfect and almost identical castle can be seen from the air if you are approaching the runway at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport from the north -.just three minutes before landing), but it was originally perfected by the French (seen classically at Lille in northern France), and in particular, Sebastien de Vauban, the 17th Century military engineer and architect.
The Castle of Good Hope was built to replace the Post de Goed Hoop, hastily built by Jan van Riebeeck, on what is now the huge parking lot in front of the City Hall across from the castle. The castle is the permanent home to two major galleries, one of historical paintings and furniture and one of South Africa?s military history. Furthermore, the castle regularly holds temporary exhibitions and events (like Christmas Carols in mid-December). Among the rush of Cape Town?s east end, the Castle of Good Hope is a haven of tranquility. For some quaint reason, this bastion of almost medieval fortification remains a military establishment (actually the head of the military in the Western Cape) and soldiers can be seen relaxing under the trees and in their restaurant underneath the old Governor?s House.
R20 plus R5 for a fold-out guide leaflet. A more substantial historical book can be bought (R80) at the Military Museum shop to the left of the first courtyard. However, the excellent, discreet signboards all around the castle provide adequate information for all but the most hardened of military buffs or students of architecture.
Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this castle is the lengths with which the authorities have gone to return the castle to its earlier form, even going so far as to change some of the windows on the Governor?s residence because in a previous restoration they were slightly out of proportion. Recently, a stone building on the western wall has been rebuilt and they are recreating a herb garden that originally sat on the outer ramparts.
This old 17th century fort looks a bit like a dump from the outside, but when you walk into the compound there's actually quite a few things worth seeing. Part of it is still in use and we saw armed soldiers marching to and fro. Apart from the charming little museum we found the tea shop very pleasing.
Table Mountain is a flat-topped mountain forming a prominent landmark overlooking the city of Cape Town in South Africa, and is featured in the Flag of Cape Town and other local government insignia
All along the walls of the castle you will find the canons still in their place watching over the adjacent areas
These cells were used for military personell who did not behave. If they drank too much they were locked up, same thing if they had a fight in the local pubs.
A well was made in the castle grounds in order to provide fresh water to the people living there and can still be seen today with its water pump displayed on the opposite wall.