Castle of Good Hope
Cape Town castles somewhat defy western standards. Moat? Check. Spooky dungeons? Check. Five defensive bastions? Check. But if you’re looking for a European-style manor, you will be disappointed. The only royals who’ve spent any meaningful amount of time here have been Cetshwayo, the last king of an independent Zulu nation, who was imprisoned here, and then again during the 2002 MCQP costume ball (see Party), when thousands of the city’s campest queens assembled here for one of the city’s most memorable parties. The administrative headquarters of the Cape colony and the epicentre of its social and military existence for many years, it was never attacked, so there are no signs of cannon fire or damage, other than through neglect. Built between 1666 and 1679 (the entrance – built of small yellow bricks known as ijselstene – is a unique Cape Town example of 17th-century classical Dutch architecture), the Castle’s defensive outer perimeter was clearly designed to last and served as lookouts points for potential invaders. It is hard to believe, but the pentagonal construction was once right on the seafront, a barrier against the ocean before the existing Foreshore area was claimed from the sea during the 1930s. The Castle is today rather poorly managed and maintained, but there are guided tours everyday (11am, noon and 2pm) except Sunday, if you really want to learn about the structure and its history, as well as visit the dungeons and torture chambers. Or come simply to get yet another perspective on the city, with spectacular views of Table Mountain and much of the city that spills down her slopes. Get as high up as you can – as you circumambulate the upper bastions, you’ll spot the 1905 facade of the old City Hall, the dome-like bulk of the Good Hope Centre, and the soaring edifice that constitutes the seat of contemporary Cape Town’s local government. Incidentally, between the Castle and City Hall, the open area (used as the major Fan Park during the FIFA World Cup in June/July 2010) is the Grand Parade, one of the city’s important historical squares, where Nelson Mandela greeted his jubilant countrymen a few hours after his release.