The best sights Cape Town gardens can offer: foraging squirrels, office workers playing hooky, lovers curled up in each other’s arms, tourists aghast at the homeless sleeping off a fearful hangover, fountains, sculpted memorials, fish ponds, an aviary, and a mix of wonderfully jungly, overgrown foliage, tailored lawns, ancient trees and styled flower beds – the Company’s Gardens are the remains of the original fresh produce garden planted here in the 1650s by the Dutch East India Company when this was a victualling station for passing ships. At the ‘city’ end of the gardens are the darkened stone walls of St George’s Cathedral (www.stgeorg- escathedral.com); the foundation stone (still visible as you enter the gardens from the top of Adderley Street) was laid by the Duke of Cornwall and York (who went on to become King George V) in 1901, this was more recently the home turf of the country’s most delightful cleric, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu. At the ‘upper’ end of the gardens stands the city’s planetarium and natural history museum, which sadly remains Victorian in conception and execution. Fringing the Gardens along their eastern border are the Parliamentary buildings, visible through thick metal railing, along with De Tuynhuys (literally ‘the garden house’, where the official gardener once had his hut, but is now a palatial house where the State President entertains formal guests), and the South African National Gallery, a repository of some of the country’s greatest artworks. Access to Parliament – with a chance to witness this astonishing democracy in action (or inaction, if the sometimes-sleeping MPs are anything to go by) – is by free, pre-arranged tour (Tel: 021 403 3341); entry (bring your passport) is on the far side of the buildings, on Plein Street.
- Government Avenue and Queen Victoria Street, Gardens,
- Gardens Tel: +27 21 400 2521
- Opening Times
- Gardens are open 7am-7pm (summer) and 7am-6pm (winter) Parliament tours: 10am and noon Mon-Fri, by advance booking only