Signal Hill and the Noon Gun

Signal Hill pathway to the Noon Gun. Photo courtesy Danie van der Merwe

Signal Hill is a prominent landmark from which the historic noon gun is fired, and forms the “lion’s body” for the adjacent Lion’s Head mountaintop.

The hill rewards hikers with spectacular views across Table Bay harbour, the central city and the Atlantic Ocean. Many family-friendly picnic spots on Signal Hill are favoured by tourists and locals all year round.

Signal Hill is named for its original use: the practice of flying signal flags to communicate with nearby ships, and later for the daily firing of the famous Noon Gun.

Noon Gun

The gun provides quite a startling introduction to Cape Town for first-time visitors. While locals simply check their watches, the gun's distinctive boom frightens tourists and sends birds fluttering skywards.

In fact, there are two guns (cannon, actually) at Signal Hill's Lion Battery – a main gun and a back-up. The guns were brought to Cape Town by the British in their invasion of August 1795, and it is thought that they were used in combat during the Battle of Muizenberg. They were originally housed at the Imhoff Battery, near the Castle of Good Hope, and from 1806 served as time signals for ships anchored in the harbour. In 1896, when the battery was demolished, they were moved to the Castle. Following complaints from residents about the new location, they were transported to Signal Hill by ox-wagon in 1902, where they continued Cape Town's oldest ongoing tradition.

The cannon weigh more than two tons each and fire 1.5kg (3lb) of gunpowder daily at noon, except on Sundays and public holidays. Members of the public are welcome to watch (from a demarcated safe distance) as this daily ritual plays out. Since 1902, the Noon Gun has been fired more than 62 000 times.

Getting there

Access to the Noon Gun can be gained via the city centre (follow the signs from the corner of Bloem and Buitengracht Streets, heading up to Lion Battery via Military Road in the Bo-Kaap).

The SA Navy, which owns the Lion Battery, does a presentation from 11h30 on the history of the firing of the Noon Gun. You are welcome to observe the daily firing of the gun from the Lion Battery. Alternatively, enjoy a cold drink or picnic (bring your own fare) from the parking lot at the end of the Signal Hill road, which looks out over the Atlantic Ocean.

Afterwards, head down to the Bo-Kaap for a meal at the Noon Gun Tea Room, +27 (0)21 424 0529, in Longmarket Street.

Extra info

Entrance:
Free

Open:
24 hours, but be especially careful at night

  • Phone: +27 (0)21 487 6800

Southern Suburbs

The Southern Suburbs are a tourist’s delight. The area, which stretches from the slopes of the Table Mountain range to the False Bay coast, offers natural attractions and a vibrant nightlife.

St James

Just a little further on from Cape Town’s well-known Muizenberg beach is St James. Home to a cluster of well-known and oft-photographed bathing boxes on the beach, St James is a picturesque area that offers beachgoers respite from the westerly wind.

Llandudno and Sandy Bay

Only 18km from the Cape Town city centre, an arc of fine white sand gives away the secluded location of one of Cape Town’s most beautiful beaches, Llandudno.

Macassar Dunes Project

The Macassar Dunes Project is located on the Cape Town coast adjacent to Macassar and Khayelitsha and is bounded by the Eerste River, Baden Powell Drive and False Bay.

West Coast Ostrich Show Ranch

For a tourism experience with a difference, visit the West Coast Ostrich Show Ranch. This family-owned ostrich business includes informative tours.

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