As the oldest city in South Africa, Cape Town has a rich, if turbulent, history and the military plays a large part in the Mother City’s story. On September 1, the City of Cape Town launched the official Military Heritage Route.
Comprising of three properties – the Castle of Good Hope, the South African Naval Museum and the Chavonnes Battery Museum – the route incorporates much of Cape Town’s military heritage and aims to expand further with time.
The three sites are hugely significant in the city’s – and the country’s – military history and offer a wealth of information to visitors.
The Castle of Good Hope
The Castle of Good Hope is the oldest surviving building in South Africa and has been the centre of civilian, political and military life in the Cape since 1666.
In its current state, the Castle is considered to be one of the best examples of preserved 17th century DEIC architecture in the world. The Castle is currently undergoing renovation – for the first time in 20 years – which will further enhance its appeal and position to become South Africa’s next UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Today, the Castle stands not only as a reminder of Cape Town’s colonial past, but as a beacon of the city’s future. Popular with locals and visitors alike, art and photography exhibitions are often hosted within its five walls, as are some of the city’s premier commercial events.
A great focus is also put on using the Castle as a place for community dialogue and empowerment, regularly hosting meetings and workshops. If you’re feeling peckish, there are also two spots to eat: De Goewerneur Restaurant and Waterblommetjie.
Although it has limited access for the disabled and elderly, an elevator is currently being installed to assist in this regard with an electronic tour available for guests who are unable to view all areas due to stairs.
South African Naval Museum
Situated in South Africa’s main naval port of Simon’s Town, the South African Naval Museum pays homage to the country’s naval history. It also includes glimpses into modern naval operations with models of submarines, a life-size submarine control room, naval guns, torpedoes and more.
If you like tales of naval battles and heroism on the high seas or if you are simply curious about what the inside of a submarine looks like, then the museum should be your next port of call – just make sure you resist the urge to ring various brass bells scattered around the venue.
The South African Naval Museum is Universally Accessible, but some areas outside of the museum and higher up the slopes of the mountain, such as the Middle North Battery, are not easily traversed by disabled people or the elderly.
Chavonnes Battery Museum
The Chavonnes Battery Museum showcases the Archaeological Ruins of a Dutch East India Company Fort, buried for 140 years, and is also host to a robust schedule of international photographic exhibitions, rich in content, and relevant in terms of contemporary thinking and topics.
Built in 1724, using rock from Table Mountain and cement made of sea shells, guests can step below sea-level among the ribs of this old VOC Fort and touch the sand of the original shoreline at Cape of Good Hope. Guests are welcomed by guides dressed in full regalia, wearing tricorn hats, stockings and all! Join a guided tour of the museum with a local guide or experience the official V&A Waterfront Historical Walking Tour and discover the history of this landmark destination.
The facility is fully accessible for wheelchairs and prams with a lift operating between floors and available bathroom facilities. Models and detailed displays provide a fascinating insight into the social life at the time with large information panels in English, Afrikaans and isiXhosa telling some of the story for the hearing impaired. For the visually impaired, a selection of the narrative is also available in audio on the Izi Travel App.
The venue also offers free WIFI.