After having a chance to get an overview of the Cape Town area thanks to the City Sightseeing Tour a couple days ago, I was ready for a more in-depth look at the heart of Cape Town, and saw that there were walking tours offered by Cape Town Free Walking Tours, which sounded like an excellent way to go about doing so. I had previously done similar walking tours with Seattle Free Walking Tours for Pike Place Market, as well as I’m Free Walking Tours in Sydney for the Rocks where you tip the guide at the end based on how much you felt the tour was worth.
But before starting the first tour, I had some time to explore the CBD area, and went for a stroll over to Greenmarket Square. In the square, there were plenty of vendors who were selling a variety of items and art inspired by the traditions and culture of South Africa.
After checking out the market, I made a breakfast stop at Doppio Zero. I decided to go with something quick and easy as time was a bit limited before the first tour, so I chose the eggs and toast along with a mango smoothie. The smoothie was different than what I expected as it seemed like it was mostly yogurt because of it’s thickness. Still, it was a good meal, and not too heavy for the sake of walking in the upcoming tours.
As the time arrived for the start of the first tour, everyone gathered outside of Motherland Coffee for the start of the tour. The starting location is easy to identify thanks to the presence of the large green umbrella. Upon the start time coming for the tours, one of the guides gives some general information that applies to all tours.
After the general announcements and a group photo, each guide leading the different tours goes to a separate area where participants can join the tour of their choice. For the first time slot, I chose to go with the Historic Tour, which gave more of a general historic overview of the city, with stops at several historic locations. The guide for this tour was named Javey (I could be wrong on the spelling, but it sounded as though his name was pronounced “Jah-Vee”).
To start the tour, he lead us toward the Grand Parade area, which included a short stop to see these murals of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. The colors used in these murals depicted different qualities that have been used to describe these men. The blue and purple for Mandela represented knowledge and wisdom, while the Red for Tutu represented Love and Compassion.
The first main stop of the tour was to the Grand Parade, an open square that sits in front of Cape Town City Hall. This was the location where thousands of people gathered to see the first speech given by Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison during the era of Aparthied. According to Javey, the people who came waited well over 8-hours waiting for Mandela to come and speak. This was also where we found out about the historic origin of the city.
In heading toward our next tour stop, we passed through the Eastern Food Bazaar, which featured a variety of Asian and Middle Eastern Foods from those who had immigrated to South Africa. The smells were incredible! Had I thought about it, I would have made this my lunch stop in between tours, but forgot to check it out as I ended up looking for something quick near where the next tour would start.
The next historic location we visited was the oldest church in South Africa, a Dutch Reformation Church. In some respects, it seemed to be a bit more plain than some of the cathedrals and churches I have seen in other locations, but there were some beautiful features like the organ. The pulpit also features incredibly detailed lion sculptures on the bottom.
Nearby the church is the Slave Lodge, a former lodge where slaves were kept that has since been converted into a museum. Nearby the lodge was a tree called the Selling Tree, as it was where slaves were sold in auction. Also nearby were these blocks with a list of names. The names listed represented the names that were commonly given to the slaves as opposed to their given native birth name, taking away a part of their identity.
Further into the tour, we were taken over to the parliament building of Cape Town. Cape Town is one of three capital cities in South Africa as the home of the legislative branch of South Africa’s Government, while Pretoria is the Administrative capital and Bloemfontein is home to the Supreme Court. This particular building was built at the time that South Africa was under British Rule, thus it’s design is of a British style, and also features a statue of Queen Victoria as she was the monarch in the early days of Britain’s claim on the Cape Colony.
One of the last main destinations of the Historic Tour was to the Company Gardens, where produce was grown for the ships and crew of the East India Company. One of the features of the garden is the oldest tree in Cape Town, a 360+ year old saffron pear tree. Because of it’s age, there are poles that help to keep it up.
After a stop for lunch, I headed back to the same umbrella for another tour. Much like the first tour, The same process takes place for this tour time with a guide giving general information, then a group photo, and then separating for the different tours. For the second tour, I chose to take the Apartheid Tour, which has some overlap with the Historic Tour in having similar destinations, but with more of an emphasis on their significance to the era of Apartheid. As luck would have it, I would get to join Javey for this tour as well.
The first spot we went to was Greenmarket Square, where I had wondered earlier before the start of the first tour. As it would turnout, this square saw one of the largest protests of Apartheid known as the Purple Rain Protest. Essentially, as the government tried to squash protests and dissent, they decided to have the police spray the protesters with a water canon using purple dye to be able to identify and arrest them at a later time, but some of the protesters were able to sneak up on the officers running the cannon and take it over, which led to the spray going all over the place and covering several of the officers and buildings with the dye.
From there, we made our way over to the High Court Building. During apartheid, this is where the different people would report to receive their racial classification and their dompas (the document that gave their racial classification, and would be require to be on their persons and presented if ever asked by police to show it). Outside of the building, they have left two benches, one that was for white people, the other for non-white. These benches are left as an example of one of the ways that Apartheid forced separation of people by their race.
Another stop of the tour is St. George’s Cathedral, the church served by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the first black man to hold that role for the Anglican Church in South Africa. It was him who coined the phrase “Rainbow Nation” for South Africa, and was an active part of the protest against apartheid. Attached to the church was the Crypt, where political prisoners of South Africa would hide from the South African Government. Today, it is a jazz restaurant.
Just outside of the church is a set of wooden arches called “Arch for Arch”, which pays tribute to Tutu. Within the structure, there are 14 wooden arches, which represent the 14 chapters of South Africa’s current constitution.
We then wondered over to the area outside of the District Six Museum to learn more about District Six, the area that had been seen on the City Sightseeing Tour that saw the forced removal of people due to the laws of Apartheid. Before the removal, there were people of many racial backgrounds living in the area who lived in harmony, and the South African leadership who pushed for segregation saw this as a threat to Apartheid, so they forced people to leave their homes, and then proceeded to demolish the whole neighborhood. Today, the neighborhood is pretty empty, and many wish to leave it that way to serve as a reminder of a time that they do not wish to see again in their country. The District Six Museum helped to share the stories of the residents of the neighborhood, and depicted what life was like in District Six.
From there, it was back to City Hall for more depth about Mandela’s speech and what came for South Africa afterwards. Along with a closer look at the deck where Mandela made his speech.
And that would be the end of the walking tours for me on this day, as I was ready to do some solo exploring. I did really enjoy the tours of Cape Town Free Walking Tours and felt that Javey did a fantastic job! I would easily recommend that if you come to Cape Town, take advantage of this great way to learn about the city.
After finishing the tour, I decided to trek back over to the V&A Waterfront. This time for the sake of taking a walk along the coast near Victoria Wharf, which was definitely more for the view than for swimming because of the rocky nature of the coast. It did offer some unique views of the area including Cape Town Stadium, Robben Island and Signal Hill.
It was also during this visit to the V&A Waterfront that I found this hat that I couldn’t help but purchase, especially as I knew that I would have several other days in the sun during this trip, and it reminded me of the hat we wore on the Jungle Cruise. What also sold me on it was the pricing as a hat like this back home would cost between $40-60, whereas this hat specifically cost somewhere around $25.
It wouldn’t be long until I caught an Uber back to the apartment to call it a day. It was an excellent day getting to learn more about Cape Town, and getting some additional time at the V&A Waterfront. Up next, it was time for a longer tour heading to the Southeastern most point on the African continent.
See more of 2018 South Africa Trip:
1: Flight to Atlanta & Delta Flight Museum / 2: Arrival to South Africa / 3: First Day in Durban /
4: Second Day in Durban / 5: Last Day in Durban / 6: V&A Waterfront / 7: Cape Town City Sightseeing Tours /
8: Table Mountain / 9: Ratanga Junction / 10: Rugby at Newlands Rugby Stadium / 11: Cape Town Walking Tours /
12: Cape of Good Hope / 13: Boulders Beach Penguins / 14: The Last of Cape Town / 15: Cape Town Water Shortage /
16: Sightseeing Around Johannesburg / 17: More Johannesburg Sightseeing / 18: Botswana Day Trip /
19: Kruger National Park, Day 1 / 20: Kruger National Park, Day 2 / 21: Kruger National Park, Day 3 /
22: Gold Reef City Resort & Amenities / 23: Apartheid Museum & Rand Show / 24: Gold Reef City Theme Park /
25: The Return Home