I visited the Castle of Good Hope when I was 13 on a school outing. I don’t remember much about it. All I remember was the dark room/torture room, and we went into the huge dining room where we weren’t allowed to take photos. They were doing some maintenance on the building so certain areas were blocked off. I was on the one hand excited to revisit the oldest building in South Africa (built in the 17th century) and refresh that memory.
Unfortunately, they were once again busy with some maintenance. Apart from that we were rather disappointed in the visit. At least they don’t charge an arm and a leg for entry so we didn’t feel that we wasted money (entry is R30 per adult, whether or not you take the guided tour). We didn’t plan on arriving at a specific time. It would have been much more informative if we did join a guided tour, but we didn’t want to hang around in an almost empty courtyard for 40 minutes. At reception they gave us a brochure with a lot of information on, which needless to say you need to sit on a couch with a cup of coffee and read all of it. There were some guards (dressed in traditional uniform) hanging around the entrance. We didn’t get to see them do their guard ceremony either. Bad timing from our side I guess.
So we wandered around trying to get a feeling of life in Cape Town 300+ years ago. We found an entry point and wondered onto the roof. You get great views from the top of the 5 bastions. Read some info boards that is scattered around, mostly at points of interest. Most of the doors were locked (even some of the toilets). We wondered into the torture room and were very thankful that we don’t need to worry about something like that in today’s life. The water fountain was empty, which we can understand as we currently have rather serious water restrictions in the whole country due to the ongoing drought. There were a lot of papers, wrappings and even take away packaging lying around being blown from one place to the other by the light wind in the courtyard. This didn’t create a feeling that the place was taken care off to the best of management’s ability. A broom goes a long way, and having someone sweeping all the stairs and pavements inside would really help creating a better experience. There are so many foreign tourists stopping there, the Yellow Route of the City Sight Seeing also stops there for people to hop on and off.
Personally I would have liked to be able to go into the building and see what the furniture looked like and how people lived. The impressive dining room with the long table that I remember. Just before we left we found an open door leading into 4 rooms where they had some furniture on display. In all honesty it felt more like a few pieces of random furniture from that era being displayed rather than recreating the living space as it was back then. The one room did have a type of sedan chair displayed in the middle of it. The structure of the building is however well maintained.
The potential is there to make small inexpensive changes to give people a better experience. Like adding arrows guiding people, not taking the guided tours, through the castle from one information board to the next, rather than leaving them to explore and not see all the points of interest. And just tiding the place up. This is after all one of our heritage sites.
If you are in Cape Town for a limited time, don’t worry if you skip this one.
General information for visit (as on December 2016):
- Entry: R30 per adult, children under 15, pensioners and students costs R15
- Recommended 1 hour to visit
- Open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm (excluding Christmas Day and New Year’s Day)
- Location: Corner of Darling and Buitekant streets
- Guided tours: 11:00 am, 12:00 pm and 2:00 pm
- Noon gun fired daily
- On their website they do state that there is a restaurant in the castle, but we didn’t see it.
Visited November 2016