13 June 2014 by Daphney Mngomeni

​South Africa's oldest pubs and bars: Watering holes with a history

South Africa has a long and interesting history when it comes to beer, bars and pubs.

Star of the West pub, Kimberley. Image courtesy of Tyrone Adams

South Africa has a long and interesting history when it comes to beer, bars and pubs.

Many of South Africa’s oldest pubs were established after settlers made our shores their home. The interiors of these pubs tell stories all on their own, and locals are always more than happy to indulge visitors in a few legends relating to the bars and how they came to be.

The next time you’re in any one of these towns and feeling a little parched, pop into these pubs for a refreshing drink or two.

Guildhall Pub

The Guildhall Pub first opened its doors in 1888 and claims the title of the oldest pub in Johannesburg.

The pub saw a boom in business during the gold rush that began in 1886, serving drinks to thirsty male miners and prospectors, who were only served by barmaids – much to the clientele’s enjoyment.

The Guildhall Pub also has a restaurant upstairs that serves delicious Portuguese dishes, as well as a small balcony where you can sit and enjoy a drink whilst looking out at the bustling city.

The pub is open Monday to Saturday and can be accessed by car or the Rea Vaya bus that stops right outside the pub.

Where: 42 Harrison Street (Corner Market and Harrison streets), Johannesburg
Contact: +27 (0)11 833 1770 or email theguildhall@mweb.co.za

The Fireman’s Arms

The Fireman's Arms is one of Cape Town's oldest watering spots, dating back 150 years.

The oldest is, in fact, the Perseverance Tavern, which first opened its doors in 1808, 56 years before the Fireman’s Arms, but only obtained its licence in 1836.

The Fireman’s Arms has retained its historical ambience and is reminiscent of a typical English pub.

The pub serves great beer and fine wines.

Go on Thursday nights to test your general knowledge on Quiz Night.

Where: Corner Buitengracht and Mechau Street, Cape Town
Contact: +27 (0)21 419 1513

The Fireman's Arms in the Mother City. Image courtesy of Danie van der Merwe

Star of the West

This pub was once a corrugated iron shack that served parched miners, and only charged tuppence for beer and a halfpenny for wine.

The Star of the West in Kimberly was established in 1870, and legend has it that the rich wooden fittings and bar counter were salvaged and brought into the city by sailors who had survived the wreck of their ship, The Star of the West.

The pub has kept some of its ancient flair – apart from the bar counter and wooden fittings that have their own story to tell, it has old-fashioned, saloon-style swing doors. Talk about taking a step back into history.

Where: Barkley Road, West End, Kimberley
Contact: +27 (0)53 832 6463

The Historic Pig and Whistle Inn

The pub was built in 1821 by a blacksmith from Nottingham, England, who settled in the area with other 1820 Settlers from Britain.

The Historic Pig and Whistle Inn is situated in Bathurst in the Eastern Cape (which is also home to the world’s largest artificial pineapple), and has been serving its patrons for more than 190 years now.

The pub is South Africa’s oldest continuously licensed pub, and reminders of its past, such as the stone walls, wooden beamers and wood-burning fireplace, adorn the interiors.

Locals as well as travellers exploring the Eastern Cape can enjoy a drink in this old watering hole, which also has an inn for those wanting to spend the night.

Where: 268 Kowie Road, Bathurst, Eastern Cape
Contact: +27 (0)46 625 0673

The Historic Pig and Whistle Inn. Image courtesy of The Historic Pig and Whistle Inn

Category: Attractions, Culture & History, Food & Wine

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