Castle of Good Hope
Built by the Dutch East India Company or VOC (Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie) as a stone stronghold to replace the earlier clay and timber fort built by the Cape’s first Commander Jan van Riebeeck in 1652, the castle of Good Hope is designed in the shape of a pentagon, with 5 bastions, Leerdam, Buren, Catzenellenbogen, Nassau and Oranje named in honour of Willem, the Prince of Orange.
Commissioned as a functional military fort to safeguard the Company and its’ commercial interests in the East, construction began in 1666 with stone and lime drawn from Robben Island, and continued erratically, influenced by rumours of war and changes in governance, until 1679, with the arrival of Simon Van Der Stel (later promoted to Governor in 1691) when the Castle became his residence.
Declared a national monument in 1936, the Castle of Good Hope houses the Castle Military Museum and ceremonial facilities for traditional Cape Regiments. Visitors to the Castle can see restored barracks, the powder house and armoury, living quarters and the Kat Balcony where proclamations and announcements were made to the early colonialists. Its original bell, the oldest in South Africa, was used to warn citizens of danger and could be heard 10km away; and the famous William Fehr Collection of historical paintings and period furniture housed here is of special relevance.
Descend below sea level, into its dungeons where awaiting trial prisoners were held; watch the Castle Guards perform traditional ceremonies maintained since the forts’ inception and sample typically South African dishes at Het Bakhuys (site of the old bakery), enhanced by spectacular views of Table Mountain.