South Africa's Historical Museums
Did you know?
The famous Mrs Ples skull is housed at the Transvaal Museum of Natural History
South African historical museums cover nearly every aspect of life. With South African history stretching back to the dawn of humankind, our past is also reflected in our historical buildings, all telling of the diverse influences on our heritage.
More than 300 historical museums are spread across the country, from the smallest towns to the largest cities. Historical museums in South Africa cover everything from the emergence of humankind and the freedom struggle to wine- and toy-making.
First there are the national historical museums: the South African and Robben Island museums in Cape Town; the National and Anglo-Boer War museums in Bloemfontein; the National Cultural History Museum and Transvaal Museum of Natural History in Pretoria; and the National Museum of Military History in Johannesburg.
Then there are the historical buildings. Ruins of early South African architecture can be seen at places like Mapungubwe and Thulamela in Limpopo. The oldest building still in use is the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, which was built in the 1670s.
There are magnificent buildings in every part of the country, and in some of the most surprising places. Most of these are national monuments or heritage buildings, meaning they cannot be altered or demolished.
In the Western Cape this comprises everything from distinct Cape Dutch manor houses to quaint fishermen's cottages. In Pretoria there's the magnificent Union Buildings. In just about every town are historic houses, from Devonshire cob cottages to Regency, Victorian and Edwardian-style homes.
Arguably the most beautiful building in the country is the Port Elizabeth Public Library on Market Square. Built in 1902, it is a fine example of Art Nouveau design overlaid with dramatic Elizabethan touches.