The Cape Dutch style is synonymous with architecture in the Cape. Anyone with an eye for architecture and history will revel in the beautiful simplicity of the style and the stories that come with it. For those whose bent is elsewhere, the architecture is also strongly linked to the wine region.

Did you know?

The term Cape Dutch doesn't apply only to architecture. It also refers to a style of furniture from the same era.

The Cape Dutch architecture style has its roots in medieval Holland and Germany with strong French and Indonesian influences. The early houses were single-storey, usually with three rooms. As people in the Cape became more affluent in the 1800s the floor plans became more elaborate and the houses larger. The houses also became more ornate with the distinctive front gable making its first appearance.

The basic style was always the same though. The houses were built with clay or rubble cemented with lime mortar. The roofs were thatched and the walls were painted with whitewash, regardless of the period.

The style is common throughout the Cape, but is particularly prevalent in the wine region - especially in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. There is even a museum in Stellenbosch - the Burgerhuis Museum - where you can see the furnishings and embellishments of the different periods.

Although there are lots of examples of Cape Dutch architecture there are a few specific buildings you should endeavour to see. Vergelegen, previous Cape Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel's house, is the oldest surviving example of this colonial Cape architecture. The house can be found in Somerset West just outside of Cape Town.

De Tuynhuys next to Company Gardens in Cape Town is the president's home when he is in residence in the Cape and is well worth a look. Secunde's House is located in the Castle of Good Hope (also in Cape Town), and is well worth a visit.

In the centre of Cape Town is Heritage Square, which is populated with a number of Cape Dutch buildings, some of which house excellent restaurants, making them worth the visit for more reasons than one. The square also houses the oldest grape-bearing vine in South Africa.

If you can't get out to the wine regions then go and explore Groot Constantia wine farm in the southern suburbs of the city.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Cape Tourism
Tel: +27 (0)21 405 4500
Email: info@tourismcapetown.co.za

Castle of Good Hope
Tel: +27 (0)21 787 1260
Tour Bookings: +27 (0)21 787 1249
Email: casteel@mweb.co.za

Vergelegen
Tel: +27 (0)21 847 1334

How to get here

Use Cape Town as your starting point and then move into the winelands. All the small towns in the Karoo have Cape Dutch buildings. Visit Graaff-Reinet to view charming national monuments.

Best time to visit

Summer is always best in the Cape.

Tours to do

Do a tour of the winelands and get your fill of Cape Dutch architecture at the same time. Most tour operators can arrange a wine tour.

What will it cost

Looking at the architecture is free. Some of the museums charge an entrance fee, and the wine can get rather expensive.