Did you know?
The Cape Town City Hall has a permanent exhibition honouring the life of Nelson Mandela.
It’s a balmy evening along the Grand Parade in central Cape Town as people dressed in everything from tuxedos to blue jeans arrive at the stately City Hall.
Tonight’s benefit concert for the South African Air Force Association has excited everyone, because they know they’re going to be entertained by the best the city can offer.
The Navy Band will be followed by the rousing skirls of the Cape Town Highlanders in their saucy kilts, the Cape Town Male Voice Choir and a couple of wonderful tenors and sopranos. A popular local radio personality is the master of ceremonies.
A night of superlatives follows, and everyone goes home lifted by some quality music. This is the Cape Town City Hall at its finest, its grand auditorium providing a platform for world-class performances. It’s also very heartening to know that both the Cape Town Philharmonic and Symphony Orchestras take to the stage here on a regular basis. It adds even more cultural lustre to this stylish city.
As you pass the City Hall on your ‘dawn patrol’ of central Cape Town, the amber morning light falls directly on its sandstone-coloured Italian Renaissance-style facade. You could be in London, Florence or somewhere in the morning traffic of Rome.
Inside, it’s a symphony of mosaic floors, old stained glass, a classic pipe organ and marble staircase. That bell tower at the Cape Town City Hall has an astounding 39 bells and reminds many visitors of London’s Big Ben.
The auditorium has seen royalty and ‘regular folks’ alike since the opening of the City Hall in 1905. In 1947, as part of the British Royal tour of South Africa, the lovely young Princess Elizabeth was the belle of a grand ball staged here.
But every high-born personal appearance ever made at the Cape Town City Hall was totally eclipsed on 11 February 1990, when a newly-released Nelson Mandela stood on the balcony and addressed the jubilant people gathered below on the Grand Parade square.
‘Today the majority of South Africa, black and white, recognise that apartheid has no future,’ Mandela said. ‘Our march to freedom is irreversible.’
An estimated 250 000 people cheered from the square below. And millions around the world joined them in celebration...
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
How to get here
The Cape Town City Hall is in Darling Street, opposite the Grand Parade, one block up (west) from the Castle.
Best time to visit
Early in the morning is best for photography of the City Hall exterior – otherwise try to take in an evening performance inside.
Around the area
While in the City Hall area, visit the District 6 Museum, Greenmarket Square, the Houses of Parliament, the various Iziko Museums and the South African National Gallery.
Tours to do
There is no shortage of accredited tour guides – check the Cape Town Tourism website for choices.
If you observe the normal rules of international urban safety, the city centre of Cape Town is a great place to walk around in – most of the sights are close together.
What will it cost
Tickets to the performances are usually R80+ per person.
Length of stay
City Hall performances last 2-3 hours. A walking visit – by appointment only - is worth 30 minutes of your time.
What to pack
If possible, have a wide-angle lens available for photography of the exterior of the City Hall.
Where to stay
Central Cape Town has plenty of accommodation – check the listed Cape Town Tourism website.
What to eat
Some of the best informal fish and chip shops in Cape Town outlets are just outside the City Hall, on the Grand Parade.
Check the listed Cape Philharmonic Orchestra website for dates of performances.