Kimberley, Northern Cape
Did you know?
There were actually five 'big holes' in Kimberley – diamond mines that mined volcanic kimberlite pipes. Other than the Big Hole, they've now mostly been filled in.
Kimberley, the capital of the Northern Cape province, is known as the Diamond City.
Start your exploration of the city at its main attraction: the Big Hole. Imagine a hand-dug hole the size of eight football fields and you have some idea of the labour that went into creating the Big Hole.
Adjacent to the Big Hole is the Kimberley Mine Museum, which brings to life the way the city was during the frenetic days of the diamond rush. Many of the buildings here are originals that have been moved over the years to this spot. If you are not claustrophobic, take the guided tour of a once-operational diamond mine which descends a staggering 840m below the earth.
A few kilometres from the city centre lies Kimberley’s oldest residential suburb, Belgravia, which dates back to the 1870s. These homes were built at the peak of diamond trade. This is where South Africa's mining dynasty's patriarch, Harry Oppenheimer, was born. It's said that there once was more millionaires in this area than anywhere else in the world.
Art lovers are also in for a treat. The Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre showcases San art, both ancient rock art and contemporary creations. Not far away is the William Humphreys Art Gallery, specialising in South African artists but also offering a fine collection of 16th and 17th century Flemish, Dutch, English and French masters.
And if you're a battlefields buff, you're in for a treat. The Boers besieged Kimberley for several months during the South African War (also called the Anglo-Boer War), and many battles were fought in the vicinity. Visit the evocative Magersfontein battlefield, dating to 1899, and museum about 30 kilometres from Kimberley.
Being the diamond capital of the world, Kimberley is well-known for its exquisite. individually crafted jewellery, offering a precious personalised memento of a trip to Kimberley.
Travel tips & Planning info
Who to contact
Sol Plaatje Tourism Department (the official name of the Kimberley municipality is the Sol Plaatje Municipality)
Tel: +27 (0)53 830 6272
121 Bultfontein Road, Civic Centre, Kimberley
How to get here
You can fly directly to Kimberley from all the major cities in South Africa. It's about 500 kilometres or a five-hour drive from Johannesburg.
Best time to visit
The cooler months in spring (August, September) and autumn (March, April) are recommended. Kimberley can get very hot in summer (December to March) and very cold in winter (May, June and July).
Around the area
Grab a taste of Southern Africa’s pastoral life at the world famous Duggan-Cronin Gallery, displaying a collection of 8 000 priceless ethnographic photographs taken on expeditions into rural Southern Africa between 1919 and 1939.
Tours to do
Visit the Big Hole, the Magersfontein battlefield and the Wildebeest Kuil Rock Art Centre. There is loads to do in Kimberley, though, so you could spend several days here.
Kimberley is the only South African city with an operational tram system, dating back to the time of the diamond rush.
Where to stay
Kimberley has a number of luxury hotels, but many of the B&Bs and guesthouses in the historic part of town, many of them in buildings dating back to the diamond days, come highly recommended.