04 Apr 2015 | By Sun International
Discover the V&A Waterfront
Did you know? The Table Bay in Cape Town is the only luxury hotel with direct access to the V&A Waterfront. Opened by former State President Nelson Mandela, and with views of historic Robben Island, The Table Bay is inexorably intertwined with the history of the V&A Waterfront.
The best way to discover the history of the V&A is on an Instawalk. Here’s what you’ll see:
- Walk what remains of the antique Breakwater. The Table Bay hotel straddles the only remaining section of the historic Breakwater in a style that is both innovative and entirely in keeping with its surroundings. Because the Breakwater (which was begun in 1869 but only completed in 1927) was mostly demolished to make way for the V&A Waterfront (but which was largely saved by The Table Bay), there’s thankfully still a small section that can be walked today.
- Wow your Instagram followers with shots of Chavonnes Battery Museum, the harbour’s oldest relic. After the Castle, this battery was the first major defence facility built (1714 to 1725) by the Dutch East India Company. The battery was also used as a prison, and in 1836, as a smallpox isolation hospital.
- The Gothic-style Clock Tower, built in 1883, was the Port Captain’s first office in the newly constructed harbour. The Clock Tower was also known as the Dock Clock or Tide Gauge Tower.
- The Time Ball Tower, built in 1894, was an important navigational aid for ships. Its primary purpose was to relay the correct time to the ships in the harbour and bay by dropping the big red ball on its roof down a metal spike.
- Explore the Robinson Dry Dock. When the harbour was designed, the Royal Navy made a request that a dry dock be included, which could serve their interests in the southern hemisphere. During WWII, over 300 ships were repaired here. Today the Robinson Dry Dock is one of the few of its age still in operation in the world.
- Next to the dry dock, The Pump House was the location of the Planet Hollywood Restaurant in the late ‘90s and was the scene of the infamous 1998 bombing which injured 25 people and resulted in one death. This was one of a number of bombings that rocked Cape Town during a turbulent time involving gangs and extremists.
- The original harbour was built by thousands of convicts, housed in the Breakwater Prison. If you take a short walk up Portswood Road, you’ll discover a very high wall that gives no indication that something interesting lies beyond this entrance. However, this is a must-visit V&A Waterfront attraction. You’ll see The Treadmill, a sadistic device invented as a punishment for lazy and insubordinate prisoners. Next to the treadmill are the isolation cells. The slate wall behind the cells, facing the sea, is full of hundreds of very old drawings and inscriptions scratched or etched by the inmates. Look out for the cartoon of President Kruger among the 150-year-old graffiti.
- Take a selfie with bronze sculptures of South Africa’s Nobel Peace Prize laureates at Nobel Square, including former President Nelson Mandela, Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and former State President FW de Klerk.
- There are 22 landmark attractions at South Africa’s oldest working harbour. If you want to see them all (or most of them), book a V&A Waterfront Historical Walking Tour, and, with camera in hand, you'll be guided to several points of historical interest, including the Swing Bridge, Bertie’s Landing, and the African Trading Port.
Here are some things to do at the V&A Waterfront:
- For unparalleled views of Cape Town, ride the Cape Wheel. A perfect start to a romantic evening or an exciting family day, the ride only takes 15 minutes and will give you a snapshot introduction to the beauty of Cape Town and the V&A Waterfront.
- Watch the latest box office hits in style at Scene, Nu Metro’s brand-new ultra-luxurious cinema. With leather reclining chairs and a lounge and bar area, the three Scene cinemas can accommodate up to 19 people.
- Go for a run. The V&A Waterfront has clearly demarcated two running routes (2.2km and 5km) through the complex and along the scenic boardwalk pathway.
- Spoil yourself to a delicious selection of healthy, artisanal food at the Market on the Wharf.
- If you're looking for things to do with kids, go Art Jamming. Also not to be missed, the Two Oceans Aquarium offers a wide range of activities for kids, including a touch pool and the ever impressive I&J Predators Exhibit.
- Diamonds are a girl's best friends! Visit the Cape Town Diamond Museum for a glittering insight into diamonds. Follow it up with a pamper session at Camelot Spa at The Table Bay and cocktails at Camissa Brassiere.
- Take a V&A Waterfront boat trip and cruise around Cape Town’s historic harbour.
- If you're a rugby fan, visit the Springbok Experience Rugby Museum, a two-storey exhibition space that celebrates the rich and complex history of South Africa rugby and the Springboks.
If you’re looking for more things to do at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, speak to the concierge at The Table Bay for excellent recommendations and information on our luxury tour services.