Architecture Appreciation: 10 Magnificent Historic Buildings in SA



Buildings bare witness to the events that happen inside and around them. The older the building, the more stories it has to tell. South Africa boasts incredibly beautiful, significant buildings and monuments that honour, display and share its storied history. We've rounded up 10 of the most magnificent historic buildings and monuments in the country.

1. Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town

More than just a tourist attraction, the Castle of Good Hope is known as the oldest surviving building in South Africa. Built between 1666 and 1679, it has been the centre of civilian, political and military life at the Cape from approximately 1679. Today, it's open for tours and hosts a variety of events.

2. Melrose House, Pretoria

Now a museum, the Melrose House in Pretoria was build for George Heys, a young man from Durban who made his fortune in Kimberley's diamond rush in 1886. He commissioned British architect WT Vale to design the Victorian mansion complete with turrets and Dutch gables. It was named after Melrose Abbey in Scotland, where Heys and his wife had visited on a delayed honeymoon and today exemplifies the transition from Victorian to Edwardian architecture and decor.

3. Lord Milner Hotel, Maatjiesfontien

Built in 1899 by James Logan, the double-storey Lord Milner Hotel was completed in the early stages of The South African War. It was first used as a military hospital and the hotel turret later used as a lookout post. Some 10 000 troops were camped around the village during this time. Today, it's a graded three-star heritage site hotel and offers 15 classically furnished historic standard double rooms, and historic luxury and single rooms.

4. St Georges Cathedral, Cape Town

Steeped in the history of the country, St. George’s Cathedral is the oldest cathedral in Southern Africa and played a role in the resistance against apartheid. Because of this it is known as the People’s Cathedral. Located in the heart of the Cape Town CBD,  the cathedral has an active and dedicated congregation. The gothic church is a classic cruciform building, with a courtyard garden which includes a Labyrinth. The foundation stone was laid in 1901 by the future King George V and it remains a work in progress.

5. Dutch Reformed Church, Graaff-Reinet

One of the central points in Graaff-Reinet, the Dutch Reformed Church or 'Groot Kerk' as it is more commonly known is the fourth church built in the town. A preliminary version of the church was completed in 1823 and a stone foundation of the building was laid. The design of the church is Gothic Revival based on the lines of Salisbury Cathedral, while all the stone for the church was obtained locally. The church can seat 1 250 and has a steeple that is 45.72 metres high.

6. Soofie Mosque, Ladysmith

One of the most beautiful mosques in the country, the Soofie Mosque in Ladysmith was built without specific plans by master builder 'Chacha' Jamaloodeen in 1969. It was build on the the same site as the original mosque build by Hazrah Soofie Saheb in 1898. Soofie Saheb was a missionary from Hyerabad Deccan who established 13 mosques and 36 primary schools in South Africa.

7. City Hall, Pietermaritzburg

One of the most beautiful brick buildings in the country, Pietermaritzburg City Hall was built between 1893 and 1900. It is said to to the largest brick building in the Southern hemisphere and has beautiful stained glass displays and an enormous pipe organ, which is also the largest south of the equator. Various exhibitions and concerts are held at the City Hall, including frequent visits by the KwaZulu-Natal Philharmonic Orchestra. Just outside of the Pietermaritzburg City Hall stands a 5.5kg naval gun known as the One O’clock Gun.

8. Boschendal Manor House, Franschhoek

The epitome of Cape Vernacular design, the historic Manor House on Boschendal dates back to 1812. The house was build by Paul de Villiers, the grandson of Jacques de Villiers who owned the estate at the time, for his bride Anna Susanna Louw. The house has undergone major restoration and now serves as the tasting room on the estate.

9. Observatory Museum, Grahamstown

Originally a 19th century jewellers shop and family home, this building is connected with the identification of the Eureka, the first authenticated diamond in the country in 1867. The original owner Henry Carter Galpin designed the building. He was a jeweller and watchmaker who lived in the town until his death in 1886. It became the Observatory Museum in 1982, and celebrates the beginning of the diamond industry in South Africa.

10. General Post Office, Johannesburg

Construction for the Johannesburg Post Office Building began around 1896 and was designed by S Wierda. The clock tower and a fourth floor was added in 1905. The Post Office is the only noteworthy existing government building in Johannesburg dating from the time of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek, and reflects the architectural style of the period.