Attractions / Destinations / Ten (10) to Inspire

20 Most Incredible Historical Sites in South Africa

Updated Wednesday, 17 April 2024

Historical Sites in South Africa ~ South Africa’s history is young. It doesn’t have buildings that date back to the fifteenth century, because back then its beaches were still combed by Strandlopers (the hunter-gatherer San, known as beach combers for their shell midden remains).

What South Africa does have is an interesting and varied history, one that highlights a distinctive blend of cultures and races that are its trademark…

When exploring our history, don’t miss these 20 incredible historical sites in South Africa

Cape Town Castle
  1. Castle of Good Hope, Cape Town

This 17th century fort used to lie on the edge of Table Bay before Cape Town reclaimed a portion of its shoreline, now known as the Foreshore. The monument is undergoing renovations, but this has not hindered the daily guided tours at 11:00, 12:00 and 14:00.

Feed the squirrels in the Company Gardens
  1. Company’s Garden, Cape Town

The oldest garden in the country began as Jan van Riebeeck’s vegetable garden, cultivated to feed the crews of the VOC’s fleet of ships when they came into Table Bay, in the mid 1600s. You can still see a pear tree – one of the few remains of the original garden.

District Six Museum, Cape Town
  1. District Six Museum, Cape Town

If there’s one museum to visit when in Cape Town, this is it… Considered one of the most important historical sites in South Africa, the small building vividly recounts the story of the mixed community of freed slaves, merchants, artisans, labourers and immigrants who lived on the edge of the city centre before the process of enforced removals, under apartheid, destroyed it.

Eat Sleep do In Mossel Bay
  1. Pinnacle Point Caves, Mossel Bay

Take a guided tour of Pinnacle Point where caves have revealed evidence that some of the planet’s very first inhabitants lived here. Cave 13B  reveals evidence of man’s earliest attempts at symbolic behaviour, whilst Cave 5-6 exposes the oldest evidence for heat treatment of rock to make tools.

Dorp Street, Stellenbosch
  1. Dorp Street, Stellenbosch

Stellenbosch’s city centre, and Dorp Street in particular, is awash with beautiful buildings of historical merit. There is an historical guided or self-guided walk (Historical Stellenbosch on Foot) you can do – pick up a map at the Tourist Information to explore these fascinating and beautiful historical sites in South Africa.

Photograph by and © Janek Szymanowski
  1. Sheik Yusuf kramat, Cape Town

Sheik Yusuf, considered the father of Islam in the Cape, has his tomb on Cape Town’s coast, where he died in 1699 at Zandvliet.

It is a place of pilgrimage and arguably the most visited shrine. It forms part of the circle of kramats.

Historical sites in South Africa - Tulbagh
  1. Church Street, Tulbagh

Unlike most towns, historical Church Street is not the main road through Tulbagh. It is, however, a beautifully restored trip down memory lane, awash with Dutch gables, thatched roofs and wandering peacocks. Include the Earthquake Museum for a history of the damage to this little town.

  1. Malgas Pont, Overberg

The pont that gets you across the Breede River has been in operation since 1860, the only hand-drawn pont, and the last of its kind, in South Africa. Don’t expect romance; it’s largely functional. And if you’re using it, make sure to phone the Malagas Hotel ahead to find out what times the ferry operates.

Malgas Pont, Overberg
  1. Dias Cross, Cannon Rocks

The Dias Cross at Kwaaihoek, partway between Boknes lagoon (you can see it on the headland of the bay) and Bushman’s River Mouth, is one of three crosses the Portuguese explorer erected when journeying around Africa in about 1487. This particular cross has quite a story.

  1. Dinosaur fossils, Nieu Bethesda

Make time in the heart of the Karoo to take the guided tour with a fossil expert to the very spots where these fossils remain embedded in the river bed.

Taung Heritage Site Photo © South African Palaeocave Survey
  1. Taung Heritage Site, Cradle of Humankind

The 2-million years old fossilised skull of a child was found in Buxton Quarry in 1924, but excavations continue at the heritage site, which forms part of the Cradle of Humankind, despite being 300 km from the Maropeng Museum, just outside Johannesburg.

  1. Groenkloof’s historical sculptures, Pretoria

55 life-size copper sculptures are caught in motion (a relay race of heroes passing the freedom baton from one leader to the other) in Groenkloof Nature Reserve.

A display of South African heroes and heroines in Pretoria that are well worth a visit.

Kimberley Mine Museum
  1. Kimberley Mine Museum

The historical Big Hole is to Kimberley what Table Mountain is to Cape Town.

But its accompanying Mine Museum Tour is  brilliant, and you would be remiss not to take it.

  1. Cornish Pump House, Okiep

Okiep is the country’s oldest mining town. Copper was first discovered and mined here in 1885.

The still-standing national monument that is the Cornish Pump House is the only fully intact pump house in the southern hemisphere.

Taal Monument, Paarl
  1. Taal Monument, Paarl

The highly unusual Taal Monument sits atop Paarl rock, there since 1975 to commemorate the semi centenary of Afrikaans as an official language, separate from Dutch.

The views of Paarl and surrounding Winelands from the top are worth a visit alone.

  1. Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

One of the most import of the historical sites in South Africa; to explore the country’s history of segregation and oppression is a must-do – immerse yourself in this interactive museum.

Historical Sites in South Africa - Apartheid Museum
  1. Durban’s City Hall

This Edwardian neo-Baroque building, built in the early 1900s and a replica of the city hall in Belfast, Ireland, is a stone structure that today houses a public library, the Durban Art Gallery, auditorium, and the Natural Science Museum.

  1. Isandlwana, Battlefields Route

A series of self-drive routes take you through the historical battlefields of inland KwaZulu-Natal, linking battle sites, museums, memorials, graves and historical buildings.

Of these Isandlwana is the site of one of the most famous Anglo-Zulu battles.

Isandlwana, Battlefields Route
  1. Game Pass Rock Art, Drakensberg

There are thousands of examples of San rock art throughout the country, but the most significant of these are in the uKhahlamba Drakensberg Park.

Game Pass at Kamberg is one of the best preserved of these sites.

  1. Coedmore Castle

This beautiful, barely known, historic family home was built in 1875.

Dubbed Durban’s ‘castle lite’ it lies in the middle of the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve in Yellowwood park, not far from Durban’s city centre.

Durban City Hall

Explore More

Photo Credit

Taung Heritage Site Photo above by and © the South African Palaeocave Survey.
Sheik Yusuf kramat Photograph by and © Janek Szymanowski.

Cape Town City Hall