Between Table Mountain, Robben Island, the V&A Waterfront and all the many other highlights that Cape Town has to offer, it's easy to forget the city centre. But don't, because this is one of Africa's oldest and most beautiful city centres, filled with fascinating historic buildings. It's also fun.
Way back in 1696, the Burgher Watch (the police force of the time) built their station house on Cape Town's first city square. They patrolled the city at night to keep it safe and citizens were summoned by the bell in the tower whenever there was a public proclamation.
The Michaelis Collection
That building has long gone, replaced by the gaudily rococo Old Town Hall in 1755. The city admin moved out into the current City Hall in 1905 and the building now houses the wonderful Michaelis Collection. Part of the Iziko National Museum, it has lovely collection of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings including works by Frans Hals, Anthony van Dyke and many others. The museum also has a wonderful garden café, The Ivy Courtyard, that is an excellent lunch or drinks stop when out shopping or sightseeing.
What's in a name?
The name changed too, first to Stadhuys Plein (State House Plain) then, in 1805 to Greenmarket Square. The Victorian Gothic Methodist church was added in 1871 while the Inn on the Square is the last of the 19th century townhouses that once surrounded the square. Since 1961, the square has been a National Monument.
These days however there is an even bigger draw than the historic buildings around the edge. This is now the home of Cape Town's best craft market. Keep a good hold on your bag in the crush, be prepared to haggle and dive in for a happy morning buying anything from wooden elephants to handbags made of old tin cans.
Michaelis Collection, Old Town House, Greenmarket Square, Cape Town Telephone: +27 (0)21 481 3933
Opening hours Mon-Fri 10am-5pm Sat 10am-4pm, closed Sun.
The Inn on the Square, tel: +27 31 310 6900