From the youthful exhuberance of its students and scholars to its quiet tree-lined suburban streets; from its stately Victorian charms to its vibrant African rhythms; from its historic past to its future as a leading cultural and tourist centre, Grahamstown is a melting pot of the many and varied cultures that have met and mingled here over the last 200 years.
Sunrise over Grahamstown is marked by the astronomical toposcope on Gunfire Hill, one of two major vantage points overlooking the city. The hill almost directly opposite, on the other side of the valley, is Makana’s Kop named after the legendary Xhosa prophet and leader, Makana, who attacked the fledgling city in 1819. The tale of the Battle of Grahamstown is a stirring one.
Grahamstown started as a small military outpost founded in 1812 by British officer, Colonel John Graham, during the turbulent Frontier Wars. As the town declined in military importance, it grew into a thriving market town built by civilians, businessmen, traders and explorers and was once the second largest city in South Africa after Cape Town.
The City’s eventful past is reflected in its unique historical buildings. With over 70 heritage sites, Grahamstown offers the best collection of Georgian, Victorian and early Edwardian architecture in the country.
The local township has its own distinctive image and its commercial spirit promotes spaza shops, taverns, Bed ‘n Breakfasts and Homestays; while placid livestock and ubiquitous donkey carts can be seen at every turn. Township tours are recommended.
Grahamstown is an important educational, legal and cultural centre and offers travellers easy access to the unspoilt beaches of the Sunshine Coast and many well-known local 5-star game lodges offering the “Big 5” in a malaria -and bilharzia-free environment.
- Anglican Cathedral of St Michael and St George, Church Square
- High Street and the Victorian shop fronts on Church Square
- Observatory Museum housing a Victorian Camera Obscura, Bathurst Street
- Artificers' Square, Cross Street
- Rhodes University Campus
- Makana Botanical Gardens, Lucas Avenue
- The Provost, Lucas Avenue
- 1820 Settlers' Monument and Fort Selwyn, Gunfire Hill
- Take a township tour
- Experience the annual National Arts Festival every July - the 3rd largest Arts Festival in the world