The Victoria and Alfred Waterfront Cape Town

The famous Clock Tower in the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.
The famous Clock Tower in the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town.

Cape Town's premier attraction

Started back in 1860 by Queen Victoria's second son Prince Alfred, the Victoria and Alfred Basins were for many years the main harbour of Cape Town. Since 1988 the two basins have been re-developed into what is now South Africa's most visited tourist attraction, with more than 1 million visitors per month, some 70% of them Capetonians.

The Waterfront is a great mix of very modern shopping malls and very old (at least by South African standards) buildings. The Clock Tower, a much-loved feature, is a Victorian Gothic building completed in the late 1880s.

A feature of the Waterfront which is of great interest is the Nobel Square which honours the four South African men who have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize: Chief Albert Mvumbi Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, former presidents F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Luthuli was a a chief of his people, the son of a Seventh Day Adventist missionary, and president of the African National Congress (ANC) until it was banned. Luthuli was removed from his position of chief by the apartheid regime in 1952. He was banned, charged with treason, and in many other ways harrassed by the regime, but remained steadfast in his commitment to the liberation of his people by peaceful means. He received the Peace Prize in 1960.

In his acceptance speach the great Chief said: "I, together with thousands of my countrymen have in the course of the struggle for these ideals, been harassed and imprisoned, but we are not deterred in our quest for a new age in which we shall live in peace and in brotherhood."

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Looking across the Alfred Basin toward the Clock Tower. The Clock Tower (the red building to the right) was completed in 1882 and fully restored in 1997.South Africa's Nobel Peace Laureates in the Nobel Square. From left they are Chief Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
Looking across the Alfred Basin toward the Clock Tower. The Clock Tower (the red building to the right) was completed in 1882 and fully restored in 1997.
Looking across the Alfred Basin toward the Clock Tower. The Clock Tower (the red building to the right) was completed in 1882 and fully restored in 1997.
South Africa's Nobel Peace Laureates in the Nobel Square. From left they are Chief Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
South Africa's Nobel Peace Laureates in the Nobel Square. From left they are Chief Albert Luthuli, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, F.W. de Klerk and Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela

South African winners of the Nobel Peace Prize

The next South African to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Mpilo Tutu, who was awarded the prize in 1984.

In his Nobel Lecture Tutu said: "I come from a beautiful land, richly endowed by God with wonderful natural resources, wide expanses, rolling mountains, singing birds, bright shining stars out of blue skies, with radiant sunshine, golden sunshine. There is enough of the good things that come from God's bounty, there is enough for everyone, but apartheid has confirmed some in their selfishness, causing them to grasp greedily a disproportionate share, the lion's share, because of their power"

He went on: "A tribute to our people's commitment to peaceful change is the fact that the only South Africans to win the Nobel Peace Prize are both black. Our people are peace-loving to a fault"

In 1993 that changed when former president F.W. de Klerk became the first white South African to win the prize, which he received jointly with former president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

In his Nobel Lecture Mandela spoke of his vision for the world: "This must be a world of democracy and respect for human rights, a world freed from the horrors of poverty, hunger, deprivation and ignorance, relieved of the threat and the scourge of civil wars and external aggression and unburdened of the great tragedy of millions forced to become refugees."

In his Lecture De Klerk said: "The new era which is dawning in our country, beneath the great southern stars, will lift us out of the silent grief of our past and into a future in which there will be opportunity and space for joy and beauty - for real and lasting peace."

A bay cruise

After a short look around the Alfred Basin my colleague, with whom I was visiting Cape Town on business, and I spotted a lovely-looking boat called the Esperance and we watched it coming alongside the quay. While we were watching a man standing on the quay asked if we would be interested in going aboard for a sail into Table Bay.

We decided we would like to do that and so paid for tickets and went aboard. Very soon we were heading out of the Alfred Basin, through the Victoria Basin and into the bay.

The sea was almost as smooth as a mirror and the only breeze we could feel was that caused by the motion of the boat.

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The "Esperance" coming alongsideLooking up at Table Mountain through some of the "Esperance's" riggingMainsail set!Table Mountain from the bayThe Greenpoint 2010 Soccer World Cup stadium risesThe "Spirit of Victoria" sails pastFascinating cloud formation over Table Mountain
The "Esperance" coming alongside
The "Esperance" coming alongside
Looking up at Table Mountain through some of the "Esperance's" rigging
Looking up at Table Mountain through some of the "Esperance's" rigging
Mainsail set!
Mainsail set!
Table Mountain from the bay
Table Mountain from the bay
The Greenpoint 2010 Soccer World Cup stadium rises
The Greenpoint 2010 Soccer World Cup stadium rises
The "Spirit of Victoria" sails past
The "Spirit of Victoria" sails past
Fascinating cloud formation over Table Mountain
Fascinating cloud formation over Table Mountain

The Waterfront

The area around the two basins has been developed into one of the premier tourist attractions in South Africa by combining the very old with the very new in mostly tasteful and user-friendly ways.

The sights and experiences available range from wonderful restaurants and shopping malls to flea-market type places, a great music shop, a world-class oceanarium featuring an amazing kelp forest, historical buildings and an interesting swing bridge, all surrounding a working harbour, with fishing vessels and deep ocean ships, pleasure craft of all sorts, and a "penny ferry" that has operated for more than 100 years.

The South African Maritime Museum is also situated in the Waterfront and features fixed displays and two ships moored in the Basin.

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A pilot launch sails out to meet an incoming vesselSome of the old masonry in the Alfred BasinThe dry dock in the Alfred Basin
A pilot launch sails out to meet an incoming vessel
A pilot launch sails out to meet an incoming vessel
Some of the old masonry in the Alfred Basin
Some of the old masonry in the Alfred Basin
The dry dock in the Alfred Basin
The dry dock in the Alfred Basin

Copyright Notice

The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.

© Tony McGregor 2010

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Comments 5 comments

Teresa McGurk profile image

Teresa McGurk 7 years ago from The Other Bangor

Lovely. Table Mountain provides such a great backdrop for the city, doesn't it?

I wonder if any of the stone or masonry in Cape Town derived from ballast from shipping to the harbor? I ask because Charleston, SC has some cobblestone streets that originated from the ships coming over from Britain. . .


Tatjana-Mihaela profile image

Tatjana-Mihaela 7 years ago from Zadar, CROATIA

Thanks for writing this Hub and sharing so many nice pictures with us. Thanks for mentioning your Nobel Peace Price winners. Words of Desmond Tutu about abundance of this world are just wonderful.

Cape town is nice combination of mountains and seaside. I like this combination the best.

Love & Peace


Tom Rubenoff profile image

Tom Rubenoff 7 years ago from United States

A beautiful place. Thanks for sharing!


Pierre 7 years ago

Thank you for sharing some awesome images of the V&A Waterfront - it is indeed a "must-see" when in Cape Town and a trip on the "Spirit of Victoria" is highly recommended


Rik Ravado profile image

Rik Ravado 7 years ago from England

I've recently visited Cape Town for the first time and loved the V&A Waterfront. Great Hub - thanks for good read and great pictures!

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