Explore the Capetonian culture with a visit to Rhodes Memorial, learn about the struggles and hardships that South African people have overcome, and explore the activities and things to do that Rhodes Memorial has on offer.
History of Rhodes Memorial
Rhodes Memorial was completed in 1912 to commemorate English born South African politician Cecil John Rhodes. Situated on the northern slope of Devil’s peak, this was Cecil’s favourite spot on the Table Mountain range. Visitors can sit on the exact bench known as Rhodes’s own wooden bench that overlooks the leafy suburbs below.
Rhodes was a champion for the British imperial colonisation of Africa and owned many prime pieces of land below the memorial site which he donated to the people of the country shortly after his death. Today the land is home to UCT’s campus, Groote Schuur Hospital, The Presidential Home and Kirstenbosch’s National Botanical Garden, all of which were donated by Cecil to the country after his death.
The memorial itself carries mixed emotions as the country remains divided as to whether they should remember the struggles during the oppression or otherwise known as colonisation, while others would have Rhodes’ name stripped from the land altogether.
The memorial is allegedly modelled after the Greek temple at Segesta, consisting of massive granite structures and pillars that almost touch the sky. The 49 step staircase has become a tourists hotspot and a highly sought after Instagram photo location, each step symbolises a year of Rhodes’ life.
The bronze horseman statue, Physical Energy by George Frederik Watts, is possibly the most well known feature at the memorial and recently has been defaced by anti Rhodes opinion holders. The memorial site also boats 8 bronze lion fixtures that line the steps leading up to the memorial building itself. There is also a lifelike bust of Rhodes, designed by John M. Swan, inscripted with the the last stanza of the poem Burial by Rudyard Kipling.
Rhodes was fascinated with wildlife and erected his own private Zoo on what is now UCT campus, the zoo was closed in 1970’s, however, the lion den structure remain somewhat unchanged.
Activities & Things to do
With the location of Rhodes Memorial there is plenty of outdoor fun to be had, from a visit to the popular restaurant and Tea Garden that boasts some of the best views at Rhodes, to the challenging Devil’s Peak hike with its elevated start right at the foot of the memorial.
1) Rhodes Memorial Restaurant & Tea Garden
This unique Restaurant and Tea Garden provides uninterrupted panoramic views of the Cape Flats, Holland, Helderberg and Hottentots mountain ranges, it is also one of the few locations you can see both the Indian and Atlantic oceans.
Owners Bernard and Jessica are welcoming and friendly, clearly evident with their combined 85 years of hospitality experience. This much loved spot is frequented by students, locals and tourists alike.
Their seasonal menu promises something new with every visit and kids are fully catered for with an outdoor play area that boast all the playground favourites.
Tip: Booking is essential over public holidays and weekends.
Operating Hours: Daily from 9am - 5pm
More Info: Website
The shaded parking lot has become an avid hikers dream, as often coming back to a hot car after a long hike can leave you feeling even more drained than the hike itself. Hikers can enjoy the safe secure parking and elevated access to the grueling Devil’s Peak climb.
The hike is 13km long from Rhodes memorial starting point, with a summit of 100m above sea level, hikers are warned that the treacherous hike can be quite challenging during the colder wetter months in Cape Town (May - August) as the majority of the climb takes place in a ravine.
There are several other walking and hiking trails that either start or finish at Rhodes Memorial, these are well marked and easy to navigate but remember to always keep your wits about you.
More Info: Hiking Guide
Throughout the year you can expect to find visitors picnicking on the grounds as the soft grass and shaded areas provide the perfect setting to enjoy some light snacks.
Entrance to the memorial is free and easily accessible from either the main roads or UCT campus, many students walk up to the memorial to enjoy their lunch or simply take in the spectacular views on offer.
The Newlands Reservoir can be accessed from the driveway, and parking can be found to the right before you enter the driveway gates. The reservoir is man made and residents of Cape Town often take a dip in the refreshing water.
If a still body of water doesn’t sound inviting to you why not take a walk to Newlands Forest, where you can take advantage of the many secluded rock pools filled with cascading fresh mountain water.
At this point in time the existence of the memorial is still under debate as the country is torn between commemorating Cecil Rhodes or removing what activists are calling an eye sore to a nation. Personally my fingers are crossed that this stunning landmark be kept preserved, and stand as a reminder of what South Africa will not tolerate again.
Want to see more of Cape Town - Head on over to the Vibescout website for inspiration!