Picture Story: Cape Town as it was – a trip down memory lane

Voted as the best destination of 2014, Cape Town has become South Africa’s little gem. But how did the sleepy town transform into a global holiday destination? Travel back in time as we take a nostalgic photo trip down Cape Town’s memory lane. These classic photos encapsulate the ever-changing city.

Cape Town City Bowl (1896)

Although the buildings have changed significantly in the almost 120 years since this picture was taken, the iconic Cape Town City Bowl is still instantly recognisable.


Somerset Hospital, Green Point (19th Century)

The date of the photo of Somerset Hospital below is unknown, but was most likely taken near the end of the 19th Century. Little has changed of the facade of the hospital, which was first opened in 1864.


Orange Street (1870)

The inhabitants in the picture of Orange Street in 1870 below seem to be of a different world to the one of today. Notice the tramway going into the distance, which transported 19th century Capetonians around what was then more a town than a city.


Sea Point (1890)

Sea Point is today a dense and bustling hub of activity with apartment buildings, shopping centres, traffic and people at every corner. In 1890 it looks like a sleepy seaside town.


Woodstock Beach (1899)

Visitors to the Cape Town area of Woodstock today may find it inconceivable that it was once a trendy seaside suburb. Cottages were lined up on the edge of the beach, and the infamous Cape of storms lead to numerous shipwrecks in the vicinity. Unfortunately, with the advent of the foreshore, the sea no longer comes up to greet the inhabitants of Woodstock, but there still remains to this day a Beach Road in Woodstock (albeit with no beach).


Cape Town Old Pier (1911)

The Old Pier was completed in 1910 and became a social gathering point for Capetonians. The pier even included a Pavilion where ballet and classical music concerts were given. In 1939 the Old Pier was demolished to give way to the foreshore, and roads, infrastructure and high rise buildings now stand in its place.


Cape Town Foreshore (1948)

The foreshore is a large area of reclaimed land from Table Bay, and today includes the Cape Town Railway Station and Civic Centre. Even the Cape Town International Convention Centre was once part of the bay.


Kloof Road (1953)

Kloof Road, between Sea Point and Camps Bay, has always been a spectacular drive, even though it was once a long journey to travel. As a result, Camps Bay was regarded as a distant holiday destination for even Capetonians. The beautiful scenery remains, while the area has become significantly more built up.


Camps Bay (1910)

The Rotunda is the only recognisable building that still remains from this picture taken in 1910 of Camps Bay.


Sea Point Pool (1930)

The Sea Point Pool has been a Cape Town institution for decades. Opened in 1914, it contained an open air cinema and stage as well as a tearoom. During Apartheid it was unfortunately closed to the black South African population, but today enjoys a rich diversity of people, cultures and nationalities from around the world.


Cape Town Cable Way (1964)

The Cape Town Cable Way was opened in 1929 to provide an easy way up Table Mountain. The picture below shows a group of visitors inside the second cable car that was introduced in 1958. With open air windows, it looks a bit more precarious than the one today.


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