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Grahamstown is a city in the Eastern Cape, with a population of about 125,000, located North of Port Elizabeth. The city was founded by the British in the 1900s as an outpost during the Boer Wars, and there are some interesting historical military buildings and relics to be found throughout the city, as it has the largest number of forts of any city in South Africa. Grahamstown is the central city within “Frontier Country”, an area recognized by its turbulent past.

Firstly, the city has earned the nickname “the City of Saints”. There are over 40 religious buildings in Grahamstown, and the city caters for a wide range of different religions, including Hindu, Quaker, Muslim and Mormon adherents. The main bulk of the 40 buildings belong to the wide variety of Christian denominations. The Anglican Church is, logically enough, most well represented, and Grahamstown has an Anglican Bishop, who has his episcopal seat at the Anglican Cathedral of St Michael and St George. This Cathedral is perhaps the most impressive building in the city, with the tallest spire in South Africa.

Although I refer to Grahamstown as a city it feels more like a town even though it has a population in excess of one hundred thousand and a cathedral. It therefore also has a more intimate feel to it enhanced by the lack of high-rise buildings and the presence of thousands of trees inside the city boundaries. It is also not uncommon to find the odd donkey-cart in the streets. The town has three traffic lights excluding the pedestrian crossings with traffic light assistance. One of these can be found at St Andrews College, one of the world class schools in Grahamstown together with Kingswood College. The Diocesan School for Girls is also worth a mention and is the sister school to St Andrews College.

Secondly, Grahamstown is known for the Rhodes University, a world class institution with thousands of students. It is therefore not unusual to suspect that the night life in the city is something tremendous.

Nightlife in The City of Saints is almost always throbbing unless the students are between semesters then all of them are away at their respective homes. Even when the students are away the world class “The Rat and Parrot” pub is always busy and when the students are here it is almost impossible to move inside this double-storey double bar pub with a balcony area and an outside area. Grahamstown also has “Friar Tuck’s”, a well-visited pub with dance floor that usually receives its patrons late at nigh after they had visited The Rat and Parrot and other bars or private house parties. Slip Stream Sports Bar is further down the street from the Rat and Parrot and at this venue one can have a drink and try your gambling luck with slot machines.

This is also related to the third feature which makes Grahamstown such an attractive place to visit, is the fact that it is known as the festival capital of South Africa. Grahamstown hosts a number of cultural festivals throughout the year, which attracts visitors from all over the country. The main festival is the National Arts Festival, and during the week when it is in play, Grahamstown transforms into one large cultural exposition.

During the summer over December and January things become much more quiet in Grahamstown, but a mere fifty-odd kilometers to the South are the world class beaches at Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea where you will find thousands of holiday-makers. Port Alfred boasts one of the more impressive Marinas in the Southern Hemisphere whereas Kenton has two Blue Flag Beaches. If you like the beach and holiday atmosphere that accompanies summer then this whole area of the coast is for you.

All the large buildings and open spaces are occupied by musicians, dancers and comedians, and open-air theaters are erected on the main village squares, with ongoing performances throughout the day. Flea-markets span the street and hawkers sell extravagant goods on the sidewalks.

Grahamstown has something for everybody and it seems everybody is interesting. Get tired of this impressive city and you can take a quick trip to the beach or one of the game farms like Shamwari or a slightly longer ride to Port Elizabeth, one hundred and thirty kilometers away. I would recommend Grahamstown to any would-be traveler.


  1. I live in Grahamstown. You would be interested to know that Grahamstown its also home to 6 SA Infantry Battalion, the first and only Air Assault Unit in South Africa.The town is about 55km from the Indian Ocean and there one finds Port Alfred and Kenton-on-Sea with some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

  2. W.Klokow is also the author of the expanded article on Grahamstown. After his reply I’ve kept personal contact and he wrote the fantastic additional and accurate travel information in this article. Thanks for lending a hand to making the website a better travel environment for us all.


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