About The Gardens
The Gardens is a suburb of Cape Town located just to the south of the city centre. It is situated directly beneath Table Mountain and Lion’s Head, on the higher elevations of the “City Bowl”. The Gardens is an affluent neighbourhood populated mostly by young professionals. It is one of the oldest and most established areas of Cape Town featuring numerous restaurants, hotels, boutique shops and loft apartments. The suburb is also a hub for the creative industry in Cape Town and is home to e.tv at Langkloof Studios. The Gardens features many modelling agencies, production and publishing companies. Many of the houses in The Gardens have an air of the colonial about them with their large rooms, high ceilings and wooden floors being much sought after. Some of these houses have been transformed into accommodation venues.
What became known as the Company’s Garden was laid out by Commander Jan van Riebeeck in 1652. When Van Riebeeck was transferred to the East Indies ten years later, the garden covered 18 ha, divided into sections by five walks lengthways and eleven crosswise. In time the cultivated area boasted a complete range of vegetables, several fruit species including, eventually, even bananas and pineapples, as well as shrubs and flowers, both indigenous and imports from Europe, America and Asia. Bisecting the gardens from north to south was a central broad walkway that became known as Government Avenue and is now a heritage site. The orange and lemon trees that originally lined the avenue were gradually replaced by oaks and elms. The ornamental gates near the northern end were designed by architect Louis Thibault. Van Riebeeck’s successors made alterations and additions of their own.
Thus Simon van der Stel developed a garden for rare plants and trees from many parts of the world, and his son Willem built a menagerie at the northern end. A lodge was erected to accommodate official guests. This was later rebuilt higher up in the garden and became known as Government House, today Tuynhuys, the Cape Town office of the president. Other features include an ornamental sundial (1781), a slave bell, a wisteria arbour, an aviary, a herb garden labelled in braille and a saffron pear tree planted during Van Riebeeck’s time. During the 18th and 19th centuries the gardens were gradually reduced from 18 ha to 6 ha to accommodate a number of stately buildings, including the Houses of Parliament, the National Gallery, St George’s Cathedral, the National Library of South Africa (formerly the South African Library) and the South African Museum.
The first statue erected in South Africa, that of Sir George Grey, is located in front of the Public Library in The Gardens. The suburb is also home to the oldest museum in the country, the South African Museum, which was established in 1825. At the top end of Government Avenue in The Gardens, is Cape Town High School. The School was built on the grounds of which once stood the Hope Mill, one of five water mills which operated along the banks of the Fresh River. Other places of interest in The Gardens are the Iziko South African Museum, The Iziko National Gallery, The Planetarium and the Michaelis School of Fine Art. The famous five-star Mount Nelson Hotel is also located here.
The trendy Long Street in The Gardens is full of restaurants, unconventional avenues, coffee shops and bistros. The suburb is also perfectly situated to quickly access the popular Atlantic beaches across Kloof Nek as well as the Table Mountain cableway.