The highlights of the V&A Waterfront

Posted by Craig Leyenaar on 26 November 2011

Visiting the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront is a memorable experience, whether it is just for an hour or the whole day. A long, winding road leads you dizzily past several traffic circles as you pass the invisible moat separating the V&A Waterfront from the rest of Cape Town. Once inside you face the excited hordes of tourists and school groups, there to explore one of the city’s most popular attractions.

Arriving early, before 10 or 11am, provides a respite from the crowds. This is the best time to get your shopping done inside the main Victoria Wharf building, which contains hundreds of shops selling everything from curios and clothes to art and books. The elegant arcades are a reflection of the building’s namesake, Queen Victoria, and walking their wide avenues is surprisingly relaxing. If prolonged shopping isn’t your thing, don’t feel obliged to stay in the main centre. Head outside and explore.

To get an idea of the opportunities awaiting you, your first stop should be the Wheel of Excellence. Just outside the Victoria Wharf, is Cape Town’s answer to the London Eye. Looming over the Victoria Basin, a few revolutions provide a unique view of the Waterfront’s place in the city, while Table Mountain provides an impressive backdrop to the panorama spread out before you.

Shake off any vertigo and take a stroll down toward the Alfred Mall, named after Queen Victoria’s second son. Continue on across the pedestrian swing bridge to the Clocktower where you can catch one of the Robben Island ferries from the Nelson Mandela Gateway to Robben Island. If you look to your right, you will see the new Nedbank building, not an attraction itself but there is something underneath. When they broke ground for its construction, they rediscovered the ruins of the old Chavonnes Battery. One of the first structures built where the present-day Waterfront is, it was constructed as part of the old colony’s naval defenses. You can’t help but feel a nostalgic sense of boyhood wonder as you walk through the Chavonnes Battery. Images, text and exhibits of cannon, ship parts and old ruins create a feeling of adventure on the high seas as well as an insight into the landscape of Cape Town while it was still a small trading post.

Diamonds appear only to exist as sources of dancing light flourished by ecstatic young women, or on ostentatious chains paraded around by slightly obnoxious celebrities. The Shimansky Diamond Museum offers anyone the opportunity to find out for themselves what makes diamonds sparkle. They will guide you on a tour behind the scenes; explaining where diamonds come from, how they are mined (even dressing you up as miners and taking you through a mock mine shaft), where the modern idea of diamond engagement rings comes from (1477 – Archduke Maximillian of Austria came up with the concept when he wanted to propose to Mary of Burgundy), exactly what a carat is (0.2 grams), and finally into the showroom. Here you are shown, through a series of windows, the actual people cutting and polishing the diamonds to exacting standards. If you are feeling lucky and want a diamond, buy one of their limited edition perfumes. Of the 1 000 made, one in every hundred has a 0.25 carat diamond inside. Just watch out, this may be a dangerous tour to take with your significant other.

Having worked up an appetite head to one of the many restaurants scattered all around the V&A Waterfront, one of the best is the newly opened Harbour House on Quay 4. Here you can rest on the water’s edge, while enjoying a delicious meal and watching the bustling hordes float by. Opened only a few weeks ago, it is well-known for its seafood; all freshly caught on their own boat which goes out each day. If you feel like taking to the high seas yourself then spend an hour on a harbour cruise while letting your food settle. Continuing the oceanic theme, take a walk through the Red Shed Craft Market to visit the world-famous Two Oceans Aquarium. With a huge population of aquatic guests and large themed exhibits such as the Kelp Forest and Sappi River or the Indian and Atlantic Galleries, you will find yourself struggling to see it all. The very popular I&J Predator Exhibit has sharks, turtles and other predatory fish endlessly circling a tw0-million-litre tank, where you can watch the professionals feeding these animals daily at 15hoo.

There is a reason why the V & A Waterfront is so popular, each person will find their personal favourite thing about it. There are enough attractions and entertainment options that you will find yourself looking forward to going back again and again.

Find a copy of Getaway at one of the many newsstands throughout the V & A Waterfront.

Win a R500 gift voucher for the V & A Waterfront

V&A Waterfront information

Wheel of Excellence:

Running times: Sunday to Thursday (10h00-20h00), Friday and Saturday (10h00-22h00)

Cost: Adults areR80, chidren are R40 (age between 4-12)

Visit the Wheel of Excellence website for more information on packages and various rates.

Chavonnes Battery:

Open seven days a week, [email protected]

Shimansky Diamond Museum

Tel 021-425-9888, [email protected],

Harbour House

Tel 021-418-4744, [email protected],

Two Oceans Aquarium

Tel 021-418-3823, [email protected],

V&A Waterfront Information Centre

Tel 021-408-7600, [email protected],

Find it on Dock Road alongside Ferryman’s Pub.



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