Six of the oldest pubs in South Africa

Posted on 21 September 2011

1. De Akker, Stellenbosch
Putting a date on Stellenbosch’s De Akker is tricky. The building’s original records were lost in a slave revolt and fire in the early 1800s, and exactly when alcohol was first served is unclear. Regulars claim the first license was obtained in 1872 and certainly the old-world ambience speaks of a hefty pedigree. A legend in modern times, there are few of any generation in Stellenbosch who haven’t frequented De Akker’s wooden benches to enjoy a drink. Tel 021-883-3512.

2.Radium Beerhall, Joburg
Established in 1929, it’s but a puppy to some of the old-timers mentioned here. Still, it’s the oldest surviving bar in Johannesburg and deserves special mention for having one of the most colourful histories of all the drinking holes in the country. Beginning life as the Radium Tearoom, it served illicit alcohol for 13 years before finally obtaining a license and changing to its name to one more appropriate. It’s now a lively venue adorned with vintage posters and has a real sense of South African history. Tel 011-728-3866,

3. The Fireman’s Arms, Cape Town
With the age of steam long since past, we tend to forget the seafaring coal stokers who first frequented this once dockyard pub and gave it its name. Since its establishment in 1864, the pub has embraced the persona of the modern firefighter and although it has more or less forgotten its nautical past, it retains an historic ambience, serving good food and a variety of beers on tap. It’s also known for its spirited Thursday Quiz Nite. Tel 021-419-1513,

4. Star of the West, Kimberley
Established in 1870, the Star of the West has an intriguing history. From the outside, the bar appears slightly rundown, but pass through the old-fashioned saloon swing-doors and the gleam of the yellowwood bar top tells another story. Legend has it the bar counter and rich wooden fittings were salvaged and brought to the city by sailors who survived the wreck of their ship, Star of the West, on the West Coast. In recent years these have been restored and the pub is an excellent place to soak up a little history. Tel 053-832-6463.

5. Perseverance Tavern, Cape Town
There are a few claimants to the title “˜oldest pub in South Africa’, but Percy’s has perhaps the strongest case. When it received its first official liquor license in 1836 (39 years before work began on the nearby Houses of Parliament), it had been operating as an unofficial public house for almost 30 years, serving an eclectic mix of mostly well-heeled patrons. These days it attracts a young, lively crowd to its polished, ancient wine cask tables. Tel 021-461-2440,

6. The Historic Pig and Whistle Inn, Bathurst
Another strong contender is this Bathurst bar. Claiming a date of 1832, The Pig is the oldest continuously licensed pub in the country, though it hasn’t kept its original name. The current name dates from World War II when a group of British airmen decided the pub be called something more festive than its then more dowdy moniker, The Widow Hartley’s Inn. Tel 046-625-0673,


Star of the West photo courtesy of Daniel Reddie
The Historic Pig & Whistle Inn photo courtesy of Pig & Whistle

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