Grahamstown is a small city in the Eastern Cape of South Africa, situated 120 kilometres from Port Elizabeth and 180 kilometres from East London. Grahamstown is choc-full of history and pretty buildings and accommodation in Grahamstown is most in-demand during the annual Grahamstown Festival.
Grahamstown is historically significant in South Africa as an old frontier town. It was originally established as a military outpost in 1812 by Colonel John Graham. At the time, it lay at the frontier between the British Cape colony and the traditional Xhosa lands. However, as tends to happen, its military significance declined and it grew into a thriving little city - at one point the second largest city in South Africa with only Cape Town ahead of it.
Grahamstown is sprinkled with reminders of its colourful history. A variety of old beautiful Edwardian, Georgian and Victorian styled buildings play host to shops, hotels and houses and numerous memorial sites and old forts pay homage to events and people of the past. Grahamstown boasts 70 heritage sites.
Despite its history, it is still best known for Rhodes University and the annual Grahamstown Festival - a theatre, dance, music and art festival which attracts some of South Africa's creative giants and 1000's of swooning arts lovers. The festival is a major injection of money into the town's economy as well as energy into the sleepy winter atmosphere when the students are away.
During term time, the town buzzes with a young energy as students stroll the streets, frequent the bars and relax on patches of grass. It has an exciting, intellectual vibe too as scholars and academics congregate to discuss new ideas.
Grahamstown is a sought after holiday destination, given its proximity to the Eastern Cape's Sunshine Coast and the long stretches of beach it offers. There are also a number of malaria and bilharzia-free game reserves in the area where it is possible to see the Big Five.
Things to do in Grahamstown itself include visiting the various monuments, such as the Settlers Monument, which offers sweeping views of the whole town, and taking a township tour.
If you choose to visit the area, and stay in one of the many fabulous Grahamstown guesthouses, you won't be disappointed. There is plenty to see in and do and people from the Eastern Cape are famously friendly.
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