Victoria and Alfred Waterfront
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrLocated at the heart of Cape Town’s working harbor, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront is one of South Africa’s real estate success stories. Named After Queen Victoria of England (1837-1901), and her second son, Alfred, the site attracts over 22 million foreign visitors every year.
HistoryIn the 17th century, it was just a small jetty put in place by Jan Van Riebeeck , who had built a refreshment station on that location, for the Dutch East India Company, on their quest for exotic goods in Asia.
In 1858, a serious winter storm hit Cape Town’s harbor, and destroyed over 30 vessels. London-based insurance company, Lloyd’s, refused to cover the ships, so the Cape Town Governor of the time, Sir George Grey initiated a plan to construct a harbor for the city. In 1959, his plan was approved by the British Imperial Government.
A year later, in September 17th, Prince Alfred (Queen Victoria's second son), at the tender age of 16, tipped the first stone to start the construction of the breakwater for Cape Town’s first harbor, which was named after him.
The discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa led to the arrival of more migrants from Europe, it was then necessary to add a second basin to the Alfred basin, which was named the Victoria basin. The construction of the two basins took over 60 years, starting in 1860 and spanning to 1920.
Then in 1938, the construction of 230 hectares of foreshore started. Delayed by the outbreak of the World War II, the construction was finally completed in 1945
In 1988, the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront was finally established, after the resilience of many locals who doubted the project was possible.
Based around the docklands, surrounding Victoria and Alfred basins, it was set to be a mixed-use area with shopping centers, residences, tourism, and at the same time, a working harbor.
Architecture and layout of the V&A WaterfrontThe site is made up of docklands surrounded by two basins and a marina. Most of the buildings, although refurbished through time, were built in the Victorian architectural style. The site can be divided into five different sections, namely: The Victoria Wharf Shopping Center, the Alfred Mall< and Pier Head, the Clock Tower Precinct, the parking area and a running route.
The construction of the site took place in many phases, since the creation of the outer and inner basins in the 19th century. Initially, convicts were hired for the construction in the 1860s, exactly 2,360 of them from different ethnic backgrounds.
In 1988, the harbor was to add new functions other than that of a working harbor. The first phase of the development consisted of renovating the Pier Head precinct. Old buildings were refurbished, like the original captain offices, the city's first electric light and power station, several warehouses and other smaller buildings. They were to be restored into restaurants, taverns, specialty shops, a hotel, a theater, workshops, and stores, by Christmas day 1990.
Phase 2 consisted of the completion of the well-known Victoria Wharf specialty retail and entertainment by 1992, which attracted more visitors to the site, locally and internationally.
By 1994-1995, phase 3 was to have the BMW pavilion and IMAX theater added, as well as the Auto Atlantic BMW motor dealership; the 2 oceans aquarium and Granger Bay Shore Protection.
Phase 4 added 2 prestigious 5 star hotels to the site: The Cape Grace Hotel, with its 120 rooms, on West Quay, and the Table Bay Hotel on Quay 6 with its 330 rooms.
Phase 5, debuted in 1999, was the realization of the V&A Marina residential development, and another mixed-use development in the Clock Tower precinct. A realization totaling 550 apartments and 150 mooning for yachts.
Phase 6 completed in 2006, brought the realization of sector 2 of the V&A Marina residential complex, the 85,000 m² regional headquarters of BP, and an extension to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Center of 6,000 m². Also a 1,250 bay parking garage, two office projects, and an extension to the V&A Hotel.
The project went on from 1988 to 2007. Funds for the project were raised on commercial basis and amounted to a total of $272 million USD over a period of 15 years.
ShoppingWith over 450 stores, it is a haven for shopaholics. The site is more expensive than any other shopping centers in the city, but it is worth it because you’ll have the exclusivity to certain brands available only at the waterfront. Victoria Wharf is the biggest shopping center located on the waterfront, with its 266 specialty shops, major retail outlets, food merchants, and crafts workshops.
Alfred Mall and Pierhead, is a smaller shopping center, with only 21 specialty shops, restaurants, boutiques, and coffee shops. You’ll mostly find quality specialist artifacts, jewelry, curios and art with a nautical or African flavor.
The retailers that are represented in both centers are: Aldo, Mango, Emporio Armani, Max Mara, Zara, La Senza, Louis Vuitton and Gucci, to name a few.
RestaurantsThe V&A Waterfront is reputed to have Cape Town’s finest restaurants. With over 80 eateries on site, you’ll be glad to discover that not only flavors from all over the world are represented, but you’ll also be provided with various options to suit your budget. The Victoria Wharf has more restaurants, but you can also enjoy a good meal at the Alfred Mall.
If you shop at the Victoria Wharf shopping center, try the Sealan Restaurant and Bar, an Italian food specialty with a variety of African and Indian-inspired dishes. You can opt for dining outdoors, and admire Table Mountain , the Big Wheel, or the Clock Tower.
You also dine at the Haiku, which serves Japanese, Korean and Chinese dishes, from lunch until the early evening for dinner.
For those who want something lighter, try the Fego Café, with their light meals and hot beverages. They are opened from breakfast until lunch.
The Greek Fisherman is for seafood-lovers. They specialize in seafood and grilled tapa. They also serve traditional Greek food adding a little modern twist to it.
If you're at the Alfred Mall then the Mondiall would be a good choice. This international brasserie, opened from breakfast through dinner, is where famous international dishes are given a fresh new look using modern cooking techniques.
Lastly, grab a bite at the Café Alfredo, which specializes in Italian cuisine. It is mostly a Euro-styled café and opens for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
LeisureApart from the museums and most of the kids' attractions that are on site, the V&A Waterfront has about 55 activities to offer to visitors. From air trips to sea trips, land tours, museum tours and the activities offered on-site, anyone can see why it’s the major attraction in town.
A round-trip booked with the Atlantico Flight, will allow you to fly for about 20-minute over the Cape Town Stadium , the 4 beaches of Clifton, Camps Bay , and the 12 Apostles.
You can opt for a bike ride at the V&A from 10 AM to the inner city, giving you the opportunity to discover the city and its inhabitants. The ride takes 10 people at a time.
They also offer a 1 hour eco/adventure cruise for 30 to 60 minutes; where you can watch Whales, African Penguins, Cape Fur Seals, Dolphins, Basking Sharks, Sun Fish, and many species of bird life. The boats have a capacity of 10 to 12 people at a time.
The Chavonnes Battery Museum is just as interesting . With guides dressed in a 17th century attire, you will be given a detailed account of the history of Cape Town. A V&A historical walking tour is also included, with all the thrilling historical relics. The tours start from 9 AM until 4 PM.
For the kids, you have the Jolly Roger Sunset Cruise. A 90-minute cruise that will not only offer them a magnificent view of Table Mountain, but also the opportunity to admire an African sunset. The cruise has a capacity of 70 people.
If you are not the adventurous type, you can visit one of their cinemas (Cinema Nouveau or Nu Metro). Nu Metro shows all the recent international movies, while Cinema Nouveau is more for cultural movies, sometimes in foreign languages with alternative contents.
Any requests concerning activities offered on the site should be directed to the V&A Waterfront information center. The prices vary from the type of activities you choose. The air trips and boat trips are the most expensive with air trips starting at $ 350 USD per person and ride boat to do some whale sighting being around $ 420 USD per person. The museums' entrance fees are around $ 3.00 USD per person while the tours around the V&A and kids activities start from $ 10 USD per person.
AccommodationThe majority of hotels are a 20-minute walking distance away from the shopping Center. But you can find a couple of them on the V&A site too. The amenities complement the view outside of each of these 4, sometimes 5 star establishments, perfectly nestled close to Table Mountain. They are very affordable (especially for foreigners), and offer their guests luxurious amenities and hotel features like: king size beds, mini-bars, flat-screen satellite TV, tea and coffee making facilities, private bathrooms including bathtubs and shower with toiletries. Internet and parking are usually free.
The recommended hotels are listed below.
The Table Bay HotelStarting from $ 284 USD , apart from their more than luxurious amenities with a very attentive and welcoming staff, you can find it on the V&A Waterfront, they always make sure a cab is available for you. Make sure you take advantage of the location by trying the Moyo restaurant just a walk away from the hotel.
The Victoria and Alfred HotelStarting from $ 309 USD , it offers a walk-in wine cellar and a terrace with a bar. You can book a room overlooking the Alfred basin or Table Mountain. The service at the hotel is overall satisfactory judging by the affluence of visitors, but many people complain about the condition of the rooms' floors (not flat enough), and the lack of insulation of sounds coming from the corridor.
Queen Victoria HotelStarting from $ 340 USD , with Table Mountain as a background, they have a yacht with a charter option for guests, a gym and personal trainer, and to supplement the whole, a designer spa hot tub and a swimming pool. The bar is opened after midnight for those who check in late at night, and need a refreshing drink.
The Protea Hotel Breakwater LodgeClose to the 2 ocean aquariums, it even has a restaurant within its facilities. It has a fitness center, a full service spa and a bar lounge. The rooms start from $ 183 USD a night.
The Taj Cape TownProbably the most luxurious among all the hotels listed above. With rooms starting at $ 174 USD a night, all its 176 rooms and suites are individually decorated in a contemporary design, and come furnished with padded headboards, velvet ottomans, and concealed lighting. They even have luxurious Egyptian cotton sheets for bedding. Apart from their amenities, you can have private walks out on the balconies. Their additional services comprise childcare and secretarial services.
How to Get ThereYou can chose to rent a taxi, a shuttle service, or even rent your own car. Cape Town puts at your disposal the kind of transportation that can fit any budget or personal convenience. You can book a taxi or Rikki taxi before arrival, but most companies don’t require pre-booking arrangements. The different alternatives that exist to get to the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront from the Cape Town International Airport are:
SafetyThe Waterfront area is mostly safe for visitors, it is opened from 9 AM until 9PM, but walking alone at night after it’s closed is not something that we would advise. If you are leaving at one of the hotels outside the Waterfront, it would take you more or less 20 minutes to get there on foot, and after 9 PM, the area is very quiet. After your visit to the mall, take one of the taxis marked at the exits, or the taxis parked at the V&A hotels. Make sure they are marked with a yellow taxi light and has all the company’s details on the door, and the rate they charge per kilometer. The rate is normally set at R10 ($0.89) per km ( $ 1.00 USD ).
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Author: Comasco. Last updated: Sep 15, 2014