South Africa is a vibrant city made up of nine provinces. It is the only country in the world that features three capital cities. Aside from having three capitals, the country also has 11 different official languages. Often referred to as the rainbow nation, the country has had its fair share of tribulations leading up to this point. As you make your way to the Cape, you will find the southernmost tip of Africa at Cape Point as well as a place where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Indian Ocean. The story and history of the country are often represented through its monuments and buildings. To enjoy the best of South Africa, consider staying for a few days in one of the top luxury villas or treehouse hotels. In this article, we will explore some of the best famous buildings in South Africa.
1. 11 Diagonal Street, Johannesburg
Situated in Johannesburg’s dynamic CBD, the “Diamond Building” at 11 Diagonal Street stands as a testament to visionary architecture. Designed by the illustrious Helmut Jahn in 1983, this 22-storey masterpiece rises 80 meters (262.47 feet), its faceted facade mirroring the historic surroundings. Beyond its striking exterior, the edifice symbolizes the pinnacle of 1980s postmodern design. It’s not just a building; it’s a beacon of Johannesburg’s architectural evolution, seamlessly blending the city’s rich history with a forward-looking spirit.
11 Diagonal Street
Address: Johannesburg, South Africa
2. Victory House, Johannesburg
Nestled in the heart of Marshalltown, Johannesburg stands Victory House – a testament to architectural elegance and historical importance. Previously dubbed “Permanent Buildings,” it graces the juncture of Harrison and Fox Streets. Beyond its notable architecture, it has a unique claim to fame: introducing Johannesburg’s residents to their very first elevator. This building, with its blend of historical charm and innovation, remains a significant landmark in the ever-evolving cityscape of Johannesburg, capturing the essence of a bygone era while heralding progress.
Address: Commissioner St, Marshal Town, Johannesburg, 2001, South Africa
3. 88 on Field, Durban
On the east coast of South Africa, you will find sunny Durban. This coastal city features a tropical climate with abundant vegetation and moderate temperatures. As you make your way to the city center, you will see 88 on Field, one of the best examples of architecture in South Africa. This building was constructed in 1985 and features 26 floors. It is the tallest structure in the city! Designer Helmut Jahn has made it easy for visitors to reach the top—by utilizing one of the eight elevators on-site. This glass skyscraper boasts a height of 147 meters (482 ft) and is mainly used as an office and retail space.
88 on Field
Address: Durban Central, Durban
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4. Iziko South African Museum, Cape Town
Iziko South African Museum is a vital part of South Africa’s history as it is the first museum of its kind to have been built in the country. The museum is located at Company’s Garden in Cape Town—also known as the mother city. Iziko South African Museum was established in 1825, and visitors can expect to find collections on zoology, African artifacts, and archaeological finds here. Although indeed it is especially popular among students and scholars, the museum is open to everyone.
Iziko South African Museum
Address: 25 Queen Victoria St, Gardens, Cape Town
Website: Iziko South African Museum
Opening hours: 9am - 5pm (daily)
Price: 2 USD
South Africa Tour Guide
Jakes is registered and accredited with FET Certificate Tourist Guiding. He is competent to advise clients on all essential aspects of travel in South Africa having passed the SA Specialist course from South African Tourism. As a good story teller, he makes any historical situation or site come to life; and this is what makes him to stand out as a knowledgeable and exciting guide. “I’m always attempting to assist and improve the environment, motivating communities to protect nature in order to create a sustainable eco-system, and to protect all species for future generations. My love for nature and history brought me to the most beautiful and spectacular places in South Africa, and that is where I want to take my tourists as well.”
Tours by Jakes
South Africa Tour Guide
My name is Thabang Molefe, Director/ Owner of Tsalanang Travel & Tours. I’m a qualified National Tourist Guide in South Africa, born and breast fed in Johannesburg. I have worked in the sports & events industry where I discovered my passion for traveling, and later worked with some of the TOP destination management/operators in South Africa. I love meeting people, and exchanging knowledge, I’m an outgoing person who loves discovering and learning about history, culture and nature. As part of my value standard, I always try to change the way “the world” perceive certain parts of South Africa and Africa as a hole. I have traveled the southern African region extensively and speak various South African languages. Looking forward to meet you on one of my tours.
Tours by Thabang
South Africa Tour Guide
5. Marble Towers, Johannesburg
Over the years, Johannesburg CBD has gained a reputation for being one of the most dangerous places to visit. However, in the last couple of years, many have seen the city making changes. These efforts are aimed at boosting the economy and tourism—to make Johannesburg an investment-friendly location again. To attract visitors back in town, one of the things the city council came up with is the restoration of its buildings, thus making the district beautiful again. If you happen to find yourself in South Africa for a few days, make sure to visit places like Maboneng and pass by some of the iconic buildings that form the city’s skyline. This popular building in South Africa is located in the heart of Johannesburg. It is an iconic eight-story building constructed in 1973. You can easily identify the building through its rectangular structure and the billboards on its crown.
Address: Von Wielligh St, CBD, Johannesburg
Opening hours: 24 hours (daily)
6. The Palace of the Lost City, Rustenburg
The Palace of the Lost City is one of the most luxurious hotels in South Africa. It is located within Sun City Resort and Casino. You will find this stunning palatial property fit for a queen. It is located 12 km (7.5 miles) from the airport and overlooks the stunning Pilanesburg Game Reserve, where you can find the Big Five—the Cape buffalo, elephant, rhinoceros, lion, and leopard. This place features an outdoor swimming pool as well as two state-of-the-art spas. Guests staying at the Palace receive complimentary breakfast and free access to Valley of Waves.
The Palace of the Lost City
Address: Sun City, Rustenburg
Website: The Palace of the Lost City
7. Fort Klapperkop Comms Tower, Pretoria
Fort Klapperkop Comms Tower is a heritage site in Pretoria dating back to the 1800s. The fort was later restored and is home to some of the country’s historic artifacts. Some of the things you can expect to see here include Anglo-Boer War exhibitions and some of the weapons used by both the Dutch and the English during their quest to take over the country.
Fort Klapperkop Comms Tower
Address: Johann Rissik Dr, Pretoria
Website: Fort Klapperkop Comms Tower
Opening hours: Tue - Sun: 10am - 5pm (closed on Mon)
8. Ponte City Apartments, Johannesburg
Not including Ponte City Apartments in the list of iconic buildings in South Africa would be doing the city of Johannesburg an injustice. When you look at the Johannesburg skyline, this is one of the first buildings you’ll see—located right in the heart of downtown. The cylindrical structure consists of hundreds of apartments overlooking the city and is home to many residents.
Ponte City Apartments
Address: Berea, Johannesburg
9. Cape Town City Hall
Cape Town City Hall is a historic landmark in Cape Town’s city center dating back to 1905. This heritage building in South Africa, which is mainly used for events by the people of the capital, features classic Edwardian architecture. It plays a vital role in South African history as it was the site where the late president Nelson Mandela made his first speech after his release from prison.
Cape Town City Hall
Address: Darling St, CBD, Cape Town
Website: Cape Town City Hall
Opening hours: Mon: 24 hours; Tue - Fri: 7:45am - 3pm (closed on Sat - Sun)
10. Union Buildings, Pretoria
When you think of South African history and politics, it’s hard not to imagine the architecturally pleasing Union Buildings—boasting manicured gardens and the statue of one of the nation’s most important fathers and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, Nelson Mandela. One look and you’ll be impressed by the space. Union Buildings play an important role for most South Africans as this is the official seat of parliament in the country. This is where people come to make bold statements, yet it’s also a place of peace and calm. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the gardens, mainly popular for wedding photography and intimate picnics.
Address: Government Ave, Pretoria
Website: Union Buildings
South Africa is a country that overcame one of the most significant crimes against humanity. Apartheid saw the country in a state of chaos, where people were being discriminated against for the color of their skin. The year 1994 saw the country’s first taste of freedom, and the nation’s first black president was elected in a democratic vote. When you’re in Johannesburg, one of the must-dos is to explore the Apartheid Museum. Here visitors are given a brief glimpse into the country’s 20th-century history.
Duration: 5.0 hour
Built in the 17th century in Cape Town, Castle of Good Hope is South Africa’s oldest fort. This historical building in South Africa is a popular tourist destination and plays a significant role in the country’s history. Inside, visitors can find a military museum and Cape Town Highlanders Regiment. Daily tours of the fort and castle are offered, and there is a small fee to pay for the upkeep and preservation of this historical site.
Marvel at the beautiful structures in South Africa
Make your South African experience a memorable one and include visiting these iconic and historic buildings in your itinerary. These structures are significant to the country as they serve as both memories of the past and heralds to a brighter future. While you'e here, be sure to check out the best street food markets and beach holidays as well. Don’t forget to bring your camera to document your adventures!
Frequently asked questions about famous buildings in South Africa
1. Which famous buildings in South Africa have the best architecture?
South Africa boasts several iconic architectural marvels, including the Union Buildings in Pretoria, known for its neoclassical design; the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town, a well-preserved colonial fortress; and the striking Marble Towers in Johannesburg, renowned for its modernist skyscraper aesthetic.
2. Which historical buildings in South Africa are a must-see for history buffs?
There are several must-see historical buildings in South Africa for history buffs. These include the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town and Fort Klapperkop in Pretoria. Each holds significant stories from the nation’s past.
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