With a large university, some of South Africa’s top schools and a plethora of museums and other cultural attractions, Grahamstown is a rather erudite destination. It’s also the venue of the National Festival of the Arts, which is the second largest arts festival in the world, coming in just behind Edinburgh.

Of Grahamstown’s numerous lovely old buildings, many of which are national monuments, the one that – literally – stands out is the magnificent Cathedral of St Michael and St George, which forms a focal point at the top of High Street. The more academic of the many museums in Grahamstown include the Observatory Museum, which has the only genuine Victorian Camera Obscura in the southern hemisphere, the National English Literary Museum, the Library of African Music and – rather unusually considering its inland position – the SA Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity, where you can see exhibits relating to the coelacanth – the fossil fish that was thought to be extinct but still lives off the South African coast.

Grahamstown’s position on the 19th century frontier between the British colonialists and the Xhosa tribes, has contributed to its interesting history. And the culture of rebellion that was forged in the Frontier Wars was brought to bear during the 20th century to the extent that Grahamstown was one of the major centres of resistance to the apartheid regime. Local historians offer insightful tours of the area, highlighting seminal moments in South Africa’s history.

Grahamstown has a decent golf course and it is very close to one of the newest golf resorts in South Africa – the Gary Player-designed Bushman Sands in the interesting and unusual town of Alicedale. There is good climbing near the town, a skydiving club and – less than an hour’s drive away – good surfing at Port Alfred. There are numerous excellent game viewing destinations within an hour’s drive of Grahamstown.

Grahamstown Fun Rating

from 26 customer reviews
3.5 out of 5 stars!

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Unique town
What an unique and welcoming place Grahamstown is.Could not have chosen a better place to stay then Mhambi. Did I really have to go home?
Martine Waldeck
South Africa

a Beautiful town with as many churches as days in the year! took some wonderful photos of some incredible old buildings. The only really sad thing about Grahamstown is the litter , litter everywhere you go .... the University grounds are litter free but the town itself is a disgrace. I watch as car guard empty an entire dirt bin to retrieve a plastic bottle and he did not pick up any of the spilled garbage. I watched young and old drop litter as they walked . Drove behind cars that threw tins and papers out their windows....maybe coming from the Cape we dont see this much litter ... it is...
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Jackie steele
South Africa

Still of the night
Grahamstown is pretty, but like a ghost town over December with most restaurants closed. Will try to get back for the arts festival.
Marieke Mendes
South Africa

Grahamstown - The City of Saints
The City of Saints, also known as Africa's Festival Capital, hosts a number of annual festivals including the National Arts Festival (which is the 2nd largest in the world), Scifest, The Grahamstown Flower Festival, school events and Rhodes University courses and conferences. Grahamstown boasts many fine, malaria free game parks for day trips, an elephant sanctuary, museums, the botanical gardens, architecture steeped in history and almost any outdoor adventure sport you like.It is a short drive to many coastal resorts such as Port Alfred, Kenton-On-Sea, Bushman's River, etc with visits to...
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Jeannine Evans
South Africa

12 Reasons why you should visit Grahamstown
Grahamstown is a great place to visit during the summer months and if you need convincing, here are 12 reasons why you should visit our very special part of the Eastern Cape:1. Hot and sunny2. Friendly locals3. Rich in colonial and amaXhosa history4. Fantastic beaches nearby5. Big-5 territory6. No malaria or bilharzia7. Plenty of accommodation and parking8. Great pubs and restaurants9. Wonderful architecture10. Edutourism & Voluntourism - "Learn. Do good, feel good."11. Adventure sports - elephant riding, cycling, boating, fishing and golfing to abseiling, skydiving and everything in between;...
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Sheryl-Anne Drennan
South Africa

A unique place
Grahamstown has a lot to offer away from the hustle and bustle of city life with malaria free game parks nearby, museums and history galore and a fantastic school and university that keep it young and vibrant. Hope to see you here soon!
Suzanne Wille
South Africa

Grahamstown: Quirky Creativity
Although well known for the National Arts Festival held every year in June / July, Grahamstown’s own unique creativity is often overlooked. Grahamstown may be a small city but it is bursting at the seams with quirky, unusual craft. Handmade and most often homemade, one gets the feeling that each item created in Grahamstown has a special feel about it,that it has been made with attention to detail and a love of creating for creating’s sake. No corners are cut and each item is given its due time and energy.Your first stop is Kisma & Co (www.kisma.co.za) at the top of High Street next to Mad Hatt...
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Tracy Jeffery
South Africa

Grahamstown - SA's cultural capital!
Having visited Grahamstown in 2011 for the National Arts Festival, I can say I was not left disappointed.The town is quaint, the people friendly/accommodating, and the night life during the festival was vibey and full of cheer!I can recommend a night out at the Long Table restaurant which features a banqueting hall in which you and your friends can enjoy a Gaul-like feast.A very fitting town to enjoy the many cultural shows on display during the festival, none more apt than the schoolboy remake of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, one that suited the enchanting nature of true South African gem!
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Alex Rodrigues
South Africa

City of Saints, Scholars and Festivals and more.
Such a variety of reasons to visit, surrounded by some of the Eastern Cape's top Safari Lodges, where you can experience the Big Five with experienced rangers. The museums house some wonderful historic and natural artifacts. Some of the top schools in the country are in Grahamstown, each year there is some wonderful sports tournaments show-casing the friendly rivalry.
Suzanne Wille
South Africa

Festivaal Capital
Arguably the crucible of South African history - Frontier Country is a vibrant mix of all the best that Africa has to offer. One of the premier tourist routes in the Eastern Cape, it has a turbulent past, with more forts than the rest of the country combined. True country hospitality is provided throughout the region in world class game lodges, top quality hotels, guest houses, farm stays and B&B's, and Grahamstown boasts some of the finest schools, colleges, universities and educational institutions to be found in South Africa. Still in Grahamstown, visitors have got a chance of relaxing at...
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Josphat Chinyanda
South Africa

My ties to Grahamstown are emotional I went to Rhodes and now my daughter is there. It is one of the quaintest towns around that has an unbelievable feel and vide and it is as if time stands still there. A wonderful escape from the stresses of Johannesburg.
Karen Sargent
South Africa

Grahamstown's special fusion of old and new, with hospitality, academic and eco adventure elegantly woven into the rythm of everyday life, has the potential to meet a wide range of tastes.
Marba Visagie
South Africa

Loved it
Loved the museums in Grahamstown! The camera obscura at the Observatory was definitely a highlight! The staff at the museums were friendly and helpful.
Fiona van Wyk
South Africa

Festive historical town
Grahamstown is well known for the National Arts Festival, Rhodes University and the famous SA Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity. The attractive town has numerous beautifully restored Victorian and Georgian buildings. Outside Grahamstown’s perimeter is a plethora of private game farms.
Samantha Black
South Africa

Review of grahmastown
Its a world of its own, the landscape is good for exercising - Yollander
Yollander Chirinda
South Africa

A interesting city
Although the weather was terrible we enjoyed our visitWe visited the tourist centre and they supplied us with the necessary info on the town.
Carina Hill
South Africa

Poor tourist venue.
Donald Moyes
South Africa

Varsity City
Enjoyed the Varsity, the Graduation ceremony, the Cathedral, the 1820 Settlers Monument.
Tom Langley
South Africa

A lovely little town, with amazing Victorian monuments (cathedral, city hall, schools). Very pleasant.
Gabrielle Leflaive
South Africa

Grahamstown festival
First time at the festival - had a great time - what a beautiful city and rich in culture. Would definitely visit again.
Warren Kohler
South Africa