A guide to property and lifestyle in Grahamstown

Private Property South Africa
Karen Van Rooyen

Learn more about what it's like to live in Grahamstown, Eastern Cape.

It is known as the City of Saints and for a limited period becomes a city for scientists. But Grahamstown is mainly a city of students with Rhodes University which was established in 1904. As one of South Africa’s oldest cities it is rich in heritage, arts and culture. Nestled halfway between Port Elizabeth and East London it’s home to the Eastern Cape High Court and some of the country’s top private and public schools, as well as the university.

The population of more than 70,000 comprises mostly students, lecturers, pupils and teachers who come from all over the country (and world). This eclectic mix creates a melting pot of culture.

The architecture of Grahamstown’s homes, businesses and churches reflect the city’s age – many of the semi-detached homes date back to the mid-1800s and feature fine examples of Victorian and colonial styles.

Grahamstown is also home to a string of popular and trendy restaurants, pubs and cafes. And, of course, these are popular venues during the festivals, in particular the annual National Arts Festival which has become Grahamstown’s biggest event or, rather, according to festival organisers, Grahamstown “becomes the festival”.

Aspects of the festival can be found in just about every part of Grahamstown for a bit more than a week in July every year – from the stage productions at venues across town, including the iconic 1820 Settlers National Monument, to the many stalls at the Village Green. There’s also the annual Scifest Africa during which thousands are exposed to the world of science by visiting demonstrations, lectures and workshops.

“We are exceptionally lucky to have such brilliant schools and a university on our doorstep. It has a lot to offer within a one-hour drive – game reserves, beach resorts and Hogsback. It’s a healthy place for children to grow up in. Grahamstonians are very family orientated.” Cathy Braans, resident

Best in food:

  • The Rat and Parrot is a popular pub offering pizza and traditional pub-style food
  • Haricots Deli & Bistro offers beautiful decor and French-style cuisine
  • Madhatters Coffee Shop / Bistro has indoor and outdoor tables, good coffee, cakes and lunch

Best attractions:

  • Visit the 1820 Settlers National Monument, built to commemorate the English settlers
  • EP Skydivers offers skydiving experiences as well as tandem skydives and packages for corporate events
  • Go shopping at the Grahamstown Farmers Market where fresh fruit and vegetables, homemade jams and baked goods are sold at the Old Gaol in - Somerset Street every Wednesday and Saturday morning

Top schools:

  • Diocesan School for Girls
  • Graeme College
  • Victoria Girls’ High School
  • Kingswood College
  • St Andrew’s schools

This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.

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