Port Elizabeth Central area focus

Private Property South Africa
Press

The central areas of PE have suffered neglect in the past, but the area is being rejuvenated as it becomes a hub for the creative industries.

About the area:

If you are looking for an area of Port Elizabeth so steeped in history you can almost see the horse-drawn carriages of yesteryear, Central is the place to go.

The Old Hill area of Central is particularly interesting as it is rich in 1820 Settler history and architectural masterpieces. These areas can be explored by taking the Donkin Heritage Trail map, which you can collect at the tourism offices or download from the website, and embarking on a self-guided tour.

Over the years, the area has suffered from neglect, but forward-thinking developers have rejuvenated and restored the precinct to even surpass its former glory. Standout renovations include the Donkin Village Creative Quarter.

The homes, which date back to the 1850s, were proclaimed national monuments in 1967 but did not receive the proper status they deserved. In fact, the homes became synonymous with “the bad side of town”, but that has changed in a big way.

Restoration of the iconic heritage row houses and surrounding buildings has seen the neighbourhood become a creative hub catering specifically to creative industries. And the area is directly opposite one of Port Elizabeth’s most beautiful spots: the Donkin Reserve.

The reserve includes a stone pyramid monument with a touching inscription by the then governor, Sir Rufane Donkin, in memory of his late wife, Elizabeth. The inscription reads: “In the memory of one of the most perfect of human beings who has given her name to the town below.”

The reserve also boasts exquisite art which ranges in media from mosaic and metal to graffiti and more.

Central is a mecca for art lovers as the artEC (formerly EPSAC) Community Art Centre, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan Art Museum (formerly known as the King George VI Art Gallery) and The Athenaeum (a multipurpose creative space) all call it home.

The suburb is constantly being improved and is one of Port Elizabeth’s most vibrant hubs.

Being true to the nature of what it is to be a true South African, I find the multicultural vibrant energy of Central very uplifting.

says George Ungerer, resident.

Top schools nearby:

  • Urban Academy Primary School
  • St Augustine’s Roman Catholic Primary School
  • Elsen Academy special needs school

Best in food:

  • The Phoenix Hotel - Stage Door: a pub grub-style eatery.

  • Restaurant de Belmont: a relaxed coffee shop set-up ideal for lunch meetings and breakfasts.

  • Green Leaf Cafe: an urban coffee shop at the Donkin Reserve.

  • The Grand Hotel: a hotel restaurant open to the public for meals and functions.

Things to do:

  • Route 67: a self-guided tour consisting of 67 different pieces of artwork to commemorate Nelson Mandela's 67 years of political life.

  • The Donkin Heritage Trail: a self-guided walk linking 51 places of historical interest in the Old Hill area of central Port Elizabeth.

  • Donkin lighthouse: for spectacular views of the city.

This article originally appeared in Neighbourhood, Sunday Times.

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Explore neighbourhoods mentioned in this article

Port Elizabeth
Be Blown Away by PE
A seaside city with an artsy air. Dubbed the “Windy City”, this coastal area has world-class beaches. An outdoor-lover’s dream, the city has the Big 5 of the animal kingdom, boat cruises, museums, an oceanarium and much more. For those interested in history, Port Elizabeth proudly hosts one of the oldest surviving Settler cottages, as well as many museums.
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