Historical Muizenberg

Published on 2 May 2024 at 14:27

Historical Muizenberg

Discover the beautiful walk between the Muizenberg and St. James train stations. Once known as Cape Town's "Millionaire's Mile," this stretch takes you through an enchanting landscape of captivating architecture, rich history, and breathtaking views.

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Discover the beautiful walk between the Muizenberg and St. James train stations. Once known as Cape Town's "Millionaire's Mile," this stretch takes you through an enchanting landscape of captivating architecture, rich history, and breathtaking views.

Before embarking on your walk, a visit to the impressive Muizenberg Synagogue in the heart of Muizenberg is certainly worthwhile.

Established in 1924, this synagogue is among the oldest in South Africa and is renowned as a significant historical monument. With its distinctive red brick facade and Victorian style, it stands as an iconic structure along the coast. The synagogue not only serves a religious purpose but also holds profound cultural and historical significance for the Jewish community and the region. Inside, you'll find beautiful stained glass windows and wooden panelling, creating a serene and devotional atmosphere. A visit to the Muizenberg Synagogue provides a captivating insight into the rich Jewish history and heritage of Muizenberg and South Africa.

Muizenberg exudes a unique atmosphere, reminiscent of a "London by the sea." The weathered buildings bear traces of the salty sea air, and the architecture transports you back to bygone eras. Begin your stroll at Muizenberg station, which has been welcoming travellers since 1913.

Follow the path along the coast, and you might just spot a fisherman at work. Take a moment of respite on one of the benches and soak in the breathtaking views. It's advisable to undertake this walk at low tide to avoid getting your feet wet.

Keep an eye out for St. James Cottage, a historic building dating back to 1853. According to tales, the owner concealed prisoners of war in the attic during the Anglo-Boer War and aided their escape across the bay.

Curious about the intriguing buildings you encounter along the way? Keep reading, as I'd love to share more about these architectural gems.

Muizenberg Station

Muizenberg Station, which first opened its doors in 1913, beautifully exemplifies Victorian architecture. With its striking red brick facade, elegant arched windows, and distinctive clock tower, it stands as a recognizable landmark in Muizenberg. Over the years, the station has undergone several renovations, always preserving its original charm. Muizenberg Station is not only a historic and functional transportation hub but also a cultural gem reflecting the rich history of the region.


One of the oldest buildings on the False Bay coast, Het Posthuys dates back to the 17th century and originally served as an inn for sailors and travelers. Initially believed to have been established in 1673, which would have made it the oldest existing house in South Africa, later research indicates that it was built between 1730 and 1740. Constructed from stone, the building served as a lookout post for the Dutch East India Company and briefly housed the British army commander in Muizenberg after 1806. Following a restoration in 1982-83, made possible by the support of the Anglo-American Corporation, Het Posthuys now functions as a museum that sheds light on the fascinating history of the region.

Old Post Office

This historic post office stands out as the first in South Africa to receive airmail. After the relocation of the post office in 1934, the former building took on a new role as a police station. It frequently served as the departure point for the "Black Maria's," the vehicles of the Magistrate and the police, which would reverse into the street to safely unload prisoners.

Carnegie Library

The Carnegie Library in Muizenberg holds a special place in the city. It was constructed in 1908 thanks to the generous contribution of Andrew Carnegie, a philanthropist who funded and stocked over 2000 libraries worldwide. One of the reasons behind this was his desire to nurture and make the English language accessible to people everywhere.

Casa Labia

Casa Labia, also known as 'The Fort', is a palatial building designed in 1929 by Fred Glennie for Count Labia, who served as the Italian representative in South Africa at the time. Through Casa Labia, Glennie captured the grandeur of historic Muizenberg in his design. Today, it serves as a cultural center featuring an art gallery, a café, and a restaurant. Interestingly, Glennie was also one of the founders of the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens.

Knight’s Villa

George Ransome, the architect of Knight's Villa, was a prominent figure in his field during his time. Knight's Villa, previously known as Stone House, drew inspiration from a Venetian palazzo in its design, with the ground floor positioned at the level of the future waterline.


In 1906, South Africa received a glimpse of Japanese craftsmanship when Captain Wilson, from a ship, erected a Japanese prefabricated 'bungalow' on Main Road in Muizenberg. This house still stands today, 118 years later, highlighting the visionary skills of Japanese designers.

Locally, it's known as the 'papier-mâché' house.

Rhodos Cottage

The house, constructed around 1870, was one of the first notable landmarks along the road to Simon's Town. Originally featuring a thatched roof, it was later replaced with corrugated iron before Rhodes acquired the property. Rhodes passed away here on March 26, 1902. The house remained in its original state until 1904, when the corrugated iron roof was replaced with a thatched roof, and the façades were renovated.

Long Cottage

This cottage was the most impressive thatched house between Muizenberg and Kalk Bay. The oldest part likely dates back to 1856 and initially served as a fisherman's cottage. In the 1870s, it became the summer residence of Governor Sir Henry Barkly. Later, both the house and the adjacent land belonged to merchant John Garlick, who built the country estate Graceland.


Originally named Watergate, it was designed in 1914 and was one of the most beautiful mansions along this coast. It introduced the Cape Mediterranean architectural style, which blends Cape elements such as revolving chimneys and half-shuttered sliding windows with Italian and Spanish features like clay tile roofs, arches, loggias, and pergolas on columns.

St. Jacob's Church

Father J. Duignam, the local priest, constructed a fairly large stone church in 1900/2001. It is said that the local Filipino community assisted in the construction, along with some Italian stonemasons who were in Simon's Town. In 1947, Monsignor Doran added a new entrance and converted the old entrance on the side facing Kalk Bay into a confessional.

Jacob's Ladder

This alley on the slope of St. James is one of many, but perhaps the most interesting. Built in 1890, it originally had 120 steps. In the twenties, it was extended to meet the newly constructed Boyes Drive.

With its more than 200 steps, Jacob's Ladder poses a challenge to those who climb it, yet offers stunning views of the surrounding coastline and the ocean.

Jacob's Ladder in St. James is not just a functional staircase but also a significant cultural and historical symbol of the area.

After this journey through the history and beautiful architecture of Muizenberg and St. James, you return enriched and inspired.

While the "Millionaire's Mile" may be a piece of history, the vibrant character and beauty of this coastline endure forever.

So, lace up your hiking boots and let yourself be enchanted by the charm of this unique slice of Cape Town!

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