City of Saints

Grahamstown lies just between Port Elizabeth and Port Alfred and is probably most well-known as being the home of Rhodes University. The city is also home to no less than 52 churches from numerous denominations, earning Grahamstown the name the "City of Saints".

Grahamstown may be fairly, small for a city, but this famous “student town” has many awesome things to do. This arty hub is full of good vibes and friendly locals and is well-known for its annual National Arts Festival, the largest celebration of arts in Africa! Tourists and artists descend upon the city in their thousands and broad tree-lined streets, gorgeous historical buildings and museums welcome all with the charm of a city which was once second only to Cape Town. The mood can change quickly from sleepy hollow to life of the party depending on when you plan your visit!

In Grahamstown there is always something musical happening, a few quirky shops to browse through and because the city is steeped in history, many, many museums, monuments, historical buildings and churches to visit.

Grahamstown is regarded as the heart of the tourist route known as 'Frontier Country', and along with towns like Alicedale, Sidbury, Riebeeck East and Hogsback, is part of one of the most diverse ecological regions in South Africa, with thousands of hectares devoted to nature and game conservation.

Visitors will find many Guest Houses, self-catering apartments and B&B’s in the area for any budget accommodation requirements.

Things to do and see

  • 1820 Settlers National Monument
  • Albany Museum Complex
  • History Museum
  • Natural Science Museum
  • National English Literary Museum
  • Observatory Museum
  • The Oldest Letterbox
  • International Library of African Music
  • Cory Library for Historical Research
  • Rhodes University
  • Provost Prison
  • The Eastern Star Gallery
  • The Cathedral of St Michael & St George
  • St Patrick’s Catholic Church
  • Elizabeth Salt Monument
  • Makana Botanical Gardens
  • Mosslands Two Rivers Trail
  • Manley Flats Community Trails
  • Thomas Baines Nature Reserve
  • Great Fish River Reserve
  • Blaauwkrantz Nature Reserve
  • Grey Dam
  • Grahamstown Farmers Market


Grahamstown receives approximately 466 mm of rain annually with most rainfall occurring during Autumn and Winter.

Summer months, November to March will have average temperatures of between 15˚C and 27˚C.

Winter months, May to August will have average temperatures of between 6˚C and 19˚C.


There are daily flights into Port Elizabeth Airport, approximately 127 km’s away via the N2. Car hire facilities are available at the Airport.


In 1806, when the British occupied the Cape for the second time, they were immediately confronted by disturbances on the eastern frontier. Cattle rustling, murders, kidnappings, raids and counter-raids hampered the country's development, there were even threats of a major invasion by the great martial tribe of the Xhosas.

The British tried to persuade the warrior groups to respect the Great Fish River as their southern boundary. The principle British negotiator was murdered, and the raids increased. Full-scale war broke out in 1811 and the government had to drive more than 20 000 warriors back across the Great Fish River.

To stop further invasion, the governor, Sir John Cradock, decided to create a line of forts along the Great Fish River Valley, with two central strong-points as military headquarters. Colonel John Graham was given the task of selecting the sites for these military points. In a setting of hills where the Kowie ('rushing') River has its headwaters, Graham found a deserted farmhouse. It had been looted and partly destroyed. The farmhouse was patched up and became the officers' mess for the garrison. Tents and primitive houses were erected and the place was named Grahamstown, after the colonel.

By 1930 Grahamstown was recognised as the second largest city in the country and after many clashes with the Xhosa tribes, peace finally came to the town. The early 1860’s saw the development of more schools, the botanical gardens and the Eastern Districts' Supreme Court was established. In 1864 a full parliamentary session was held in Grahamstown instead of Cape Town. There was talk of making Grahamstown the capital of the Cape Colony because of its central position.

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