An ode to the heritage of Cape Town's pubs after almost losing Fireman's Arms

2019-11-21 11:45 - Gabi Zietsman
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The Mother city is full to the brim with trendy gastro spots, swanky rooftop bars and vibey clubs that party into the wee hours of the morning - and it feels like a new one pops up almost every month.

But as these younglings try to navigate Capetonians' multitude of tastes, there are a few old-school pubs that have stood the test of time, old watchers that have seen the world come and go but have remained steadfast in their resolution to quench the thirst of all who enter their doors. 

And we almost lost one of those iconic stalwarts - Fireman's Arms is one of Cape Town's oldest pubs, and in the early hours of Thursday it was engulfed in flames, taking out its beer garden but, luckily, leaving the rest of the pub intact. 

READ: Bar hopping through Cape Town in style 

Fireman's has been around since 1864, and while it has undergone many renovations over the years, the original building has remained intact, apparently even able to survive a fiery blaze. Today it's a magnet for big sports games with its multiple screens - during this year's Rugby World Cup people would pitch up at 08:00 in the morning just to secure a table to see the Boks dominate the field.

But it's not the only old pub in Cape Town - or even the oldest. Here are a few other of Cape Town's elders where you should pay your respects at least once in your life. 

ALSO SEE: This is South Africa's favourite beer - plus what to drink while travelling the African continent 

Perseverance Tavern

Persies has claimed the title of the oldest pub in South Africa, although Bathurst's Pig and Whistle in the Eastern Cape has something else to say about it. It housed many travelling souls from 1808 as Cape Town started becoming the city it is now, and today you can see its colourful history on the walls, including an original tavern menu.

Kimberley Hotel

While the hotel itself is not one of the oldest in the city, its bar has remained an icon since 1895, which was also a legal brothel at one point in its history. While small and can't carry the numbers of the other pubs in this article, it has an intimate charm that matches perfectly with a brandy-and-coke at 11:00 in the morning.  

Foresters Arms

Outside of the CBD towards Newlands, Forries has been serving beer and grub since 1852, starting out as an end-of-day respite for woodcutters and later opening to the public as an inn in 1881. Many breweries walked through its doors, and while it has been demolished twice, Foresters has retained its historical spirit. 

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