The V&A Waterfront is a central part of the very beginning of the settlement of the city of Cape Town. In 1654, two years after his arrival in this relatively safe bay at the foot of Table Mountain, Jan van Riebeeck built a small jetty as part of his task to establish a refreshment station at the Cape. Fresh water and fresh produce were provided to the ships of the Dutch East India company on their arduous and lengthy journey to their outposts in Java and Batavia. The sea and the harbour lie at the heart of Cape Town’s history.

In June 1858 serious winter storms, which were a common occurrence, wrecked over 30 vessels. As a consequence, Lloyds of London refused to cover ships spending the winter in Table Bay. On a sunny day in September 17, 1860 Midshipman HRH Prince Alfred, Queen Victoria’s second son, tipped the first load of stone to start construction of the breakwater for Cape Town’s first harbour to make it a safe haven all year round for passing ships.

Harbour expansion and reclamation

The discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa meant that the first section of harbour, the Alfred Basin, was not large enough to accommodate the increased number of ships, and the Victoria Basin was built. The construction of these two harbour basins took place between 1860 and 1920, and this area of the harbour still has an array of outstanding heritage buildings from this era.

In 1938 work was started to reclaim land between the city centre and the harbour, most notably the new Duncan Dock. The Foreshore (230 hectares) made city expansion possible. In the early 20th century South Africa depended mainly on imports for many basic articles in daily use, which explains the importance of the harbour to the people who lived here.

The V&A harbour in the early 1900s
V&A Waterfront expansion

The V&A Waterfront today

In November 1988, Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (Pty) Ltd (“V&AW”) was established as a wholly-owned subsidiary by Transnet Ltd. Its aim was to redevelop the historic docklands around the Victoria and Alfred Basins as a mixed-use area with a focus on retail, tourism and residential development with a working harbour at its centre.









Development timeline


Led by the discovery of gold and diamonds in South Africa, construction begins in Cape Town’s working harbour to extend the Alfred Basin to include the Victoria Basin.


The V&A Waterfront is established by state-owned transport corporation Transnet Limited.


Official commercial trading commences at the V&A Waterfront. The Pierhead Precinct (later renamed the Pierhead District) is added to the V&A Waterfront property. It includes restaurants, taverns, speciality shopping, the V&A Hotel, a theatre, arts and craft market, as well as the National Maritime Museum.


The Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre opens, following completion of the first section of the retail and entertainment centre. The UCT Graduate School of Business also opens, and building of the Ulundi parking garage and Portswood Ridge offices commences.


Portswood Square Office Park is completed. The BMW Pavilion, Two Oceans Aquarium, Portswood Hotel, Commodore Hotel and City Lodge open on V&A Waterfront property.


The Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre extension is completed, and the Table Bay Hotel and Cape Grace Hotel open to the public.


The Clock Tower Precinct (later renamed the Clock Tower District) is completed. This new district includes BoE (later Nedbank) offices, the Nelson Mandela Gateway, and the Clock Tower retail and office complex. Phase One of the V&A Marina residential development opens.


Transnet sells V&A Waterfront to London-based firm London and Regional Properties and Emirati investment firm Dubai World.


The V&A Waterfront is acquired from London & Regional Properties and Dubai World through a joint ownership by the Government Employee Pension Fund (through the Public Investment Fund) and Growthpoint (the country’s largest primary REIT (Real Estate Investment Trust) listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.


A large-scale redevelopment of the Food Court in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre is completed.


Commercial and residential development on No. 1 and No. 2 Silo are completed. The redeveloped Pick n Pay opens in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. Reconfiguration of the old Pick n Pay space begins, with Cotton On and Mr Price moving in. Refurbishment of the old Blue Shed Craft Market begins, and is renamed ‘The Watershed’, intended to be the home of African craft and design at the V&A Waterfront.


The extension of the Two Oceans Aquarium is completed, which includes a new 1.5-million litre seawater tank for larger scale exhibitions at the aquarium. The Watershed opens. Construction begins on converting the historical grain silo at the V&A Waterfront into the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA), which is to be the largest museum of contemporary art from Africa and its diaspora in the past 100 years. Renovations on Ports Edge apartments are completed. The V&A Waterfront announces the Silo District, a new mixed-use district that will include residential, commercial and retail space.


Redevelopment of Kings Warehouse within the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre is completed, making space for two international retailers, Hamleys and H&M, both of which are the first stores in South Africa for the brands. The V&A Waterfront’s second phase of rental residential units, The Breakwater, is launched. A multi-use innovation hub, Workshop17, is completed at The Watershed. The V&A Waterfront is awarded operating rights for the Cape Town Cruise Terminal. The V&A Waterfront also announces the Canal District, a new mixed-use district on the property, which will be home to the head offices of British American Tobacco Southern Africa and EY.


The Virgin Africa Classic Health Club, housed in No. 4 Silo, opens to the public. PwC and Werkmans move into No. 5 Silo in the Silo District. The Quayside Terraces project is completed, bringing new, permanent, glass-and-steel designed structure to the popular outdoor restaurants at Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. Waterway House opened with anchor tenant, British American Tobacco, in October, signalling the opening of the Canal District. Further development of the Cape Town Cruise Terminal is announced in November.


Completion of the Silo District. After four years of development, Zeitz MOCAA (Museum of Contemporary Art Africa) opened to the public in September 2017. The Radisson Red Hotel, housed in No. 6 Silo, also opened in September.


Second phase of the Cape Town Cruise Terminal is completed with the addition of reception and waiting areas, baggage handling services and immigration and customs facilities, as well as additional facilities necessary for the comfort of disembarking cruise liner passengers. Battery Park, a new urban park that forms the gateway to the V&A Waterfront through its Canal District, is opened to the public in November 2018.


Installation of new swing bridge

The upgraded swing bridge replaces the previous pedestrian walkway connecting the Pierhead Precinct with the Clock Tower Precinct to cope with footfall growth that has doubled with the new developments of the Silo District, as the most direct route to the heart of the Waterfront. The new bridge reinvigorates the Clock Tower precinct with a new and iconic gateway structure, twice as wide at 4 meters, while a raised beam running down the centre of the bridge encourages people to always enter the bridge to their left.

Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre receives upgrade

The first phase of the V&A Waterfront’s spectacular R180-million extension to the Victoria Wharf Shopping centre unveiled to the public on 18 September 2019. The 10 month redevelopment of the Victoria Wharf wing adjoining The Table Bay Hotel expanded the retail area with additional shopping space by adding a third ground floor level. All three open balcony-style levels wrap around and overlook an impressive ground floor promotional court. The effect is a light and airy space enhanced by the natural light that flows in through the atrium roof.

Makers Landing

The V&A Waterfront opens the Makers Landing food hub, located alongside the Cape Town Cruise Terminal, with a vision of developing a thriving food community in which small food businesses can prosper and grow. Makers Landing represents a R63-million investment with R48-million coming from the V&A Waterfront in partnership with the National Treasury’s Jobs Fund.


The Ridge

Cape Town’s newest 6-star Green Star Design awarded commercial building; the Ridge in the Portswood District is home to Deloitte Cape Town. The building has some of the most innovative sustainable building technology available, boasting a first of its kind timber façade, together with a world class interior fit out, and was the first to make use of ecobricks within its structure.