Southern Suburbs (Western Cape)



Observatory is a suburb in Cape Town, South Africa that is bordered by Mowbray to the south, and Salt River to the northwest. Colloquially known as Obs, the area is best known as a student neighbourhood, home to students, faculty and other staff associated with the University of Cape Town nearby. It is also the home of the South African Astronomical Observatory headquarters as well as Groote Schuur Hospital.

Observatory is situated on the north-facing lower slopes of Devil's Peak. The slope runs into the Liesbeeck River and, as such, much of present-day lower Observatory was a marshy estuary formed by the rivers, where buffalo, hippo, elephant, zebra, jackals, antelope, lions and leopards were once prevalent. The Raapenberg Bird Sanctuary protects 10 hectares (25 acres) of land along the Liesbeek River. In 1510, the area was the scene of a raid by the Portuguese, led by Francisco de Almeida, on a Goringhaiqua Khoikhoi village, which ultimately led to the death of de Almeida and approximately sixty of his compatriots during the Battle of Salt River. Modern-day Observatory traces its origins to the Koornhoop Colony land grant issued in 1657.

Between February 1657 and February 1658, fourteen free burghers were granted land by the Dutch East India Company along the Liesbeeck River valley. The then Governor of the Cape, Jan van Riebeek, decreed that a fortified building called "Fort Coornhoop" be built as one of several small forts to protect against the Khoikhoi. Part of what was developed as Koornhoop became Uitwyk, which is now known as Malta Farm. The name is derived from the location and construction of the Royal Observatory, Cape of Good Hope in 1820. The Royal Observatory in Observatory, Cape Town, houses the McClean Telescope. The building was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and was completed in 1897. The original buildings now serve as the headquarters of the South African Astronomical Observatory, with an on-site museum exhibiting various historic instruments and telescopes. During the years of apartheid, Observatory was one of the few de facto 'grey' suburbs where all races lived together.

On the evening of 30 December 1993, three men entered a popular student venue on Station Road, called the Heidelberg Tavern and opened fire, killing four people and injuring five. The three APLA operatives - Humphrey Luyanda Gqomfa, Vuyisile Brian Madasi and Zola Prince Mabala - were convicted in November 1994 for what became known as the Heidelberg Massacre. On 16 July 1998, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission granted the three amnesty.

It continues to be a somewhat alternative part of town, with 'New Age' stores including an anarchist store, and several programmes at the Observatory Community Centre. It is served by Observatory railway station on the Southern Line, with regular trains every 40 minutes or so, and every hour on Sunday. Observatory is the location for much of the short-term accommodation used by increasing numbers of international students attending UCT. Observatory is a popular place with dog owners. The suburb has some notable dog walking facilities along the river bank, a dog park as well as many poop bag dispensers, maintained by OBSID along the roads. The roads are quiet and there are always a few dogs and their owners out and about.

The suburb's proximity to the University of Cape Town (UCT) and its Medical School in particular, has always made it popular with both students and faculty. Observatory has long been a vibrant area, as a result of its high proportion of students. There are numerous restaurants and bars, and many neighbourhood staples. Most restaurants and retail shops are located along Lower Main road with a 95-year-old bottle store, Observatory Liquors, situated in the middle. There is also a shopping complex in St. Peter's square, which is located opposite Groote Schuur graveyard. Observatory is home to many churches. The Anglican parish church of St Michael and All Angels, designed by Sir Herbert Baker and the only one of his churches completed to his design, is a bastion of Anglo-Catholicism within the Anglican community of South Africa and has a strong choral tradition. Observatory has a soccer and hockey stadium below the station, Hartleyvale Stadium which is flanked on one side by Liesbeeck Parkway and on the other by Willow Road. In this section of land, there is also an outdoor swimming pool that is popular on summer afternoons - between the two there's a circus school. A driving range and nine-hole golf course is housed at the River Club.


Weather Forecasting

Three day Weather Forecast for Observatory

Thursday, 07 July 2022

Temp: 9.8°C - 14.8°C

Wind: 16.9km/h

Rain: 1.9mm

Patchy rain possible

Friday, 08 July 2022

Temp: 12°C - 18°C

Wind: 10.1km/h

Rain: 0mm


Saturday, 09 July 2022

Temp: 13.3°C - 18.5°C

Wind: 12.6km/h

Rain: 0mm