Market Square is this historic heart of Port Elizabeth, surrounded by centuries-old buildings and monuments. Situated close to Port Elizabeth’s historic landing beach, Market Square was originally the place where merchant ships brought goods for sale. It later became the city’s hub for trading between farmers. Today, the square serves as a showcase of the city’s colonial-era architecture.
The square’s most striking monument is the City Hall, built between 1858 and 1862. Stand back and admire the two-level façade characterized by large, arched windows and an entrance with elegant columns. Check out the clock tower, added toward the end of the 1800s. Ask at the reception about concerts and lectures in the hall.
Find the Prester John Memorial, which is adjacent to the City Hall. It pays homage to the Christian patriarch Prester John and is believed to be one of the world’s only monuments to him. Also worth seeing is a replica of the Diaz Cross Memorial. It celebrates the arrival of Portuguese explorer Bartholomew Diaz in 1488.
Across from the City Hall is Port Elizabeth’s impressive Public Library, with a terracotta façade and Victorian-gothic architectural influences. A marble statue of Queen Victoria stands proudly in front of the library. Step inside to see floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, admire intricate stained-glass windows and look down at the main hall from small balconies.
A short walk from the square will bring you to the 174-feet (53-meter) tall Campanile, a 20th-century bell tower that commemorates British settlement in the area. Climb up 204 stairs to an observation room and enjoy views of the square, coastline and surrounding area.
Market Square is located within Port Elizabeth’s city center. It’s a short walk from major city attractions such as the South African Air Force Museum and No. 7 Castle Hill Museum. The square marks the starting point of the Donkin Heritage Trail, a 3-mile (5-kilometer) walk that leads past almost 50 different cultural and historical sights. Purchase a trail map from the Donkin Reserve Visitor Information Center, a 10-minute walk from Market Square.
Entrance to the City Hall and Public Library are free. Donations are welcome at the Campanile.