South African Prince Albert Town Travel Information
Prince Albert is a delightful South African village in the Karoo, which is part of the Western Cape. Although we live in an arid region we are blessed with water from the Swartberg Mountains and the village is a little oasis.
We enjoy a superb climate, with a high sunshine index and spectacular night skies. The village is a small gem, with beautifully preserved Cape Dutch, Karoo and Victorian buildings – 13 of which are National Monuments*.
There is ample hotel and guest house accommodation to suit all preferences and pockets. We also offer farm accommodation.
Prince Albert is known for its sun-ripened fresh and dried fruit, especially figs and apricots. In the Prince Albert Valley , to the south of the village, farmers are restoring vineyards last farmed in the 19th century. Karoo lamb, olives, olive oil and cheese are local delicacies. (See what to buy, farming & produce).
Here you can wander down to the dairy in the evening to buy your milk, cream and yoghurt, and visit our Saturday market for fruit and vegetables picked that morning, fresh baked bread, homemade jams and pickles.
Every April we hold our Prince Albert Town Festival when the village entertains crowds of visitors to a street market, delicious food, music, an art exhibition, competitions, a half marathon and cycle race and lots more.
Just 2kms from the foot of the awesome Swartberg Pass, Prince Albert is the perfect base for exploring all the wonders of the Swartberg including Gamkaskloof – “the Hell” and Meiringspoort
Activities for visitors include a guided historical walk through the town, a ramble along the “Gordon’s koppie”, a ghost walk in the evening, trips into the Swartberg Pass, a visit to the Prince Albert Gallery, where local artists display their work, local shops, the tannery and weavery, traditional Karoo meals, and a visit to the delightful Fransie Pienaar Museum where a local farmer distills “Witblits”.
Hiking, mountain biking, scenic drives, birding and bird- watching are major attractions. (see what to do)
The villages of Klaarstroom and Leeu Gamka fall within the municipal district.
Prince Albert is well situated for overnight stops from Gauteng, Cape Town and Port Elizabeth. The Garden Route resorts and beaches lie a two hour drive to the south. Oudtshoorn, the Cango Caves and the Karoo National Park are just an hour’s drive away.
The village of Prince Albert sprang from the loan farm Queekvalleij, established by Zacharias and Dina de Beer in 1762. The fertile valley soon attracted other farmers, church services were held on the market square and by 1844 an NG church had been built and a thriving community established.
In 1845 some parishioners suggested that the village be named Albertsburg after “Naar zijne Hoogheid” – his Royal Highness, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort. The Governor’s approval was granted in July and the village became known as Prince Albert.
Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha lived between (1819 – 1861).
By 1855 our weekly market had been established and Bishop Robert Gray – the first Anglican Bishop of Cape Town, visited the village and found it “very beautifully situated at the foot of the Zwart-berg mountains.”
In 1857 a reading room was established, leading to the opening of our library in 1862 – one of the earliest in the Cape Colony. Queen Victoria sent a book of Prince Albert’s speeches to the village in 1867, this can now be seen at the Fransie Pienaar Museum.
Sadly the original library burnt down in 1949 but ten years later our new library was opened – please visit to see a permanent display about the village compiled by our librarian.
The new NG Kerk in Kerkstraat was consecrated in 1865 and the following year Ds Adriaan Hofmeyer replaced the small organ with the splendid instrument currently in use. Annie Luttig was appointed church organist in 1892 and held the post for 58 years.
During the 1850’s and 60’s there was much building activity and Carel Lotz created his famous Prince Albert gables. While you are here, please go on a guided historical walk around the village to see our gables, well preserved examples of Karoo cottages, Victorian homes, former cinema’s and our National monuments. Contact the Fransie Pienaar Museum 023 5411 172 or the Tourism Association Office 023 5411 366
In 1881 construction began in the Swartberg Pass but it was only in 1883, when Thomas Bain took over the project, that work started in earnest. In 1886 the pass was opened to the public – but at their own risk, as construction was still under way.
The post-coach left the Prince Albert Hotel every morning at 6.00am, on one occasion the driver stopped at the little settlement at the top of the pass for a cup of coffee and returned to find his coach gone – the horses had headed back towards Prince Albert and the warmth of their stable. The Swartberg Pass was officially opened on 10th January 1888. In 1904 Dr Russell from Oudtshoorn drove the first motorcar over the pass.
In 1891 a shepherd found a gold nugget on the farm Klein Waterval and the Prince Albert Gold Rush started. Enthusiastic miners predicted another Witwatersrand but only 504 ounces of gold were mined from the 1042 registered claims. Relics of the goldrush can be seen at our museum.
The Anglo-Boer War broke out in 1899. A British garrison was established here and there were a few skirmishes between commando’s and troops in the area. Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers was taken captive on the farm Kopjeskraal and later executed in Graaff-Reinet. Boers seized the mail-coach horses near Botterkraal in 1901.
1912 saw the first issue of a weekly newspaper, The Prince Albert Friend/De Prince Albert Vriend which was published in Dutch and English – the tradition continues, buy your copy of our monthly newspaper at the Tourism Association Office
After you have visited the museum and seen the picture of Kweekvallei painted by Robert Gordon in 1778 walk up Gordon’s Hill to gain a bird’s eye view of the village. The koppies in the distance are just as Gordon drew them, but now a thriving village, home to over 6000 residents lies before you.
The green gardens and orchards bear testimony to the springs of the Swartberg mountains whose sheltering mass provide a spectacular backdrop to our very special, peaceful place.