From the earliest days of Dutch settlers in the Cape, the Grand Parade has always been at the centre of Cape Town city life. The site was first occupied by the original castle of the Cape, a small fort which was later demolished to make way for the castle that still stands there. It became the site for the public flogging of slaves and for military exercises. By the time the British occupied the Cape , it had become known as the Grand Parade to differentiate it from the Little Parade (which later became Caledon Square, now the home of Cape Town’s central police station) .
The Parade became the site of weekly auctions in the early 1800s, held every Wednesday and Saturday, as the markets are still held to this day. It was the site of all major celebrations, ranging from the annual celebration of Queen Victoria’s birthday, to, the end of the Boer war in 1902 and the birth of the Union of South Africa in 1910. During the earthquake of 1809, anxious residents camped out on the Parade and, in 1850, protestors gathered there to demonstrate against the British government’s attempts to land convicts at the Cape.
The Parade lost half of its size in 1879 when Cape Town’s station was opened. It gained new dignity through the construction of among others the City hall, the Opera House , the Volunteers Drill hall and the Commercial Exchange on the periphery of the Parade.
In 1990 Nelson Mandela addressed a huge crowd of supporters on the Parade when he spoke from the balcony of the City Hall on his release from twenty seven years in prison. Today the Parade has undergone a much-needed facelift. It was re-surfaced, had its double edge of trees re-planted and had new lighting installed. It was the site for an official FIFA Fan Fest during the 2010 Soccer World Cup.