The square was built in 1696, when a burgher watch house was erected. In 1761, the watch house was demolished and the Old Town House built in the site. This building functioned as the city hall for a period of time.
Near the centre of the square is a hand operated pump used to bring clean water to the surface from an underground river that runs through the city.
During the apartheid era, Greenmarket Square was often the focus of political protests, due in part to its proximity to parliament, as well as the ethnicity of its traders and shoppers.
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