Explore Pretoria

Pretoria Travel Guide

Pretoria is affectionately known as the Jacaranda City due to the profusion of Jacaranda trees, which colour the city a rich purple with their blossoms every spring. It is located 56 miles (90km) from Johannesburg, although this drive can take up to two hours in the infamous traffic between the two cities. Pretoria is South Africa's administrative capital and one of the country's more attractive cities; its relatively ordered and picturesque urban centre forms a stark contrast to its much more chaotic neighbour of Johannesburg.<br /><br /> Pretoria was founded in 1955 and named after Andries Pretorius, the leader at the Battle of Blood River where the defeated the Zulus under King Dingaan. But since 1994, the city is best known as the administrative capital of South Africa, and as home to the iconic Union Buildings where Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the country's first democratically elected president. Although Pretoria is, to the surprise of foreign visitors, the capital of South Africa, it is nowhere near as famous as Cape Town and Johannesburg and in reality several cities in the country essentially divide the various functions associated with a capital city.<br /><br /> Pretoria may not be one of South Africa's most popular tourist destinations, but it makes a fantastic base for a multitude of sightseeing opportunities. The city offers some unique attractions, such as the historic Voortrekker Monument, the South African National Zoological Gardens, a wonderful zoo, and the nearby town of Cullinan where the discovery of the world's largest diamond took place. If visitors run out of diversions in Pretoria the proximity of Johannesburg ensures that boredom is not an option. Pretoria offers visitors a unique glimpse into a city brimming with history and simultaneously embracing cultural change.<br /><br />

Union Buildings

Address: Pretoria

Admission: Free

Designed by renowned South African architect, Sir Herbert Baker, the Union Buildings are located on Meintjieskop hill, a sentinel overlooking the city of Pretoria. The official seat of the country's government and housing the offices of the South African President and other government officials, the Union Buildings are a South African Monument and have seen such icons as former South African president, Nelson Mandela, inaugurated. The main semicircular building is considered an architectural masterpiece and is an easily recognisable South African landmark worth seeing and photographing for tourists in the area. With spectacular terraced gardens full of indigenous flora, the Union Buildings are not only historically important, but also rather beautiful. The spacious gardens are a popular venue for picnics and wedding photos and visitors are welcome every day; however, unfortunately, the buildings themselves are never open to the public. There are various monuments to see in the gardens, including the South African Police Memorial and a monument to General Louis Botha, the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa.<br /><br />

National Zoological Gardens of South Africa

Address: 232 Boom St Pretoria

Admission: R66 (adults); R44 (children). Open daily from 8.30 to 5.30pm. Last tickets sold at 4.30pm.

Telephone: (012) 328 3265

Commonly known as the Pretoria Zoo, the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa is regarded as one of the leading zoos in the world; it is the largest zoo in South Africa and the only one with national status. Tickets include a visit to the zoo, an aquarium and a reptile park. The Pretoria Zoo boasts 209 mammal species, 202 bird species, 190 fish species, four invertebrate species and 93 reptile species. The zoo is known for its large enclosures and animals include cheetahs, chimps, lemurs, leopards, rhinos, hippos, elephants, red pandas, koala bears, lions and tigers. Golf carts and children's pushcarts are available for rent and there is even a Zoo Choo-Choo Tractor Train for the kids to enjoy. The cable car, which runs up a hill and offers great views over the city, is one of the highlights. For the hungry there is a restaurant, a cafeteria with a wide variety of take-away options, a few snack kiosks, and numerous pretty picnic sites where you can relax in the shade; some picnic sites even have barbeque facilities. There are a variety of tour options at the zoo and those who want to take something away with them can try the curio shop for souvenirs.<br /><br />

Loftus Versfeld Stadium

Address: Pretoria

A shrine for many of Pretoria's Afrikaaners, the Loftus Versfeld Stadium seats over 50,000 people and was one of the stadiums hosting matches in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The land on which the stadium was built was first used for sporting events in 1903 and is named after Robert Owen Loftus Versfeld, who is attributed with establishing organised sport in Pretoria. Loftus Versfeld stadium is home to the local rugby team, the Blue Bulls - a team passionately supported by locals and very successful locally and internationally - and has hosted numerous sporting events, such as the 1995 Rugby World Cup and the 1996 CAF Africa Cup of Nations. The stadium is also a venue for live music concerts and has hosted the likes of Robbie Williams. Enthusiastic sport fans may want to add the stadium to their sightseeing itinerary, and rugby supporters travelling to Pretoria should try and take in a game at this famous South African venue. Even those indifferent to rugby, and sport in general, may want to check whether there are any other events showing at this superb venue during their stay.<br /><br />

Kruger House Museum

Address: 60 Church Street Pretoria

Admission: R25 (adult); R10 (children) Open Monday to Friday from 8.30am to 4.30pm; Saturday, Sunday and public holidays from 9am to 4.30pm.

Telephone: (012) 326 9172

The former residence of Boer leader and President of the Republic of South Africa, Paul Kruger, is now the Kruger House Museum. Built in 1884, the house was the last one in which President Kruger would live, between 1883 and 1901, before leaving South Africa to go into exile in Europe. Exhibitions in the museum detail Kruger's leading role in the South African War, formerly known as the Anglo-Boer War, against Britain, his presidency at a formative and tumultuous period in South African history, and his exile to Europe. Adjacent to Kruger House is the former Bantu Commissioner's Office, erected in 1932, also used as the Native Pass Office. Kruger's government used the same site as police headquarters. The house contains some original furnishings from Kruger's residency and some other items from that historical period as well as many gifts that were presented to Kruger, such as the lion statues on the veranda, as well as other memorabilia. The museum mainly aims to recreate the living conditions of the time, but also gives some insight into the life of this great South African character. Although the museum may not be entertaining for all tourists, those interested in the historical period should find it worthwhile.<br /><br />

Pretoria National Botanical Garden

Address: 2 Cussonia Avenue, Brummeria Pretoria

Admission: R25 (adults), R15 (students), R10 (children). Open daily 8am to 6pm (No entry after 5pm).

Telephone: (012) 843 5172

Featuring indigenous plants and flowers from all over South Africa, the Pretoria National Botanical Garden bridges the gap between scientific research and recreational garden pleasures. The garden is home to over 198 bird species, a few reptiles and even small mammals, such as the duiker, a small type of buck. A high quartzite outcrop divides the grounds into two sections: a colder, south-facing section, and a warmer, north-facing section which present slightly different natural 'moods'. A paved nature trail provides access to the ridge, which boasts a wonderful diversity of indigenous dlora and fauna. More than half of the total area is dedicated to landscaped garden, using almost exclusively South African vegetation, including 50 percent of the country's tree species. The garden includes several distinct biomes, with savanna and forest sections. A great place for a relaxing walk or picnic, the gardens also feature Mokha Restaurant which overlooks a small wetland. No pets are allowed in the garden (except guide dogs) and although picnics are encouraged, no fires or braais (barbeques) are permitted anywhere in the grounds. Bicycles and skateboards are also not allowed.<br /><br />

The bulk of Pretoria's nightlife is located in Hatfield, near the university, and Menlyn Square in the city centre. Standing proud amid the carnage of venues that come and go are some time honoured staples that visitors to Pretoria should experience. Tings 'n Times has a Caribbean vibe and some great live acts and music performances. For more Rasta-inspired good times, visit nearby Cool Runnings where there is genuine beach sand on the floor. Drop Zone on Hatfield Square is also a worthy nightclub that stays open very late. One of the city's biggest clubs is Legends, equally popular with gay and straight patrons. For hard rock and headbanging good times fly over to nearby Zeplin's.<br /><br /> Eastwood's in Arcadia has been voted the best pub in Pretoria many times and is the best place to watch televised sport if you want to capture the intensity and claustrophobia of a live match. A worthy pretender to the throne is Oppikoppi, on Magasyn Hill opposite the Voortrekker Monument. This pub has the best views in town, particularly at sunset, when the braais are lit and the aroma of boerewors seduces patrons into staying for another round, or five. Pub devotees may notice that Pretoria has an abundance of Irish-themed bars, seemingly one on every corner. These are all bedecked in clover and serve Guinness but they invariably lack real character. The same cannot be said for German themed Herr Gunther's Zapfhaus which has got all the lederhosen, bratwurst and oompa music you could want.<br /><br />
Pretoria is not a great shopping destination. There are very few local handicrafts or appealing souvenirs to speak of, and the retail landscape is dominated by largely generic shopping malls. However, if you are in town for a sporting or business engagement, and the urge to spend some rands takes hold, there are a few options to consider.<br /><br /> The main shopping malls are Menlyn Park, in the east; Brooklyn Mall, near the city centre, which has some good art galleries; Kolonnade, in the north, which is chiefly visited for its ice rink; Wonderpark, which has a skatepark; and Irene Village Mall, south of the city. Some of Pretoria's best shopping opportunities can be found at its flea markets: the Pretoria Zoo market runs on weekdays from 6am to 5pm and has a good range of traditional jewellery, African crafts and ornaments on sale; at the Union Buildings you will find vendors selling decent local handicrafts like woven rugs and beadwork every day; and Wonderpark Flea Market is open from 8am to 2pm on Saturdays selling crafts, toys and souvenirs from a range of regional artists.<br /><br /> Those intent on some serious shopping fun should make the short trip to Johannesburg to enjoy the plethora of shopping opportunities in the 'City of Gold'.<br /><br />
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