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A utopian location beside a river, the city of Pretoria has long been used as a command centre for both ancient tribes and the Voortrekkers, who formally established the town in 1855. Since then, many a battle was fought and historic treaties signed in Pretoria. Today, Pretoria is the administration capital of South Africa and the official residence of the country’s President. It’s also where most foreign embassies are located.
Pretoria is known as Jacaranda City for good reason; the city streets are lined with thousands of jacaranda trees. When in bloom, the city is awash with purple and violet blossoms.
Pretoria has a fair mix of cultures – a true snapshot of South Africa’s rainbow nation, where young and old, and conservative and liberal, happily coexist. Expect to meet academics, politicians and diplomats during your stay in this handsome city.
Top 8 reasons to visit Pretoria
1. Situated in a 340ha nature reserve and on a peak is the impressive Voortrekker Monument, a granite structure 40m in height. The monument is South Africa’s 2nd most visited heritage site and celebrates the Voortrekker’s Great Trek undertaken during the 1800s.
2. A second historic building must-see is the Union Buildings, a mega sandstone structure that overlooks the city and is the home to South Africa’s parliamentarians. The stepped gardens are loved by the public and where occasional events take place. The Red Bull X-Fighters show stops here every year.
3. For a unique shopping experience, travel Antique Route 6 through the leafy streets of Pretoria to find hidden antique treasures for the loved ones back home. Expect to find bargains and highly unusual merchandise.
4. Stroll through Venning Rose Park to appreciate the lake, the flowers and sunken garden. The Rosarium has over 3000 rose bushes of varying cultivars.
5. Visit the Fried Contemporary Gallery to view local contemporary art. The gallery also acts as a springboard for new artists to showcase their work.
6. South Africans love the outdoors and to braai (barbeque). Take along some wood and meat to the Groenkloof Nature Reserve to braai at one of the many fire pits. A lapa (open thatched structure) can be hired to lunch under shade. The reserve has antelope and several hiking trails and cycle routes to enjoy.
7. Pretoria regularly hosts large events that feature wine, craft beer and whisky tastings, food and craft markets, tree planting projects, charity drives, live open air performances and huge music concerts. Stop by at the nearest Info Centre to find out more.
8. Pretoria’s pulsating night life draws in the local student community and regulars from nearby towns and cities. To watch a good local band, head to the VIP lounge at Arcade Empire.
The nearest airport is OR Tambo International Airport, approximately 45km from Pretoria. The Gautrain (high speed train service to and from the airport) can be boarded at Hatfield or Pretoria Central stations. The Lanseria Airport for domestic flights is roughly 35km from Pretoria and chartered flights arrive and depart from the Wonderboom National Airport, 11km away. Car rental agencies are located at the airports and throughout Pretoria city or book a vehicle online. Metered taxi companies are readily available but if you have the Uber app, order a ride via your mobile phone.
Did you know?
The President’s Pretoria residence is called Mahlamba Ndlopfu, meaning The New Dawn in Shangaan. The house was built in 1940 in the Cape Dutch style and the gardens declared a national heritage site.
Pretoria was of major significance in the life of past President Nelson Mandela. It was at the Palace of Justice in 1964 that Madiba was handed a life sentence and then 30 years later, he was inaugurated as President at the Union Buildings, just 3km away.
For a more down to earth experience there are guest houses. Less expensive than hotels, they offer a more homey environment, as well as more privacy. Converted from a private house it’s a much gentler environment and for those with furry friends, there are also pet friendly options. They are usually well situated with shops and places of interest nearby. Being so small it offers a much more personal and intimate attention to it’s upkeep, leaving you with a more polished and homely experience.