Pretoria Mini Guide
Pretoria - an Introduction
Pretoria is one of South Africa’s three capitals but is acknowledged as the main one as this is where the country’s administration takes place and is the home of the president. The city is currently undergoing terse negotiations over a change of name to Tshwane. The city is renowned for the thousands of Jacaranda trees that grow there.
What Happened There in the Past
Three local tribes fought over the area until defeated by the Dutch in 1837 at Mosega. It was another 18 years before the city was founded and with a quaint story of how the district known as Arcadia was acquired in exchange for a pony. In 1899 Winston Churchill was held as a prisoner of war here. In 1910, Pretoria was named as capital after the Union of the country’s states.
There are two airports that serve the city; Johannesburg
, 28 miles to the south and Lanseria
22 miles to the south west. The R21 highway leads straight from Johannesburg Airport into Pretoria.
Things and Places of Interest in the City
To get a flavour of life in the early days of the area visit the Pioneer Museum, set up as a home of one of the original pioneering Voortrekkers. The Botanical Gardens are quite beautiful in spring and summer and are great for a leisurely stroll or a picnic. The National Zoological Gardens have a large selection of animals from the country and it’s possible to camp overnight here at weekends. The Presidential Palace is worth a visit and the gardens here are nice too.
What to see Outside the City
The spectacular Voortrekker Monument is a must-see. This commemorates the struggle of the first Dutch settlers to come to the area. Inside the monument is a small museum to their efforts. A larger museum is currently under construction alongside the monument. Sports fans should visit the Supersport Park at Centurion
, venue for many international cricket matches including the ICC World Cup.
Steam train enthusiasts will want to board the train run by Friends of Rail which circumnavigates the city. Refreshments are served on board and seeing the city from different aspects is interesting. For a different experience, stay overnight, quite cheaply, in a lodge in Groenkloof National Park, the second oldest reserve in South Africa.
Shops and Malls
There are some good shopping malls in the city; most people’s favourite is Kolonnade which has its own ice rink - great if you’ve got kids with you.
Pretoria’s Boer history means that there is quite a bit of Dutch and German influence on the food in the city. Other than that, there’s the traditional South African staple of beef in many forms. For a more subtle dining experience try Cynthias or the Hillside Tavern. Accompanying your meal should be a bottle of South Africa’s fine wine.
Celebrations and Special Events
Pretoria is a little short on festivals but annually they celebrate the founding of the city and the hardships faced by the Voortrekkers in coming to the area. Pretorians have a sense of pride in their city and this celebration is taken seriously.
Pretoria is the capital of South Africa but one of three with different roles. There’s plenty of history there as the city was founded at the end of the Great Trek by the Voortrekkers. A monument and museum in the city marks the epic journey and tells more about what brought it about. The monument is fascinating with many different aspects represented, often subtly.
If you’ve hired a car, another great attraction is the National Zoological Gardens where over the weekend it’s possible to camp amongst the enclosures for a taste of the wild in the middle of a city.