Is Pretoria safer than Cape Town
Pretoria: sights and tips for the capital of South Africa
Pretoria is the official one Capital of South Africa and is located in Gauteng Province only about 50 kilometers from Johannesburg. Although the city is overshadowed by Cape Town and Johannesburg, it has a whole lot cooler itself Tourist Attractions to offer.
Pretoria offers great museums, restaurants, wide boulevards and parks and a very mild climate. In addition to Pretoria, South Africa's capital also bears the names Tshwane and City of Jacaranda Trees.
Incidentally, Pretoria is the more relaxed alternative if you don't feel like the hustle and bustle of Johannesburg. I started mine first trip to South Africa in Pretoria and couldn't have picked a better starting point.
In this travel blog I'll tell you our best tips for Pretoria, exciting sights and a few hidden ones Insider tips. So you can be curious.
What is the capital of South Africa now?
As already revealed in the invitation, Pretoria is the official capital of South Africa. This is also called the executing capital. While the seat of government is always housed in the Union Buildings in Pretoria, the National Assembly is only in Pretoria for six months and then changes its seat Cape Town and back again after half a year. In Bloemfontein is the seat of the judiciary and therefore Bloemfontein also functions as a capital city.
Brief history and facts about Pretoria
The fertile valley in which Pretoria is located has long been settled. The Zulus let their cattle graze on the fertile soil.
With the Great Trek came the Boers in the region. In 1853, Martinus Pretourius began building a city, which he named after his father, Andries Pretourius named. This was general of the Voortrekker and defeated the Zulu at the battle of the Blood River. He was considered a hero among the Boers. In 1860 Pretoria finally became the capital of the South African Republic.
Pretoria was also the location of the Boer Wars. The Boers won the first Boer War and Pretoria was then besieged by the British. In 1899 the second Boer War broke out and the British won. Pretoria had to surrender in 1900 and this marked the end of the independent Boer Republic in South Africa. Some sights in Pretoria are still reminiscent of these bloody battles today.
Since 2000, Pretoria has been part of the new City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. There have been repeated attempts to rename Pretoria Tshwane, because the name of the city alone is a sign of the oppression of the South Africans by the Europeans. But the name change could not be fully implemented. Currently, the name Pretoria remains for the city and Tshwane stands for the metropolitan area.
Sights in Pretoria
Pretoria offers some exciting and wonderful Tourist Attractions. The city is particularly beautiful when the jacaranda trees are in bloom. But more on that later. Here you can first find ours Tips for sightseeing in Pretoria. You can explore most of the sights in the city center on foot.
Church Square (Kerkplein)
Church Square is the heart of downtown Pretoria. Around Church Square are some important buildings such as the Palace of Justice, the Old Council Chamber, the Old Capito Theater, the First National Bank and the tourist information in the Old Nederlandsche Bank building. In the middle of the square is a statue of Paul Krüger. During my visit there was unfortunately a huge construction site on the square, but even so, Church Square was well worth seeing and impressive.
Just a stone's throw from Church Square is the Kruger House and Museum. The house was once the residence of Paul Krüger. Inside is a museum about the life and work of Paul Kruger. The entrance fee is 35 rand.
The Voortrekker Monument is a reminder of the Voortrekker and was built between 1938 and 1949. The monument is pretty imposing. You can get to the main building by stairs or elevator and have a great view from above. Entry is 55 rand.
The Union Buildings are one of Pretoria's greatest attractions. The seat of the government and the seat of the president are housed in them. Unfortunately, the imposing buildings cannot be visited from the inside. However, you have a great view and the beautifully landscaped gardens at the foot of the Union Buildings invite you to linger and have a picnic.
Nelson Mandela Monument
The Nelson Mandela Memorial is right in front of the Union Buildings by the beautifully landscaped gardens. The bronze statue, which was unveiled in 2013, is nine meters high. Nelson Mandela's pose is a bit reminiscent of the Cristo in Rio de Janeiro. However, the gesture is intended to symbolize Nelson Mandela's legacy and to remind South Africans that they are a united rainbow nation. The Nelson Mandela statue is a popular photo opportunity in Pretoria.
The Melrose House is built in the Victorian style. This is where the Second Boer War ended in 1902 with the signing of the Unification Treaty. Today a museum is housed in Melrose House, where you can marvel at cartoons from the Boer War, for example. Entry is 85 rand (about 5 euros).
Transvaal Museum of Natural History
Another excellent museum is the Transvaal Museum of Natural History. Inside you can admire a collection of mammals, reptiles, African birds and precious stones. Even from the outside, the huge whale skeleton is very impressive.
Former Church Street is now Stanza Bopape, Helen Joseph, W F Nkomo and Elias Motsoaledi streets. It is known as the longest street in any city in South Africa and one of the straightest city streets in the world.
Accommodation in Pretoria
We stayed at Hatfield during our time in Pretoria. A relaxed area and a hotspot for going out in the evening. In addition, our accommodations were close to the train station, so the journey from Johannesburg airport was very relaxed. We checked out two lovely and highly recommended hostels that happened to be on the same street.
Just a stone's throw from Hatfield Station des Gautrains, the Pumbas Backpackers is a very good place to go if you are just coming from Johannesburg Airport. There are small huts and spacious dorms.
In addition, a very pretty garden with a clean pool and breakfast. I particularly liked the nice, relaxed atmosphere and the helpful staff, who gave us all kinds of great tips.
1322 Backpackers International
The 1322 Backpackers International * is located on the same street as the Pumbas Backpackers. The hostel is a bit more upscale, but the price is very fair and has spacious rooms and modern huts in a tropical garden.
Outside there is a grill that you can use and a really big pool. My tip for a relaxed place to stay near Hatfield train station in Pretoria, to check out the nightlife and sleep in wonderfully comfortable beds. The employees were also really warm and friendly.
More accommodations outside of Hatfield
- Dinkwe Guest House *: A green oasis in the middle of the city. In this small guest house you get large rooms with everything you need. There is even a pool and the lovely hosts make the stay perfect. The price-performance ratio is also unbeatable.
- Muckleneuk Manor *: With great attention to detail, in a central location and still wonderfully quiet. This is what the small guest house in the heart of Pretoria offers. Breakfast can be booked cheaply and the pool is a great place to relax from sightseeing. Here, too, you get a lot for little money.
Restaurant tips in Pretoria
It doesn't seem that Pretoria has the most elaborate dining scene, but we spotted a few real highlights and lots of markets with excellent food that is often grown in the area. Here are a few Tips for restaurants, nice cafes, craft beer bars and food markets.
Address: Meerlust Rd, Equestria, Pretoria
Afro-Boer is a small oasis full of good food and delicious wines. Actually a small bakery with a café, the Afro-Boer now also offers whole dishes. Rather an option for breakfast or lunch, as the kitchen closes at 4:30 p.m. and on Sundays at 3:00 p.m. More information is available on the café's website: https://www.afroboer.co.za
Address: Corner Pierneef Street and 24th Avenue, The Moot, Pretoria.
There is really good coffee at Grounded. You can also get small snacks for lunch and breakfast in the relaxed atmosphere of the Grounded. The special thing is that every Monday from 5 to 6 p.m., one hour of Zulu is taught free of charge. The Grounded is also a coworking space. A real place to meet damn good coffee. You can find more information on the Grounded website here: https://groundedat.co.za
Fermier - Farm Style Fine Dining
Address: 41 Lynnwood Rd, The Willows 340-Jr, Pretoria
A bit fancier, but for a very fair price, you can dine in the Fermier. The motto is: you should know where the ingredients for the food come from and the food comes straight from the farm to your plate. A 9-course meal costs 650 rand and 350 rand for accompanying wines. You have to reserve in advance. You can do this, for example, on the Fermier website: https://www.fermierrestaurant.com/contact/
Address: 02, Church Square, 181 WF Nkomo St, CBD, Pretoria
Café Richie is a real institution in Church Square and has been around since the beginning of the 20th century. The bistro is perfect for a quick stop over for a coffee or a beer and for watching the hustle and bustle of the politicians in Chruch Square.
Address: 141 Lynnwood Rd &, Albeth St, The Willows 340-Jr, Pretoria
In the Karoo Café you feel more like on a farm than in the middle of Pretoria. You can have a delicious breakfast and lunch in the café. There is typical African food, lots of funky meat dishes, but also trendy vegetarian options. And all of this very tasty and of great quality.
Address: 725 Arcadia St, Unipark, Pretoria, 0083
Typical African food from different parts of sub-Saharan Africa can be experienced in the Savanna Restaurant in the Arcadia district in a rather rustic ambience. The dishes are categorized by country with a small emphasis on West African dishes as the owner is from Ivory Coast.
Cool markets in Pretoria
There is a wide variety of markets in Pretoria. From hip food markets to organic farmers' markets or real insider tips such as the design market. Here we have some great options for you.
Hazel Food Market
The Hazel Food Market has become one of Pretoria's most famous markets. At over 70 stands in Menlo Park you can taste different dishes from South Africa and around the world. Above all, there is something healthy and you can sit down and relax on the beer benches to enjoy your meal. The Hazel Food Market always takes place on Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. and does not cost any admission.
Market at the Sheds
Probably the hippest market in Pretoria is the Market @the Sheds. Here you will find innovations from South African designers and a great atmosphere. At the Market at the Sheds you can not only shop, but there are also exciting concerts and performances.
Entry is 50 rand before 2 p.m. and 100 rand afterwards. Usually the market takes place on the last Sunday of the month. Here you can find more and current information about this insider tip in Pretoria.
Deep Roots Night Market
Authentic, unique and original - these are the keywords for which the Deep Roots Night Market stands. The market usually starts at 4 p.m. and you can get delicious food and craft beer there. The market is lovingly designed and you can have a relaxed picnic. You can always find current dates here.
The Boeremark, the farmers' market, is only for real early risers. It takes place every Saturday from 5:30 am to 9:30 am on Keuninh Street. Here, farmers from the region sell organic products and the finest delicacies. You can find out more about the market here.
Going out and partying in Pretoria
The most popular place to go out is the neighborhood around the University of Pretoria called Hatfield. The district comes to life at night and students cavort in the various bars and clubs. You can't go wrong in Hatfield Square and it's relatively safe to go out here. Other good addresses to celebrate are:
Address: Shop 20, Greenlyn Village Center, Corner of 12th Street East & Thomas Edison, Menlo Park, Pretoria.
Capital Craft offers the best food and of course an overwhelming selection of craft beer. There is also a huge selection of burgers to eat, as well as healthy and vegetarian alternatives such as bowls and salads. Here you can find more information about the Capital Craft.
Every first or last Sunday of the month there is a small festival in the park at the Voortrekker Monument. You can admire well-known indie, rock and hip hop artists from South Africa. Tickets cost R 145 in the Early Bird sale, R 165 online and R 185 at the entrance. Children under the age of 6 can attend the concerts free of charge. You can find out about current events on the Park Acoustics website.
How Safe is Pretoria?
As in any major South African city, you should be careful when it comes to security in Pretoria. During the day it is no problem to move between the various sights on busy streets in the city center. When it gets dark you should rather use an Uber, especially in the CBD.
Best travel time for Pretoria
As already mentioned, the best time to visit Pretoria is when the jacaranda trees are in bloom and the city turns a delicate purple. The trees bloom in spring in South Africa, around September. October is the best time to see the jacaranda trees.
Incidentally, these are not indigenous, but imported from Argentina. Since many of the trees are infected by a fungus and will not be replanted, it is questionable how long this spectacle will be seen.
But even outside of this travel time, Pretoria, which is located at over 1,300 meters, is a great destination, because the temperatures here are actually pleasant all year round.
Travel from Johannesburg Airport to Pretoria
I arrived from Germany at the ORT airport in Johannesburg and from there I went straight to Pretoria with the Gautrain. The Gautrain is a high-speed train that has been around since 2010. Using the train is really easy and we were able to walk straight from the train station to our accommodation. Very convenient.
A ride from the airport to Pretoria or Hatfield costs 192 Rand. The train is very clean and there is enough space for all your luggage. You can get information about departure times on the Gautrain website. To use the Gautrain, you need a Gautrain Gold Card. This costs 16 rand and must be charged with at least 25 rand. You can get the card either at a machine or at the counter in the airport or at any other Gautrain station. You can also easily recharge them there.
However, if you're traveling with several people, an Uber or taxi may be cheaper than the Gautrain.
Is Pretoria worth a visit?
Pretoria is perfect for anyone who finds Johannesburg too rough. The city is more relaxed, warmer, and offers some great sights. In addition, the location is the perfect starting point if you want to visit the Kruger National Park and the Drakensberg. For my first trip to South Africa, Pretoria was a good place to first arrive.
But let's not kid ourselves: the biggest highlights on a trip through South Africa are outside the cities in nature and therefore Pretoria was more of a stopover for us; good for acclimatizing and a relaxed starting point to explore the national parks and highlights in the east of South Africa.
More travel tips for South Africa
- From Pretoria, it is worth taking a short detour to Johannesburg. Learn from us what it is like to explore the Soweto township in Johannesburg.
- The park of parks, the Kruger National Park, can be easily reached from Pretoria. Find out from us all the tips you need for your safari on your own.
- If you want to leave the beaten path, you can read great tips for a round trip through Lesotho or eSwatini from us.
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