20 Must See Attractions
By Anton Swanepoel
Copyright © 2016 Anton Swanepoel
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Pretoria, the Jacaranda City, has a rich history stretching back to its founding in 1855 by Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, the first president of the South African Republic (ZAR) and the son of Voortrekker leader Andries Pretorius. Pretoria became the new capital of ZAR on 1 May 1860.
Although there are numerous attractions in and around the city to see. This book focusses on historical as well as architectural important attractions. A number of additional attractions are included that will give visitors an African experience as close as possible to being in the bushveld, while being reasonably close to Pretoria.
Pretoria is about 50km north of Johannesburg and surrounded by the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains. Together with Cape Town, it forms the official seat of the South African Government. Pretoria itself has the second largest number of embassies in the world, after Washington, D.C. Although Pretoria is a year-round destination, the blooming of the Jacaranda trees during September and October, is something to behold.
Some of the important attractions include the Palace of Justice where former President Nelson Mandela was tried for treason during the Rivonia Trial, a shopping centre with over 500 shops, a museum that houses the 2.1 million-year-old Mrs. Ples and other hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site, the parliament building with the tallest Mandela statue in South Africa, not to mention the nature reserves where you can hike or drive in bushveld and see wild game close up.
Address: Maropeng Visitor Centre, R563 Hekpoort Road, Sterkfontein
GPS: 25°58’8.54“S 27°39’40.16“E
Open: Seven days a week. 9am to 5pm
Entrance Fee: Maropeng Visitor Centre only R120
Sterkfontein Caves only R165
Combined ticked R190 (Maropeng + Sterkfontein)
Wonder Cave ticket only: R100
Combined ticked: R240 (Rhino Park + Wonder Cave)
Only South Africa currency, or Visa and Master cards are accepted at all sites. Combination tickets can be bought at either Sterkfontein Cave or Maropeng Centre. Wonder cave is a separate entity, and tickets are bought at the cave site.
Best Time to Visit: Anytime, however, mornings are less crowded.
Time to Visit: Maropeng Centre 1 to 2 hours minimum. Sterkfontein cave, 1 hour minimum, excluding wait time for the next tour (tours are every hour on the hour). Wonder Cave, 1 hour minimum, excluding wait for the next tour (tours are every hour on the hour). Origins Centre needs minimum 1 to 2 hours to visit. A full day to do all.
Importance: Main archaeological dig sites in South Africa where some of the oldest fossils and human remains have been found. Currently, the focal point in theories where modern man originated. Is one of the world’s richest concentrations of fossil hominid bearing sites.
My Impression: The attractions are amazing, and a must see. The countryside gives stunning scenery for these gems. All the attractions have modern and clean facilities, and expert staff. The nature walk at the Maropeng Centre with the view from the deck while having a meal is stunning. I found the boat ride cool and a nice touch. The Sterkfontein cave has more walking and narrower paths with more steps and places you have to squeeze through than Wonder Cave; I loved it. However, if you are pregnant, have back problems, are not reasonably fit (can climb 250 stairs in an hour) or are closter phobic, Sterkfontein Cave is maybe not advised to do. None of the caves are disabled or wheelchair friendly; even so, if you have assistance to carry you down the stairs to the lift, the Wonder Cave could be an option.
Situated on 47 000-hectare of beautiful countryside near Krugersdorp, the Cradle of Humankind is one of eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa, and the only one in Gauteng. Heralded as the place from which all of humankind originated, the area has unearthed the best evidence of our ancestral history.
The main attractions are the Maropeng Centre, where you will find an amazing exhibition on the development of earth from the beginning, as well as our history spanning back 2.3 million years.
The Maropeng Centre houses an excellent restaurant as well as nearby souvenir shops. Play facilities outside are provided for children, and with the scenic highlands and Magaliesberg Mountains in the background, the view from the restaurant is a must see. Inside the Centre, a boat awaits you to ferry you past the history of earth, to an exhibition full of wonder.
A few minutes’ drive from the Maropeng Centre in the Isaac Edwin Stegmann Reserve is the Sterkfontein Caves. Follow steps and narrow paths to the heart of the caves, 60 meters (200 feet) down. Here, you will see breathtaking cave formations, as well as the sites where the pre-human skull known as Mrs. Ples and an almost complete hominid skeleton, known as Little Foot, were found. The cave does get narrow at two points, forcing you to either slide or squat through. (People with bad back problems or women who are pregnant may want to rethink doing this tour).
Around 2.5 km from Kromdraai, inside the Rhino and Lion Park (a privately owned park) is Wonder Cave. The cave is believed to be 2.2 million years old, and was mined for its limestone in the late 1890s. Wonder Cave is a large awe-inspiring single-chamber cave of approximately 125 meters long and 154 meters wide. Follow 90 steps down to an old mine elevator, which takes you 22 meters down to the first level. From here, you will stand breathless as your eyes feast on the splendor of the cave. All around are cave formations, some, up to 15 meters in length and weighing around 45 tons. Then, take a short tour to the bottom of the cave, another 18 meters down, and then back up to the elevator.
For more information, see .
Address: Intersection of Church and Paul Kruger streets.
GPS: 25°44′47.19″S 28°11′13.72″E
Open: The square is open all the time. However, the monuments are fenced off to prevent looting and theft.
Entrance Fee: None
Best Time to Visit: Sundays
Time to Visit: 30 minutes plus a nice coffee from the restaurant across the road.
Importance: One of the best places in Pretoria to admire 19th century and early 20th century architecture. The site of Pretoria’s first church and where former President Nelson Mandela was tried for treason. It features a statue of former president, Paul Kruger.
My Impression: The buildings are amazing to see, and the coffee from the coffee shop across the park is well worth it. Sadly, the park has fallen prey to vandalism and street bums, with the statues now fenced off. In the week, the park is a hive of activity, with almost no parking available. On Sundays, the park is worth a visit in the morning, where one can walk around the park and enjoy the rich architecture, followed by coffee and breakfast from the bistro Café Riche (the oldest café in Pretoria) on a corner across from the park while still having the park in view.
Church Square is situated in the heart of Pretoria, and was originally named after the first church of Pretoria that was built here in 1855. Originally, the park was used as a sports field and a marketplace. Today, historical buildings in varying neo-classical architectural styles, such as the Palace of Justice, the old Nederlandsche Bank, the General Post Office (erected in 1910), Ou Raadsaal (Old Government building), and the Old Capitol Theatre, surround the park. Vivian S. Rees-Poole designed the current layout of the square in 1912, to resemble London’s Trafalgar Square and Paris’ Place de la Concorde.
The Palace of Justice is famous for being the building that was used by British troops during the Angolo-Boer War of 1899-1902 as a military hospital, in addition to being the place where the Rivonia Trial occurred. In the trail, former President Nelson Mandela as well as several of his comrades were tried for treason. Today, the Palace of Justice is Gauteng’s High Court. In the park, is a bronze statue of the fifth President of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger, which was commissioned by Sammy Marks and sculpted by Anton van Wouw in 1896. Originally displayed in front of Princes Park, the statue was moved to Church Square in 1954. Surrounding and guarding the president, are four anonymous soldiers.
The Old Capitol Theatre was opened in 1931, and was one of the first cinemas to be built in South Africa in an atmospheric style. The building was renovated in recent years, and currently serves as a parking garage and retail space. Plans to convert it into upmarket shops and restaurants are being considered.
Church Square can easily be reached by car (Sunday suggested for parking) or by foot. The Gautrain bus (CBD Inner P2 bus), which departs from the Gautrain Pretoria Station, stops at the corner of Bosman and Stanza Bopape Street (old Church Street) (fourth stop), a walking distance from the square.
Address: 432 Paul Kruger Street, Pretoria
GPS: 25°45′10.93″S 28°11′18.92″E
Open: Daily from 8am to 4pm. Closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday
Entrance Fee: R30, Adults || R15, Children.
Best Time to Visit: Weekends.
Time to Visit: Minimum 1 hour, suggested 3 hours.
Importance: One of the largest Natural History Collections in South Africa. Houses the 2.1 million-year-old Mrs. Ples and other hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site.
My Impression: Amazing. The museum has four main areas, of which the crystal section (Geoscience) is my favorite. The Austin Roberts Bird section on the ground floor houses a staggering amount of birds on display. Although you can zoom through the museum in an hour and rush to Mrs. Ples, you will need around 2 to 3 hours to explore all the museum has to offer.
The Ditsong National Museum of Natural History was founded in December 1892, and was originally called the state museum of Zuid Africa Republic. The museum is across the Pretoria City Hall (Pretorius Square), in Paul Kruger Street. The Gautrain CBD bus P3 stops across the road (stop 1) from the museum. A restaurant is located inside the museum that offers excellent cuisine.
On the ground floor and to the right as one enters is the Austin Roberts Bird Hall that boasts over 800 South African bird species. Information on their behavior, migration and flight are on display. Upstairs are three more exhibits.
The Geoscience Centre is directly across and upstairs from the entrance to the museum and houses an impressive range of minerals, crystals, and gemstones from different parts of the world as well as a piece of moon rock. This centre is my favorite.
The Genesis of Life I is situated to the left of the stairs leading to the second floor, and features a journey of life on earth from singled celled organisms to amphibians. Genesis II is situated to the right of the stairs and focuses on the evolution of mammals and humans. It is in Genesis II that one of the museum’s most priced exhibit is located, the skull of “Mrs. Ples,” a world-famous fossil discovered in 1947 by Dr. Robert Broom.
Address: Corner of Koch and 7th Avenue, Salvokop, Pretoria
GPS: 25°45’40.6“S 28°11’13.9“E
Open: Seven days a week from 8am to 4pm
Entrance Fee: R100 Foreigners || R50 South African Residents
Best Time to Visit: Anytime
[*Date Construction Began: *]July 2003
Inaugurated: 27 April 2004
Time to Visit: 1 hour for Hapo museum and 1 hour for S’khumbuto and Isivivane combined.
Guided Tours: Available at 9am, midday, and 3pm
Importance: Symbol of freedom and a beacon for hope, unity, and forgiveness for South Africa
My Impression: The Mveledzo walkway that snakes through the Highveld landscape is amazing and well worth it. The museum is modern and gives a lot of information for its size. One can drive or walk from the museum to the S’khumbuto that contains the Amphitheatre. I followed the pathway from the Wall of Names down to the start of the Mveledzo path, and followed it to the sacred area Isivivane. This allows one amazing views of part of Pretoria, as well as the Union building in the distance. From the Isivivane, a pathway goes to the Uitspanplek (picnic area), and well worth doing. This path allows you spectacular views of a different side of Pretoria, with prominent buildings such as the Union Buildings and UNISA visible in the distance.
Freedom Park is a combination of information found in the apartheid museum, and the origins centre. Situated on 2.5ha of amazing highveld landscape in Pretoria, the park consists of the Hapo museum that offers insight to a 3.6 million-year history of South Africa, the sacred Isivivane, the spiritual path Mveledzo, the main memorial S’Khumbuto, and a picnic area called Uitspanplek.
The park was opened on 27 April 2004, the day marking the first decade of democracy. Today, the park is seen as a symbol of freedom and a beacon for hope, unity, and forgiveness. (In April 1994, all South Africans were for the first time ever allowed to vote.)
Some of the more prominent attractions within the park are the wall of remembrance inside the S’Khumbuto in honor of those who gave their lives in the conflicts, which shaped South Africa. In addition to, the Lesaka and Boulders, that are seen as a spiritual resting place of those who played a part in the freedom and liberation of South Africa.
The park is a tranquil space that invites reflection and prayer, while being surrounded by beautiful natural landscape. Footpaths in and around the park allow one views of Pretoria, with the Voortrekker Monument and Union Buildings visible in the distance. The Reconciliation Road links the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park, allowing one to move between the two attractions directly without the worry of traffic. President Jacob Zuma opened the Road on 16 December 2011. On 3 August 2013, women of all races held hands in the road, and formed a 2 km chain. The aim was to create awareness of the struggles women had in history, and their ability to unify and heal the nation.
For more information and pictures of the Freedom Park, see Freedom Park.
Address: Johan Rissik Drive, Klapperkop Hill, Pretoria
GPS: 25°46’52.0“S 28°12’34.2“E
Open: Tuesdays to Sundays. 10am until 4pm. Closed on Mondays and public holidays.
Entrance Fee: R22
Best Time to Visit: Early morning
Cost to Build: GBP £45,000 in 1898
[*Build By: *]German firm Krupp
Completion Date: 18 January 1898
Time to Visit: 45 minutes
Importance: The third fort of four erected after the Jameson raid (1895 – 1896), to protect Pretoria.
My Impression: It is a delight to see Fort Klapperkop restored to such a good condition. The view of Pretoria from the fort is amazing. Sadly, the actual cannons that were at the fort are long lost, and were replaced by replicas. The steam locomotive engine and carriage outside the fort are an additional nice touch.
Fort Klapperkop, like Fort Schanskop, is situated inside a nature reserve. The fort was the third fort of four to be completed after the Jameson raid (1895 – 1896), before the Anglo-Boer War (1899 – 1902). See Fort Schanshop for more on the Jameson raid. Fort Klapperkop, like the other three forts was never fully armed. It did have a ‘long Tom’’ cannon early on, but by the time the war broke out, the fort had no more armament.
Originally, a French officer and military engineer, Leon Grunberg drew up a defense plan for Pretoria. He chose eight sites to be fortified. His plan was dismissed, but his sites were accepted. Dutch engineers Otto Albert Adolph Von Dewitz and Heinrich C. Werner were tasked to design defensive forts. Fort Klapperkop had a water reservoir as well as a paraffin generator for electricity.
Like Fort Schanskop, the fort came under cannon fire from British soldiers, and the steel door of the fort was hit. However, the fort was unable to return cannon fire and was almost unmanned, thus the fort was taken without any spilling of blood. The fort was taken over by British soldiers, but it never saw any battle as the Boer army did not try to retake Pretoria.
The fort has a magazine where a variety of weapons used during the war is on display, as well as several rooms (officer’s room, kitchen, hospital, and stables) where actual war items are on display.
The fort offers excellent panoramic views of Pretoria, with the Union Buildings and the Voortrekker monument visible in the distance.
Address: Johan Rissik Drive, Klapperkop Hill, Pretoria
GPS: 25°47’04.5“S 28°12’14.1“E
Entrance Fee: None
Best Time to Visit: Anytime during the day. Nighttime only if driving to the top to see the city lights. (Never go alone at night and be careful).
Time to Visit: Minimum 2 hours for hiking or cycling, 45 minutes if driving to the top (4km).
Importance: Amazing views of Pretoria, the Jacaranda City and nature trails.
My Impression: My favorite spot is right at the top of the hill next to the signal tower. The view from there over Pretoria is amazing. The paths are steep at points, but well worth doing either cycling or hiking.
Fort Klapperkop Nature Reserve surrounds Fort Klapperkop that is situated on one of the hills in the park. The nature reserve has a number of hiking and mountain bike trails that crisscrossing the park, and has the steepest climbs of the three Pretoria MTB trails (the others being Groenkloof Nature Reserve and the Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve).
The main road, Johan Rissik Drive, is around 4 kilometers long, and snakes through the park from the bottom of the R21 Highway to the back entrance of the park. Part way along the road, a side road leads off to Fort Klapperkop while at the top of the second hill, a small side road leads to a signal tower where one can see most of Pretoria. If visiting the park from late September to middle November, you will be spoiled with an amazing sight as the nearly 70 000 jacaranda trees in Pretoria, start to bloom, turning Pretoria into a purple wonderland. Another rare sight is at the back entrance of the park, along Herbert Baker Street, where a row of white jacaranda trees is situated.
The well-marked mountain bike and hiking trail starts just after entering the park from the R21 highway, and is self-guided (look for the trail on the left after passing by the guard hut). This trail goes around Fort Klapperkop and consists of steep climbs and technical down hills. Amateur cyclist may find the trail hard, but the views are worth the effort. The park has mongoose, hedgehogs, hares, porcupines, zebras, blue wildebeest, and an abundant species of birds.
Address: Eeufees Road, Groenkloof, Pretoria. Inside the Voortrekker Monument Site.
GPS: 25°46’37.8“S 28°11’04.0“E
Open: Monday to Sunday except 25 December
1 Mei to 31 Aug: 8am to 5pm
1 Sep to 30 April: 8am to 6pm
Entrance Fee: Included in Voortrekker monument ticket
Best Time to Visit: 16 December if you want to see the sun shine on the Cenotaph in the Voortrekker Monument. June and July are the quiet months, and between 12 and 2pm each day, there are fewer visitors. Weekends are busy times, especially in holiday seasons.
Time to Visit: 30 minutes to 1 hour
Importance: One of four forts built after the Jameson raid to protect Pretoria.
Cost to build: GBP £47,500 in 1897
[*Build By: *]German firm Krupp
Completion Date: 6 April 1897
My Impression: The fort is well kept, and offers a lot of information on various aspects of the Anglo-Boer War. The scenery from the top is well worth the climb, and the additional items on display such as Genl. Piet Joubert’s Bust, Danie Theron Statue, as well as the Replica Tanganyika Monument makes this a must see.
In 1895, current South Africa was divided into four territories, namely; Cape Colony and Natal under British rule, and Orange Free State and the South African Republic (Transvaal), under Boer (Afrikaner) rule. On 29 December 1895, British colonial statesman Leander Starr Jameson led a force of around 600 men into the Transvaal Republic. The aim was to raid Transvaal and to trigger an uprising by the workers in Johannesburg, who were primarily British expatriates. It was hoped that the workers would recruit an army, and take control of the Pretoria armory. Due to communication problems and unwilling workers, there was no uprising. After briefly exchanging gunfire with a Boer outpost on 1 January, Jameson turned towards Krugersdorp. Around 32 kilometers from Krugersdorp, he came under attack from a small force of Boer soldiers who had dug themselves in. Jameson turned towards Doornkop, but was tracked during the night by the Boer forces. The next day, 2 January, a larger Boer force under leadership of General Piet Cronje trapped Jameson and his men. After losing around 30 men, Jameson surrendered.
Even though the raid was unsuccessful, the Transvaal leaders decided to strengthen their defenses around the capital, Pretoria. They had four forts built (eight were planned, but funds allowed only four to be build) around the city, with fort Schanskop being one. The fort was designed by German engineers Otto Albert Adolph Von Dewitz and Heinrich C. Werner, as well as architect Christian Kunz. The fort was completed on 6 April 1897, and protected Pretoria from possible attacks from Johannesburg and the Lourenco Marques railway line, as well as from the Johannesburg road. Armament consisted of one 155 mm Creusot gun (Long Tom) and two Maxims 37 mm Maxim-Nordenfeldt cannons (Pom-poms), as well as Martini-Henry hand-cranked Maxim machine guns. The fort was manned by one officer and 30 privates from the Transvaal State Artillery. However, the fort was gradually disarmed as the armament was needed on the front lines. By the time the fort was attacked, it had no more armament to repel an attack.
The fort exchanged hands when Pretoria was invaded by Gen Roberts of the British army. British soldiers of the 2nd Battalion Royal Dublin Fusiliers occupied the fort from 7 June 1900 to 1922 when the fort was handed over to the Union Government. The fort was declared a historical monument in 1938, and in 2000, the Voortrekker Monument management purchased the monument from the state. At current, various aspects of the Anglo-Boer War are on display, including the role of horses during the war, the history of State Artillery, an overview of the course of the war, information on Boer generals, medical during the war, as well as arms and ammunition used during the war.
Additionally to see at the fort is a statue of Danie Theron, a bust of Genl Piet Joubert, and a scale model replica of the Trek Monument in Tanzania (known as Tanganyika). See Voortrekker Monument[+ +]for more information and pictures.
Address: Eeufees Road & Christina De Wit Ave, Pretoria
GPS: 25°47’22.7“S 28°11’45.5“E
Phone: +27(0)12-440-8316 or +27(0)12-341-5204
Open: September to April 5:30am to 7pm || May to August 7am to 6pm
Entrance Fee: R35 Adults || R20 Children || R100 for car or 4x4
Best Time to Visit: Anytime. However, during the wintertime (May to August) the veld is dryer, making it easier to spot wildlife.
Time to Visit: Minimum 2 hours, to a full day out and overnight camping.
Importance: One of the best nature reserves close to Pretoria where you can do mountain biking, hiking, car or 4×4 driving though the bushveld and see a number of wildlife. The reserve was the first game sanctuary in Africa.
My Impressions: The mountain biking and hiking trails are stunning, and a must do. Sadly, the car track to me is overpriced. At the same price as the 4×4 vehicle’s entrance, but only having 5 kilometers where the 4×4 track is 14 kilometers, this feels a bit steep to me. The scenery of the car track is good. However, if you are not mountain biking or hiking the park, and can afford it, I would rather recommend the Rhino and Lion Park, with a visit to the Wonder Cave.
Located around 5 kilometers from the city centre, next to the Fountains Valley Resort, Groenkloof Nature Reserve offers a range of activities for nature lovers. The reserve was the first game sanctuary in Africa. On 25 February 1895, then-President Paul Kruger, proclaimed the area a nature reserve in order to protect the local oribi (Ourebia ourebi), a small antelope, and the sole member of its genus. In 1999, Impala, kudu, blue wildebeest and ostrich were re-introduced into the reserve, and in 2002, giraffe and red hartebeest were introduced into the reserve. Other animals include jackal, zebra, duiker, blesbuck, and sable. The game in addition to the large species of birds to see, makes the reserve a favorite place for nature lovers to spend a day. The reserve has overnight facilities, as well as a very good picnic and braai area. The reserve offers a guided night trail, taking around 3 to 4 hours. Prior reservation is required.
The reserve offers three levels of hiking trails, with the lengths being 3,5 kilometers, 4 kilometers, and 10,5 kilometers. The mountain-bike trail is 20 kilometers long, and the car track is 5 kilometers long. The 4×4 track is 14 kilometers long, and offers a variety of obstacles to overcome. Recovery for stuck or broken-down vehicles are available. Note that if you want to do either the car or 4×4 track, you have to pay the R100 Entrance Fee for the vehicle, as well as the per person Entrance Fee.
Address: Jan Smuts Avenue, Centurion
GPS: 25°53’20.9“S 28°13’47.8“E
Open: Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursday, Saturdays and Sundays, 9am to 4pm || Tuesdays and Fridays, 9:30am to 4pm
Entrance Fee: R22
Best Time to Visit: Anytime during the day.
Time to Visit: Minimum 1 hour to view the house, 2 hours for hiking the trail.
Importance: House of Boer General Jan Smuts, from 10 July 1909 to 11 September 1950. Home of a critically endangered fruit chafer beetle, Ichnestoma stobbiai. One of the few remaining pristine dolomitic grasslands in Gauteng.
My Impression: The house is far bigger than it looks from the front, as it was extended backwards. The artillery pieces and early armor vehicles outside the house are a bonus. The house itself is packed with interesting artifacts and historically important items.
Hidden away on a small road around 15 minutes’ drive from Pretoria, is the former house of Boer General Jan Smuts. The house was originally an officer’s mess in Middleburg. General Smuts bought the building for a sum of £300 in 1908. He had the house moved to its present location by ox wagon, and occupied the house from 10 July 1909 to his death in the house on 11 September 1950. During his time in the house, a number of additions were added to the house to accommodate his family. Although not on record, it is believed that the building was prefabricated in Britain, and then taken to India by the British Army, where it was later shipped to South Africa. Interestingly, the re-erection amount at £1000, cost more than the purchase price of the building.
The house received Royal status in 1947 when it housed the British Royal Family on the Royal Tour. After Smuts’ death, his wife continued to live in the house until her death in 1954. Both their ashes were scattered on the top of Smuts Koppie, a rugged hill behind the house. In front of the house, is a Magnolia tree planted in 1911. The seed from the tree came from General Smut’s esteemed pen pal, Emily Hobhouse.
Mrs. Kitty Smuts inherited the house, but found the upkeep of the house draining. She sold the house and 21 hectares of land in July 1960 to Mr. Brathwaite, an ex-serviceman and Pretoria attorney, for the sum of £7000. In 1969, the house was declared a National Monument.
The grounds has a tea garden that serves excellent food. Next to the house is a shed with General Smut’s car. An artillery piece is situated near the shed, and an old cannon is situated in front of the house. Further down from the house is an old Marmon Herrington MK IV armored vehicle that was fitted with a 2-pounder (40mm) anti-tank gun, as well as an early model tank.
For nature lovers, there is Oubaas Trail, a 2.3-kilometer trail that winds through the dolomitic grasslands in Gauteng to the top of Smuts Koppie where an obelisk in memory of the Smuts family is situated. The koppie is also home to the critically endangered fruit chafer beetle, Ichnestoma stobbiai. These coppery colored beetles of about 1cm in length, only mate for a few days during the year after the spring rains. For dog lovers, the grounds are also one of the few nature areas where dogs are allowed to be walked off-lead (without a leash attached).
Address: Front gate, 275 Jeff Masemola Street (old Jacob Mare Street). Secure parking at the back at 280 Scheiding Street.
GPS: 25°45’23.3“S 28°11’33.1“E (back entrance and parking)
Phone: +27(0)12-322-2805 or +27(0)12-322-0420
Open: Tuesdays to Sundays, 10am – 5pm
Entrance Fee: R22
Best Time to Visit: Weekends
Time to Visit: minimum 1 hour
Importance: Melrose House was used as the British Headquarters from 1900 to 1902 during the war, and the place where the Treaty of Vereeniging, which ended the war, was signed.
My Impression: The house and garden are in very good condition, and an impressive amount of items is on display. The cartoons that were drawn during the war that are on display, is an added treat.
Built in 1886 – 1887 by George Jesse Heys, a successful Pretoria businessperson, Melrose House (originally Melrose Villa) was named after the famous Melrose Abbey in Scotland. British architect W.T. Vale designed and supervised the building of the house. With its blend of Victorian and Edwardian architectural styles, the house is something to behold.
When Pretoria fell to the British forces on 5 June 1900, Lord Roberts, the at the time commander-in-chief of the British forces, made Melrose House the headquarters of his forces. In November 1900, Lord Roberts handed over command to Lord Kitchener, who kept Melrose House as the headquarters for the British forces. At 11:05pm on 31 May 1902, the Treaty of Vereeniging was signed in the dining room. This ended the war, and the British forces evacuated Melrose House a few months afterwards. George Jesse Heys was compensated by the British authorities for the use of his house.
The Heys family owned the house until 1968, when the city council purchased the house. Most of the objects in the house are original, dating from between 1886 and 1902. In 1971, the house was opened to the public as a museum. Some of the main attractions are the stained glass in the billiard room as well as the window next to the stairs leading to the second floor, the conservatory with cartoons from the war era, the abbey and the main bedroom. Behind the house, next to the parking area are stables and three small servant’s rooms. The small round structure (rondavel) behind the house next to the back door is a cool-room, which was used to keep food cool, as the west-facing pantry failed to do so.
Address: Cnr. Atterbury Rd & Lois Ave, Menlo Park, Pretoria
GPS: 25°47’05.6“S 28°16’32.8“E
Open: Monday to Thursday 9am to 7pm
Friday 9am to 9pm || Saturday 9 am to 7 pm || Sunday and public holidays 9am to 5pm
Best Time to Visit: Weekdays
Time to Visit: Hide your wallet, minimum 1 hour
Importance: One of the largest shopping malls on the continent and in the southern hemisphere, with over 500 shops.
My Impression: If you cannot get it here, you probably do not need it. The shopping centre has an amazing food court, where you can find from cheap fast food to expensive cuisine. Meet friends for an early coffee or breakfast, and then head out to upgrade your wardrobe or even your house. For shopping in Pretoria, this is the place to go.
The new and upgraded Menlyn Centre has it all, and boasts over 500 shops and over 30,000 square meters of lettable retail area. Business Venture Investments (PTY) Ltd. as represented by Pareto, owns the Centre. The group has committed themselves to taking shopping to new heights. Menlyn features a grocery avenue with big names such as Checkers Hyper, Food Lovers Market, Pick n Pay and New World Discount Store. A first for a mall is an in-store coffee shop inside Checkers Hyper that has a dedicated seating area and delicatessen, alongside a new take-away Gourmet Burger Bar. You can pay for your hamburgers with the rest of your shopping.
The mall is wheelchair friendly, and offers wheelchairs for your convenience, found at the security office on level P6. Additionally included is VIP & Diplomatic parking, as well as a Muslim Prayer Facility that is open daily from 12h00 – 21h00, situated outside Entrance 4. The atmosphere is warm and inviting, with an abundance of sunshine filtering through large windows. Unlike many other large malls, this one absorbs large crowds easily with its spacious airy interiors and ultramodern structure.
Pick n Pay has stepped up the game by opening a one-stop-shop experience shop. Here you will find everything from booking flights and hiring a car, to banking services all while doing standard grocery and clothes shopping.
Address: 232 Boom Street, Pretoria
GPS: 25°44’20.9“S 28°11’19.7“E
Open: 8:30am to 5:30pm, 7 days a week
Entrance Fee: R95 for adults || R60 for children (age 2-15years)
Best Time to Visit: Anytime
Time to Visit: Minimum 2 hours
Importance: Houses the third largest collection of exotic trees in Pretoria. Is the largest zoo in South Africa and the only one with national status. Regarded as one of the top zoos in the world.
My Impression: This is an amazing place to relax for the day. My favorite part in the zoo is the bird enclosure that has walkways several stories high, and allows one and amazing view of Pretoria.
The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (Pretoria Zoo) is an 85-hectare zoo that features almost 6 kilometers of walkways crisscrossing the zoo. Founded in 1899, it officially became the National Zoo in 1916, and is now the largest zoo in the country and the only one with national status. On show are 3117 specimens of 209 mammal species, 1358 specimens of 202 bird species, 3871 specimens of 190 fish species, 388 specimens of 4 invertebrate species, 309 specimens of 93 reptile species, and 44 specimens of 7 amphibian species. With the largest inland marine aquarium in the country, as well as a reptile park and the facility to offer night tours and camping, this is a must see attraction. (Night tours are with prior arrangement only and are best for seeing red pandas, owls, elephants, hippos, and the king of the wild, lions. You have to bring your own camping gear and food.)
Apart from educating people, the zoo takes an active role in the conservation and protection of various threatened species by facilitating the National Research Foundation. The zoo is the only one in Africa to house an insectarium and a white tiger, and is the first zoo where a white rhino was born in. People can adopt an animal, where you help feed the animal for a year. This allows you free entrance to the zoo for a year.
Although the zoo it packed with animals and reptiles, there are a large number of fauna and flora to see with a diversity of native South Africa trees, with an excellent garden to relax in. An onsite restaurant as well as a take-away shop provides excellent meals. The zoo has its own secure parking with 24-hour security. Golf carts as well as children’s pushcarts are available for rental, with current prices being R80 per hour and R60 per day respectively. The Gautrain bus (CBD Inner P2 bus) that departs from the Gautrain Pretoria Station stops directly at the zoo entrance (stop number 7).
Address: 60 Church Street, Pretoria
GPS: 25°44′49.03″S 28°10′53.73″E
Open: Weekdays 8:30am to 4:30pm. Weekends and public holidays 9am to 4:30pm. Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day, and 1 January.
Entrance Fee: R50
Best Time to Visit: Anytime
Time to Visit: 1 to 3 hours
Importance: Former house of the fifth president of the Republic of South Africa, Paul Kruger. Impressive museum showing South Africa’s early history.
My Impression: This place has so much to offer. From the road, it looks just like an old house. However, at the back is the train carriage that former President Paul Kruger used, as well as two buildings that house a number of historical important objects and tell the story of early South Africa and its conflicts.
The Kruger Museum is situated in Church Street, a short distance from Church Square. The house was built in 1884, and was the original home of the fifth President of the South African Republic, Stephanus Johannes Paulus Kruger. Apart from the impressive house that was restored to as close as original condition, the museum houses two display halls, President Kruger’s State Railway Coach, and a small cannon behind the coach.
President Kruger lived in the house with his wife Gezina and children, from 1884 until 1900 when he left Pretoria to go into exile. The house was opened in 1934 for viewing, and declared a national monument in 1937. The items in the house resemble the original items that were in the house, taken from oral and written accounts. From the items in the house, one can see the hard times the Kruger family lived in, and the forceful character of the man who ran the house and country. Born on 10 October 1825 in the Cape Province, Paul Kruger with his parents joined the Voortrekker leader Andries Potgieter in 1836. During the Great Trek, On 20 October 1836, around 4600 of chief MziIikazi’s Ndebele warriors attacked the main Voortrekker group at Vegkop (an area situated between the Wilge and Renoster Rivers). The party had only 35-armed Voortrekkers, yet, were successful in repelling the attack. However, the Voortrekkers lost two men, and the Ndebele warriors stole their cattle and oxen. Paul Kruger, then 11, took part in the fight. The family eventually settled in the Western Transvaal. Paul Kruger was granted a farm in Waterkloof, near Rustenburg.
When the British annexed the Boer Republic in 1877, Paul Kruger joined the fight for freedom. He played a key role during the Transvaal War against Britain in 1880-1881. Following the war in 1882, Paul Kruger was elected President of the then Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic).
The West hall behind the house was built in 1958 on the foundations of the original coach house, and exhibits tokens of honor given to the Boers and Paul Kruger, from Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, USA, Israel, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Russia, and Spain.
The exhibits in the East hall show Paul’s exile as well as his journey from Lourenco Marques (Maputo), to Europe, his death in Clarens, Switzerland, and his state funeral in Pretoria on 16 December 1904. This hall was built in 1965.
The railway coach was used by Paul Kruger from 1894 until 1900 for official presidential business. On his exile, he used the coach to travel to Maputo, crossing the border at Komatipoort. The coach was returned to the Kruger museum in 1952.
The cannon behind the coach is a replica of a Ras Cannon, used during the First War of Independence (1880 – 1881). These cannons were manufactured by the Ras brothers, Martinus and Hermanus, on their farm, from wagon strips. The Ras cannons would later form part of the forerunners of the ZAR state artillery during the Anglo-Boer war (1899 – 1902), and laid the groundwork of the now successful weapons industry in South Africa.
Address: Corner of Visagie & Paul Kruger St, Pretoria. Across from the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History
GPS: 25°45′10.93″S 28°11′18.92″E
Entrance Fee: None to the park
Best Time to Visit: Saturday and Sunday
Time to Visit: 30 minutes
Importance: Built in celebration of Pretoria obtaining its city status in 1931. The largest public hall in South Africa.
My Impression: The architecture of the City Hall is amazing, as to the large pond and fountain in front of it. Situated right across from the museum, the square and city hall deserve a quick visit.
Andries Pretorius was one of the Voortrekker leaders who led the Voortrekkers in the Great Trek. His son, Marthinus Wessel Pretorius became the first president of the South African Republic (ZAR) and founded Pretoria in 1855. He named the city in honor of his father, who was a national hero due to his victory over Dingane and the victory in the Battle of Blood River as well as his part in the Sand River Convention (1852) where Britain acknowledged the independence of the Transvaal. Pretoria became the new capital of ZAR on 1 May 1860.
In celebration of Pretoria becoming a city, it was decided that a city hall should be built. A competition for the design of the future city hall was held in 1926, in which F.G. McIntosh and John Lockwood Hall’s design won. On 14 October 1931, Pretoria gained status as a city, and construction of the city hall was started. The city hall was completed in 1935. George Heys, the then owner of Melrose House, donated the 32 tower bells found in the hall today. Today, the city hall is the largest public hall in South Africa, and host to many venues and concerts.
A square (Pretorius Square) with a garden and a fountain was built in front of the city hall. A statue of Andries and Marthinus Wessel Pretorius as well as a 6,2m-bronzed statue of Chief Tshwane (unveiled on July 6, 2006) is located in the square. According to history, Chief Tswana was a Ndebele King, who settled in the region of now Pretoria, around 100 years before the arrival of the Voortrekkers. He has family ties to King Mushi, who led his people from Maponong to the area later known as Transvaal. The Pretoria Metropolitan is now named after Chief Tshwane (renamed Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality in March 2005).
Address: 2 Cussonia Ave, Brummeria, Pretoria
GPS: 28°16’19.8“E 25°44’18.2“S
Open: Daily, 8am to 6pm
Entrance Fee: R30, Adults || R14, Children
Best Time to Visit: Anytime
Time to Visit: Minimum 2 hours
Importance: Main botanical gardens of Pretoria. One of the nine gardens of the South African National Biodiversity Institute
My Impression: A quick walk to relieve the stress, a midday picnic, or a birthday party, the park is the place to be. I love the nature trails going over the hill in the park with its splendid views of Pretoria and natural surroundings. The park has a stunning waterfall, as well as large grass areas to sit and relax or have a birthday party or wedding. The onsite restaurant that overlooks the wetlands is a must area to dine at.
The Pretoria National Botanical Garden has as rich a history as the diversity of the plant species and trees. Dating back to 1903, the garden was primarily a research facility for the University of Pretoria under the management of the Botanical Research Institute. At the time, it was known as the Transvaal National Botanic Gardens. The Department of Agriculture acquired the garden in 1946, and the Pretoria National Botanical Garden was established. The garden was opened to the public in 1984, and amalgamated with the National Botanical Garden of South Africa (Kirstenbosch) in 1989 to form the National Botanical Institute. The NBI became the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in 2004. The National Herbarium, which maintains the largest computerized botanical database in Africa, is located in the garden.
The garden is 76 hectares in size, of which 50 hectares comprise of savannah, forest and fynbos biomes, which support plant species not endemic to Pretoria, but, which are indigenous to South Africa. The park is divided by a 50-meter high natural quartzite outcrop that creates a warm north-facing section and a cool south-facing section. Self-guided paths run through the garden where you can marvel at the plant life as well as around 200 bird species. The garden has a restaurant with a deck overlooking the wetland, as well as a gift shop. Secure onsite parking is provided free, and disabled access is provided.
Address: 520 Kromdraai Road, Kromdraai, Krugersdorp, 1739
GPS: 25 58.530 S 27 47:566 E
Phone: +27(0)11-957-0106 || +27(0)11-957-0109
Open: Tuesday to Friday, 8am to 5pm || Weekends and public holidays, 8am to 6pm.
Entrance Fee: R160.00 PP
Best Time to Visit: Wednesdays and on weekends.
Time to Visit: Half to full day
Importance: Some of the best game drives close to Pretoria, home to the famous Wonder Cave. Park has a white tiger on show.
My Impression: This is probably the best game drive you will get, apart from going to Pilansberg or the Kruger Park. The restaurant in the park, situated at the entrance of Wonder Cave, has amazing views, and serves good food. Best done with a visit to the Wonder Cave.
The Rhino and Lion Park is situated around 1 hour’s drive from either Johannesburg or Pretoria Central (about 40 km north-west of Johannesburg and 60km west of Pretoria). Located on a private farm, the park is approximately 1 200 ha in size, and home to one of only about 40 white lions (bushveld ghosts) known to exist. In addition, the park is home to a white tiger, and a number of other wildlife.
Founded in 1985 by Ed Hern as originally a private getaway, the once dairy and agricultural farm transformed to one of the best parks near Pretoria and Johannesburg. With 600 heads of game representing 25 different species that includes zebra, lion, white rhino, cheetah, Cape wild dog, Bengal and Siberian tigers, over 200 vultures, Blue Wildebeest, Giraffes and many more, the park is a definite attraction for nature lovers.
Across from the entrance to the park, is the breeding area, where one can view and at times interact with various animals. The area has a lapa (viewing deck), where you can enjoy refreshments while watching some wildlife. In addition, you may see lions being fed (normally on Wednesdays and on weekends, do check ahead of time).
Inside the park, is a restaurant with a viewing area that has amazing views and good food, with the famous Wonder Cave nearby. This cave forms part of the Cradle of Humankind attractions, and is a must see when in the area.
Address: 7 Nelson Rd, Sunlawns AH, Olifantsfontein
GPS: 25°55’40.6“S 28°13’43.8“E
Website: http://www.thebigredbarn.co.za || http://www.acrobranch.co.za/
Phone: Restaurant, +27(0)72-517-0966 || MTB and Running Trails, +27(0)78-343-6939 (8am to 4pm daily) || Acrobranch, +27(0)12-940-1972
Open: Restaurant, Tuesday to Sunday from 8am to 4:30pm || Cycle Park, May to September: 6:45am to 4:30pm, September to April: 6am to 5:30pm || Acrobranch, daily 9am to 5pm
Entrance Fee: Cycle park, Adults: R50.00, Children under 12: R30.00 || Acrobranch, from R80 to R250 depending on course chosen. Note that the place is cash free, and only takes cards, not even traveller’s checks.
Best Time to Visit: Weekdays. Avoid the crossing at Nellmapius Drive & Main road on weekends.
Time to Visit: 2 hours for the Zip Lines (Acrobranch), up to 2 ½ for the long cycle track.
[*Importance: *]Best place near Pretoria to take the family out for a nature adventure, and a good meal afterwards. Host to the Irene Village Market.
[*My Impression: *]For a day out having fun with the family or just being in nature yourself, this place is amazing. You can sit outside the barn having breakfast or lunch and watch your little ones play on the pirate ship 10 meters away.
Situated around 15 minutes’ drive from Pretoria, this privately owned 200-hectare estate is the perfect place for a family outing in nature. The Sunlawns farm has been in the Cullinan family since 1906 when Sir Thomas Cullinan, who founded the Premier mine in Cullinan, bought the farm. The original idea to build a restaurant on the farm came from Pamela Cullinan. Pamela and Dominic, her oldest son, salvaged an old hay barn that is estimated to be over 90 years old, from a neighboring farm. They transported the barn to the Sunlawns estate piece by piece, using a tractor and trailer. The barn was transformed into a stunning blend of old meets modern. The restaurant in the barn, serves breakfast and lunch, with a wide variety of dishes on offer.
Situated next to the old barn, is a 20-acre Eucalyptus forest, an expansive vista of fields and grasslands, with the Kaal River nearby. Dominic, a keen mountain biker, currently manages the cycle tracks that he created and built. In total, there are 36 kilometers of scenic mountain biking and hiking tracks, that range from an easy 4.2 kilometer track suitable for children and beginners, to a heart pounding 27 kilometer track that takes around 1 ½ to 2 hours to complete.
As if the cycle and hiking tracts followed by a great meal, is not enough, the place offers zip line (acrobranch) as well. As with the cycle tracks, there are a number of zip lines on offer, from a kiddy’s line that the longest span is 10 meters with the highest point off the ground being 1 meter, to The Red Course (Blackbeard) with the longest span being 75 meters and the highest point off the ground being 8.5 meters.
Situated just outside the barn, and in full view of the outside dining area, is a playground for kids. There is a wooden ship kids can climb on and go into, an obstacle course, and a mockup tractor.
The grounds is also host to the Ireni Village Market, http://www.irenemarket.co.za/, an arts and crafts market that is famous for its South African handmade arts and crafts. The market is held every first and last Saturday of the month. For a blast through nature, or swinging on the wild side with the wind in your hair, this is the place to be.
Address: Government road, Meintjieskop, Arcadia
GPS: 25°44′25.68″S 28°12′43.28″E
Open: Daily, 5am until 11pm
Entrance Fee: None, no access allowed to the actual buildings, only the grounds and park.
Best Time to Visit: Anytime
Time to Visit: Minimum 30 minutes, recommended two hours, plus an after sunset visit.
Importance: The official seat of the South African government and presidential office, as well as the location of presidential inaugurations. Tallest Mandela statue in South Africa
My Impression: The statue of former President, Mr. Mandela with his arms stretched out over Pretoria, is something to behold, as to the view of Pretoria from the Union Garden. Together with historical naval canons, statues of Greek Gods and memorials, this is a site not to miss.
The Union Buildings, together with the Tuynhuys in Cape Town, forms the official seat of the South African Government. The Union Buildings consist of three main buildings, a left and right wing, which are joined by a semi-circle building, called the amphitheater. Built from light sandstone, each building is 95 meters long, making a total length of 285 meters. The Union buildings were originally built to house all of parliament, in the newly unified nation (1910). The wings represented the then two official languages of South Africa, English and Afrikaans. The right wing represented the English population while the left represented the Afrikaans population. The inner court, symbolized the Union of South Africa. The site for the amphitheater was originally a disused quarry. The building starts with an Edwardian style at the lower levels, and then gradually changes to Cape Dutch design, with shutters on the windows at the top. The windows are elongated and become shorter towards the top floor, creating the illusion of height. The inner court has an open walkway with pillars, resembling ancient Greek design; in fact, the statue on the domed rostrum in the amphitheater is Mercury, a mythic Roman messenger and a god of trade.
The buildings can easily be reached with the Gautrain bus. By train, get off at the Gautrain stop called Hatfield (last train stop in Pretoria). Use the Gautrain bus number H3 (Hatfield route 3), and get off at stop six (right in the parking area of the Union Buildings.
For more information see The Union Buildings.
Address: Plot 149 JR Soutpan, Tswaing, Onderstepoort Road (M35), Soshanguve
GPS: 25°24′56.70″S 28°6′2.80″E
Phone: +27(0)12-000-0041, +27(0)76-9455-911
Open: Monday to Sunday: 07:30am to 4pm. Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and January 1st
[*Entrance Fee: *] R30, Adults || R15, Children
Best Time to Visit: Anytime. Go early in the morning, as it is a long drive out and a fair hike to the bottom.
Time to Visit: Minimum half day out. See text for more details on each leg.
Importance: Best-preserved meteorite impact crater site in the world. One of the top bird watching destinations in Gauteng with over 320 bird species
My Impression: I love this site. Hiking in the outdoors, with amazing scenery, at a 220 000 year old impact crater site, what better place to spend a day. Do take a hat and at least 1L of water per person with you. There are toilets only at the picnic area, so let go before you head out on the trail.
Tswaing Nature Reserve and Impact Crater is situated around 47 kilometers north of Pretoria. Although the nature reserve is famous for its over 350 bird species, the meteor impact crater forms the main attraction. At 100 meters deep to the waterline (initial impact area was 200 meters deep), and 1.13 km in diameter, this 220 000 year old site is the best-preserved meteorite impact craters in the world. From the impact area, it is calculated that the meteor was around 50 meters in diameter when it hit the earth. The crater is so big that it can host four simultaneous football matches and seat 500 000 spectators.
Tswaing, the name of the site means Place of Salt in Setswane (a local language). This is due to that from 1912 to 1950; soda ash and salt were commercially mined at the site. Archeological evidence shows that the lake was used as a settlement during the Middle Stone Age (up to 150 000 years ago), and Iron Age (around 800 to 900 years ago).
Around the impact site is a marked trail of around 7.2 kilometers long. This trail offers stunning views of the impact site, as well as many opportunities for bird watching. The reserve also has impalas, zebras and kudus that roam the area. Various lookout posts are situated along the trail, that eventually goes down to the impact site itself. The trail is self guided, and starts at a picnic area. To complete the entire trail takes around 3 to 4 hours. For those that do not want to do the whole trail, you can drive by car (around 15 minutes) up to the top parking area 220 meters from the top viewpoint (Shoemaker Viewpoint), and see the impact site.
From the top parking area, you can go right around (anti-clockwise) and take the long way to the bottom that will take around 2 hours to complete and is around 2.4 kilometers to the bottom.
Alternatively, at the top parking area (#7), you can go right for around 220 meters to Shoemaker Viewpoint (#8, 9, and 10), then backtrack to the top parking area and follow the old wagon trail (a dirt road) that goes directly down to the lake floor. The distance to the bottom from the top parking area is 1.5 kilometers and takes around 30 minutes to walk. The drive out from Pretoria is around 1 hour as you do pass through populated areas with lower speed limits.
The information desk informed me that the wagon trail can be driven by 4×4 vehicles to the bottom of the lake (taking disabled people down), but prior arrangement has to be made with the manager. You will need a good off-road vehicle and a lot of experience in rough terrain.
For a day out, bring some meat and salad and have a South African braai (barbeque) at the picnic area, while being surrounded by stunning South African landscape.
Address: Eeufees Road, Groenkloof, Pretoria
GPS: 25°46’44.2“S 28°10’13.3“E
Open: Monday to Sunday except 25 December
1 Mei to 31 Aug: 8am to 5pm
1 Sep to 30 April: 8am to 6pm
Entrance Fee: R70, Adults || R35, Children / Pensioners
Best Time to Visit: 16 December to see the sun shine on the Cenotaph. June and July are the quiet months, and between 12 and 2pm each day, there are fewer visitors. Weekends are busy times, especially in holiday seasons.
Time to Visit: 1 to 2 hours
Importance: Monument in remembrance of the Great Trek
My Impression: The splendor of the building and the beauty of the surroundings are awe-inspiring. The view from the top of the monument overlooking Pretoria is a wonder to enjoy, as is the rich history on display through multiple art and antique pieces, as well as video and other literature.
The Voortrekker Monument was built in 1949 as a reminder for the Great Trek (1835 to 1854) of around 20 000 Voortrekkers that served as a catalyst to the events that shaped much of South Africa. The Voortrekker Monument realizes its goal with ease where it stands majestically on Monument hill in a nature reserve overlooking Pretoria. Housed within its robust yet captivating walls, are four levels of splendor to marvel at. From historical art pieces and antique Afrikaner daily objects, to The Flame are on display. The Flame is a bronze lamp in a marble niche in the Cenotaph Hall that burns day and night, and was lit by an original torch brought to the Monument in 1938 on a countrywide torch bearing procession to the monument.
Standing guard over the Voortrekker Monument is Fort Schanskop. A short walk from the Voortrekker Monument is the Wall and Garden of remembrance, in honor of fallen South African Soldiers (1961 – 1994). With hiking and horse-riding paths going through the bush surrounding the monument, a Heritage Centre, a picnic site with wild Koedoes roaming around, the Voortrekker Monument Site will leave your breathless, and can easily become an entire day out.
For additional information, see The Voortekker Monument Heritage Site.
Address: R104 Old Bronkhorstspruit Road, Cullinan
GPS: 25°46’43.0“S 28°32’56.9“E
Phone: +27(0)12-736-2035 || +27(0)12-736-2036
Open: Weekdays 8am to 4pm, weekends 9am to 4pm. Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day and January 1st
Entrance Fee: R30, Adults, || R15, Children
[*Best Time to Visit: *]Anytime
[*Time to Visit: *]2 hours minimum, to a day outing with kids having a picnic on the farm
Importance: One of its kind. Displays the progress and history of agriculture in South Africa from the Stone Age until 1945
My Impression: this is one of the best places to experience early South African farm life, as well as see the progress of agricultural implements. The place has braai facilities where you can have a picnic while enjoying the countryside view. During the week, there are fewer visitors, making the farm in ideal place to relax or have a romantic picnic in the outdoors.
The Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum is a one of its kind museum and a must-see for any person interested in agricultural or the history of South African agricultural. Located on the Farm Kaalfontein, around 36 kilometers (half an hour’s drive) from Pretoria.
The museum has currently 56 couches, 43 tractors, 3 bulldozers, and 21 balers (maize threshers), some dating from 1880. In another display hall, a number of agricultural implements are on display, showing the progress of agriculture in South Africa from the Stone Age until 1945.
Outside the museum, is a farmyard with a farmhouse and buildings dating from 1880 to 1920. A number of indigenous domesticated farm animals such as Nguni and Afrikaner cattle, Colebrook pigs, Painted Persian sheep, donkies (ass), horses, and chickens can be viewed, and some interacted with. With prior arrangement, one can experience first hand candle and break making, as well as milking of cows.
On the farmyard itself, are some of the best-preserved examples of an Ndebele homestead that show Ndebele architecture dating from 1900 to 1940. Being on the way if coming from Pretoria, I suggest doing the Sammy Marks house on the same trip.
Austin Roberts Memorial Bird Sanctuary is an 11.8-hectare bird sanctuary named after the famous ornithologist of South Africa, J Austin Roberts (born in Pretoria in 1883). Located in Muckleneuk, between Fort Kalpperkop, University of Pretoria and Melrose House, the sanctuary is paradise for bird lovers. The sanctuary became the first bird refuge in Pretoria, and was opened by the then mayor of Pretoria, Mr. W. J. Seymore, on 27 October 1956.
The sanctuary has two dams and form part of the Walkerspruit Open Space System. Over 170 bird species have been recorded, including grey crowned cranes, thick-billed weaver, various warblers, southern red bishop, various herons, rock doves, speckled pigeons and the Egyptian goose.
You can walk the sanctuary on your own and view birds from the bird hides, or hire a guide to help you identify the bird species. The sanctuary has a restaurant and tea garden, which overlooks the wetlands.
Address: Corner of and, Roper St & Boshoff St, Pretoria
GPS: 25°46’10.8“S 28°13’39.5“E
Open: September to April: 7am to 6pm. || May to August: 7am to 5pm.
Entrance Fee: None || Guided walks R55 (up to 12 people)
Irene Village Mall is a small mall with a big heart. Situated about 20 minutes’ drive from central Pretoria and containing around 90 shops, the open-air mall is refreshing compared to other closed malls. The mall has a country farm feeling to it, and unlike most other malls, the shops in this mall are situated in an open environment. The mal is the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city, and enjoying a relaxed coffee or meal at one of the splendid outdoor restaurants, followed by shopping at a number of boutiques, or a movie at the onsite Ster Kinekor Theatre.
The mall is family-friendly, and has a fountain where kids can play while parents keep an eye from adjacent outdoor restaurants. Often, a child-friendly skating ring is set up next to the fountain (no ice, plastic floorboard with a hip high safety glass walls and security at entrance). The mall is around 10 minutes’ drive from Jan Smuts House, The Red Barn, fort Klapperkop, as well as the Voortrekker Monument, making it a perfect shopping experience after seeing one of these attractions.
Address: Corner of Nellmapius Drive & Van Ryneveld Avenue, Irene
GPS: 25°51’49.9“S 28°14’58.8“E
Open: Monday to Thursday, 9am to 7pm || Fridays until 8pm, Saturdays until 6pm || Sundays and public holidays until 5pm
Entrance Fee: None
The National Museum of Cultural History is situated in the heart of Pretoria behind the City Hall, a short walk from the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History. The Building was originally Pretoria’s first prison, built from 1873 to 1875. The prison executed prisoners on site, and the gallows stood outside the prison in the garden near Schubart Street.
Some of the famous prisoners executed were Mampuru, Henry Hadford Morat and PJ Handcock. Mampuru was found guilty of murdering Pedi chief Sekhukhune, and was hanged on 22 November 1883. Sekhukhune murder led to the Mapoch War (1882 to 1883). Morat and Handcock were Australian members of the Britsih Bushveldt Carbineers, and were found guilty of murdering a German missionary and a number of Boers. Both were executed by firing squat on 27 February 1902. The prison was vacated in 1907 when the new Pretoria prison was completed in Potgieter Street. The prison building itself was demolished and the South African Mint was erected in 1923.
The South African Mint operated on the premises until The National Cultural History Museum took over the premises in 1993. The Cultural Museum was originally founded in 1892 and was then called the Staatsmuseum and was housed in the market hall near Strijdom Square. From there it was moved a number of times as the collection of exhibits grew, until it was moved to the old mint building. The museum was opened in 1997 to the public.
The museum exhibits from ancient rock art of the San people to contemporary works of modern artists. The art showcases the history of South Africa from its distant history to the modern era, including the apartheid years. Some of the exhibits include early Iron Age clay figurines over 1 000 years old, which were excavated from this World Heritage Site in the province of Limpopo, as well as South African crafts such as beading, weaving, basketry and embroidery. The museum is regarded as one of the most dynamic heritage institutions in South Africa.
Address: African Window Building, 149 Visagie Street, Pretoria
GPS: 25° 45’ 09.7” S 28°11’ 05.7” E
Entrance Fee: R25, Adults || R20, Children
Open: Weekdays from 8am to 4pm. Closed on public holidays. (Although the website states the museum is open on weekends, I found it closed and was told by security, they were no longer open on weekends).
Although smaller than the Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg Nature Reserve is the most visited reserve near Pretoria. At 550km² (212 mi²), the reserve is packed with almost all South Africa game, including the Big Five (lion, leopard, black and white rhino, elephant and buffalo).
The reserve is around 2 hours’ drive from either Johannesburg or Pretoria, in a malaria-free zone. The reserve caters to from day visitors, backpackers, to tent and caravan campers as well as luxury resort travelers. Being almost a stone’s throw from Sun City Casino, the reserve is often combined with a stay at the casino. A number of lookout spots are situated around the reserve, with the one at Manke Dam, closest to the Manyane gate, a better option for day visitors coming from Pretoria and Johannesburg. The best time to see game is from late winter to early summer (July to October) when the vegetation and water are scares. Early in the morning from around 8am and later in the afternoon from around 4pm, is the best times to wait at watering points. Here is a link to a map of the park provided by the park. You can purchase a high detail info, pdf map of the park here.
Interesting, the reserve has an extinct volcano that produced an alkaline ring complex around 1300 million years ago and is one of the largest volcanic complexes of its kind in the world. The rare rock types and structure found at the reserve make it a unique geological feature that ranks high amongst the world’s outstanding geological phenomena.
Know that the animals in the reserve are wild, so do not get out of your vehicle unless at a secure lookout post. Consider hiring a guide if you have no experience driving in the bush.
Pilanesberg Centre is located in the heart of Pilanesberg National Park, close to Mankwe DamThere. The Centre has a restaurant, coffee shop, and souvenir shop. Visa, Master Cards or local South African Rands are accepted.
Address: Bojanala, North West, Pilanesberg National Park
GPS: 25°15’29.1“S 27°13’53.4“E (suggested entrance)
Entrance Fee: R65, Adults || R20, Children || + R20 per vehicle
Open: March and April: 6am to 6:30pm || May to September: 6:30am to 6pm ||September and October: 6am to 6:30 pm || November to February: 5:30am to 7pm
The Sammy Marks house is situated on the old Bronkhorstspruit Rd, Donkerhoek. Sammy Marks was a well-known businessperson who arrived in South Africa with only a case of silver knives. Marks and his brother who later joined him, took opportunity of the gold rush at the time, and opened a number of trading businesses, before expanding into mining, glass, industrial trade.
They played a significant role throughout the history of South Africa during the late to early 1800 and 1900s. When then-president Paul Kruger went into exile, Sammy Marks financially assisted him. Sammy bought the farm and lived in the old farmhouse until he had the new house built in 1885 for his wife. Sammy lived in the house until his death in 1909.
Sammy was very strict, and declared in his will, that no child of his would inherit his property if they marry a non Jew or are not educated. Interestingly, all his children were disinherited because of this clause. The house went to the grand children, but due to another clause in Sammy’s will, nothing was allowed to be taken from the house. Thus, Sammy himself ensured that almost 98% of the contents in the house are original and belonged to the Marks family. The house can only be viewed with a guide, that is included in the ticket price. Tours are run every hour. The grounds has an excellent coffee shop that serves breakfast and lunch.
Address: Old Bronkhorstspruit Rd, Donkerhoek
GPS: 25° 44’ 59.41” S 28° 22’ 48.16” E
Entrance Fee: R45, S.A resident || R60, Foreigners. (Credit card facility available)
Open: Daily from 9am to 5pm. Closed on Good Friday and Christmas Day.
Anton Swanepoel @ Pol Pot’s house on the mountains in Thailand, and on his way to Preah Vihear Temple.
For seven years, I worked as a technical diving instructor in the Cayman Islands. I am a Tri-Mix instructor in multiple agencies, and dove to over 400ft on open circuit. While on Grand Cayman, I started a passion that I always had, writing. For a number of years, I saved what I could, and in Jan 2014, I moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia, to focus full-time on my writing, while travelling. If you want to follow my adventures, see my blog www.antonswanepoelbooks.com/blog
Laura and The Jaguar Prophecy (Book 1)
Laura and The God Code (Book 2)
Laura and the Spear of Destiny (Book 3)
Machu Picchu: The Ultimate Guide to Machu Picchu
Angkor Wat & Cambodia
Backpacking SouthEast Asia
100 International Travel tips
Motorcycle: A Guide Book To Long Distance And Adventure Riding
Motorbiking Cambodia & Vietnam
Cambodia: 50 Facts You Should Know When Visiting Cambodia
Angkor Wat: 20 Must See Temples
Angkor Wat Temples
Angkor Wat Archaeological Park
Angkor Wat & Cambodia Temples
Kampot, Kep and Sihanoukville
Kampot: 20 Must See Attractions
Battambang: 20 Must See Attractions
Phnom Penh: 20 Must See Attractions
Siem Reap: 20 Must See Attractions
Sihanoukville: 20 must See Attractions
Kep: 10 Must See Attractions
South African Travel
South Africa: 50 Facts You Should Know When Visiting South Africa
Pretoria: 20 Must See Attractions
The Voortekker Monument Heritage Site
The Union Buildings
The Cradle of Humankind Heritage Site
Vietnam: 50 Facts You Should Know When Visiting Vietnam
Ha Long Bay
The Perfumed Pagoda
Phong Nha Caves
Thailand: 50 Facts You Should Know When Visiting Thailand
Bangkok: 20 Must See Attractions
Ayutthaya: 20 Must See Attractions
The Great Buddha
Vientiane: 20 Must See Attractions
Gas Blender Program
Deep and Safety Stops, and Gradient Factors
Diving Below 130 Feet
The Art of Gas Blending
Supercharge Your Book Description (Grab Attention and Enhance Sales)
Self Help Books
Sea and Motion Sickness
Your visit to Pretoria can be the trip of your lifetime, with memories, pictures and experiences that rival any other trip you have ever made, if you know where to go and what to see. This guide book can be invaluable to the success of your visit to Pretoria. Some of what you will learn: A concise description of each attraction, including history and pertinent facts 5 Bonus attractions to see, if you have more time in Pretoria GPS coordinates or directions to the attractions. Attraction hours of operation and fees (best time to visit) You have come a long way, make the most of your time in Pretoria.