Pretoria, Gauteng

Pretoria's architectural highlights include the Union Buildings, National Heritage Site the Voortrekker Monument, Mahlamba Ndlopfu – the President's residence in Pretoria – the South African Reserve Bank, Loftus Versfeld sports stadium and the South African State Theatre.

Located about 50km north of Johannesburg and surrounded by the foothills of the Magaliesberg mountains, the city of Pretoria is South Africa’s administrative capital and home to government departments, ministries, foreign embassies and diplomatic missions.

Buildings in Pretoria feature a marked colonial influence, along with touches of art deco and South African-style architecture. City landmarks worth visiting include the Union Buildings (South Africa's seat of government), the Voortrekker Monument (a granite edifice commemorating the Voortrekkers’ journey from the Cape to the hinterland and which is a National Heritage Site), Mahlamba Ndlopfu (the President's house in Pretoria), the South African Reserve Bank, Loftus Versfeld sports stadium and the South African State Theatre.

Pretoria is also home to the National Zoological Gardens and the Pretoria National Botanical Garden, along with nature reserves such Groenkloof, Rietvlei, Moreleta Spruit, Faerie Glen, Wonderboom Nature Reserve and the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary,

Pretoria is also proud of its educational institutions: the University of South Africa (the largest distance learning university in Africa), the Tshwane University of Technology, University of Pretoria (Tukkies) and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

Those with an interest in history should stop off at Freedom Park on Salvokop – a monument to democracy – and Kruger House, the historical residence of former President of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger.

The Ditsong National Museum of Cultural History provides fascinating insight into Stone Age and Iron Age artefacts, while the Mapungubwe Museum showcases excavated gold ornaments, ivory, ceramics, clay figurines, beads, iron and copper from a 13th century Iron Age settlement in Limpopo.

South Africa's national sport is rugby football, and Pretoria’s Loftus Versfeld is home to the Blue Bulls rugby team, one of the country’s top sides. If there’s a match on, don’t miss it.

Pretoria and its suburbs are not short of shopping destinations, with malls such as Atterbury, Brooklyn, Centurion, Hatfield, Kolonnade, Menlyn Park, Sammy Marks, Sunny Park, Woodlands, Wonderboom Junction and Wonderpark offering shoppers a host of choices. Most of the larger shopping malls feature cinema and restaurant complexes.

Travel tips & Planning info

How to get here

Pretoria is about 50km north of Johannesburg along the N1. Or take the Gautrain from Johannesburg.

Best time to visit

Pretoria is a year-round destination. It’s particularly lovely in September and October when the jacaranda trees are in bloom.

Around the area

The Nan Hua Buddhist Temple complex outside Bronkhorstspruit; the Magaliesberg and Hartbeespoort Dam area to the west; and the town of Cullinan, east of Pretoria, in Dinokeng.

Tours to do

Day tours depart from Johannesburg for an excursion of Pretoria’s historical sites and places of interest: the Voortrekker Monument, Kruger House, Church Square, the City Hall, State Theatre and the Union Buildings. Visit the nearby Cullinan Diamond Mine, and the Air Force Museum at Zwartkop Air Force Base in Valhalla to see old aircraft, uniforms, missiles, aeronautical displays and paintings. 

Get around

During the day, the centre of Pretoria can be explored on foot, but as there can be some distance between attractions, you would do better to have a car, hire a taxi, use a tour operator or catch a city bus. At night, it’s advisable to use a car or a metered taxi.

What to pack

Pretoria is sunny, and a few degrees warmer than Johannesburg, so sun protection is a good idea. Winter (May to August) mornings and evenings can be chilly, so pack accordingly.

Where to stay

Guest houses, hotels, lodges, B&Bs and holiday apartments cater for all budgetary requirements.

What to eat

Pretoria’s French and African fine dining restaurants are especially good, as is the local boerekos (farmers’ food).

What's happening

Every year in June the Annual Gauteng Motor Show takes place in Centurion.

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