Pretoria

Travel Guide Africa South Africa Gauteng Pretoria

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Introduction

Parliament Building in Pretoria

Parliament Building in Pretoria

© filipve

Pretoria, South Africa's administrative capital, is located in the northeast of the country in the Gauteng Province. Many of the streets are lined with Jacaranda trees, which have a beautiful mauve blossom in spring. These trees have earned the city the nickname Jacaranda City, while plans have been put in place to rename the city to Tshwane.

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History

The area known today as Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, with Pretoria (City) at its centre, is believed to have been occupied by the Sotho people for many centuries. During the 15th century the Ndebele people also migrated into the area and settled along the banks of the Apies River. Tshwane [tsʰwane] is the Setswana name of the Apies River. Around 1820 the Matabele under the leadership of Mzilikaza also entered the region, leading to local conflicts between the Matabele newcomers and the already established Sotho and Ndebele tribes as well as the European "Voortrekkers" who were steadily moving northward through the country. These conflicts came to an end when the Matabele were defeated by the "Voortrekkers" in 1837 at Mosega.

By 1855 there was no known tribe in what is known as the Pretoria area today. Only nomadic groups passed through this area, with one of the Setswana people (so it is alleged) led them. Pretoria was founded in 1855. The first capital of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (South African Republic) was Ohrigstad, but the capital was moved to Pretoria. After the Second Boer War, the ZAR become Transvaal province, and Pretoria its capital. The city was named after Andries Pretorius, the Boer leader at the Battle of Blood River where the Voortrekkers defeated the Zulus under King Dingaan. In 1856 the area today known as Arcadia was acquired in exchange for a pony and added to the town.

In 1899, during the Second Boer War, Winston Churchill was captured and held as a POW in Pretoria until his eventual escape to Mozambique. British forces captured Pretoria in 1900 and held control over the city until the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging in 1902.

When the Union of South Africa was established in 1910, Pretoria was elected the capital and is still the administrative capital of the Republic of South Africa today.

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Neighbourhoods

Church Square

The centre of Pretoria, Church Square is surrounded by historic buildings, including the Palace of Justice, the Old Capitol Theatre, the Old Council Chambers and the Tudor Chambers.

Sammy Marks Square

Shopping malls and chain stores mean its a good place to stop and shop.

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Sights and Activities

Botanical Gardens, 2 Cussonia Ave, Brummeria, ☏ +27 12 843-5071, ✉ pretoriagarden@sanbi.org. daily 08:00 - 18:00. An urban oasis to explore. This 76-ha urban oasis is a pristine getaway situated in the eastern suburbs of South Africa's administrative capital, Pretoria. R30 entrance fee.
National Zoological Gardens (The Zoo), 232 Boom St, Pretoria (Near the city center), ☏ +27 12 339 2700, ✉ info@nzg.ac.za. daily 08:30 - 17:30, open 365 days. Aquarium, reptile park and all the larger mammals including koalas. One can also camp within the zoo on Friday and Saturday nights. Golf carts are available for rental at R80/hour. Children's pushcarts at R60/day. A cableway operates from 10:00 - 16:15 daily between the top and bottom of the zoo, price R20 one way, R30 return. R95 adults, R60 children, R20 per vehicle.
The Union Buildings, 2 Church St, ☏ +27 12 300 5200, ✉ president@presidency.gov.za. Gardens open 24/7. The location of the South African presidency. The building was designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1908. Entrance to the building itself is prohibited for security reasons, since it is the site of the Presidential Offices. However, the beautiful terraced gardens, which boast a wide variety of indigenous plants, are open to the public and provide a truly amazing view over the city. Free.
The Wonderboom (Tree of Wonder or Miracle Tree), Wonderboom Nature Reserve (drive northwards on Paul Kruger Street (R101) and Mansefield Avenue for about 6-7 km from the city centre; immediately after the road goes through the gap in the Magaliesberg range turn right onto the M1 and cross the Apies River; the entrance is on the right about 300 m from the R101), ☏ +27 12 440 8316, +27 12 341 5204. 07:00 - 18:00. A fig tree over 1000 years old. The tree, now a national monument, is unusually large, standing some 25 metres high and having a 5.5-metre diameter main trunk. Its growth pattern is also unusual: as its branches grew longer, they drooped towards the ground and eventually took root and formed a circle of new trunks or daughter trees around the original tree. There are now a total of 13 trunks and the colossal tree covers an area with a diameter of 55 metres. Wonderboom Nature Reserve has a large number of dassies (rock hyrax) living in caves overlooking the Apies River. They provide a food source for a breeding pair of black eagles that nest on a rocky ledge nearby and that can often be seen circling above the reserve. At the top of the Wonderboom Hill are the ruins of the Wonderboom Fort, one of four forts built by the former South African Republic at the end of the 19th century to defend Pretoria against the British forces. It was never used. It was blown up, probably on the instruction of Prime Minister Jan Smuts, in the early days of the Second World War, lest it be used by anti-government dissidents as a springboard for an attack on the state. At the foot of the hill near the Wonderboom is an important Iron Age site and nearby is one of the best Stone Age sites in the area. The reserve has picnic facilities. R31 adults, R19 children, seniors R20.
Streets with jacaranda trees, South of Union Buildings. In September, the jacarandas have purple flowers. Many streets are lined with these trees. A good place to view lines of them is the Union Buildings.
Church Square, Church Square, ☏ +27 11 085 2500, ✉ info@gauteng.net. 24/7. Church Square is one of the few places in the Pretoria CBD where you can get a sense of how Pretoria must have looked a century ago, and, as a result, is often used as a set for local period movies and TV series. The square is surrounded by important civic buildings, including the Palace of Justice, the General Post Office, the Old Council Chamber and the Old Capitol Theatre and its importance was underlined by the erection of a statue commemorating President Paul Kruger. Free entrance.
National Cultural History Museum, 149 Visagie St, ☏ +27 11 324-6082. Daily 08:00 – 16:00. Learn about the people and the cultures of South Africa, from the Iron Age till today. (Wheelchair accessible). Exhibitions include rock paintings and engravings of the San people; 1000-year-old Iron Age figurines from Schroda in the Limpopo Province (described as “the best known artifacts indicating ritual behaviour in the Early Iron Age”); the Art Gallery presents an overview of South African culture through time, using cultural objects, crafts, sculpture and paintings and an exhibition on Marabastad is a true example of a cosmopolitan and fully integrated rainbow nation before apartheid. Adults R35, children R20, seniors R20.
Pioneer Museum (Pionier Museum), ☏ +27 12 803-6086, ✉ pioneerm@ditsong.org.za. daily 09:00-16:00. A pioneer house. The house was built of clay and local materials, with a thatched roof and earthen floors, and is furnished in the traditional 19th century rural style. It is surrounded by a traditional herb and vegetable garden, orchard, furnished wagon house and vineyard. Guides in period clothing. with guided tour R40, lower rates for SA nationals.
Willem Prinsloo Agricultural Museum, R104 Old Bronkhorstspruit Road, Rayton, ☏ +27 12 736-2035, ✉ prinsloo@nfi.co.za. M-F 08:30 – 16:00, Sa Su and public holidays 09:00 – 16:00. The history of the development of agriculture in South Africa and a collection of old vehicles (donkey and horse carts, ox-wagons, coaches, carriages and spiders) are displayed in the main building. Visitors can explore the 1880 and 1913 house museums and outbuildings, and two Ndebele homesteads from different eras. Indigenous farm animals include the Nguni and Afrikaner cattle, Kolbroek pigs, Speckled Persian sheep and indigenous chickens like the Ovambo, Koekoek, Venda and Naked Necks.
If it's your bag check out the Tswaing ('Place of Salt') Crater situated about 50 kilometres north of Pretoria. It gets 12,000 visitors a year because it's one of the best preserved meteor craters in the world. It's got a museum and entry to the area costs around R15 with guided tours available for a little more. To the west of Pretoria you can head out to Hartebeespoort Dam for a day, but the area is generally quite busy with locals flocking to the area on their days off.

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Events and Festivals

World Cup 2010

Pretoria will be a host city for the World Cup 2010. World Cup matches in Pretoria will be held the Loftus Versfeld Stadium, one of the oldest stadiums in South Africa. The stadium has been used for major sporting events since 1903 and since 1948 it has undergone perennial upgrades. It has been used for both rugby and football matches and is home to one of the country's top rugby teams, the Blue Bulls. Loftus Versfeld is in the heart of Tshwane/Pretoria and currently has a seating capacity of over 50,000.

Jacaranda Festival

Due to its copious number of jacaranda trees, Pretoria is often referred to by South Africans as Jacaranda City. In late spring when the trees are in bloom, the area takes on a purplish hue. October’s Jacaranda Festival honors the native symbol with family entertainment and a special market.

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Weather

Pretoria has a fairly moderate climate compared to many other parts in the country. Temperatures average around 27 °C from October to March and around 20 °C from June to August. Nights are roughly around 13 °C to 17 °C during winter, but only around 3 degrees on average in June and July. Extremes of 35 °C and -4 °C have been recorded. May to October is fairly dry, November to March is the rainy season with between 100 and 150 mm of rain each month.

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Getting There

By Plane

Fly into Johannesburg's O.R. Tambo International Airport (IATA code: JNB/). From there the R21 (Albertina Sisulu Highway) leads to Pretoria. Airport shuttles are available at the airport or can be booked in advance.

By Train

Shosholoza Meyl is the national railway and the main routes are:

  • Johannesburg/Pretoria - Musina via Louis Trichardt (Makhado), 17 hours, economy class daily except Saturday
  • Johannesburg/Pretoria - Komatipoort via Nelspruit, 13 hours, economy class daily except Saturday, connecting with the onward train to Maputo, Mozambique.

By Car

The N1, N3, N4, N12 and N14 national highways all connect in the Gauteng region, making Pretoria easily accessible by car from around the country.
Distances from Pretoria:

  • Johannesburg - 58 kilometres
  • Bloemfontein - 455 kilometres
  • Cape Town - 1,460 kilometres
  • Durban - 636 kilometres
  • East London - 1,040 kilometres
  • Kimberley - 530 kilometres
  • Port Elizabeth - 1,133 kilometres

By Bus

Greyhound South Africa, Intercape and Translux all have services to and from Pretoria. Most main cities are connected to Pretoria, including Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town.

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Getting Around

Pretoria is quite a large city, so it's likely you will need your car to get from your hotel to the main sights. Walking the streets at night is not recommended. Major car rental agencies in Pretoria include Avis, Budget Car Rental, Europcar, Hertz, and First Car Rental.

Either use a metered taxi, rent a car or use the municipal bus service. There is also a very extensive network of informal, cheap minibus taxis, mostly used by local commuters. These taxis have a reputation for being unsafe, but this has greatly improved in recent years and most taxis are now relatively luxurious and not overcrowded, except during peak times. Accidents are rare. Ask locals waiting at taxi stops about routes and rates.

Walking is a good option during the day, but us unsafe after dark in certain areas, such as central Pretoria.

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Eat

The renowned restaurants include Cynthia's, The Hillside Tavern and Pachas. There are also many franchised diners throughout the city.

Centurion Mall Express Sandwich Baron (annemarie@sandwichbaron.com), Shop 30A, Cnr Hendrik Verwoerd and Embankment, Centurion Mall, Centurion, ☏ +27 12 643-1144. Sandwich Baron produces freshly made platters and sandwiches and holds no ready-made products in stock. Also has a catering service.
Mimmos. Italian restaurant chain, incl. SA-Food. Good prices, take aways, wifi.
Toni's Pizza Toni's is a great place to get the best pizza in town.
Panarotti's Panarotti's is a national chain with several Pretoria branches.
Spur. A national chain of Native American-themed steak-houses. Several branches in Pretoria.
Kream Restaurant, 283 Dey Street, Nieuw Muckleneuk, ☏ +27 12 346-4642. This new restaurant has a fresh upmarket urban feel and offers splendid food at very reasonable prices. Around R150 per person.
La Pentola, 5 Riviera Galleries, Well Street, Riviera, ☏ +27 12 329-4028, fax: +27 12 329-5464. M-F 12:00-15:00 and 18:00-22:00, Sa 18:00-22:00. Excellent food. From around R150 per person.

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Drink

Pretoria's nightlife is concentrated in Hatfield (near the university), which boasts a number of bars and night clubs. Menlyn Square (just off the Menlyn shopping centre) is also a popular location which contains several venues but caters for the more upmarket crowd.

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Sleep

Being the capital, there are many posh hotels (including the Sheraton) and guest houses and all the usual hotel chains have one or more hotels. With so many hotels owned by the same chains, in particularly Tsogo Sun. Make sure you note the address when booking so you go to the right hotel. When Parliament is in session and when there are other state events it can be almost impossible to find a mid-range or splurge room. Consider nearby Centurion as an alternative if you have to be in Pretoria at those times.

1322 Backpackers, 1322 Arcadia Street, Hatfield, ☏ +27 12 362-3905, ✉ reception@1322backpackers.com. very clean backpackers hostel with single/double rooms and dorm beds. Has a nice garden with a swimming pool, bar, TV room, free Wifi, breakfast and tea and coffee. Dorm R180 per person. double room R380.
Khayalethu Backpackers, 1291 Arcadia Street, Hatfield, ☏ +27 12 362-5403, ✉ groups@ghk.co.za. Free breakfast. Dorm bed R240 per person.
Pretoria Backpackers, 425 Farenden Street, Clydesdale, ☏ +27 12 343-9754, ✉ info@pretoriabackpackers.net. Double rooms and free breakfast. From R250 per person.
Pumbas Backpackers, 1232 Arcadia Street, ☏ +27 12 362-5343. Great backpackers, managed by the friendly owners Frank and Corné. Free wifi and breakfast! Offers doubles, dorms and camping. Has two friendly dogs walking around and a nice central location in Hatfield. dorm R170 per person. camping R90 per person.
Dark Chocolate Guest House Pretoria, 25 Catherine Street, Shere, ☏ +27 12 809-0626. Standard rooms, all equipped with plasma TV, bathroom and shower. Facilities and services are swimming pool, restaurant and bar/lounge. From R1,040.
Khayalethu GuestHouse, 1291 Arcadia Street, Hatfield, ☏ +27 12 362-5403. Khayalethu GuestHouse has 10 en suite rooms, off-street parking and free internet access.
City Lodge, ☏ +27 11 557-2600, ✉ info@citylodge.co.za. From around R400 sharing.
The Farm Inn, Lynnwood Rd, ☏ +27 12 809-0266, ✉ farminn@farminn.co.za. Provides a unique South African experience. stuffed and alve animals around. Also excellent for day visitors. From R510pps.
Ithiliens Grace Guest House, 47 Kamperfoelie Street, Amandasig (easily accessible from all major highways), ☏ +27 79 892-2376, ✉ info@ithiliensgrace.co.za. R280-900.
The Village in Hatfield, 1252 Arcadia Street, Cnr. Glyn & Arcadia Streets, Hatfield (N4 into PTA-Hatfield, near Duncan Street), ☏ +27 12 362-3737, ✉ villagebandb@mweb.co.za. Several family homes were converted into sleeping rooms. lots of space, quiet. Next to sports university. Functions possible. Free Wifi. From R500 single.
The Waterhouse Guesthouse, 439 Stonewall Street, Faerie Glen (easily accessible from all major highways), ☏ +27 12 991-2823, ✉ info@thewaterhouse.co.za. R670 single, R1400 double.
Morning Star Express Hotel, 327 Visagie St, ☏ +27 12 442-0600. A/C spacious rooms equipped with TV with cable channels, double bed and bathroom. Some of its facilities and services are restaurant, Wi-Fi internet, massage service, and 24-hour front desk. From R480.
Ellensgate Guest House, 849 Church St (Entrance at Eastwood Street), ☏ +27 12 342-4089, fax: +27 86 572-6549, ✉ info@ellensgate.co.za. From R860 per person with breakfast.
Protea Hotels, ☏ +27 21 430-5000, ✉ info@proteahotels.com. From R500pps.
Sheraton Pretoria Hotel, 643 Stanza Bopape St, ☏ +27 12 429-9999, ✉ pretoriasouthafrica.reservations@sheraton.com. Close to Union building. Good breakfast buffet. From R1750pp.
Southern Sun, ☏ +27 11 461-9744, ✉ contactus@southernsun.com. Wide range of accommodation from budget to splurge. From R750pps.
Villa Sterne, 212 Johann Rissik Drive, Waterkloof Ridge, ☏ +27 12 346-2255, ✉ reservations@villasterne.com. From R650pps.

You can use the form below to search for availability (Travellerspoint receives a commission for bookings made through the form)

Booking.com

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Learn

Pretoria is one of South Africa's leading academic cities, and it's home to the country's largest residential, the Tshwane University of Technology.

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Keep Connected

Internet

Big cities and most of the popular places in the country usually have an internet café though they are not as abundant as in, for example, Asia or South America. It's also relatively expensive, usually 20-30 rand an hour, sometimes even more. Many of the accommodation options have internet access available, either wireless with your own laptop or by their own computer(s). Wireless access is also available throughout the country in more and more cafes and eateries, sometimes free and sometimes for a small fee. Note that you usually have to login anyway and agree with the terms and conditions. It is cheapest to buy a prepaid cell phone starter pack (less than R10) and access the Internet with GPRS or 3G. Generally R2 per MB for out of bundle data from most providers (50c for Virgin Mobile), but it becomes a lot cheaper if you buy a data bundle. In general coverage is good except the more rural parts of the northern and northwestern parts of the country (especially Northern Cape).

Phone

See also International Telephone Calls

South Africa's country code is 27. Telephone numbers in South Africa are 10 digits, including the local area code. There are also some prefixes like 0800 (toll free), 0860 (charged as local call) and 0861 (flat-rate calls). The general emergency number is 10111, ambulance is 10177 and police is 1011.

South Africa has very good phone facilities, which are also becoming more and more competitively priced, now that more operators are active on the market. The main ones are Neotel and Telkom South Africa. Local phone calls are cheap (about one Rand an hour), domestic long-distance calls are about twice as expensive. International calls start at around 6 Rand an hour but can be (much) higher to less usual countries. Note that public phones are about twice as cheap as new private phone centres. Phone calls tend to be the cheapest during the weekend and during business hours (8:00am to 5:00pm) on weekdays and more expensive during the evening and nights at weekdays.

There are also good mobile-phone facilities, with GSM and 3G networks. There are five cell phone providers in South Africa: Vodacom, MTN, Cell-C, Virgin Mobile and 8ta. SIM card prepaid starter kits are available from R10. You will need a passport and a proof of residential address and it has to be registered before you can call or receive calls. You can buy credit for prepaid phones just about everywhere, remembering you will usually need cash to do so from service stations.

Post

The SAPO (South African Post Office) is the nation's postal service. They have a track & trace system for parcels as well. Post offices are open from 8:30am to 4:30pm from Monday to Friday, and 8:00am to noon on Saturdays. Domestic and international deliveries are reliable but can sometimes take up to several weeks. If you want to send something oversees of any value, try using one of the private mail services, like Postnet. Also international courier companies like TNT, UPS and DHL tend to be fast, very reliable and competitively priced.

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Quick Facts

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Coordinates
  • Latitude: -25.74629
  • Longitude: 28.18763

Accommodation in Pretoria

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This is version 46. Last edited at 14:47 on May 29, 20 by Utrecht. 26 articles link to this page.

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