One of the world’s richest diamond mines is the Premier Diamond Mine outside Pretoria. The Cullinan diamond found here in 1905 was the world’s largest uncut stone. It was presented to King Edward by the Transvaal government. The king had it cut into 105 smaller gems. One of them is the largest cut diamond (530 carats) in the world – it’s called the Star of Africa and is mounted in the British royal sceptre. Hey! Give it back to Africa.
The administrative capital of South Africa and home to most embassies, Pretoria is considered by many to be Jo’burg’s safer sister. Truth is, they’re like chalk and cheese. Pretoria is home to the Voortrekker Monument and, by implication, Afrikaans culture. There are some major universities and a thriving alternative art and culture scene.
Pretoria is a sunny, warm, spacious city, notable for its beautiful gardens, flowering trees (especially jacarandas), its concentration of government and provincial offices, and various official organisations with their armies of civil servants. It’s only 30 minutes away from the Johannesburg International Airport.
Some of Pretoria’s highlights
Church Square in the centre of town is surrounded by grand old public buildings. One of them is the Palace of Justice where Mandela was tried. Paul Kruger’s statue stands in the centre of the square. Museums near Church Square include the National Museum of Culture, the Art Museum, the Science and Technology Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Police Museum. Heroes’ acre on the east side of Church Street is the burial place of a number of people who played important roles in South Africa’s history. Australians can visit the grave of the (in)famous Breaker Morant. Further west along Church Street is the Union Building. This red sandstone edifice is the headquarters of the government. It stands on a hill surrounded by gardens and was built after the Union of South Africa had been created in 1910. The structure is supposed to symbolise the unity between English and Afrikaner. These days it symbolises the Rainbow Nation.
A monumental faith
The Voortrekker Monument south of Pretoria was built to commemorate the determination of the Afrikaners to survive and overcome the difficulties that they encountered while searching for the Promised Land. It’s a powerful symbol of Afrikaner nationalism and of their belief that God gave them this land for their own use. Murals in the interior of the building depict the story of the Great Trek and of the Battle of Blood River where about 500 Boers defeated an army of thousands of Zulus. At the foot of the monument there is a small museum which reconstructs the lifestyle of the settlers and shows the routes they followed.
More info on:
•Art and Cultural Museums •Science, technology and ecology displays •Nature and Conservation areas •Day trips around Pretoria •A brief history
The Jacaranda festival in the third week in October. The Pretoria Show in August.
What's in a name?
The Voortrekkers named their capital Pretoria after Andries Pretorius, a hero of the battle of Blood River.
The National Botanical Gardens cover 77 hectares and are planted with indigenous plants. 20 000 species are grouped according to their region of origin, so if you’d like a sneak preview before you travel around the country, this is a good place to start. If you’re here on a weekend there are sometimes markets or open-air concerts in the gardens.
Flea and Art Markets
The Hatfield and Kolonnade Markets are held every Sunday. The market at Jan Smuts House is on the 2nd and last Saturday of every month. There is a daily market on Strijdom Square. The Wonderboom Market is held every weekend.
Go to the drive-in movies at Wonderboom. Go ice-skating at Kolonnade. Do some go-kart racing in Sunnyside or Menlyn. There’s an indoor circuit in Arcadia. Try out the laser games and ten-pin bowling in Arcadia. Gamble at the Carousel and Morula Sun casinos.
Places to Stay
What to do
(randomly selected service providers from all regions)
This Cape Town based car rental agency offers great deals on car hire in Cape Town.
(Cape Town City Centre,Cape Town)
Stone Cottage in Plettenberg Bay is a Boutique Backpackers & Suites where spectacular views of the bay and a communal deck with jacuzzi, are the order of the day.
(Plettenberg Bay,Garden Route)
A vibey country lodge only 10 minutes from the airport in Benoni.
Stay in a traditional cottage, hike, explore, and chill.
20 years of experience in running overland trips from east to west to Southern Africa.
(Cape Town City Centre,)
This Cape Town based car hire company has reliable and affordable car hire for both local and national use. They pick up and drop off anywhere in the country. Their share call number is 0860 447 3222.
Learn to surf in J'bay.
(Jeffreys Bay,Sunshine Coast)
The Baz Bus is a South African backpacker hop-on hop-off any time bus service. They have no time limit on their ticket, so you can travel whenever you like, and, what’s more, start from anywhere on the route.
(Cape Town City Centre,Cape Town)
Funky Monkeys is a happy backpackers that’s easy to spend time in.
Crisscross Africa with a tour operator that can navigate borders and bushveld with ease. African Trails runs budget overland tours from Cape Town, Jozi and Vic Falls. All you need to do is decide what size adventure you wear...