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Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrLocated in the northern part of the Gauteng province in South Africa, Pretoria, or “Tshwane” in the local Tswana language (a Bantu speaking tribe) or Epitoli, is the national and administrative capital of that country. Named after the Voortrekkers leader, Andries Pretorius, it is also called the Jacaranda City because it blooms with beautiful Jacaranda trees during the spring and summer seasons.
HistoryThe area now known as Pretoria, used to be inhabited by the Ndebele people around 1600. They later abandoned their villages to a regiment of Zulu raiders in 1832. The City of Pretoria was founded in 1855 by Marthinus Pretorius; a leader of the Voortrekkers, who named it after his father, Andries Pretorius. Andries, became a national hero of the Voortrekkers after his victory over the Zulus in the Battle of Blood River . Pretoria became the capital city of the South African Republic (ZAR) on the 1st of May 1860. Its founding marked the end of the Boers ‘settlement movements of the great trek’. The first Boer War (1899-1902), resulted in the end of the Transvaal Republic and started the British hegemony in South Africa. During that war, Winston Churchill was imprisoned in the Staats model school in Pretoria but escaped to Mozambique.The city surrendered to the British forces under Frederick Roberts on June 5th 1900. The conflict ended in Pretoria when the peace of Vereeniging was signed on the 31st of May 1902.
After the end of the apartheid era, new municipal structures were built across South Africa. In the year 2000, “Tshwane” was adopted as the name for the metropolitan municipality comprising Pretoria and its surrounding towns. From the beginning of 2005, the ANC (African National Congress), wished to change the name of the city to match the name of the Tshwane Municipality. This project has met a lot of opposition from the Afrikaner civil rights groups and political parties; which considered that a name change to the City of Pretoria would deny its historical heritage, as being founded by Andries Pretorius.
Sightseeing in PretoriaPretoria, is a city filled with history, noticeable through its architectural influence. The architectural styles found in the city range from modern, post modern to neo-modern, mixed with a unique South African style. This serves as a great testimony to that city’s cultural diversity. It holds lots of monuments, museums, and natural reserves. Some of the most prestigious and unique that we strongly recommend to visitors.
Voortrekker MonumentSituated in a nature reserve; the Voortrekker Monument commemorates the pioneer history of Southern Africa, more precisely the Afrikaner, and manages the Blood River heritage site. This site is considered as the most visited heritage site of its kind in Gauteng and one of the top 10 cultural and historical visitor’s attraction in South Africa.
The National Zoological Gardens of South AfricaCovering almost 85 hectares, the National Zoological Gardens are well known for its wildlife conservation programs. Opened in 1899, the zoo’s collection of antelopes is one of the largest in the world. It has a game-breeding center originally opened in 1974, and has successfully bred cheetahs, the endangered scimitar-horned oryx and the banteng.
Pretoria Botanical GardenFounded in 1948, it bridges the divides between scientific research by being the headquarters of the South African National Botanical Institute (SANBI), and recreational environment. The garden is divided into 2 sections: the south frosty section and the north facing warmer section, the two presenting two different worlds to visitors and botanists. The garden covers 50 hectares, with 50% of its flowers being South African species, 198 birds’ species, some reptiles and mammals.
The Union BuildingsBuilt at the highest point of Pretoria, the buildings form the official seat of the South African government. It also houses the President’s offices and the department of foreign affairs. Designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1908, the building was completed in 1913.
Groenkloof Nature ReserveLocated South of Pretoria in Fountain's Valley, Groenkloof was proclaimed to be the first South African game sanctuary in February 1895 by Paul Kruger. Initially created to protect the Oribi, it introduced the impala, kudu and blue wildebeest and ostriches in 1999 and 2002. The park offers to its visitors a wide variety of activities such as hiking trails, horse trails, night drives, mountain bike trails (where helmets are compulsory), a motorcar route, a 4x4 route and a picnic area.
The Kruger House PretoriaSupposedly the last house where “Oom Paul” (Uncle Paul), lived before he was exiled in Europe. The house was purposely refurbished to recreate the everyday life of Paul Kruger and his second wife. It also displays the famous knife, which he used to amputate his thumb after a shooting accident.
Melrose HouseNamed after the famous Melrose Abbey in Scotland, the house was built in 1886 by George Jesse Hayes, in a Victorian Edwardian architectural style. The house, offers to its visitors guided tours (by appointment), a clay tennis court, a reference library and a tea garden. It also hosts temporary exhibitions, antique fairs, workshops for children and adults, all presented on a regular basis.
The Transvaal MuseumAlso known as the Museum of Natural History, it was founded in 1892. It accumulated its pieces of exhibition through the years, thanks to items brought from Europe by the Boers and Voortrekkers. Housed in a magnificent sandstone building, its entrance is dominated by a dinosaur skeletons. It’s filled with cavernous display halls, hominid fossils (gathered from the cradle of mankind) and its associated fauna.
Mapungubwe MuseumOpened its doors in 2000 at the University of Pretoria. Its collection comprises of some 13th-century Iron Age artifacts from the Limpopo Valley . It counts in total 156,000 pieces, related to the cultural, natural, technological and historical importance of Mapungubwe.
In exception to the Union Buildings that charges no entrance fee to access its gardens and memorials, the fees to the other monuments, reserves and museums range from $ 2.00 USD to $ 5.00 USD per person.
Accommodation in PretoriaBeing the second city in the world after Washington to host the most embassies, Pretoria has many diplomatic visitors, apart from its tourists. With that, the city has to step up to its reputation in terms of accommodation. From regular hotels, bed and breakfast and guesthouses, they all meet international standards when it comes to service and quality.
The Waterfall Boutique HotelSituated in the Waterkloof suburb, it has a unique position on the mountain giving its visitors a beautiful view of the city. Its garden facilities are home to some endemic birds, completing the relaxed private atmosphere with an outdoor pool, an access to shopping centers and upper class restaurants. You also have an easy access to Pretoria Central, Centurion, Midrand and Johannesburg. Prices start from $ 81 USD a room per person.
The Villas Luxury Suite HotelA 4 stars hotel, its apartments feature a kitchenette with microwave, tea and coffee making facilities, room service and a shuttle service to and from the airport. Parking is free on site as well as WiFi. It also has an outdoor swimming pool and satellite TV. Prices start from $ 122 USD a night per person.
Illyria HouseA prestigious 5 stars hotel, which offers personalized services. With fine antiques and 17th-century tapestry, this place is sometimes referred to as little paradise. It has a spa and gives the visitors a sweeping view of the City of Pretoria. It’s situated 5 minutes away from the Pretoria railway and 25 minutes from the Oliver Tambo International Airport. Prices starts from $ 203 USD a night per person.
Alpine Attitude Boutique HotelA privately owned splendid guest house, situated in the safe suburb of Menlo Park, it is just a short walk away from the Pretoria country club. Guarded 24 hours a day, it offers free parking on site, an outdoor pool, laundry and ironing services and free wireless internet. Lunch and dinner are served upon request. Prices Start from $ 100 USD a night per person.
Courtyard Hotel ArcadiaClose to the Versfeld Stadium, the facility offers a laundry section, an outdoor pool, dry cleaning services and disabled accessible rooms. Continental breakfast is served every morning. The hotel is within 35 minutes’ drive from the Oliver Tambo airport, and 10 minutes away from the Pretoria CBD. Prices start from $ 111 USD per night.
Court Classic PretoriaA 4 stars hotel, located in the diplomatic suburb of Arcadia. You’ll have a direct access to the Gauteng business centers from there, the Loftus Stadium, restaurants, cinemas, shops and cultural attractions. Completely refurbished in 2010, the hotel has 58 suites, public areas, in-room safes, a hairdryer and shaver outlets, smoking and nonsmoking rooms, individualized air conditioners and international plug adapters in all suites. Prices start from $ 106 USD a night per person.
Sheraton PretoriaWith 175 luxurious rooms and suites, it guarantees comfort and hospitality. The hotel has a health club (with gym and saunas), a swimming pool and massage rooms. Its magnolia restaurant is opened all day, for buffets at breakfast, lunch and dinner. Its terrace gives you a spectacular view over the Union Buildings, especially at night time. Prices start from $ 127 USD a night per person.
Shopping in PretoriaPretoria has a multitude of shopping centers, supermarkets and crafts markets (especially during weekends, at well-known shopping malls). These malls offer a variety of local and international goods, at competitive prices. You can buy souvenirs, local arts, food and even clothing (if needed). Restaurants and coffee shops can also be found inside the malls. The city has more than 50 malls. The safest ones, and nearest to the well-known hotels are the following:
Menlyn ParkLocated at the east suburb of Pretoria, and within a short distance from the N1 highway (the main highway to Johannesburg and the Oliver Tambo International Airport), Menlyn Park has over 300 stores, 37 restaurants and a lot of entertainment to offer. It is safe, with eight security agents stationed at each entrance of the center, and a cinema complex.
KolonnadeApart from its stores and restaurants it possess a ten–pin bowling alley (opened from 11 AM to 11 PM), an indoor-karting facility, a cinema complex and a bingo terminal.
Centurion MallSmaller than all the other malls, it still has a substantial number of stores, restaurants and free weekend entertainments.
Brooklyn MallLocated in the Brooklyn area where most diplomats are accommodated, the Brooklyn mall (not far from the Menlyn Park Mall), has many restaurants, prestigious stores (jewelry, and other luxurious items), and two cinema complexes. It also hosts different types of exhibitions from time to time.
Hatfield MallSituated not too far from the city’s University (University of Pretoria), it has a cinema complex, some restaurants, and is next to other well-known clubs, pubs, cafes and restaurants of the city.
MasterCard and Visa cards are generally accepted within the malls, you can also go to the numerous bureau de change or bank institutions present in the malls.
RestaurantsIf you want to enjoy the South African hospitality outside of your hotel complex, the city has just what you need. From local to international, it has a diversity that won’t disappoint the curious ones or lovers of fine cuisine. Here’s a list of some of the best restaurants in the city.
La MadeleineA French restaurant in Lynnwood Ridge, it specializes in French and Belgian dishes. The ambiance in the restaurant is also relaxing.
De Kloof RestaurantSpecializes in contemporary cuisine, with its breakfast brunches, dinners and late night private dining, accompanied by a beautiful modern setting.
Mike’s KitchenRecently renovated, it has a buffet made up of South African dishes (Highly recommended, the dishes are very different, but tasty).
Caraffa RestaurantWith an Italian and Greek specialty, the restaurant offers grill and vegetarian dishes. It recreates an authentic Italian experience, and generous portions of food beautifully presented.
The Ritrovo RestaurantConsidered a pre-eminent Italian restaurant, this 5 stars award winning establishment, has four dining rooms, and is frequented by diplomats and politicians. It also has a deli/bistro (less formal) section. The service is in the old school European fashion, with authentic Italian food.
Pride of IndiaThis restaurant mixes traditional and innovative North Indian cuisine, offering a menu of 100 dishes in total, cooked with quality products (one of the best restaurant in town, and the food is really fresh, with an unmatched service).
Casbah RoadhouseSituated down Voortrekkers road, its name was inspired by the show called “Casablanca”. It’s a family venture, which offers a huge variety of food, from vegetarian, seafood, fast-food, and their mouthwatering ice creams.
NightlifeThe city is considered calmer, compared to other cities in the country, possibly because of its diplomatic role, and its prestigious universities. This could be well verified during the day, but during the night, it’s a whole different city, with people from different backgrounds coming together in places, like Hatfield, Brooklyn or Menlyn. With musical trends from all over the world, there are so many venues for one to enjoy a live performance, or dance with the locals like:
Ty’s Night ClubLocated in Menlyn, it focuses on the upmarket classy environment ( so it’s safe), with state-of-the-art lighting, and RnB, hip hop, house music, electro and even 80’s music, it has the only 4 AM drinking license in the area.
Moloko ClubWith a VIP area for the discrete ones, this nightclub is located in Hatfield. Its specialty lies in the business of premium entertainment. From models to international stars, you don’t know who you can bump into there. And the music is excellent (they hire only the best DJs in the business).
Babylon Night ClubA male only club, as it is a new trend, for those who don’t want to be mixed with other communities. Situated in Centurion, in Southlake Mall, it has 500 secure parking spots, and an upstairs smoking area overlooking the dance floor.
Nu Metro Menlyn ParkOne of the biggest cinema complex in the country. Its facilities are always clean and safe (no talking or screaming during movie projections). It shows the new hit American movies, serves popcorn and others snacks for your own enjoyment. The ideal choice for movie lovers.
Cubana SunnysideIn Menlyn Park, offers breakfasts, lunch and dinner. Specializes in Portuguese food, Mexican food and pastries. It offers a comfy and casual ambiance. The restaurant is a bit crowded though, and they've had lots of complaints about the quality of food and the service management.
Oxford Old English PubIn Hatfield square, it has a dining area; an outdoor seating area and serves alcohol too (off course). It serves finger food.
The Blue Room HatfieldOffers live performances from reputed local artists, accompanied by a warm South African dish. The place is highly appreciated by foreign visitors.
Transport in Pretoria
SafetyAlthough one of the safest cities in the country, there are still reports of incidents from time to time, so try to stay discreet with your personal belongings, such as cell phones, jewelry, camera and even cash. You have a 24 hour police patrol, in places like Menlyn Park, Hatfield, Brooklyn, but stay alert, and stay in groups. Choose the safest transportation option which is to rent a car (if necessary), otherwise depend on tourists’ transportation such as Greyhound or Gautrain for sightseeing in the city. The worst that could happen is a robbery, the city is not reputed for very violent crimes.
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Author: Comasco. Last updated: Feb 02, 2015