The administrative capitals are always in the back row when it comes to tourism, and South Africa is no exception. Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa, has a somber atmosphere at a first glance because of the massive colonial heritage. When you look closely, you will realize that each of these buildings represents a significant component of South Africa’s multicultural structure. Although the city does not offer the elements of entertainment, it is still essential to visit to have a deeper insight into today’s South Africa. In this Pretoria Travel Guide, we will give you all the details for you to make the best of your time.
Best Time To Visit
Just like Johannesburg and the rest of Gauteng, Pretoria experiences a transition between subtropical and semi-arid climate. Winters are dry and sunny, although it can get as cold as 5 degrees at night. On the other hand, the summer sees overwhelming heat and humidity, as well as heavy afternoon rains. Spring (September- November) is the ideal time to visit not only because of the mild weather condition but also the Jacaranda season, where Jacaranda trees bloom in pink and purple colors, creating a Sakura atmosphere in the city.
The closest airport to Pretoria is OR Tambo International Airport, which is also close to Johannesburg. OR Tambo, as we mentioned in our Johannesburg Travel Guide, is one of the busiest airports in Africa that gets tens of regular flights from all around the world.
There is only half an hour to 45 minutes’ drive between the two cities anyway. From OR Tambo, the cheapest way to get to Pretoria is to use Gautrain, which is the subway line going through the Northern Suburbs in Joburg. From the airport, you first have to take the train to Sandton via the Yellow Line and change to the red line to go to Pretoria Center or Hatfield.
Pretoria is a smaller city compared to Johannesburg, making it easier to get around. Nevertheless, the most convenient way to get around is by hiring a car or taking an Uber.
Public transport is also reliable in certain areas. Regular buses run between Church Square and Brooklyn with various stops along the way. Also, several buses are running in Pretoria Central and Pretoria West, going to Murrayfield, Sunnyside, Colbyn, Danville, Erasmia, and Westpark. It usually costs 15 ZAR one way.
There are also shared white taxis that operate all around the city and cost 8 ZAR one way.
While public transport is decent during the day, it can be dangerous for tourists, especially in more desolate neighborhoods. This is when petty theft targets tourists.
Thing To Do
The major attractions in Pretoria involve visits to monuments, parks, and museums to get a full grasp of the country’s history during colonization, Apartheid, and post-Apartheid.
Salvokop Hill is home to Freedom Park since 2007, with panoramic views of Pretoria’s Skyline. As the name suggests, it symbolizes South Africa’s liberty from the colonist and racist regimes. Among the highlights of the museum are the Wall of Names dedicated to the activists who died during the struggle for liberation, a gallery for the leading figures of anti-apartheid activism, and a large museum that spans the entire history of the area from prehistoric times to the present day.
Nestled on another hill facing the Freedom Park, this monument creates probably the highest contrast in the country as the symbol of Afrikaner nationalism. This magnificent building was designed to commemorate the Voortrekkers, a group of Boer farmers who migrated from the Cape to the north and the east to break free from the British rule of Cape Colony. The walls on the inside have elaborate depictions of the Great Trek, and the battles fought throughout.
As the seat of government since 1913, this set of buildings is the most magnificent spot in the city, with an architecture combining Cape Dutch, Italian Renaissance, and Victorian influences. It is not allowed to enter the buildings, but you can still admire the sandstone buildings from outside and stroll around the gardens and the monuments of South African prime ministers. In front of all of this stands a 9-meter tall statue of Nelson Mandela, as he was inaugurated here in 1994.
The central area is full of World War 1 monuments and picturesque buildings like the City Hall.
Pretoria National Botanical Garden
With an area of 76 hectares, the garden contains a collection of indigenous plant species, as well as Jacaranda that are abundant in the city, after being imported from Brazil.
Kruger House Museum
This Victorian building on Church Street was once home to Paul Kruger, the President of the former Transvaal Republic, until the Anglo-Boer Wars. The house exhibits artifacts and belongings depicting his political and personal life.
Built in 1866 by a wealthy businessman, this Victorian building is one of the oldest in Pretoria. However, it gained historical importance only in 1902 as the place where the Peace Treaty was signed at the end of the Anglo-Boer War. The house is full of antiques, as well as documents related to the treaty and the negotiations.
Ditsong National Museum Of Natural History
This complex consists of eight small museums not only about South African history and culture but also about the collection of fossils of mammals and human ancestors excavated nearby.
Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Center
About 45 minutes from Pretoria, this wildlife sanctuary aims to conserve and breed species like cheetah, hyena, and wild dog.
Bunk Bed in a dorm room: 150 Zar per night
Standard double room: 450-500 Zar per night
Double Room at a 5-Star Hotel: 2000-3000 Zar per night.
Budget meal from a food market: 45-50 Zar
Breakfast+Coffee: 70-90 Zar
Fine Dining: 150-200 Zar
Gautrain from OR Tambo to Pretoria: 300 ZAR
Uber from OR Tambo to Pretoria: 550-600 ZAR
Bus fare per ride: 16 ZAR
Shared taxi fare per ride. 8 ZAR
Entrance to Voortrekker Monument: 70 ZAR pp
Entrance to Freedom Park: 60 ZAR for South Africans and 150 ZAR per Overseas visitors
A daily safari tour including transportation: 1500-2000 ZAR
Tips And Things You Might Need To Know
- Pretoria is not in the Malaria Zone
- Safety is a concern like in the rest of the country. So, you should avoid walking alone at night, leaving valuables unattended, and flashing them.
- If you have extra time, you can also visit the Cradle of Humankind, and Pilanesberg National Park, which is within 2 hours’ drive from Pretoria. Other nature reserves in the area are Rietvlei and Morelata Kloof.