Pretoria Travel Guide
Introduction to Pretoria
While Johannesburg is thought of as the capital of South Africa, most administrative functions of the South African government are situated in the city of Pretoria.
Situated a short distance to the northeast, the city stands in contrast to the mine-scarred landscape that maligns Johannesburg, as there is plenty of greenery to be found everywhere you look.
Being home to many of South Africa’s government institutions, there are many historical and cultural attractions that are just waiting to be discovered by travelers just like you.
Cultural Attractions in Pretoria
One of the most prominent landmarks in Pretoria is the Voortrekker Monument. Completed in 1947, it pays tribute to disillusioned Boers that trekked into the interior of South Africa to establish their own state.
In its sides, the faces of people that performed heroic acts during the dangerous push inland are carved. Another feature to look for if you are in Pretoria at the right time is a hole in the roof of the monument, which allows a beam of sunlight to shine inside on December 16th.
This pays tribute to the day when the Boers defeated a Zulu King that was directing ambushes against them, which were resulting in heavy losses on the side of the pioneers. Standing 40 meters high and sitting atop one of the tallest hills in the city, it is nearly impossible to miss this monolithic monument.
Next, pay a visit to the Union Buildings. It is here where the government of South Africa conducts their business. The president of the country also has his working office here. With plenty of statues of historical significance being found throughout the gardens as well, there is plenty to see and experience here.
Those wanting a panoramic shot of the city of Pretoria will also want to come here, as the Union Buildings were purposely built on the highest hilltop in the area, granting choice views of the downtown core.
Kruger House is another historical attraction in Pretoria that is worth a visit. Prior to the amalgamation of the South African Republic into British-controlled parts of South Africa, this place served as the home of its president, Paul Kruger. It was the first home in the city to be electrified and to have phones installed in the late 19th century.
However, he didn’t get a chance to enjoy its luxuries for long, as he was driven out of his home and into exile after losing the second Boer war against the British.
Other Attractions in Pretoria
Fans of conservation will want to drop by the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre. Started in 1971 when they were only 700 cheetahs remaining in South Africa, they have played a major role in the rehabilitation of this beautiful animal.
In the years following its founding, it has also focused on breeding Hyenas, African Wild Dogs and Cape Vultures. A non-profit institution, the world-class conservation work performed here depends heavily on donations and income earned from tourist visits, so don’t be shy – go ahead and pay this wonderful facility a visit.
If you are jonesing for more wildlife experiences, head over to Rietvlei Nature Reserve. Only a short drive from Pretoria city limits, dropping by this reserve is a good substitute for going on a proper safari if a place like Kruger National Park is out of your budget.
Spanning 3,800 hectares of land, there is plenty of room for its wildlife to roam, although a small group of lions and lionesses are penned up in a separate enclosure for the safety of the reserve’s more peaceful inhabitants. Other animals such as rhinos, hippos, zebras, and water buffaloes can be seen roaming around the rest of its savannah landscape, so get your zoom lens ready for an afternoon that you’ll remember forever.
If you are looking for a low-key and relaxing activity after all that excitement, spend a couple of hours exploring the Pretoria National Botanical Garden. Divided into a number of gardens exhibiting the variety of flora found in the area, it is the perfect place to go if your travels are beginning to wear you down.
Between the beauty of its flowers, the serenity of its waterfalls, and the dignity of its afternoon teas, a visit here might be the thing you need to recharge your batteries.