Pretoria: South Africa's Stately Capital
Stately, affluent, pretty – these are the words guidebooks use to describe Pretoria. Situated in the northern part of the Gauteng Province the city of about a million people is one of the three capital cities of South Africa and although on a map it only looks a stone’s throw from Johannesburg there are great differences between the two cities. Historically and culturally speaking, Pretoria has always been the realm of Afrikaans, although if it continues to expand it will not be too many years before it merges with Johannesburg only 50km away.
Known sometimes as ‘Jacaranda City’ for the multitude of the purple flowering trees that line the city streets, Pretoria is a thriving university town with a laid back lifestyle that was recently rated as ‘South Africa’s happiest city’. With long hot summers and relatively short and cool winters the city is blessed with a good climate and is pleasant to visit at any time of year. Some of the things to see while in the city include the Union Buildings which is home to the South African Government, the botanical gardens, the Paul Kruger Museum, the Voortrekker Monument, Freedom Park, the Museum of Anthropology and the National Zoological Gardens, one of the world’s largest zoo’s and includes a reptile park and aquarium.
In terms of food, Pretoria has a good selection of restaurants and the prices are somewhat lower than in nearby Johannesburg. The suburbs of New Muckleneuk, Brooklyn and Hatfield, rather than the city centre, are where most locals head out to eat. It is also in these areas where the better bars and nightclubs can be found.
Travelling just a short way out of Pretoria opens up one’s possibilities substantially and you can take an excursion down a diamond mine, pay a visit to the Boer general JC Smut’s house and get up close and personal with some big cats at the De Wildt Cheetah Research Centre – where the seriously fit can even try and go running with these endangered species.