Centurion is a rapidly growing suburban and business development south of Pretoria and the choice of residence for many people who work in Johannesburg. First called Lyttleton, then Verwoerdburg, but the name was changed a few years ago.
Centurion developed around Centurion Lake, a man-made lake that offers the beautiful nightly sight of the musical fountain. The restaurants and pubs that dominate the area around the lake present an ideal opportunity to watch in comfort.
The suburb of Irene lies next to Centurion and was named after Irene, the daughter of the Hungarian Alois Nellmapius, who was one of the “characters” of the old South African Republic. Irene has retained much of its village character and most inhabitants choose to live here for this very reason. It is close to the comforts offered by city life yet quiet and peaceful – for many, the ideal compromise.
Adventure And Sport
Caravan Park, Hiking and Mountain Biking: The Doornkloof Nature Reserve near the suburb of Irene offers hiking, mountain biking and accommodation in the caravan park.
Cricket: Centurion has one of the best-known cricket stadiums, Supersport Park, in South Africa and many national and international matches have been played here.
4×4 Trail: The Hennops Off-Road Trail was designed for inexperienced as well as experienced drivers and explores a terrain where zebra, blue wildebeest and blesbok, as well as a variety of birds and small animals, roam.
Hiking Trail and Picnic Spot: The Hennops Hiking Trail has a two-day trail as well as a day trail. The picnic spot has “braai” (barbecue) and swimming facilities along the river.
Entertainment And Shopping
Centurion Shopping Centre: Centurion houses a large shopping centre, built around a man-made lake, that caters for its more than 250 000 inhabitants. The Centre hosts a flea market on Sundays. The Centurion area has, in a relatively short time, also become the centre for many discount shopping outlets.
Irene Village Market: The Irene Village Market is one of the highlights of the Pretoria flea market scene. This market is held on the second and last Saturdays of every month, outside the Smuts House Museum on Doornkloof Farm, in Nellmapius Road. The market sells only handmade articles and antiques. A shopping experience not to be missed!
Fauna And Flora
Zwartkop Park Nature Reserve: The South African National Defence Force manages the 720ha Zwartkop Park Nature Reserve on the banks of the Hennops River. Explore the area via the 13 km hiking trail that starts at the Cricket Stadium and ends in the reserve. Several bird and animal species live among the lush vegetation.
History And Architecture
Air Force Memorial: On Bays Hill, the Air Force Memorial overlooks the Zwartkops Air Force Base. The memorial was built in honour of the members of the Air Force who died in action over the years. The memorial symbolises flight and is as high as a six-storey building. Shaped as a triangular star, the memorial houses a chapel in one wing and a central memorial hall. The gardens of remembrance and the fountains are at the base of the memorial.
Irene Camp Cemetery: The cemetery is a sad reminder of the many innocent people who died during the Anglo-Boer War. The Battle of Pretoria started in June 1900 near Irene and as the skirmishes continued and the British became frustrated by the guerrilla tactics of the Boers, they burned down all the farms and destroyed the livestock. Concentration camps were established at Irene to house the destitute women and children where many died due to the poor living conditions. These people are buried in the Irene Camp Cemetery.
Porcinarium or Pig Museum: The museum dedicated to the pig, is probably the only one of its kind in the world. The Animal Improvement Institute of the Agricultural Research Council has its headquarters outside Irene. Apart from its scientific research work, the institute also allows visitors to visit the museum during the week. Come and pay homage to this humble animal.
Smuts House Museum: The Smuts House Museum on Doornkloof Farm in Nellmapius Road, Irene, is the old restored family home of General Jan Christiaan Smuts: soldier, politician, statesman, philosopher and naturalist. The house was salvaged from a post-First World War military camp and is a simple wood and corrugated iron structure. The museum displays Smuts’s simple furniture and other memorabilia. Barbecue, camping and picnic spots are available on the premises.
Coin World at the South African Mint: A guided tour of the South African Mint in Gate Way includes the Coin World Museum and Shop. The tour offers a fascinating look at how South African coins and medals were made in the past and how they are made today. The shop sells a variety of souvenirs, presentation coins, jewellery and “coin watches”. The South African Mint is considered to be one of the most modern in the world and makes coins for several other countries as well.