Some 60 km north of Johannesburg, within easy reach of Johannesburg International Airport, on the banks of the Apies River, lies Pretoria, “the Jacaranda City”. It is a city dominated by government services and the diplomatic corps of foreign representatives.
The city owes its nickname to the 70 000 jacaranda trees that clothe the city in a purple cloud during the months of October and November. These trees are of the species Jacaranda mimosifolia, indigenous to South America.
The formal history of the city started more than 150 years ago, in the 1840s when the first Voortrekkers arrived. In 1855 the Potchefstroom Volksraad (Parliament) approved the establishment of a town on the banks of the Apies River and by 1856 Pretoria had become the seat of Government in the Transvaal. The town was first called Pretoriusdorp, after the Boer leader Andries Pretorius, but the name was later changed to Pretoria.
Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa, continuing a tradition started many years ago. In this city, history and culture go hand in hand with modern developments, slowing down the furious pace at which modern man moves and anchoring us in history. Like all other towns and cities, Pretoria had its townships to where the Group Areas Act relegated people of other races to live. Black people lived in Atteridgeville and Mamelodi, Indian people in Laudium and Coloured people in Eersterust.
A multitude of world-class hotels and guesthouses have been built in the leafy suburbs and are within easy reach of tourist attractions and shopping centres. Both within and just beyond the boundaries of the city there are several opportunities to escape into nature and shed the pressures of big city life.
Pretoria houses nine tertiary education facilities which keep the city perpetually young, the students bringing a lasting sense of vibrancy and innovation to the city. It is also home to a large number of scientific institutes, such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute and the South African Bureau of Standards (SABS).
The Greater Pretoria Metropolitan Council has established six heritage routes that offer the visitor a look at the city’s large variety of heritage assets. These include: the Park Route, an urban stroll past Pretoria’s inner city historical buildings and monuments; the Setso Route, a route designed to introduce the visitor to the unique spirit and “feel” of the city; the Struggle and Freedom Route, a tour of the sites and monuments associated with the many wars, battles and struggles fought here; the Knowledge and Industry Route, a route through the academic, scientific and technological sectors that make Pretoria the country’s academic, scientific and technological capital; the Conservation City Route, a route through the many lovely conservation areas in the city; and the Garden City Route, to show off Pretoria’s superb parks and suburban gardens.
Adventure And Sport
Continental Off-Road Academy: The Academy near Pretoria has one of the best and roughest 4×4 trails in the country. Obstacles on the trail include mud baths, sand pits and steep concrete slopes.
Golf: Pretoria has several excellent golf courses to choose from, among them the Pretoria Country Club, Silver Lakes Estate, Woodhill, Swartkops and Wingate Park.
Moreleta Spruit (“Stream”): The Moreleta Spruit meanders through some of Pretoria’s eastern suburbs and a hiking trail has been mapped out to follow the stream. The trail leads from the point at which the outflow from the Rietvlei Dam, south-east of Pretoria, joins the Hartbees Spruit north of the Derdepoort Regional Park and goes through the Faerie Glen Nature Reserve, Meyers Park Bird Sanctuary, Struben Dam and Moreleta Park.
Rugby: Loftus Versfeld, the spiritual home of Gauteng rugby fans, lies on the corner of Lynnwood and Kirkness Streets and has hosted many international matches.
Wonderboom Skydiving Club: The Wonderboom Skydiving Club near Pretoria has one of the best drop zones in the country. It also owns a Pilatus Porter aircraft that can carry twenty skydivers at a time.
Art And Crafts
Curio and Flea Markets: Several shops, stalls and centres in the city sell African art, craft and curio items from all over the continent. The stalls and markets, such as the permanent curio market in front of the Zoological Gardens in Boom Street in town, have a more informal atmosphere and allow more interpersonal contact. All the flea markets have stalls that sell African mementoes and several vendors have set up shop on open spaces next to the road.
Engelenberg House: The house is home to the art collection built up by Dr F V Engelenberg. The collection consists of a wide variety of paintings, sculptures, silverware and bronzes, furniture, porcelain, carpets and ceramics.
Oeverzicht Art Village: The Oeverzicht Art Village in Gerhard Moerdyk Street in Sunnyside has developed a rhythm of its own. The development started when several people took the initiative and created a cultural haven in the heart of the city. The old houses have been restored and are used for shops that sell various art and crafts, or for theatres and African jazz venues.
Pretoria Art Museum: The Pretoria Art Museum in the grounds of Arcadia Park, on the corner of Schoeman and Wessel Streets, (entrance in Schoeman Street), is surrounded by a luxurious green park that is shaded by lovely trees. It includes an art library and a gallery that houses part of the Michaelis collection of Dutch and Flemish paintings, as well as contemporary South African art and international graphic art. Works by Pierneef, Van Wouw and Frans Oerder are highlights of the collection. The museum has guided tours of the regular temporary exhibitions and the permanent displays that include tapestries, sculptures and photographs.
University of Pretoria (“TUKS”): The University has several museums and art collections on its premises. These include the Van Tilburg Collection of seventeenth century Dutch furniture and art, a collection of ceramics that date back to 206 BC and artwork that focuses on the Dutch Royal House of Orange. Dr Horace H Alexander Van Gybland-Oosterhoff, an important political figure in the Netherlands, built up the House of Orange collection. Today the Van Gybland-Oosterhoff Collection is considered by many to be the largest House of Orange collection outside the Netherlands. The works of many South African artists also decorate the entrances and offices on the campus. The Mapungubwe Museum is one of the most exciting places to visit as it safeguards the artefacts found at South Africa’s fifth World Heritage Site, the Mapungubwe Archaeological Site in Limpopo.
Edoardo Villa Museum: Another art museum at the university is situated in the Old Merensky Library, a national monument. It displays the works of the Italian born sculptor Edoardo Villa. Villa came to South Africa in 1942 as a prisoner of war and made the country his permanent home. His works clearly show his European roots, but also incorporate a strong African influence. Strong use of light and shadows, texture and colours characterise his art. The museum opened in 1995 on Villa’s eightieth birthday and displays some 145 works of metal and plaster, busts, reliefs, tapestries, figures, sculptures and charcoal studies.
African Window Museum: The African Window at the National Cultural History Museum was started with the express purpose of preserving and promoting the cultural heritage of our people and features permanent as well as live cultural displays and temporary exhibitions. The live displays include song and dance, music and other art forms – a glimpse into the souls of all South African people.
Kgodwana Cultural Village: Kgodwana Cultural Village shows visitors how Ndebele home-building techniques have changed over recent years. Instead of round clay walls with thatched roofs, homes have become rectangular structures with corrugated iron roofs. Guides accompany visitors on their exploration of Ndebele building techniques and the daily lives of the villagers. The Ndebele are well known for their art and crafts and women can be seen practising the art of weaving. Their beadwork is exquisite and all the colours and patterns have different symbolic meanings. As a natural consequence of modernisation and commercialisation, many of the items made by the people have lost their traditional value and are made to appeal to public taste. This village was created for the benefit of tourists, so that they may experience Ndebele art and culture for themselves.
Marabastad Tours: Marabastad was a racially and culturally diverse area where black, Indian and coloured united, did business and protested against Apartheid. The people who sell their goods here are lively and enthusiastic and you are advised to take enough money to buy from places such as the Oriental Shopping Complex and the hawker’s market. However, do not neglect to visit the temple in the vicinity and to stand still and drink in the atmosphere before you go home to show off your purchases.
Miriammen Temple: The temple is near the Oriental Shopping Complex. This, the oldest Hindu temple in Pretoria, was built in 1905. The temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Miriammen who has the power to cure infectious diseases. Visitors should adhere to Hindu custom and remove their shoes before entering the temple.
National Cultural History Museum: The museum on the corner of Bosman and Visagie Streets, contains a collection of some 4 million objects that cover the cultural history of South Africa over the last 2 million years. The archaeological and anthropological records tell the story of human development in southern Africa, with the focus on the African tribes of Gauteng.
Siyabuswe Village: Many of the people working at Kgodwana actually live in Siyabuswe Village near Weltevreden. Visits to Siyabuswe can therefore be arranged through Kgodwana, but only by prior notice. Siyabuswe is a typical traditional Ndebele village and the royal home of King Mayitjha. Visitors may walk around his home but are not allowed to enter. Francina Ndimande has achieved international fame for her murals, and she and her family are responsible for the decoration of the nearby Catholic Church. Siyabuswe is the home village, not only of Francina, but also of many other famous artists, and visitors have the privilege of visiting these artists in their homes and seeing their work.
Entertainment And Shopping
Burgers Park: Named after Thomas Francois Burgers, the second president of the South African Republic, Burgers Park, Pretoria’s oldest park, was established in 1882 and is now a national monument. The park lies next to Melrose House at the corner of Van der Walt and Jacob Mare Streets.
Entertainment: Pretoria has many opportunities for entertainment for young and old alike. Movie theatres and entertainment centres with video, laser and computer games are found in most shopping centres. Several entertainment centres include Putt-Putt (miniature golf), bowling and snooker facilities. Then there are, of course, the numerous coffee shops and restaurants in which any type of cuisine may be enjoyed, from traditional South African fare to health foods to various cosmopolitan dishes. Several theatres where different productions are staged can also be found in the city.
Flea Markets: Several flea markets offer a pleasant shopping alternative for residents and visitors alike. In many shopping centres and in the centre of town, flea market stalls are a permanent fixture, e.g. in the section of Church Street that is reserved for pedestrians only, near Church Square. Sunday flea markets include those at Hatfield Plaza and Sunnypark. On the first Saturday of every month, an art market is held at Magnolia Dell, a beautiful park next to Queen Wilhelmina Street. Dealers are allowed to sell only goods that have been made by hand. The items on sale are truly beautiful to look at. The permanent flea market next to the Kolonnade Centre in Pretoria North has a multitude of stalls where you can shop for the entire family.
Gambling: For those who favour their chances with Lady Luck, Pretoria is surrounded by gambling opportunities. Morula Sun lies in the northern parts of Pretoria and the Carousel Casino lies about 30 minutes drive from the city, on the N1 to Polokwane.
Hatfield: The suburb of Hatfield, near the University, has become the social heart of the city. Its many restaurants, coffee shops and pubs appeal to most tastes and in the evenings it is alive with the sound of people enjoying themselves. Hatfield Square is a favourite nightspot for students.
Magnolia Dell: This tranquil park, on the corner of University and Queen Wilhelmina Roads is a lush green haven where people can stroll next to the stream, children can play in the small dam or sit on the green grass and enjoy a picnic. On the first Saturday of every month the park is filled with colourful stalls at which art and crafts are sold. The restaurant is also popular with visitors.
Museum Mall: Designed along the lines of the American Smithsonian Institute in Washington DC, the Museum Mall in the inner city will be the largest focus point of cultural resources in Africa encompassing Melrose House, Burgers Park, Transvaal Museum, the City Hall, a Children’s Museum, the Museum of Culture, the Museum of Science and Technology and the State Library. Its aim is to offer non-formal education and recreation.
Shopping Centres: Pretoria has a large number of shopping centres that include: Menlyn Shopping Centre in Atterbury Road, (the largest in Pretoria), Brooklyn Shopping Centre, Atterbury Value Mart, Sammy Marks Shopping Centre in the city centre, the Kolonnade Centre in Montana and Wonder Park in Akasia. Smaller shopping centres also abound. Examples are Hatfield Plaza in Burnett Street, Sunnypark in Sunnyside, Glenfair in Lynnwood Glen, Lynnwood Ridge Mall in Lynnwood Ridge, Meyers Park Shopping Centre in the Meyers Park/Silverton area and the Tramshed in the city centre, to name but a few.
State Theatre: Roelf and Hans Botha, who were also responsible for the design of Strijdom Square, were the architects who created the large, majestic, concrete State Theatre. The design was influenced by the Japanese building style and the building was completed in 1981. When it was completed, it was the largest centre of its kind in the southern hemisphere. The State Theatre is situated on the corner of Church and Prinsloo Streets. Visitors can be sure of viewing talented, creative people in local and international productions.
Fauna And Flora
Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary: In the heart of the busy city, surrounded by houses and businesses, lies a small patch of bird heaven. The Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary is a 12 ha park in the southern suburb of New Muckleneuk and has two dams where more than 170 species of water birds, including blue cranes, sacred ibis, the beautiful crowned cranes and herons, have made their home. Small buck can also sometimes be seen. The blue crane Restaurant looks out upon the water and blue cranes often come begging for a snack and interrupt visitors. Visitors may not enter the sanctuary, but the Louis van Bergen hide, from which the birds can be observed unobtrusively, is open to the public over weekends.
Chamberlain Bird Sanctuary: The sanctuary is in North Street in Rietondale. The local community initiated the inception of this haven and created a water habitat that attracts a wide variety of birds.
Derdepoort Recreation Resort: The Derdepoort Recreation Resort offers entertainment for the whole family on a 15 ha spread of Bushveld vegetation. The park encompasses two dams, barbecue facilities, a restaurant housed in an old restored farmhouse and a farmyard, complete with animals, that is open to the public.
Faerie Glen Nature Reserve: The Faerie Glen Nature Reserve, east of the city, covers an area of 110 ha and has interesting bird and plant life. Be on the look out for the cabbage tree, the wild plum, aloes and proteas. The reserve has three hiking routes.
Fountains Valley Nature Reserve: A little piece of nature has been preserved at the Fountains Valley Nature Reserve, situated at the entrance to Pretoria at the source of the Apies River. The 500 ha game and bird sanctuary gives people the opportunity to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life without having to travel far. Many visitors are attracted by the extra 50 ha with camping, barbecuing and picnicking facilities. The restaurant, swimming pool, small lake, play park and miniature steam train offer entertainment for the whole family. Hikers can follow several trails through the reserve.
Groenkloof Nature Reserve: The 500 ha Groenkloof Nature Reserve is one of Africa’s oldest nature conservation areas and was proclaimed by President Paul Kruger in February 1895. The reserve has several established hiking trails as well as a mountain bike route. The longest trail can be finished in two days and overnight facilities are available. The reserve also boasts mature woodland vegetation of white stinkwood trees (Celtis africana) and can be reached via the Fountains Valley Resort.
Jacaranda trees: Although most of the trees have purple blossoms, a row of trees in Herbert Baker Street, in the suburb of Groenkloof, offers an eye-catching variation — pure white blossoms.
Meyers Park Bird Sanctuary: Meyers Park Bird Sanctuary, east of the city, is a small (7 ha) sanctuary for birds. The sanctuary is part of the Moreleta Spruit Hiking Trail.
National Botanical Gardens: The Botanical Gardens in Cussonia Avenue cover an area of some 77 ha with more than 1 000 species of indigenous trees and about 800 indigenous flowering plants. Tours are conducted on Thursdays. These last for approximately two hours and include a slide show and a visit to the private nursery. The Gardens are the headquarters of the National Herbarium and were declared a national monument in 1979. The Silverton ridge divides the garden into two distinct areas with varying temperatures, which encourage the growth of a large variety of vegetation. The vegetation includes bushveld, grassland, succulent and coastal forest. Explore the Peace Garden, the cycad garden, the aloes, the ficus trail, the fynbos and the herbal garden. Important research and conservation work is done at the Botanical Gardens. The Tea Garden serves delicious food and beverages under the trees and in a “lapa” (an open, thatched shelter).
National Zoological Gardens: The gardens, usually just called the Zoo, for short are in Boom
Street, in the centre of Pretoria. From their humble beginnings in 1899, the National Zoological Gardens have gained an international reputation as a result of their successful captive breeding programmes for endangered animals. One of its most successful programmes is the one at the De Wildt Cheetah Research Centre, north of Pretoria in the North West province. To date De Wildt’s biggest achievement has been the breeding of the King (or striped) Cheetah, the only King Cheetah ever to have been born in captivity. The zoo houses some 3 500 southern African and exotic animals, including the largest antelope collection in the world. The exotic inhabitants of the Zoo include Brazilian maned wolves, Indian gaurs, European wisent and Arabian oryxes. Other inhabitants include the four great types of ape and 193 species of birds. In total, the zoo has 6 000 inhabitants. The Aquarium and Reptile House, next to the zoo, houses 180 species of freshwater fish and 130 species of marine fish, as well as several species of snakes, lizards, iguanas and crocodiles, and also boasts an amazing seashell collection. The zoo also does excellent work with the artificial insemination of birds. The animals are housed in beautiful, natural surroundings and visitors may enjoy picnics in the grounds or refreshments in the restaurant or cafeteria. The facilities are often used for social functions.
Rietvlei Nature Reserve: The 3000 – 3800 hectare Rietvlei Nature Reserve, about 20 km south of the city centre, is home to 2 000 head of game. Game lovers will appreciate the horse trails and the 21 km overnight hiking trail that the reserve contains. Be on the lookout for buffalo, white rhino, hippo, eland, zebra, wildebeest, red hartebeest, springbok and other smaller species of buck. More than 140 species of birds have been recorded here, a bonus for bird watchers. Yachtsmen and fishermen use the dam in the reserve.
Roodeplaat Dam Nature Reserve: The Roodeplaat Dam Nature Reserve lies a few km outside Pretoria, on the Moloto Road (take the Zambesi Drive off-ramp from the N1 to Polokwane). The dam was constructed between 1956 and 1959 and today provides water for the animals and birds that have found a home here. The natural beauty of the area has been preserved as far as possible and the area on the eastern shore of the dam has been declared a nature reserve. Animals to be seen here are blue wildebeest, kudu, waterbuck, warthog, duiker, impala, red hartebeest, Burchell’s zebra and steenbuck. The resort has a swimming pool, restaurant, barbecue and picnic facilities and chalets. Water sport enthusiasts also frequent the reserve. The facilities are wheelchair-friendly.
Struben Dam: Struben Dam, in the suburb of Lynnwood Glen, is a 10 ha park that is home to a wide variety of birds that includes some very rare species. People are allowed to fish from the small pier.
Wonderboom (Wonder Tree) Nature Reserve: In Voortrekker Road, Wonderboom, this Nature Reserve was established because of one tree – the “Wonder Tree”. The tree is a 23 m tall wild fig, Ficus salicifolia, which after 1 000 years, has reached a diameter of 5,5 m. A prominent Voortrekker leader, Hendrik Potgieter, discovered the tree in 1836. As the branches of the tree grew and drooped to the ground, they took root and a new circle of trees grew around the original one. The present tree consists of a central trunk and 12 auxiliary trunks. The leafy roof covers 55 square metres and 1 000 people can easily rest in its shade. Visitors may enjoy a leisurely picnic or follow the hiking trail through the reserve. Several species of birds and small animals have made their home here. The remains of the old Wonderboom Fort, built to defend Pretoria, can also be seen in the reserve.
Pretoria has six heritage routes, to suit a wide range of tastes and interests. Employ he services of a tour guide to take you to all the places and truly get to know the area.
Park Heritage Route: The route leads to, as its slogan “culture on foot” indicates, the city’s main cultural sites. Sites to be visited on this urban stroll include Melrose House, the City Hall and the Transvaal Museum to name but a few.
Atteridgeville Jazz Route Tour: The Atteridgeville Jazz Route Tour is a cultural and entertainment experience not to be missed. There is no music quite like African jazz.
Mandela Village Shebeen Tour: The Mandela Village shebeen tour brings visitors into contact with the people after a hard day at work. It is an enriching alternative to the westernised nightlife of Pretoria. Your experience will be enhanced if you make use of the services of tour guides, since they know the area well and know the best spots to visit.
Setso Route: The route has been designed to capture the unique feel of Tshwane. It passes by the Atteridgeville area and also includes the Sammy Marks Building, State Theatre and Kruger House.
Struggle and Freedom Route: The route focuses on the history of war and peace through the the city’s history and includes visits to the Voortrekker Monument, Fort Klapperkop and the Mamelodi Cemetery. An important feature of the route are the places that played an important part in the fight for a democratic South Africa.
Knowledge and Industry Route: The route certainly lives up to its name as it leads to several Universities, Technikons, and industrial estates. The sites include the National Zoological Gardens, the State Library, UNISA, Medunsa and the University of Pretoria.
Conservation City Route: The route visits the various conservation facilities in and around the city. It starts at the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary and then goes in four different directions.
Garden City Route: The route allows visitors to appreciate the cultivated nature sites of the city. Sites include the Pretoria Botanical Gardens and Magnolia Dell.
History And Architecture
Air Force Memorial and Museum: The Air Force Memorial and Museum pays tribute to South Africa’s distinguished flyers. The museum was established in 1937 and is the largest of its kind in South Africa. It is in the suburb of Valhalla, on the Air Force Base at Swartkop and houses most of the types of aircraft that have ever been used by the South African Air Force. The museum also has a shop in which gifts, models and books can be bought.
Cafe Riche: The historical Cafe Riche Building on Church Square will interest Art Nouveau enthusiasts. The ground floor area has been converted into a delightful cosmopolitan coffeehouse and the smell of coffee wafting invitingly down the street has lured many an unsuspecting passer-by.
Church Street: The 43-km long Church Street is one of the longest city thoroughfares in the world. Follow the road and take a trip down memory lane – many historical and architectural attractions line Church Street.
Church Square: In Pretoria, all roads lead to Church Square in the centre of the city. Pretoria developed around the square, traditionally the main venue for trade, recreation and religious gatherings. It has seen service as a market, an auction venue, a sports field and a tram terminus. A statue of Paul Kruger, President of the “Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek” (Old South African Republic) from 1883 to 1900, stands at the centre of the square. The millionaire businessman, Sammy Marks, had the statue made in gratitude to President Kruger for allowing a synagogue to be built in Pretoria. The statue was sculpted by the famous sculptor, Anton van Wouw, and was cast in Rome in 1899, but was only placed on the square in 1954. Historic buildings such as the Old Raadsaal, “Ons Eerste Volksbank” (our people’s First Bank), Capital Theatre, Cafe Riche and the Palace of Justice surround the Square.
Claude Malan Museum: The museum is the pet project of Claude Malan, a passionate collector of old things, and is situated at 160 Lynnwood Road, near the corner of Lynnwood and Duncan Streets. The museum exhibits souvenirs from all over the world but the emphasis is on memorabilia from the Anglo-Boer War. A range of military collectibles, gold and silver, china, antique jewellery, ageless timepieces, books and toys of yesteryear are on display. There is also a Collector’s Gallery for discerning antique collectors, with everything from stamps to art and furniture. A visit to the French-style cafe is not to be missed.
Coert Steynberg Museum: The Coert Steynberg Museum in Berg Avenue was the home and studio of another famous South African sculptor, Coert Steynberg (1905 – 1985). His statues now adorn the studio and garden. Steynberg was trained in England but his work is uniquely African. Many of his commissioned works were inspired by events in the history of South Africa.
Correctional Services Museum: Make use of the unique opportunity to share the prison experience from a safe distance. The Correctional Services Museum at the Central Prison in Potgieter Street houses exhibitions that include innovative artwork made by prisoners, illegally made objects, forged keys, tattooing machines and a variety of weapons. It also details the history of the penal system.
Democracy Wall: The Kutlawang Democracy Centre in Pretoria commissioned the Democracy Wall on the corner of Prinsloo and Visagie Streets, to be a symbol of the creativity and spirit of our people. The sculptor, Neels Coetzee, worked with others to create a wall that includes all the elements of past and present walls built in South Africa. The elements of earth, water and air are combined and African building styles are acknowledged as a legitimate form of architecture. The wall features concrete “dolosse”, granite boulders, wooden fencing and much more. Indigenous plants have already given their approval to the idea by taking root and flourishing on the site. The Early Settler Blackboard affords passersby the opportunity of making their mark on the wall. There is also a restaurant at the Centre with traditional African dishes on the menu.
Fort Klapperkop: The fort at Klapperkop dates from the Anglo-Boer War. It is one of four built after the failed Jameson raid, and can be reached via Johan Rissik Road in Waterkloof. The fort never saw action and today, the museum records the military history of South Africa from 1852 to the end of the Anglo-Boer War.
Fort Schanskop: The fort at Fort Schanskop, next to the Voortrekker Monument, is the best-preserved fortress dating from the Anglo-Boer War in the Pretoria area. To satisfy the need for people to know more about this part of our history, the Fort is open to visitors and even more developments are planned to transform it into a full-fledged historical tourism attraction.
Geological Survey Museum: The Geological Survey Museum, in the Transvaal Museum building in Paul Kruger Street, gives visitors an interesting insight into the geology and mineralogy of South Africa. It houses a collection of minerals and gemstones, as well as meteorites and fossils found in South Africa.
Heroes’ Acre: Heroes’ Acre in Church Street Cemetery is the final resting place of many prominent South African leaders. A grave that seems out of place is that of an infamous Australian soldier, Breaker Morant, who was executed for murdering a missionary during the second Anglo-Boer War.
Melrose House: Melrose House, at 275 Jacob Mare Street, opposite Burgers Park, is a beautiful example of Victorian architecture and was designed in 1886 by W T Vale, a London architect. George Heys, one of the wealthiest businessmen in Pretoria at the time and owner of a coach and transport service, commissioned the house. During the Anglo-Boer War, Lord Roberts and Lord Kitchener used the house as the headquarters of Vereeniging that ended the three-year war. Today, the lovely museum, a National Monument, houses a collection of period furniture and is a favourite venue for chamber music concerts and art exhibitions. It is closed on Mondays.
National Film and Video Archives: The National Film and Video Archives in Church Street has a wide variety of audio-visual material about South Africa. Visits include exhibitions and screenings.
Old Synagogue: The Old Synagogue in Church Street is closed to the public, but is an important historical monument. The Jewish Community of Pretoria commissioned the building of the synagogue that is typical of late nineteenth century Eastern European design. It was the first synagogue built, but as the city grew, new synagogues were built in the suburbs and the old one deconsecrated and sold in the 1950s. The 1956 Treason Trials and the 1978 inquest into the death of Steve Biko took place here.
Palace of Justice: The palace of Justice on Church Square is the oldest court building in South Africa. This Renaissance style building dates from June 1896 and saw Nelson Mandela declare his willingness to die for his country during the 1964 Treason Trial. The names of several freedom fighters, as well as anti-Apartheid slogans on a holding cell in the building bear testimony to this turbulent time in our history. The cell is now a museum. A bigger court building was built in 1993 across the road, but after renovations, the Palace once again serves a useful purpose.
Paul Kruger House Museum: Kruger House Museum in Church Street was once the home of Paul Kruger, the last president of the Transvaal Republic (1884 -1901). He and his wife, Gezina, lived here from 1883 to 1900. Two stone lions, a gift from mining magnate Barney Barnato, guard the house.
This house was the first in Pretoria to have a telephone and electricity installed. Many of the Krugers’ personal possessions, depicting their regular habits and lifestyle, have been preserved. The exhibits include several documents and medals awarded to the President by the leaders of friendly countries. The President’s personal railway coach stands behind the house and his official horse-drawn coach is housed in one of the halls.
Pierneef Museum: The Pierneef Museum in Vermeulen Street, central Pretoria, was established to honour Jacob Pierneef, a famous South African painter with a very distinctive style. Pierneef used geometrical shapes to create images of nature. The shop at the museum sells prints of his works.
Pioneer Museum: This Open-air Museum covers more than 3 ha and lies on the banks of the Moreleta Spruit (Stream). The Museum is in Pretoria Street in the eastern suburb of Silverton.
It is a typical Voortrekker (Cape Dutch Pioneers) homestead and depicts life on a Voortrekker farm.
The simple house and the items for daily use are reminders of the hardiness and tenacity possessed by these pioneers, which enabled them to tame the wild land. The house was built in 1840 and has whitewashed walls and a thatched roof. The walls are made of a mixture of earth, ant heap and cattle-dung and the floors are made of cattle-dung mixed with river stones. There is a restored horse mill, a threshing floor (where the grain of the wheat was separated from the stalks) and an authentic set of farming implements. Visitors can also enjoy a picnic or a barbecue on the premises. Demonstrations of traditional farming activities include milking cows, making butter and candles, baking bread and grinding coffee beans. Prior arrangements need to be made for these demonstrations.
Police Museum: The Police Museum in the Compol Building in Pretorius Street, near Volkstem Street, is dedicated to the men of the South African Police and includes some very interesting displays on well-known crimes and criminals. The archives provide some very valuable information for researchers and the museum also houses a collection of uniforms, medals and transport vehicles used by the police in the past.
Pretoria City Hall: The City Hall is in Paul Kruger Street and was built in classical Italian style. The inside of the building boasts 32 tower bells, stately statues of the city’s founders and the largest public hall in the country.
Pretoria Railway Station Building: The eminent architect, Sir Herbert Baker, designed the old Pretoria Railway Station Building in 1910. The railway station lies at the end of Paul Kruger Street.
Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral: A superb example of Gothic architecture is the Sacred Heart Catholic Cathedral on the corner of Skinner and Bosman Streets.
Sammy Marks Museum: The Sammy Marks Museum, just outside Pretoria, was the home of Sammy Marks, the founder of many industries in the province. In his time, he was a major driving force in the economic development of the “Zuid Afrikaansche Republiek” (Old South African Republic) and therefore in the development of present day South Africa. He was an entrepreneur, humanitarian and friend of President Paul Kruger.
His unusual last will and testament stated that nothing could be changed in his house for three generations after his death. His wish was fulfilled and today, his home holds the distinction of being the only Victorian Museum with an authentic interior. Visitors to the museum experience a feeling of stepping into a bygone era when they enter his stately home. This is not just a museum, it is a place where real people lived and loved. The forty-eight rooms of his house are filled with Victorian paintings, furniture, silver and porcelain, dating from 1884-5. Refreshments can also be enjoyed in the tea garden and restaurant on the premises and picnic baskets can be arranged for.
Science and Technology Museum: Learn something new! The Science and Technology Museum in the Didacta Building in Skinner Street offers an innovative concept that explains proven and potential scientific and technological discoveries. The displays inform and educate by using interactive models and displays. Themes include nuclear energy, biology, space, mechanics, water, physics and optics. Holograms and a weather satellite receiving station provide added interest and pieces of an early American spacecraft that landed in the Northern Province are one of the most popular exhibits.
South African Reserve Bank: The 150 m high South African Reserve Bank Building in Prinsloo Street is the tallest building in Pretoria and a familiar landmark, even from a distance. A combination of reflecting class and black Rustenburg granite, the 37-story building was built by architects Burg Doherty and Bryant. The open square in front of the building with its fountains and terraces and a stainless steel sculpture by Johan van Heerden (1930) rounds off the design.
Transport Technology Museum: The museum in the Forum Building, at the corner of Bosman and Struben Streets, where the offices of the National Department of Transport are situated, offers an interesting and educational overview of the historical modes of transport including water transport, road transport, civil aviation and expeditions to Antarctica.
Transvaal Museum: The front view of the Transvaal Museum of Natural History is unmistakable – the gigantic skeleton of a whale shows visitors the way to the entrance, which is guarded by a large elephant from Maputaland. The museum tells the story of the evolution of South Africa, its plants and animals. It starts with the small creatures that developed into reptiles and also features exhibits of ancestral fish, reptiles and dinosaurs. Humans also have their moment in the spotlight – the Museum has a fascinating display of the development of pre-historic man, using fossils and reconstructions. Life beneath the sea and in the air has also not been neglected. Together it forms a vast and impressive collection and is one of the reasons why this museum is regarded as one of the ten best museums in southern Africa. The museum, situated in Paul Kruger Street, between Visagie and Minnaar Streets, provided a base from which archaeologists such as Robert Broom could do their original research into the origins of humankind.
Their work has given life to exhibitions such as “Life’s Genesis”. The Austin Roberts Bird Hall, renowned for the sheer extent and beauty of its bird exhibits, is also housed in the museum.
Union Building: The Union Building, the seat of power of the South African government, is a magnificent example of the work of the renowned architect Sir Herbert Baker. It was designed in Graeco-Roman style, built with local red sandstone and decorated with indigenous stinkwood panelling and tiles from Vereeniging.
It is situated on top of Meintjieskop and will remain one of the city’s landmarks for a long time to come. Completed in 1913, it towers over the city like a benevolent protector. Several statues and works of art decorate the gardens and the building itself. It was on the steps of this magnificent building that President Nelson Mandela was inaugurated in 1994, in front of the largest gathering of world leaders of our time.
But it was also the place upon which thousands of women descended in 1956 to protest against the pass laws. A trip to Pretoria is not complete without a visit to this historic seat of power, where the Department of Foreign Affairs is stationed and where the President has an office.
Van Wouw House: This House was completed in 1938 and was designed by Norman Eaton. Anton van Wouw was one of South Africa’s most famous sculptors and his work adorns many buildings and houses in South Africa. Van Wouw House, the house where he used to live and work, is situated in Clark Street, Brooklyn. It also houses a collection of 84 of his sculptures and paintings.
Victoria Hotel: The oldest hotel in Pretoria, the Victoria Hotel, on the corner of Paul Kruger and Scheiding Streets, opposite Pretoria Railway Station, has been restored to its former glory. Sunday afternoons are the time for regular chamber music sessions. The hotel used to be the meeting place of the Rail Workers’ Union delegates.
Voortrekker Monument: The Voortrekker (Cape Dutch Pioneers) Monument and Museum, on Monument Hill, Eufees Road, 6 km south of the city, stands guard over Pretoria and commemorates the “Great Trek” of 1838. The Monument took 11 years to build and was completed in 1949. Some 260 steps lead up to the impressive dome. The monument is shaped as a 40 m high block of granite, ringed by a laager of 64 granite ox wagons. A bronze statue of a Voortrekker mother and children, sculpted by Anton van Wouw, guards the entrance.
The Hall of Heroes dominates the upper block of the building and has a ripple-patterned floor and a great domed ceiling. A marble frieze features highlights of the Great Trek. A granite cenotaph (a monument honouring the dead who are buried elsewhere) occupies the lower half of the building and symbolises the final resting place of Piet Retief and the other Voortrekkers who died during the Trek. At exactly noon on 16 December of every year, a ray of sunshine penetrates an aperture in the domed roof and falls on one particular spot on the memorial. This event commemorates 16 December 1838, the Battle of Blood River, when the Voortrekkers defeated the Zulus impis.
The museum next to the main hall displays an exquisite arrangement of tapestries depicting the Great Trek, as well as some Voortrekker maps and artefacts dating from the Voortrekker period. The monument also has a restaurant and a curio shop.
Onderstepoort Veterinary Research Institute: The Onderstepoort Research Institute is the principal institute of its kind in Africa. It was founded in 1908 on the farm Onderstepoort, north of the city, and is connected to the University of Pretoria, which has the only faculty of veterinary science in the country. The first director of the institute was knighted for discovering vaccines for animal diseases such as rinderpest, distemper, blue tongue and horse sickness.
University of Pretoria: The University of Pretoria campus, in the eastern suburb of Hatfield, is an interesting mix of old and new, with old, historical buildings standing next to new, modern ones. The University is not only a centre of learning but also boasts very attractive grounds. It also has an impressive art collection and a museum in the oldest building on campus.
University of South Africa (UNISA): UNISA is considered the correspondence university with the largest student enrolment in the world. The University replaced the small Correspondence University of Good Hope when it relocated to Pretoria in 1946. The campus is extensive and modern and its library is the largest in the southern hemisphere. The University is built on a hill overlooking the city and is one of the first landmarks to be seen when entering Pretoria from the Fountains Circle. It also boasts an impressive art gallery, which houses permanent and temporary exhibitions of contemporary South African art.