Close to the ground.

GPS: S 25 44.761 E 028 11.228
pop. 2,350,000 | elevation 1,336m/4,383 ft

Pretoria is commonly referred to as the Jacaranda City because of the purple-blossomed jacaranda trees lining many of the streets. As the nation’s administrative capital, its many tall sandstone buildings house government offices, a variety of museums and historical attractions. While a bit sterile in comparison to neighboring Joburg, its size, ease of navigation, relative safety and proximity to Joburg and nearby attractions make it a pleasant location to visit. Pretoria has a strong Afrikaner flavor where the English language takes a back seat to the much more prevalently spoken Afrikaans.


Pretoria has been considered a Boer stronghold and seat of governance since its founding by Voortrekkers in 1855. Prior to its administrative conception, Nguni-speaking settlers who became known as Ndebele (meaning “refugees” in Sotho) inhabited the area of present-day Pretoria, from as early as 1600. Another Ndebele group, the Khumalo clan led by Chief Mzilikazi, took over the area in the 1820s. Their reign was short-lived as attacks from encroaching Voortrekkers and far-reaching factions of the Zulu army pushed them north. The founding of Pretoria in 1855- named after Andries Pretorius, the famous Boer war hero of the Battle of Blood River - marked the end of the Boer Great Trek. It became the administrative capital of the newly established, independent Boer Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek (ZAR) in 1860.

In 1877, the British annexed the ZAR, leading to the First Boer War of independence. Boer independence was restored in August 3, 1881 with the signing of the peace treaty at the Pretoria Convention. From their seat of government, the Boers in Pretoria watched as Johannesburg in the south exploded with gold prospectors following the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand in the 1880s. In order to maintain control as uitlanders (foreigners) flooded their republic, the Boers passed a series of laws restricting the rights of all non-Boers. However, with rising fears that the mainly British mine barons had designs on taking over their republic, the Boers amassed weaponry at the end of the century and launched a preemptive attack against the British in 1899.

By June 5, 1900, Pretoria had surrendered to the British forces, and less than a year later they had lost their republic to the British Empire. When the Union of South Africa was declared in 1910, Pretoria became the administrative capital of the Union. In the following years, the British poured money into developing and beautifying the capital city, commissioning Sir Herbert Baker to design and construct the impressive Union Buildings that still stand today.

In 1948 the National Party assumed the government seat in Pretoria. Home to politicians, diplomats and civil servants, Pretoria grew as the symbol of white minority governance and the beacon of Apartheid. Pretoria’s reputation was further blemished as it housed the country’s central prison, where many anti-Apartheid activists were held.

The rise of political opposition to Apartheid and outbreaks of violent clashes between the police and black activists in other parts of the province and country led to the banning of the ANC and PAC, forcing their leaders to either work underground or in exile. Three years later, top leaders of the ANC were arrested at Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia. In 1964, Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, and other ANC leaders were convicted of treason in Pretoria and sentenced to life imprisonment in what later became known as the famous Rivonia Trial.

Post-Apartheid, the city has been given a chance to renew itself and its image. The 1994 inauguration of the first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela, in Pretoria’s Union Buildings was an important and symbolic step forward for the reunification of the country and the beginning of a new era.

In 2000, the metropolitan area, including Pretoria and the surrounding towns, was renamed Tshwane, as part of a countrywide effort to repeal the legacy of oppression and Apartheid. Controversy continues about the use of Pretoria, as the name is still widely used to reference the entire metropolitan area. Some wish to see Tshwane completely replace Pretoria, but for the time being, both names remain.

Church Square

Church Square has marked the city center of Pretoria since 1855. In the center of the square is a large bronze statue of Paul Kruger that was cast in Italy around 1900, and displayed at various locations throughout the city until it was moved to its current location in 1954. Surrounding the square are a number of historically significant buildings. The Palace of Justice was the location of the 1963-64 Rivonia Trial in which leaders of the ANC, including Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, and Govan Mbeki, were tried and convicted of treason and consequently spent decades imprisoned at Robben Island. The Ou Raadsaal (old government building) is another architecturally impressive building that was erected by the Boer ZAR government in 1877 and has since served as the seat of various government bodies.

Freedom Park

Freedom Park is a massive undertaking that includes a park, memorials and a conference facility dedicated to those who died in the pursuit of freedom. In 1999, Nelson Mandela gave a speech in which he said, "the day should not be far off, when we shall have a people's shrine, a freedom park, where we shall honor with all the dignity they deserve, those who endured pain so we should experience the joy of freedom." Today the 52 hectare park has a number of memorials including Isivivane, a mist-filled resting place for the spirits of those who died in the struggles for humanity and freedom, and the Wall of Names, a 697 meter structure engraved with the names of those who died during eight major conflicts that shaped South Africa's history. The park first opened to visitors in 2006 and is not scheduled to be completed until 2012. While the park is under construction, entrance is limited to guided tours through the park via golf cart that last about 1.5 hrs.

Union Buildings

Union Buildings are the sandstone buildings built by Sir Herbert Baker between 1910-13 that house the Office of the President and the executive branch of the South African government. In front of the Union Buildings is an expansive terraced garden that, together with statues and monuments, overlooks the city of Pretoria. The buildings are not open to the public, but visitors can walk through the surrounding indigenous gardens and view the South African Police Memorial, bronze statues of a few South African leaders, and the Delville Wood War Memorial which commemorates the South Africans who died during the First World War.

Voortrekker Monument & Nature Reserve

Voortrekker Monument & Nature Reserve is a massive 40-meter tall granite structure completed in 1949 to commemorate the history of the Voortrekkers who pushed north into the country from the cape during the Great Trek between 1835-54. Inside on the main level is the Hall of Heroes with a historical marble frieze covering the history of the Great Trek. In the level below is a small museum and in the center of Cenotaph Hall, an empty tomb engraved with the Afrikaans words "Ons vir Jou, Suid-Afrika" (We for Thee, South Africa). A small hole in the dome of the monument is placed such that a ray of light strikes the engraved words atop the Cenotaph on Dec. 16. On that day in 1838, a group of 470 Voortrekkers led by Andries Pretorius defeated and killed thousands of Zulus in what became known as the Battle of Blood River. You can climb stairs at each of the four corners to the top lookout points which provide a view of Pretoria. There is also a restaurant, café, Internet, and a foreign exchange office at the monument site.

Paul Kruger House Museum

Paul Kruger House Museum is the house in which President Paul Kruger lived with his family from 1884 to 1900. In addition to the house there are two other buildings that contain personal possessions of the president including his state coach and ox wagon, and exhibits that cover his exile in Europe. In the back of the house is the Presidential Railway Coach he used to travel throughout the country on official business and campaign trips. His last trip in the coach was when he fled from Pretoria to Maputo as the British approached the city in 1900 during the Anglo-Boer War.

Melrose House

Melrose House is a three-story Victorian House that was built in 1886 as the private residence of businessman George Hays. It was requisitioned by the British and became the Imperial Headquarters of South Africa during the 1899-1902 Anglo-Boer War. It served as the residence of British commanders and the site of British-Boer negotiations that eventually led to the peace treaty that was signed in the dining room of the house. There are audio guides available in multiple languages.

South African Police Museum

South African Police Museum displays various transport vehicles and methods used by the SAPS to perform security and emergency services over the past 100 years. This includes motorcycles, boats, stuffed camels, horse drawn ambulances and armored personnel carriers. The original SAPS Museum, located across Volkstem St, contains old SAPS weapons and history on crime scenes and the riots of 1976. It has been closed for renovation for the past three years but it is possible to arrange a guided tour (with the staff at the current SAPS museum next door) if you have a large group or are particularly interested.

National Cultural History Museum

National Cultural History Museum is a large museum with a number of impressive permanent displays that include San rock paintings, Early Iron Age figurines used in female initiation traditions and lobola (bridal wealth), and a number of more recent art displays from prominent South African artists. There is also an exhibit on the Apartheid-era forced removal of people from Pretoria as well as rotating temporary exhibits.

Transvaal Museum

Transvaal Museum is a large museum situated across from City Hall that has hundreds of large animals on display. Its main attraction is the Genesis of Life exhibit, which takes visitors through the development of the animal kingdom from single-celled organisms to the human being. There are large replicas of dinosaur skeletons as well as displays on birds, insects and a collection of minerals, crystals and gemstones.

Pretoria Art Museum

Pretoria Art Museum started out to house the City Council's art collection and currently contains sculptures, tapestries and paintings ranging from the 17th century to modern works. The art pieces originate from both South Africa and the rest of the continent.

Pretoria National Zoological Gardens

Pretoria National Zoological Gardens was established in 1899 and today is the largest zoo in the country, containing roughly 6 km of walkways spread over 76 hectares. The zoo has nearly 1,000 different species of animals and includes an aquarium and amphibian park. You can walk, take a cableway for a scenic view, ride a train or rent a golf cart to navigate the grounds.

Correctional Services Museum

Correctional Services Museum displays the history and development of the penal system in South Africa, including displays of the "ball and chain" that were cuffed to prisoners' ankles. It also includes contraband confiscated from prisoners such as forged money, tattooing machines and home made shanks and knives. If you are not allowed to enter through the gate on Porgeiter St, you can enter through the back, which will allow you to experience the incredible lack of security around the "high security detention facility" as well as around the neighboring military and air force buildings.


Footprints in Africa

Footprints in Africa is the most established and organized budget tour organizer in Pretoria and is operated out of Pretoria Backpackers. They do Joburg and Pretoria city tours and any of the nearby attractions, as well as arrange overland tours throughout southern Africa.

Siyazakha Travel & Tours

Siyazakha Travel & Tours promotes itself as a 100% black-owned company that employs historically disadvantaged individuals and offers day trips to all of the sights & activities listed in the "Around Pretoria" section as well as tours to Mamelodi, Pretoria's largest township.

Blue Chilli Adventures

Blue Chilli Adventures is based at Blue Chilli Backpackers. They can book you with any of the larger tour companies or one of their staff can take you on your own custom tour throughout South Africa and southern Africa.

Hatfield Flea Market

Hatfield Flea Market is one of the more popular flea markets in Pretoria selling a wide range of items from paintings, crafts and curios to antiques, clothing, and furniture. There is also a food court and occasional live entertainment.

Pretoria Boeremark/Farmers Market

Pretoria Boeremark/Farmers Market is located under the shade of the trees in Pioneer Park Museum where farmers sell fresh produce, meat and herbs as well as cheese, cakes, jams, coffee, pickles and homemade snacks.

Irene Village Market

Irene Village Market is located on the shady grounds of the Smuts House Museum with over 300 vendors selling crafts, curios, antiques, clothes and flowers. There is also a large, relaxing tea garden and plenty of food stalls if you get hungry. To get there from Pretoria head south on the N1 to the Botha St exit. Go south on Botha St about 2 km to Nelmapius Rd/M31. Take a left heading east on Nelmapius St for about 200m and then right/south onto 23rd St. Continue 1.5 km to the museum. There are also signs directing you toward the Smuts House Museum from the N14/R28 and R21.

Magnolia Dell Flea Market

Magnolia Dell Flea Market has true flea market flair, featuring furniture and household items.

Hatfield Square

Hatfield Square is a large open courtyard surrounded primarily by bars and is one of the main destinations that the student crowd heads for evening drinks. In addition to the bars there is a foreign exchange office, Internet café, plenty of ATMs and a post office.

Hatfield Plaza Mall

Hatfield Plaza Mall has restaurants, boutique and clothing shops, a Pick 'n Pay supermarket, an ABSA bank and ATMs.

Design Square Mall

Design Square Mall is a mall with an open air courtyard that has a number of restaurants and cafés with outdoor seating. Inside there is a Pick n' Pay supermarket, clothing shops, an Internet café and ATMs.

Brooklyn Mall

Brooklyn Mall has a jungle mini golf course between the parking ramp and mall, a number of chain restaurants, an Internet café, travel center, ATMs and two cinemas.

Pretoria has many pleasant accommodation options scattered throughout the city. Most of the budget accommodation is located in Hatfield - home to Pretoria University - where plenty of good bars and inexpensive restaurants support the student crowd. The Victoria Hotel is located across the street from the train and bus station and is a good option when arriving or departing at odd hours.

Pretoria Backpackers

Pretoria Backpackers is a quality backpackers that has been around since the early 90s. The large main house has a number of rooms, spacious lounge/dining area and a shaded tropical-looking garden in back with a braai and a handful of tables spaced out among fountains, a goldfish stream, and a roaming pet chicken. The annex building across the street has more rooms and a swimming pool. They sell beer but you can also bring your own drinks. A continental breakfast is included with the room rate.

1322 Backpackers International

1322 Backpackers International is a secure, well-kept backpackers run by a friendly young couple. It is a nice place to stay, but has a list of rules longer than any other backpackers in the country (rules on how to use the sheets and blankets, rules against folding the pillow under your head while sleeping; thankfully, they don't appear to be strictly enforced). It has a TV lounge room, bar, and outdoor lapa and braai area overlooking a manicured lawn and swimming pool.

Blue Chilli Backpackers Lodge

Blue Chilli Backpackers Lodge has a laidback atmosphere with a similarly relaxed level of organization and maintenance. It is a full-service backpackers when the owner and staff are around (which is not always the case) with a lounge inside, picnic tables and a braai out by the pool and some shady trees to relax under. It also runs its own tours throughout South Africa and southern Africa and can create a custom itinerary for a small group.

North South Backpackers

North South Backpackers is a quiet staff-run backpackers that also runs a tour booking business to arrange for common tours around Pretoria, to Joburg/Soweto and Kruger National Park. It is a fairly bland place in comparison to the other backpackers in the city and there have been numerous reports of theft--everything from laundry hanging out to dry to high-value items such as laptops. Rumors indicate the thefts may be inside jobs.

Hotel 224

Hotel 224 is a 15 floor high-rise hotel with a bar, restaurant and outdoor café. Rooms on the top floors offer incredible views of the Union Buildings or of the city with the Voortrekker Monument in the distance. The rooms are on the smaller side but respectable and have TV and AC.

La Maison

La Maison has a cozy home feel with paintings in each of the six rooms and throughout the building. All rooms have sitting balconies, TV and AC. It is conveniently located within walking distance to Hatfield and has a Portuguese restaurant attached to the building.

B' Guest House

B' Guest House is a pleasant home with a large stained glass window and a welcoming sitting lounge. The house recently received heritage status marking its 80th year of existence. All nine rooms have TV, AC and their own direct entrance. Outside is a tree shaded sitting area next to the swimming pool.

Victoria Hotel

Victoria Hotel was established in 1894 and is Pretoria's oldest operating hotel. No two rooms are the same, as each have a designated name and layout, with the original floors and doors preserved. A number of the rooms open up into a closed veranda with a view of the train station. There is a breakfast and lunch buffet (R30) served in the dining room downstairs which also has a small pub. In the back there is a garden and old horse stables that are now used for parking. It is conveniently close to the train and bus stations.

Manhattan Hotel

Manhattan Hotel has a recently renovated modern marble lobby, bar and large restaurant with slightly less modern but comfortable rooms. There aren't many options for going out within walking distance, but the onsite bar and restaurant are good options, especially the extravagant breakfast buffet (R120).

Court Classique

Court Classique is a noticeably professionally run 4-star operation. Modern-styled rooms with kitchenettes are spread throughout palm tree covered paths and gardens. There is a good onsite restaurant and a complimentary shuttle for transport anywhere within the city. By the same owners and adjoining the property is slightly less expensive accommodation in the former South African Navy apartments (s R760, d R870, breakfast included) from which there is access to the amenities of the Court Classique.

Protea Manor

Protea Manor is a modern new addition to the Protea Hotel chain located in the center of the action in Hatfield on Burnett St. The hotel is surrounded by nightlife and plenty of dining options, including the in-house restaurant.

Illyria House

Illyria House is the grandest of guest houses with six rooms opulently furnished with antique French décor and balconies opening up over a large lawn with soft shaded reclining beds. The house provides impeccable personalized service including your own private butler and custom meals, and can arrange for an array of activities such as private cultural tours, horse riding, golf or hot air balloon trips.

Most of the restaurants in Pretoria are located in the Hatfield or Brooklyn area. Hatfield restaurants tend to be less formal and cater more to the budget crowd. If you're looking for something more fancy, Brooklyn is home to many of the upmarket restaurants in the city.



Crawdaddy's is an established seafood spot with fresh oysters, snails, mussels and prawns that can be enjoyed from the large outdoor deck. The restaurant, which attracts a crowd for lunch and dinner, also has plenty of non-seafood options including steaks, curries and stir fries.


Adega is one of a small chain of primarily Gauteng Portuguese restaurants with a large sushi selection and wine list in addition to the traditional fish, prawn and steak options. There is a Sunday buffet from noon-3pm (R110) and an all-you-can-eat ribs and prawn option on Monday from 6-10pm (R95).


O'Galito is a linen tablecloth fine dining establishment with good service that has been operating for a number of years, but has recently relocated to its new digs. The small circular inside opens up onto a larger covered second-story deck. The menu is Portuguese, seafood, & sushi with some South African influences - the specialty here is lobster, prawns and oysters. There are two additional upmarket restaurants (Kream and Pangea) with similar settings located just a few steps down the pedestrian walkway.

Blue Crane Restaurant

Blue Crane Restaurant is located in the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary. The large shaded seating area overlooks a lake that serves as a breeding ground for the South African national bird, the blue crane. They have an English/ Afrikaans menu with everything from sandwiches & light meals to lamb neck curry and bone marrow topped with brandy pepper sauce.

Lotus Thai

Lotus Thai is a classy Thai-fusion and sushi restaurant with a modern interior design centered around an elevated sushi bar. Outside there is bamboo shaded seating as well as a few private pagodas. The specialties are curries and stir fry and there is a sushi buffet on Sunday from noon- 3pm (R90).

City Center

Café Richie

Café Richie is a classic old Pretoria café that was initially established in its current location in 1905 and re-established under new ownership in its current form in 1994. Located beside Church Square it is a convenient spot to stop for a drink or bite to eat anytime of the day. In addition to pub lunches they serve breakfast, sandwiches and full hot bistro meals.


Kariba has a handful of tasty traditional African dishes with samp, pap, or ting, steaks and two vegetarian options. The restaurant is centrally located just off of Church Square and is a popular lunch spot.


Papa's Real Food

Papa's Real Food is a formal restaurant tastefully fitted with antiques, sculptures and paintings and a small shaded outdoor eating area in front. The detailed menu has been carefully selected with equal care given to preparing the meals which include starters, salads, pasta, meat & poultry and a handful of homemade desserts.

Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings is a Jamaican Rastafarian themed restaurant and bar that feels like it could open up onto the beach - except that there is no beach. The food menu has breakfast, burgers, pizzas and curries as well as "da nibbles" and "sand munchies."

Tings an' Times

Tings an' Times is a restaurant and bar with more than a mild Rastafarian influence. It has a good selection of light meals, skewers, and a number of vegetarian dishes.

Bravo Pizzeria

Bravo Pizzeria is a small, laidback, wood-fired, clay oven pizzeria serving some tasty thin crust pizzas. Inside are a couple of arcade games you can play while waiting for your order. They host live music on Wednesday nights.

Hatfield Square and the surrounding area have more bars than could fit into a one-night pub crawl. These bars cater to and are generally well supported by students from the nearby University of Pretoria. Brooklyn and Sunnyside each have a handful of good establishments with their own distinct flavor.


Eastwoods is a popular afternoon lunch spot with its outdoor patio where most patrons drink draft beer from one liter mugs. It attracts an even larger crowd in the evenings with two full bars inside. It has been voted the "best place to have a cold beer" and "best bar" by Pretoria News readers.

Times 4

Times 4 is the place to go if you're looking for a night out in Sunnyside. This place may not get a lot of writeups, but it is at the top of the list of clubs in Pretoria. It's an inner-city predominantly black club with awesome dance-offs. You can relax at the tables in back with lava lamps and neon palm trees or get into the thick of it up front and dance with Gauteng's best.


Trademarx is a spacious sports bar overlooking a rugby field with plenty of TVs and a good sized bar. It has a decent menu that includes pub food and much more. On Tuesdays it's 2-for-1 and is packed like sardines with primarily 18-22 year-olds who seem to have two things on their mind - one of which is getting drunk.



Legends is a multi-level dance club and was voted one of South Africa's best gay nightclubs in 2008/09.


Tings an' Times

Tings an' Times is a restaurant and bar with more than a mild Rastafarian influence. It has an active live music scene with performances throughout both the week and weekend.

Cool Runnings

Cool Runnings is a Jamaican Rastafarian themed restaurant and bar that has the feel of a bar that could open up onto the beach. There are about 40 specialized shooters for R11 - each with their own clever name and all the cocktails you would expect at a Jamaican beach bar. Its relaxed atmosphere and reasonable prices cause it to fill with a student crowd, especially on weekends.

Herr Gunthers

Herr Gunthers is one of the more popular bars among a handful of mostly student bars located in Hatfield square. This German establishment serves up tall glasses of beer and pub food on picnic tables.

Drop Zone

Drop Zone is a club with an active list of specials and events all week long. It pulls in some big name DJs that attract a booze-filled crowd of dancers. If the dance floor is not your scene, you can relax and enjoy the scenery in the VIP lounge.