During the spring months Pretoria undergoes a beautiful transformation as thousands of jacaranda trees begin to bloom with their signature purple flowers. This wonderful sight has led to the city being called Jacaranda City. The town is warm and sheltered, falling between the Highveld and Bushveld regions, and is about 50 kilometres north of Johannesburg.
Pretoria is South Africa's administrative capital and the magnificent Union Buildings overlook the town. With its rich heritage, the town offers a great mix of urban living, natural beauty, and historical interest.
The Wonderboom Airport is the main airport in Pretoria but is reserved for light and private aircraft meaning you'll probably have to land at either OR Tambo or Lanseria.
Lanseria is a smaller airport and allows you to get out of the airport and on your way in less time than at OR Tambo. It is also closer to Pretoria which is convenient. A plus to landing at OR Tambo, on the other hand, is that you can take the Gautrain to Pretoria.
Pretoria is more suburban than its city-living neighbour of Johannesburg, so expect more guesthouses and bed and breakfasts set amongst its green and purple lined streets. Look at staying in Menlo Park, Centurion, and Brooklyn. For something slightly different, why not look at staying in the quaint town of Cullinan with its historical streets and old mining houses.
Breakfast at Café Riche
Café Riche is a beautiful bistro on Church Square in the centre of Pretoria. The café was originally established in 1905, but was closed down and then re-opened in 1994 making it the oldest bistro and café in Pretoria. Fresh pastries are baked from 6am ensuring fresh croissants and baguettes throughout the day. Get your fill here before starting the day.
Walk around Church Square
Step out from Cafe Riche into Church Square. The square was founded in 1855 and since then has served as the centre of Pretoria. Originally the square was used for market and church purposes, even serving as a sports field at one stage. The square is surrounded by many architecturally and historically important buildings such as the Palace of Justice which was the scene of the Rivonia Treason Trial in which Nelson Mandela was sentenced to prison.
In 1954 the bronze statue of Paul Kruger was placed in the middle of the square and stands there to this day, surrounded by four statues of anonymous Boer soldiers. Parades occur every Wednesday from 09:30 to 10:30 in the square. The procession is led by members of the National Ceremonial Guard who are accompanied by a military band. There are often shows taking place in the square with traditional dancing and music.
The Pretoria Zoo
A major stop when in Pretoria should be the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, better known as The Pretoria Zoo. If you're concerned about it being a glorified pet shop with sad animals in small cages, don't be. The Pretoria Zoo makes sure animals are kept in safe, clean and healthy environments, and is involved in the conservation and protection of endangered species.
Established in 1899, the zoo is considered by many to be one of the top zoos in the world with over 600 000 visitors each year. Over 6 kilometres of pathways are laid out in the zoo, with golf carts available for hire. A seven minute ride on the cableway provides visitors with a beautiful view of the zoo and surrounds.
To watch our video on the zoo go to the Pretoria Zoo attraction page.
Head to the Barn and Deck Restaurant in Irene. The two restaurants are located on the Irene Diary Farm, a picturesque farm that was established in 1895.
The Barn is so-called because it is housed inside a renovated barn. The restaurant sells wonderful lunches, as well as bountiful breakfast and brunch buffets served every Saturday and Sunday. The Deck leads off from the Dairy Shop and has a light bistro feel to it with freshly made lunch options.
Jan Smuts Museum
Located just south-east of Pretoria, the Jan Smuts Museum is situated inside the house of the old statesman. The house, known as Doornkloof, is an unpretentious wood and iron farmhouse with simple decor. Jan Smuts stayed in the house for over 40 years, and it was a quiet escape where he could be with his children and grandchildren away from the public eye.
The museum is a living memoir to this very interesting soldier, statesman, scholar and philosopher. Smuts was one of South Africa's great leaders, a peaceful man who sought simplicity. The museum includes many interesting relics and insights into Smuts' life and also the history of South Africa at the time.
Head back to the centre of Pretoria to visit the historical Union Buildings, which house the offices of the President of South Africa, and are also the official seat of the South African government.
Built between 1910 and 1913, the buildings were designed by Sir Herbert Baker, and are made from light sandstone. The two wings of the buildings are designed to represent the English and Afrikaans languages and the unity of cultures.
The buildings are surrounded by beautiful, terraced gardens with a wide variety of indigenous plants, and make for some lovely walks with breath-taking views of the city of Pretoria.
Crawdaddy's is a popular local restaurant serving a variety of food but specialising in seafood. The restaurant is so popular that there are three situated across Pretoria in Menlyn, Brooklyn and Centurion. Crawdaddy's has a unique and fun atmosphere about it, with a colourful and vibrant New Orleans style decor. Outdoor terraces allow al fresco dining on warm Highveld nights.
Drive-In at Menlyn Park (Pretoria)
After dinner go to one of the only remaining drive-ins in South Africa for a trip down memory lane, as you sit in your car, tuning the radio to the right frequency, and hunkering down for a film. The drive-in is located on top of the Menlyn Park Shopping Centre and runs 7 days a week. Screenings are twice daily at 19:30 and 21:30, and at 19:30 only on Sundays.
After your day on the go, head back to your room for some rest and recuperation. To see what else there is to do in and around Pretoria head to the Pretoria Travel Guide.