Pretoria is the executive and de facto capital of South Africa – a country which has three capital cities. It is located in the Gauteng province within the City of Tshwane municipality. The city covers an area of 687.54 sq km and had an approximate population of 741,651 in 2011.
The city was besieged during the First Boer War and the treaty ending the war was also signed here. Several forts were built here during the Boer Wars. When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, Pretoria became its administrative capital and retained this status when the country became a Republic in 1961.
Pretoria lies in the north-eastern part of South Africa at an approximate distance of 55 kms from Johannesburg. It is located between the High Veldt to the north and the lower-lying Bush Veldt to the south. The city has an average elevation of 1,350 meters above sea level. It forms a sheltered valley surrounded by the Magaliesberg ranges.
The city enjoys a moderately dry subtropical climate with long, hot moist summers and short, cool, dry winters. In spite of its altitude, the city has a warm climate because of its sheltered position. Cold waves may occur during July and August and the evenings are quite cold. Frost is common, but snow is rare in this city. Besides, short but violent thunderstorms also occur during noon in the months of November to February.
How to reach (transport) :
You can travel to Pretoria in various ways. These are as follows :
By Air : You can fly to the Or Tambo International airport in Johannesburg and then travel by taxi or shuttle to Pretoria along the Albertina Sisulu Highway or R21.
By Road : Frequent buses connect Pretoria with all major cities of South Africa. N1, N3, N4, N12, and N14 national highways connect Pretoria with the rest of the country.
By Rail : The main railway station of Pretoria is located just southeast of the city center. Trains connect the city with other destinations of the country like Johannesburg, Polokwane, Musina, Nelspruit, Witbank, and the Mozambique border.
When to visit :
The best and most preferred time to visit Pretoria is in the month of October, when the climate is mild and pleasant, and the numerous jacaranda trees are in full bloom and their fragrance spreads to every corner of the city.
Culture (Fairs and Festivals) and Traditions :
Pretoria is growing at a steady pace and will soon become a megalopolis. The rich culture and heritage is celebrated with the help of following festivals :
- The antique and crafts fair is held twice a year in May and mid December. More than 150 stalls are set up and it is a great place to pick up traditional artifacts and mementoes.
- Former President Nelson Mandela’s birthday, on 18th July, is celebrated with parties and social gatherings.
- The Springbok Vasbyt held in July is a sporting event that includes races.
- The Pretoria show is a huge agricultural show held between August and September. A number of agricultural events are held and farmers from the entire northern part of the country take part in it. There are competitions and exhibitions.
- The Jacaranda festival is held in October, when these trees are in full bloom. It is a colorful time for the city with food stalls, flea markets, concerts, and shows.
- The Jazz Indaba festival is a highly anticipated event held four times a year. Local and international artists perform for a very enthusiastic audience.
- The National Heritage Day is celebrated on 24th September with an event to promote African culture, heritage, and language.
Apart from these, several National days like the Day of Reconciliation on 16th December, the Human Rights Day on 21st March, and the Youth Day on 16th June, etc., are celebrated.
Points of interest (places to visit) :
There are several important sights in Pretoria. These are :
- The Union Building is the residence of the President and is a beautiful mansion and garden complex designed by Sir Herbert Baker.
- The Voortrekker monument and nature reserve is one of the most significant landmarks, paying tribute to the Voortrekkers, who trekked here from the coastal region.
- The Paul Kruger House Museum contains memorabilia from the life of former President Paul Kruger.
- The Transvaal museum is a grand museum with diverse exhibits of natural history.
- The National Cultural History museum contains items important to the heritage and culture of Africa.
- The Wonderboom is a fig tree which is more than a 1,000 years old.
Pretoria offers vast choice of accommodation of all budgets to travelers. Those who don’t mind spending on their vacation can plan their stay at the 5-star, 4-star, or 3-star hotels. The 5-star hotels include Sheraton and Iliriya House while 4-star hotels include Aloe, Melvin Residence, Osborne house, Marloot, Hampton House etc. Three-star hotels include Arcadia, Protea, Holiday Inn, Sentinel, etc. If you are traveling on a budget, then Pretoria offers a large number of budget hotels like Friends Accommodation Services, 1322 Backpackers, and Pretoria Backpackers.
Last Updated : February 15, 2014