If in the vicinity of Johannesburg, on your South Africa vacation, do consider a visit to Pretoria, which is very close by and well worth the effort.
Pretoria, South Africa’s administrative capital and one of the country’s three capital cities, lies 55 kilometres/35 miles north east of Johannesburg. It is known as the “Jacaranda City” because of its thousands of jacaranda trees found in its streets, parks, and gardens. You will notice that it has many diverse cultural influences especially reflected in its architecture, which ranges from 19th Century Dutch, German, and British Colonial to Art Deco and modern styles.
The Union Buildings
Dominating the Pretoria skyline are the extensive, easily recognized Union Buildings, seat of the national government. They also house the offices of the president of South Africa. The lush gardens surrounding the buildings are a popular picnic venue and the structure itself is considered an architectural masterpiece. The attractively terraced gardens are a backdrop to various monuments, including one of General Louis Botha, the first prime minister of the Union of South Africa.
The Voortrekker Monument
Another major landmark is the Voortrekker Monument, located on a hill overlooking Pretoria. This very large monument was built to commemorate the epic exodus of disillusioned Boers from the Cape into the interior. The story of this trek and its consequences is very interesting. In what has come to be known as the Great Trek, thousands of Boers began migrating from the Cape in 1835. The local Zulu king at the time was frightened by the large number of settlers and massacred one group and ambushed another before he and his warriors were defeated. The monument is ringed with 64 granite ox-wagons and inside contains a frieze of the Boer heroics. The large surrounding grounds have been declared a National Nature Reserve in which small game abounds. The monument was opened in 1949.
Other Interesting Pretoria Sites
Apart from these two outstanding landmarks, Pretoria has a large amount of historical buildings, monuments, and museums that can be visited on your South Africa vacation. These include the City Hall, the Transvaal Museum – the country’s leading natural history museum, the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa, the Pretoria Art Museum – home to a vast collection of local artworks, and the National Cultural History Museum.
Another interesting building is Kruger House, the historical Pretoria residence of the Boer leader and President of the South African Republic, Paul Kruger, built in 1884. The house contains either the original furnishings or items from the same historical period. It is now a museum which recreates the ambience of the period that Kruger lived in.
Freedom Park is a memorial and sanctuary which was designed to pay tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice for human rights and their country during South Africa’s turbulent history. It helps to take a guided tour to gain a better understanding of the complex, historical, ideological, and spiritual themes depicted in the architecture here. The Wall of Names is a massive 700 metre/2275 feet long structure that records the 75,000 names of the many lives lost in the eight major conflicts that shaped South Africa.
And There’s Wildlife Viewing on your South Africa Vacation…
Just outside of Pretoria is the Groenkloof Nature Reserve, proclaimed a game sanctuary by President Paul Kruger in 1895, the first in Africa. Its main purpose was to protect game that was being wiped out by hunters. The wildlife on the reserve includes zebra, jackal, duiker, kudu, impala, blue wildebeest, red hartebeest, ostrich, giraffe, and sable. The rich bird life will keep bird lovers busy for hours on end.
The Rietvlei Nature Reserve lies to the south of Pretoria and is home to game that is endemic to the highveld, and, because of its open grassland landscape, offers visitors a unique opportunity to view many species of animals. Some of these occur naturally only in South Africa, such as the black wildebeest and the blesbok. Other animals include the world’s largest antelope, the eland, Burchell’s zebra, red hartebeest, springbok, waterbuck, reedbuck, ostrich, and two of Africa’s “Big Five,” buffalo and white rhino.