Nestled amongst the foothills of the rugged Magaliesberg mountains, Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. As such, it is home to numerous government ministries, foreign embassies and excellent museums, and features a charming assortment of elegant, colonial-style architecture. For anyone trying to get a feel for South Africa's past, this is a fascinating city to visit, where you'll also enjoy fabulous opportunities to shop, dine and explore the great outdoors.
Start by admiring some of the city's chief landmarks, including the grand Union Buildings, which are the headquarters of the South African government. While the handsome sandstone buildings aren't open to the public, you can explore the ornate gardens which surround them. Another major attraction is the striking Voortrekker Monument, a massive stone memorial to early Afrikaner pioneers located 3km south of the city centre.
Often known as the Jacaranda City due to the lush jacaranda trees which fill the streets with purple blooms each spring, Pretoria is a great destination for nature lovers. Highlights include the National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (more commonly known as the Pretoria Zoo), which houses over 3000 animals, birds and fish within its 85-hectare grounds. Stroll along 6km of trails to catch a glimpse of everything from tigers, lions and gorillas to koala bears, rhinos and red pandas.
The Pretoria National Botanical Garden is another must-see, with 76 hectares of dazzling ecosystems demonstrating the rich diversity of South African plant life. You can also marvel at the 1000-year-old fig tree in the Wonderboom Nature Reserve; spot some feathered friends at the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary; or engage in a range of outdoor sports and activities at the Groenkloof Nature Reserve.
For visitors keen to delve into the past, the National Cultural History Museum boasts extensive collections of rock art, Iron Age artefacts and more contemporary art and design, while the National Museum of Natural History offers displays of animal specimens and fossils, including the famous hominid skull known affectionately as Mrs Ples. You can gain even more insight into the region's history with a visit to heritage buildings such as the Pioneer Museum, the Sammy Marks Museum and the Kruger Museum.
Sports fans can catch a rugby match at Loftus Versfeld stadium, while arts lovers can attend a variety of performances at the State Theatre. And when you've had your fill of sightseeing, be sure to check out the city's lively restaurant scene and nightlife, not to mention a great selection of shopping centres.
Ready to explore this fascinating city for yourself? Book a hotel in Pretoria with Marriott and start planning your South African adventure.