What makes a city truly great? Is it the food? The culture? It’s natural beauty? Perhaps the architecture? Or its place in history? The party scene? The sports teams? No doubt, these qualities contribute to making a city a good place visit, be it to briefly experience it’s treasurers or better still a place to live. But these things, as interesting, eye catching, beautiful, and exciting as they may be, on their own they don’t give a city HEART.
With so many unique gems to visit like the Tswaing Meteorite crater, one of four known impact craters in South Africa and one of about 170 impact craters in the world. The Premier Mine in Cullinan where the largest diamond (3,106-carat) in the world was found in January 1905. Pretoria has so much to offer. Here’s how to spend a day exploring South Africa’s administrative capital city:
Start the day out right with breakfast at Ludwig’s Rose Farm. The restaurant in located the centre of the spectacular garden with over 1000 roses. Afternoon tea purists will swoon for scones with their homemade Guava Jam infused with organic rose water. The estate is a knockout with a dam, 7.5km hiking trail, rose boutique and a conference and wedding venue and a large outside kids play area. This place makes my list of top ten breakfasting experiences worldwide!
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The Botanical Gardens are the green heart of Pretoria. They spans over 76 hectares of land and is home to a variety of flora and fauna holding 50% of South African tree species. It’s one of my favorite places to go to when I feel like zoning out and relaxing. And as much as I love exploring the city with my friends, I love roaming around on my own even more. Other places to visit when you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city include Groenkloof Nature Reserve, The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa (Pretoria Zoo), Irene Dairy Farm, Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary, Moreleta Kloof Nature Reserve or Rietvlei Nature Reserve.
Pretoria has a long and fascinating history. Over the years, we’ve had several military forts built to help protect our cities surrounding Puget Sound, many of which are now preserved as public parks. My favourite is The Union Buildings. The architectural masterpiece was designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1910. The two wings of the building and their twin domed towers are said to represent the union between the different governments of the time. Today it houses the offices of the President and there is a public garden which is free and open 7 days a week. The memorable moments at the Union Buildings for me are when Nelson Mandela was inaugurated as the first democratically elected leader of South Africa in 1994 as and when he lied in state for three days with thousands of people coming to pay their respects to him every hour. Other places where you can get a closer, first-hand look into the past include Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument.
The best museums the city has to offer:
•Ditsong National Museum of Natural History formerly known as the Transvaal Museum
Founded in 1982, the museum is home to a collection of hominid fossils from the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and associated fauna, including Mrs Ples, the most complete skull of Australopithecus africanus found in 1942 by scientist Robert Broom.
•The National Cultural Museum
One of South Africa’s most comprehensive documentations of the life of South Africans from the early Stone Age up until today.
•The Voortrekker Monument
Because if you’re only in Pretoria once, for just one day, it would be a sin not to see it. It commemorates the Pioneer history of Southern Africa and honours the Afrikaner’s principal historic event: The Great Trek (1835 – 1843).
•The Paul Kruger House
Built in 1884, this house was the original home of Paul Kruger, third president of the Republic of South Africa.
Head for dinner at Times Square, Menlyn Maine, centrally located Menlyn Park Mall. The multi-billion Rand 315,000sqm property includes a 5-Star hotel, 8,000-seater multi-purpose arena, conference facilities and a 10,000sqm casino with restaurants and specialised retail.
My favourite things about my hometown is that people flock here from all over the world with different backgrounds and experiences, and still have one thing in common – friendliness. If you work hard, as one does to survive in this city – there are endless amounts of possibilities. The people also know how to make visitors feel welcome. With a little focus and determination, anywhere can be absorbed within 24 hours. Where better to start, then, than a place as complex and dynamic as Pretoria?
Also read: 101 things to do in South Africa