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South Africa’s capital city is a lot more pleasant than its former association with the apartheid government would suggest. Situated a mere half hour’s drive north of the metropolis of Johannesburg, it is an unhurried city, typified by streets lined with its iconic purple jacaranda trees, government departments and a handful of interesting museums.
The sweeping Union Buildings are considered one of the country’s architectural masterpieces. Built in an arc facing the enormous park in which hundreds of thousands came to witness Nelson Mandela’s 1994 inauguration, the buildings are closed to the public, but the spacious, terraced gardens command fine views of the city.
Across the city is the Vortrekker Monument, a stout edifice dominating the skyline and built to commemorate the Afrikaner pioneers who travelled north to settle the area in the late 1800s. It includes a museum and a view point at its summit. The magnificent Melrose house, in the city centre, is where the peace treaty ending the Boer war, was signed.
Pretoria is one of the safest cities in South Africa for strolling around the CBD, practical for pedestrians and full of restaurants and coffee shops, but it becomes dead by night as people typically retreat to shopping malls and entertainment precincts out in the suburbs.
Around the city are a number of pleasant, green, undulating suburbs. One unusual attraction is the Wonderboom, a tree of enormous girth. Pioneer open-air museum gives visitors an intriguing insight into settler life 150 years ago. Other worthwhile museums include the Eksteen transport museum, Art museum and Police museum. There are also the Botanical gardens, Austin Roberts bird sanctuary and Zoo for outdoor lovers.
By car you can also make an excursion to nearby Haartebeestpoort dam and the tranquil Magaliesburg, al little further on (90 minutes) is the famous Sun City casino and entertainment resort.
Pretoria is serviced by Johannesburg international Airport (40 mins drive), a major regional hub, and shuttles can be arranged from here.