There can be a tendency to regard smaller cities which act as national capitals in spite of their size as dry, bureaucratic dots on the map, only concerned with government business in grand office buildings. Canberra has this problem in Australia; Brasilia in Brazil. Pretoria suffers the same fate. It is an image problem. Why would you visit a place that is only interested in work when you are away on your holiday and only want to play?

But Pretoria is a more interesting place than people assume. It is certainly bigger than you think – South Africa’s fourth largest city, home to 2.5 million residents.

This means it is big enough to sustain a Super Rugby team (the Vodacom Bulls) – and diverse enough to entertain visitors who make the short 35-mile journey north from Johannesburg. There are first-rate museums – Pretoria Art Museum has a fine collection of South African art; the National Cultural History Museum traces the country’s tale back to the Iron Age. There is history – the huge Voortrekker Monument recalls the city’s 19th century founders.

There are spaces for hiking and biking – such as Groenkloof Nature Reserve. And there is a lively, youthful vibe in the bars and restaurants of Hatfield - thanks to the city’s big university population, certainly making it worth a visit.

 

Pretoria National Zoological Gardens

Commonly known as Pretoria Zoo, this is the largest zoo in South Africa and is also rated one of the best zoos in the world. Focused on the conservation and preservation of all of its species, this zoo attracts around 600,000 visitors per year. There are over 3000 animals that call this zoo home including Rhinos, Elephants, Lions, Gorillas and Bears. The zoo also has the largest inland aquarium in the country and a reptile park.

Freedom park

Freedom park is a monumental place which is visited by many South African’s due to the history that it holds. It is full of symbolic statues with landscaped gardens which pay tribute to those who dedicated their lives to fighting for freedom. The park is a beautiful way to learn about the struggles South Africa faced on the journey from the apartheid to democracy. Take a tranquil journey through the park not only to learn the history of the country but also to see the breath-taking panoramic view of Pretoria below.

Horse Trail safaris

For a different safari experience why not try a safari on horseback. This is a perfect experience for everyone whether you’re a first -timer or professional horse rider. There are many trails to choose from all varying in duration from one hour to a half-day tour. On this unique adventure, keep an eye out for Giraffes, Zebras, Warthogs, Ostriches as well as many other fascinating animals whilst taking in the beauty of your surroundings.

Union Buildings

The grand Union Buildings are perched atop Meintjieskop hill with a view of the city of Pretoria below. The Union Buildings form the official seat of the South African government as well as housing the offices of the South African president. The 285-metre-long, semi-circular building was constructed with two wings that represent the Afrikaans and English languages. The two wings are brought together by a central curved courtyard which symbolises the union of the two communities following the war. Surrounding the Union Buildings are beautiful terraced gardens with many monuments including the Women’s monument and the impressive nine-metre-tall statue of Nelson Mandela.

Women’s monument

The women’s monument consists of the statues of the heroic stalwarts, Lillian Ngoyi, Sophia Williams-de Bruyn, Helen Joseph and Rahima Moosa who played a key role in advancing women’s rights during the apartheid. These four women led a peaceful protest march in 1956 along with 20,000 other women to deliver a petition to the prime minister suggesting that women should no longer have to carry a passbook. This was a pivotal moment in South African history symbolising female strength, courage and power.