Pretoria Travel Guide

Pretoria is a lovely, quiet city of stately old architecture, leafy suburbs and boulevards lined with Jacaranda trees that produce rich purple blossoms every spring (October and November). This is South Africa's administrative capital and, fittingly, its conservative beauty offers quite the contrast with the more chaotic Johannesburg, which is a short 56 mile (90km) drive away.

The city was founded in 1955 and named after Andries Pretorius, the Afrikaner leader at the Battle of Blood River where the defeated the Zulus under King Dingaan. However, since 1994, the city has been known for the iconic Union Buildings where Liberation Struggle icon Nelson Mandela was sworn in as the country's first democratically elected president.

Although Pretoria is, to the surprise of foreign visitors, the capital of South Africa, it is nowhere near as famous as Cape Town and Johannesburg. In reality, several cities in the country essentially divide the various functions associated with a capital city.

Pretoria may not be one of South Africa's most popular tourist destinations, but it makes a fantastic base for a multitude of sightseeing opportunities. The city offers some unique attractions, such as the historic Voortrekker Monument, the South African National Zoological Gardens, and the nearby town of Cullinan where the discovery of the world's largest diamond took place.

If visitors run out of things to do in Pretoria, the proximity of Johannesburg ensures that boredom is not an option. Pretoria offers visitors a unique glimpse into a city brimming with history while simultaneously embracing cultural change.