South Africa's administrative capital Pretoria, is fast becoming the destination of choice for many travellers scared off by the reports of soaring crime rates in Johannesburg.
With a far more relaxed vibe than its big bad neighbour, Pretoria is a city steeped in culture and history (though many would disagree with me) and is often overlooked by those rushing through en route to the more popular destinations that lie to the North and East.
It's worth noting here that most tours, safaris and buses that leave from JoÃ‚â€™burg also leave from Pretoria.
What to do in the Jacaranda City
For most visitors, the sole purpose of their brief visit is to await an outgoing flight out of JoÃ‚â€™burg or to organize onward travel plans. Pretoria is often dismissed as a rather, dare I say, bland city – but there is an abundance of interesting and educational things to do here.
OK, so visiting museums isn't the reason you're coming to South Africa but whilst you're here you should get out there and see the sights.
Highly recommended is a visit to the Voortrekker Monument for a good introduction into Afrikaans history, or one of the other excellent museums in the city Ã‚â€“ check any guide book for the full list.
Also worth a visit is the infamous Soweto township for a good insight into South African culture. DonÃ‚â€™t even think of going there on your own Ã‚â€“ go on an organised trip with a guide.
Sun City is a popular choice for many tourists Ã‚â€“ worth a day trip to check it out for sheer obscurity value.
The Pretoria Zoo is excellent Ã‚â€“ though more popular with locals, following the international trend of not appreciating what is on your doorstep. However, if you just don't have the time or even the patience for a safari, then this may be a good alternative Ã‚â€“ if only so you can say you've seen the animals in Africa.
Pretoria is not the most visually attractive city with its concrete sprawl, but amongst the seemingly endless apartment blocks, you can find some real architectural gems – most notably the Union buildings and Gardens. The city can look really quite beautiful during Sept-Nov, when the Jacarandas are in full bloom creating a shock of lilac across the city.
Out on the Town
July was a pretty uneventful month Ã‚â€“ things have calmed down after the presidential inauguration last month, and a combination of winter and student holidays left the town pretty much in apparent hibernation.
Pretoria is the student capital of South Africa with some 100,000 of these nocturnal creatures. If the thought of all those students talking loudly about philosophy doesn't put you off your beer, then you can head towards Hatfield for some of the best nightlife Pretoria has to offer. Hatfield relies on the standard global formula for student entertainment – expensive drinks, expensive clothes and cute bar staff. The formula works well though and creates a relaxed, yet buzzy vibe every night of the week.
The more discerning clubber is heading toward the huge out of town clubs in Midrand Ã‚â€“ halfway between Jo'burg and Pretoria both in physical location and atmosphere.
And this brings me to a point of sorts: If we could combine the best aspects of both cities Ã‚â€“ the alive buzzy vibe of Jo'burg and the laid back attitude of Pretoria Ã‚â€“ then this would be one awesome town.
Hope springs eternal…
Pretoria is the admin capital of South Africa, and shares the seat of government with Cape Town.
Located in the Gauteng, Pretoria is the site of the Boer civil war. Named by Martinus Vessel Pretorius – after his father Andreis Pretorious, the hero of the War.
A good budget travellers info service is:
As ever with South Africa, the local minibus services have a logic that no temporary visitor has a chance of figuring out. Still, it's a small city – so walking is realistic and safe.
From the airport, take the Pretoria airport shuttle bus (hourly service 7am-7pm)
The South African Rand is still in a slump, so your dollar will go far. Work on about 1US$:R6.
Expect to pay from R25 for a good meal. Beers cost about R6.
Live Music Scene
Moropa Africa Ã‚â€“ African Drum Lounge, Lynwood Road, Brooklyn. A good variety from drumming circles to the excellent Friday night drum'n'bass events.
Cool Runnings & TingsnTimes Ã‚â€“ Burkett St, Hatfield. Regular live music, laid back vibe.
Blue Note Jazz CafÃ©, Hatfield. Live err, Jazz.
Not in Gauteng, but worth a mention as the biggest live music event of the year – Oppikoppi 3-8th August, has 80 bands confirmed to date and promises to be awesome.
Pretoria Online– Details of the "winter pruning exhibition" and other must do's.
Yes folks – it's all happening in the Gauteng.