15 Best Things to Do in Pretoria, South Africa

|   Last Updated on May 8, 2020

Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. Nowadays, it is also referred to as Tshwane since the City of Pretoria lies in the Tshwane Municipality. There is plenty to see and do in and around Pretoria, from historical monuments to places that the locals regularly frequent.

Visit Pretoria in spring when mauve blossomed trees line the streets and you will see why it is known as the Jacaranda City. 

1. Voortrekker Monument

The colossal Voortrekker Monument is situated in a nature reserve in the Pretoria region in northern South Africa. On approaching the entrance, you are very likely to see zebra, blesbok, springbok, impala, and even black wildebeest. At 203 feet high and standing on a kopje (hill), it is visible for miles around. The granite monument commemorates the history of the Voortrekkers, the pioneers who journeyed to the interior of South Africa, breaking away from British dominance in the Cape Province.

There are an impressive 130 steps from the parking lot to the main entrance of the monument. Here, 64 stone wagons form a circle or laager. They commemorate the infamous 1838 Blood River Battle between the Boer and the Zulus. At the entrance, there are four corner statues, each weighing approximately six tons, depicting Pioneer leaders.

Step into the Hall of Heroes featuring the world’s longest historical marble frieze. From here, climb 169 steps to the top of the monument and find magnificent views of Pretoria. The Cenotaph Hall is 38 steps down from the Hall of Heroes. Here you can admire a splendid tapestry emphasizing the role women played during the Groot Trek (Great Trek or Migration). Every year, on 16 December (The Day of the Covenant), the sun shines on the center of the Cenotaph, symbolizing God’s blessing of the Pioneers. It is now known as The Day of Reconciliation.

It is also worth visiting the museum in the basement of the monument to view the impressive collection of Voortrekker memorabilia. You can also visit the Wall of Remembrance, built in honor of members of the South African Defence Force (SADF) who died in service to their country. Opposite the monument is the Afrikaner Heritage Center, preserving the heritage of the Afrikaans-speaking community.

Purchase (very reasonably priced) tickets at the entrance gate. Do not leave the tickets in the car as you will be required to show them when entering the monument.

There is a tuckshop where you can purchase snacks and light meals, a Tea Garden, open from Monday to Friday, and a Sunday Buffet serving traditional South African food.

Adjacent to the Voortrekker Monument is Freedom Park, which offers history of man throughout the ages as well as a tribute to South African freedom fighters.

Voortrekker Monument, Eeufees Rd, Groenkloof 358-Jr, Pretoria, 0027, South Africa; tel. +27 12 326 6770; website: www.vtm.org.za/

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Heritage Center, Eeufees Rd, Groenkloof 358-Jr, Pretoria; tel. +27 12 325 7885; website: es.org.za/en/

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Freedom Park, Koch & 7th Avenue Salvokop, Pretoria; tel. +27 12 336 4000; website: www.freedompark.co.za/

Hours: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

2. Union Buildings

© Elsa Dixon

The historic Union Buildings, the official seat of South Africa’s government and home to the presidency, are built on Meintjieskop, the highest point in the city of Pretoria. Sir Herbert Baker designed the buildings mainly in the neoclassical Italian Renaissance style. 

It was here in 1994 that South Africa swore in Nelson Mandela as its first democratically elected leader. Although you can’t go inside the buildings, you can explore the terraced gardens to find monuments of prominent historical South African figures and to enjoy magnificent views over the city.

As in public areas, be careful of crime, avoid getting involved in conversations with dubious characters, and do not leave any property in sight inside cars.

Union Buildings, Government Ave, Pretoria; website: www.thepresidency.gov.za/content/union-buildings 

3. Paul Kruger House

Driving to the Paul Kruger House, it is worthwhile to go past the historic buildings surrounding Church Square and the statue of Paul Kruger. The President built the residence in 1884. It is a curious fact that the poor quality of the cement used necessitated milk instead of water to be mixed in. Paul Kruger House was one of the first to have electric lights in Pretoria. 

The house has original furniture and pieces from that period. Although small, there is a wealth of items, paintings, statesmen’s gifts, carriages, and even Kruger’s very own private train carriage on display. There are exhibits in the house telling the story of Kruger’s struggles for the recognition of his Boer people. There are two stone lions on the verandah, gifts from the mining magnate, Barney Barnato.

Purchase tickets at the entrance gate. When driving in central Pretoria, keep your windows closed and your doors locked. Do not stop except when you must. Keep a safe distance from other vehicles and try to allow space where you can get away if needed. Public parking space are available nearby at Karabo Parking High Court. 

As with all visits to a major city, do not leave valuables in the car, do not display your cameras, and do not carry expensive items with you. Be careful not to get into conversations with people sidling up to you since that is often a way to distract your attention so as to pickpocket you. 

You can also take an official tour and avoid having to deal with driving and parking in Pretoria.

Paul Kruger House, 60 WF Nkomo Street, Pretoria; tel. +27 12 322 7632; website: http://ditsong.org.za/kruger.htm

Hours: Daily, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (closed Christmas Day and Good Friday)

4. Pretoria Botanical National Gardens 

© Elsa Dixon

The Botanical Gardensis home to the Head Office of the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), thereby combining ongoing scientific research with recreational activities. Visitors can follow apaved nature trail through the gardens, enjoying exquisite views of the diverse indigenous flora.

A high quartzite outcrop divides the gardens into two sections: one facing colder southern conditions and the other facing warmer northern conditions, resulting in two different plant worlds. The horticulturists continuously develop different garden themes.

Instead of taking a picnic, you can enjoy the lovely setting of the Milkplum Café and the delicious South African meals and treats on offer.

Pretoria National Botanical Gardens, 2 Cussonia Ave, Koedoespoort 456-Jr, Pretoria; tel. +27 12 843 5071; email: pretoriagarden@sanbi.org.za

Hours: Monday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. (No entry after 5 p.m.)

Milkplum Café, 2 Cussonia Ave, Koedoespoort 456-Jr, Pretoria

5. Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary

© Elsa Dixon

The Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary is a 29-acre nature reserve located in the Nieuw Muckleneuk suburb of Pretoria. The name pays tribute to the renowned South African ornithologist who numbered and cataloged nearly 1000 species of birds in the country. 

You can walk around the fenced off area to enjoy the impact of the sanctuary, or head towards the hide to get a close-up view of some of the water birds enjoying the dam. When observing the kingfishers and weavers overhead, and the plovers and jacanas in the water, it is hard to believe that you are in the middle of the city.

The visit is not complete without enjoying a meal at The Blue Crane Restaurant, bordering on the property. Blue cranes, the national bird of South Africa, nonchalantly strut past the glass windows of the enclosed terrace. The view over the sanctuary is stunning, and the antics of the birds entertaining. The food is delicious, and on Sundays you can enjoy a typical South African buffet.

Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary, Roper St & Boshoff St, Muckleneuk, 0002, Pretoria; tel. +27 12 358 1757; email: groenkloofnaturereserve@tshwane.gov.org; website: www.tshwane.gov.za/sites/tourism/NatureConservation/Pages/Austin-Roberts-Memorial-Bird.aspx

Hours: September to April, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. May to August, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Blue Crane Restaurant, 156 Melk St, Nieuw Muckleneuk, Pretoria

6. Melrose House Museum

© Elsa Dixon

Melrose House, dating back to 1886, is an elegant three-story Victorian mansion boasting turrets and Dutch gables. George Heys, a young man who made his fortune by establishing a successful coach transportation business between Pretoria and Kimberley during the diamond rush, named it after Melrose Abbey in Scotland. 

It remained in the family until the city council of Pretoria bought it in 1968. During the Anglo-Boer War, the British invaded Pretoria and requisitioned the house as war offices. The Boers and British signed the Peace treaty of Vereeniging around the impressive dining table on May 31, 1902, thereby ending the war.

Melrose House is an example of the transition from Victorian to Edwardian architecture and décor. The watercolors, bronzes, satin and brocade items, gilded ceilings, and stained-glass windows are all original. The coach house still harbors the Minerva car Heys bought in 1920. Every year Melrose House is the venue for one of the most popular Antique Fairs in the country. Sellers set up more than 200 stalls selling antique collectibles and bric-a-brac.

Visitors can pay for an audio guide or simply wander through this magnificent house by themselves.

Melrose House Museum, 275 Jeff Masemola Street; tel. +27 12 322 2805; website: www.melrosehouse.co.za

Hours: Tuesday to Sunday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

7. Dinokeng Big Five Game Reserve

© Elsa Dixon

Dinokeng Big Five Game Reserve is a 30-minute drive north from Pretoria and an hour from Johannesburg International Airport. Dinokeng, established in 2011, means ‘a place of rivers.’ 

Private landowners cooperated with the Gauteng Province to turn their farms into ecotourism ventures, dropping the fences and introducing a variety of wildlife, including the Big Five game animals: lions, leopards, elephants, buffalos, and rhinos. Other animals include warthog, kudu, impala, ostrich, giraffe, and zebra. The reserve also boasts the rare white jackal, the endangered blue crane, a breeding pair of martial eagles, and a few black rhinos.

You can opt to drive yourself through the reserve or book accommodation and stay in the park. Why not do like the South Africans? Book into the self-catering chalet, and braai (barbeque) your meat on the grills provided. There are also moderate and luxurious lodges available. If you are brave, you can even use the camping facilities. Some guesthouses include catering, game drives, Wi-Fi, and TV. There are a few restaurants, a pizzeria, a general store, and even beer tasting at a brewery and cidery located in the reserve.

Dinokeng is easily accessible by car, but try to arrive during daylight hours if you are overnighting.

Dinokeng Game Reserve, N1 North, Hammanskraal, 0400; tel. +27 12 711 4391; website: dinokengreserve.co.za

Hours: Opens 6 a.m.

Thekwane Lodge; Dinokeng St, Pretoria, 0122; tel. +27 82 990 4111

Facebook Page: Thekwane Lodge Game Drives

Halfway There – Posh Functions; tel. +27 12 711 4002; website: www.poshfunctions.co.za/index.html

Arlington Beer and Cidery; tel. +27 82 4147593

8. Lesedi Cultural Village

For a unique South African experience, visit the Lesedi Cultural Village. Located about 45 minutes’ drive from Pretoria, the village is within the Cradle of Humankind in the African bushveld. 

There are two cultural presentations every day. At the entrance to Lesedi Village, different tribal groups greet visitors with singing, drums, xylophones, and welcome drinks. While waiting for the event to start, browse through the curio shop and colorful stalls. 

The experience includes a video exhibition that portrays the history of the different ethnic groups in South Africa, followed by an interactive cultural tour of five villages, namely, the Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Ndebele, and Sotho. 

The tour ends with a lively ethnic dance display with, among others, Zulu warriors and Sotho gumboot mine dancers. Guests can then enjoy traditional and exotic African dishes such as ostrich, kudu, or crocodile at the vibrant Nyama Choma Boma restaurant. 

To experience the warmth and hospitality of the African people, stay overnight in one of the tribal-style modern accommodations on the property.

Lesedi Cultural Village, R512, Lanseria, 1739; tel. +27 73 239 3186, website: www.ubuhletours.com

Morning Program: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Afternoon Program: 4:30 to 6:30 p.m.

9. Lion and Safari Park

© Elsa Dixon

The Lion and Safari Park is a 1,500-acre wilderness reserve about 40 minutes’ drive from Pretoria, near Lesedi Cultural Village, Hartbeespoort Dam, and the Cradle of Humankind. 

It is home to over 80 lions, including rare white lions, as well as cheetah, hyenas, and the Cape wild dog. Giraffe, warthog, blesbok, zebra, and other antelope reside in a separate area. 

Guests can hand-feed giraffes and some other animals. Since the park is sensitive to the controversy surrounding interaction with baby animals, it maintains strict control and limited access to this activity. 

There is a restaurant on the property, as well as a children’s play area.

Lion and Safari Park, R512 Pelindaba Rd, Hartbeespoort, Broederstroom, 0240; tel. +27 87 150 0100; website: lionandsafaripark.com/

Hours: Opens 8:30 a.m. 

10. Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre

Established in 1971 as the De Wildt Cheetah Research Centre, the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre’s main aim is to preserve the cheetah, wild dog, and other endangered species. It has been honored for its careful cheetah breeding and release procedures and contribution to wildlife research. In addition, there are special educational programs in place, raising public awareness to its cause.

There are a few different types of tours led by informed guides that visitors can choose from.Guests can see cheetahs being fed, and on certain days can witness a high-speed chase by the fastest animal in the world. 

Book tours online in advance, but check the website for details of the different tours.There are restrictions in place for the Guided and Cheetah run tours, such as no children under six years old, and some tours are not recommended for people with back problems or medical issues.

Before or after your tour, enjoy a cup of coffee and a freshly made light lunch in a beautiful setting. You can buy quality items and books at the curio shop next door.

Ann Van Dyk Cheetah Centre, R513, Brits, Madibeng 0251; tel. :+12 504 9906/7/8; email: bookings@dewildt.co.za; website: dewildt.co.za/

Hours: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Lena’s Coffee Shop

Hours: 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

11. Cradle of Humankind

© Elsa Dixon

The Cradle of Humankind, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a 45 minutes’ drive from Pretoria. The official visitor sites are Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves. The Setswana word maropeng means returning to the place of origin. The entrance to Maropeng is a huge burial mound. Underground is a world-class exhibition center focusing on the development of our ancestors over the past few million years.

A surprisingly fun underground boat ride takes you to the center. Visitors sail past icebergs, volcanoes, cascading water, molten lava, and firewalls. On reaching the center, guests explore at their own pace on a self-guided tour. The exhibits are interactive, educational, and entertaining.

The Sterkfontein Caves are world-renowned for their fossil finds, especially the pre-human skull of “Mrs. Ples” and an almost complete hominid skeleton labeled “Little Foot.” Take note that a tour of the caves might be challenging for some people, especially those with back problems as there are passages with low roofs. Maropeng Visitor Center, on the other hand, is easily accessible and wheelchair friendly.

To get to Maropeng and the Sterkfontein Caves, travel along the R400 and take the R563 exit to Hekpoort. The two attractions are about seven miles apart along the same road.

Cradle of Humankind, R400, Mogale, 1911; tel. +27 14 577 9000; email: info@​maropeng.​co.​za; website: www.maropeng.co.za/

Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

12. Hartbeespoortdam

Hartbeespoortdam, known as “Harties” by the locals, is a little village lying in a valley on the banks of the Hartbeespoort Dam in the North West Province. It is very popular as a weekend resort and less than an hour’s drive from Pretoria. The name is a combination of the word hartebeest, a species of antelope, and poort, the Afrikaans word for a gateway.

To get a view of the dam and the nearby Crocodile River, take the Hartbeespoort Aerial Cableway to the top of the Magaliesberg Mountains surrounding the town. Besides all the watersport and boating opportunities on the dam, visitors can enjoy the whitewater rapids of the Crocodile River and a spring water dive in Miracle Waters.

Nearby Chameleon Village houses South Africa’s largest indoor crafters’ market. This complex spanning nearly 25 acres has an array of shops, restaurants, and entertainment to offer. Animal lovers can visit the nearby Snake and Reptile Park.  For golfing enthusiasts, Pecanwood Golf Course, one of five South African signature courses designed by Jack Nicklaus, takes bookings for non-club members.

Hartebeespoort Dam Aerial Cableway, Plot 3, Melodie Melodie agricultural holdings, Hartbeespoort, 0260; tel. +27 12 253 9910; website: www.hartiescableway.co.za/

Hours: Friday to Sunday opens at 9 a.m. (weather permitting; booking available online)

Villa Paradiso Country Manor, Plot 8, R512, Melodie, Hartbeespoortdam

13. Jasmyn Farm Stall

It is a 40 minutes’ drive on the N4 from Pretoria to reach Jasmyn Farm Stall. Don’t miss the landmark Dutch-style windmill near the Hartbeespoortdam beckoning you to stop at this delightful venue. Locals drive out for the day to do their shopping and enjoy all its facilities.

Browse through the impressive selection of goods on display to get an excellent feeling for what South Africans favor! Biltong (a type of jerky), dried sausage, rusks, nartjies (clementines), dried fruits, fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese and dairy, and much more! Besides the Farm Stall, there is a gift shop, a bookstore, and a great restaurant, The Windmill, serving regular as well as Dutch-inspired treats.

Jasmyn Farm Stall, Jan Smuts Avenue, Hartbeespoort, 0216; tel. +27 12 259 1183; website: www.thewindmillharti​es.co.za

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

14. Cullinan Diamond Mine

Visit the Premier Mine, an underground diamond mine in Cullinan, about 25 miles east from Pretoria. It was renamed the Cullinan Diamond Mine in November 2003 during its centenary celebrations. The Cullinan Diamond, the world’s largest rough gem-quality diamond, was discovered here in 1905. It was subsequently cut into two, the two biggest pieces found in the British Crown Jewels. At the time, South Africa was under British rule.

Visitors can choose a surface tour lasting 1.5 to two hours, or the four-hour underground tour for the full experience. Each event includes a nine-minute introductory DVD and an explanation of the workings of the mine. Have an adventure of a lifetime dropping to 2503 feet below ground. Guests may purchase diamond jewelry at the Cullinan Diamond Mine market.

Tours can be booked directly on the website link. Several commercial touring companies arrange excursions to Cullinan Diamond Mine as well.

Cullinan Diamond Mine, Oak Avenue, Cullinan, 1000; tel. +27 11 702 6900; email: info@petradiamonds.com; website: www.petradiamonds.com/our-operations/our-mines/cullinan/

15. Ludwig’s Rose Farm

© Elsa Dixon

About 15 miles from Pretoria is Ludwig’s Rose Farm, a premier rose nursery growing the largest selection of rose varieties in the world. A family establishment since 1971, it currently employs more than 130 people.

As you enter the property, rose hedges line the driveway, and fields of colorful roses meet the eye. The owners cleverly planted rows of roses in alphabetical order. It is great fun searching for the names of famous people and finding roses named after them. Rose specialists and garden advisors are on hand to answer questions.

There is a big play garden for children, tractor rides on the weekends, bird watching events, a shop, and a Rose Shed Venue for weddings, special events, and celebrations. The Rose Kitchen restaurant serves home-baked goods and hearty German meals celebrating the family’s heritage. The roses inspire creations such as rosehip rösti, chicken rosehip curry, citrus rose said, and rose and berry cheesecake.

Enjoy the tranquility of the heavily scented rose gardens.

Ludwig’s Rose Farm, 61 Haakdoornlaagte, Pretoria 0002; tel. +27 12 544 0144; website: www.ludwigsroses.co.za/

Hours:  8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Rose Kitchen; website: www.ludwigsroses.co.za/the-rose-kitchen/

Last Updated on May 8, 2020


  • Elsa Dixon, born in South Africa, moved to Charleston, South Carolina, in 2002. As a piano teacher holding a Ph.D. (Education), she became a dual citizen in 2014. She has been leading custom tours to South Africa and other countries since 2006. She is a freelance writer, a member of ITPWA and The Travel Café (Great Escape Publishing), and contributor to Shutterstock. Her active website lists her published articles https://travelswithelsa.com/. She won 2nd prize in an International Travel News competition and in 2018, published a biography of her father, an iconic South African entertainer (PIET wat POMPIES was).