Capital times for tourists

Bruce Fraser

Bruce Fraser

Whether you refer to it as Pretoria or Tshwane, the Jacaranda City boasts a number of firsts.

Home to the country's top soccer side (SuperSport United), top rugby side (Blue Bulls) and cricket team (Titans), South Africa's capital has a lot more to offer tourist than the finest in sporting venues.

The city centre is in stark contrast to that of Johannesburg's CBD. Here you find the inner city buildings well maintained, the streets spotlessly clean coupled with a semblance of normality as people go about their busy lives.

What better place to start a tour of Pretoria than the Union Buildings.

Overlooking the city of Pretoria, the Union Buildings were in the news recently when hosting the inauguration of the country's fourth democratically-elected president, Jacob Zuma.

Designed by Sir Herbert Baker and built in 1913, the building is situated on Meintjies Kop and overlooks the city below.

Beautifully manicured gardens punctuated with various monuments make a tour a must, though it must be done through a recognised tour operator.

For an experience on the wild side, take a short drive to the Pretoria Zoo. Home to more than 3000 animals, it is the largest zoo in southern Africa.

If walking all day is not your thing, a cable-car system runs above the park, which is an ideal way to give visitors a bird's eye view of the animals below.

Night tours are available and camping tours - where you get to sleep over - are also available.

Tired out from late nights at the football? Why not pop along to Vusalela Day Spa for a day of pampering. Massages, pedicures, manicures and heated swimming pools are all available to just kick back and relax

The State Theatre in the city centre's Church Street has a whopping five theatres and hosts everything from opera to ballet, pop to jazz.

During the time the Confederations Cup is in action, the theatre will be hosting, among other shows, Mantolo - The Tenth Step. Directed by Aubrey Sekhabi, the production is based on the life of MK cadre Sibusiso Masuku. Arrested and charged with murder, Masuku spent months on death row and was eventually released in 1994, after a hunger strike lasting 39 days.

The last two stops a tour of Pretoria should include are the botanical gardens and the Cullinan diamond mine.

June 25 1905 is the day that put the small mining town of Cullinan on the world map when the world's largest uncut diamond was discovered.

A whopping 3108 carat stone, the diamond later went on to form part of the Queen of England's collection.

Just last week, a diamond discovered at the mine sold for R80million in Geneva. Fully operational, the mine is four times the size of the Big Hole in Kimberley and produces 25percent of the world's quality diamonds.

Tours of the mine are available, but booking is essential.

Last but not least, pack a picnic basket to enjoy at the beautiful botanical gardens. Open 365 days a year, the 76hectare garden boasts not only every plant species in the country, but is also home to 198 species of birds.

Paved trails make it easy to enjoy a stroll through the manicured lawns down to the tea garden where you can have a snack and a drink.


The Loch Logan Waterfront will be on most tourists' list of places to visit in the City of Roses.

Situated in the centre of the city, the Waterfront is next to a man-made lake and lists restaurants, banks, cinemas, food courts and a wide-range of shops as attractions.

Before setting off to Bloemfontein Stadium to watch your favourite side in action, kick back in a deck chair with a cocktail and enjoy the indigenous water birds that have made the dam their home.

With the beautiful clear, cool nights expected in Bloemfontein next month, there will be no better time for a spot of star-gazing, and Boyden Observatory is just the place to be.

Situated 26km to the east of the CBD, the observatory attracts tourists from around the world intent on learning more about outer space.

Pencil in June 13 when Dr Maryan Tredoux will be giving a talk on terra firma.

The last stop on our quick trip to Bloemfontein will be to take a step back in time in South African history with a visit to the Anglo-Boer War Museum.

Learn about the war that took place between 1899-1902 between the British and the Boer republics - the concentration camps, the tragic loss of lives, the reasons behind the war. The museum is open six days a week and is well worth a visit to understand a small slice of our history.