I find Pretoria, also known as the City of Tshwane, to be a wonderful holiday destination if you enjoy a relaxed environment.
There is a bit of bias here because I once lived in the city for five years. Pretoria is dubbed the Jacaranda city because the inner city blooms to amazing purple splendour in spring. Pretoria is majestic, unassuming and clean with an understated natural beauty.
It has remnants of the apartheid era, having been the administrative capital of the time, but also depicts progress and transformation in the economic and social landscape.
It is considered one of the biggest malls in southern Africa, boasting more than 100 stores, that offer almost everything from food, fashion, beauty and home products. Since it is so huge and complicated, each floor and corner has a stand with a map so you can easily navigate around. I found it all puzzling, especially as I abhor being on my feet all day long. However, it is worth it to browse around stores just to look at all the expensive shoes, bags and dresses. I must admit that I enjoyed having a cup of coffee doing a strange hobby of mine – people watching.
The Union Buildings
The grounds are often open to the public and are a great place to relax. Snacks are allowed on the grounds but not alcohol. Parties and braais are also prohibited. The good thing is that it is rarely packed, and when it is, there is space for everyone.
Hatfield and Brooklyn
This is a very “white” area but where the best restaurants in the city are situated. Not surprisingly, nothing comes cheap here because it is a high-end residential area, which also houses many upmarket facilities and establishments.
House gazing at Waterkloof and Greenkloof
If you love houses and architecture… this is the best place to visit.
The suburbs lie towards the south of the city and reek of affluence. The houses are not only big but also aesthetically pleasing and meticulously kept. Here, there is no such thing as an ugly building – the whole area gives the words ‘beauty’ and ‘class’ a whole new meaning.
Townships – Soshanguve and Mamelodi
This is where the heartbeat of the city is as it offers a unique taste into black lifestyle. I once lived in Soshanguve for six months and have no intentions of living there again. No hard feelings but I have concluded that townships are great to visit, not to live.
The contrasts between the haves and have-nots are also mind-boggling. While there are big houses, fancy cars and all that spell modern success, there is also stark poverty and a lot of crime. Needless to say, they still have a “vibe” like no other.
If you fancy the idea of a pesonyana (shisa nyama) meeting new people with interesting personalities or exploring the lifestyle, drop in to the nearest tavern for a drink and meal.
This is the most well known place in the city – something of “the meeting place.” Originally, it was referred to as Kerkplein or Marketplein, and as the historic centre of the city, there has been a lot of contention over the changes to the area in recent years.
The Afrikaners want it to retain its original essence and feel while the new government seems hell-bent on erasing any feel of the apartheid past. It was subsequently named for the church buildings that stood at the centre of the square from 1856 to 1905. It is one of those places in the city reminiscent of the colonial times and apartheid era.
The State Theatre
You have not been to Pretoria until you have watched a production here. This is where I have watched great theatre shows such as I will marry when I want, The Game and Nothing but the truth. It is not as vibey as you would expect a theatre of its reputation but it is worth a visit more so that you can expect to spot a few famous faces here time and again.
Pretoria is a great city for any foodie. The best restaurants are in Brooklyn and Hatfield, where you can sample anything from Greek, Japanese, Mediterranean and African cuisine.
There is a great Ethiopian restaurant in Hatfield, along Burnet Street. If you want something more traditional then head towards Sunnyside, where there are many African restaurants. The Nigerian cuisine really made an impression on me. Yep, I have had fufu!
A dish that appealed to me is rice mixed with beans and fish. It doesn’t smell too good but it tastes sumptuous. If you fancy street African spy-kos (junk or street food) then you might fancy sticking to the townships. Think braai-ed chicken feet (known as walk-aways) and ikota (bunny chow). The names are amusing, with some named Mini cooper (which is stuffed with Russian, slaap chips, atchaar and an egg). Some tuckshops named theirs after SA female celebrities.
Pretoria has many night spots worth their salt. The best spot remains House 22, which has improved both in aesthetics and facilities over the years. The venue is famed for housing some of the best DJs and offers a memorable night out. If you fancy more upmarket places, Moloko, Newscafe and Cofi fit the bill. They are apparently also home to blessers, blessees, and attract the elite and crème de le crème of the Tshwane social scene.
Pretoria is a cosmopolitan city that accommodates people from all walks of life: a true melting pot of cultures, history and unique experiences.