Pretoria is one of the capital cities of South Africa, hosting the Executive arm of government, the headquarters of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality, and several other foreign embassies and research centers. It is named after Andries Wilhelmus Jacobus Pretorius, the instrumental leader of the Boers and the Voortrekkers, who became a national hero after a victory in the Battle of Blood River war of conquest against the Dingane and the Zulus in 1838.
South Africans also call it ‘Jacaranda City’ due to the blaze of many jacaranda trees that decorates its streets and parks. It is the largest town in South Africa, with a diverse population that makes it a cultural capital for history, art, music, food, and much more.
If you are not mesmerized by Pretoria’s soaring skyscrapers and monuments, you’ll be blown away by the fertile valley of Apies River or the beautiful scenery at the Magaliesberg range. You can spend your dawn browsing the Pretoria National Botanic Garden and catch the sunset at Horns Nek Pass with a panoramic stunning city view from the top of the observation deck, a seat of a charter plane, or a helicopter.
Pretoria is spoiled for choice if you want a day filled with fun and activity! Here are 10 things to do in Pretoria on a budget:
Best 4 Pretoria attractions
1. Pretoria National Botanic Garden
Address: 2 Cussonia Ave, Brummeria, Pretoria
The Pretoria National Botanic Garden is one of the most famous and largest botanical gardens in South Africa. It was established in 1946 but was opened in 1958 to allow the public to enjoy the biodiversity in the southernmost country of Africa.
This 76-hectare garden is managed by the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), whose strategy entails using science as a tool to map out the ecosystems in SA. When you visit here, while you are in Pretoria, you will explore over a million tree species supported by the country’s biosphere, such as Bolusanthus and aloe trees.
Visitors can also grab a meal at the lakefront restaurant while watching the beautiful waterfall adjacent to Bolusanthus Avenue.
2. National Zoological Garden of South Africa
Address: 232 Boom Street, Pretoria
Renowned as the largest zoo in South Africa, the National Zoological Garden, founded in 1899 by Dutch scientist Jan Willem Boudewijn Gunning, is home to over 5,000 animals; mammals, reptiles, fish, and amphibians of different species and subspecies.
The highlight of this Pretoria gem is glazed in its Reptile Park, which boasts reptiles like the Komodo dragon, and Aquariums, which host a variety of fish like the ragged tooth shark. Its mammal collection includes tigers, elephants, zebras, lions, and more. Visitors can also engage in other recreational activities like riding golf carts, cableways, and pushcarts.
The entrance fee to the National Zoological Garden of South Africa in Pretoria is R120 for adults and R80 for children. It welcomes over 600,000 visitors annually.
3. Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre – De Wildt
Address: R513, Entrance 22, Hartbeespoort, Pretoria
A trip to Pretoria isn’t complete without a visit to Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, formerly De Wildt Cheetah Research Centre. It was established in 1971 and houses exceptional concentrations of cheetahs and other rare and threatened species.
At this wildlife conservancy that also offers an expanse of natural vegetation like bushes and grassland, you will spot other animals like African wild dogs, caracal, and vultures, amongst others.
This place is just a 45-minute drive from Pretoria, and you can email firstname.lastname@example.org to book your tours from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM.
Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre offers a chance to adopt wild animals like cheaters in South Africa at premium plans of about R600 to R50,000 per year.
4. Union Buildings
Address: Union Buildings, Government Avenue, Pretoria
When it comes to learning about the cultures of new places, visiting its iconic buildings is the best way to do it. If you want to explore South African heritage and history, visit the Union Buildings.
Union Buildings reveal more about South Africa. Since its establishment from 1910 to 1913 and its existence to date as one of the historical government buildings that seat government offices like that of the President of South Africa, it is considered a witness of colonialism, the Apartheid era, and different regimes.
Its architectural charm of the English monumental style was designed by architect Sir Herbert Baker to sit atop Meintjeskop, giving impressive views of the city of Pretoria.
When you’re in Pretoria, visit the Union Buildings to learn more about South Africa and past governments. The inauguration of Nelson Mandela at the Union Buildings on May 10, 1994, is a good case in point.