Get to Know Pretoria
Established in 1855, the South African capital is studded with 19th-century buildings and renowned for the jacarandas that colour its streets purple in early summer.
Situated just 50 kilometres north of Johannesburg and connected to it by an ever-widening ribbon of urban development, Pretoria has been the political capital of South Africa since 1910. Yet the city remains in economic thrall to its brasher southern sibling. Easily accessed from OR Tambo International Airport, Pretoria is a popular alternative gateway to sites such as the Kruger National Park, Pilanesberg and Madikwe Game Reserve, and probably has more to offer than Johannesburg in terms of sightseeing for those spending a couple of nights in the area.
The Union Buildings, a handsome orange sandstone parliamentary building designed by prominent architect Sir Herbert Baker, are now best known as the site of Nelson Mandela’s presidential inauguration in 1994. Other landmarks include the unpretentious Kruger Museum, where Paul Kruger, state president of the South African Republic during the Second Boer War, lived in the late 19th century, and Melrose House, a period-furnished Victorian mansion where the treaty ending that war was signed. The city centre is very pretty in October and November when its famous jacaranda trees come into bloom.