Zama Ndlovu’s Must-Do’s in the Jacaranda City

Pretoria may be the administrative capital of South Africa, but its anything but dull. I was lucky enough to visit when the Jacaranda’s were in full bloom, something that I have never been able to get over even though I grew up in the city.

For culture lovers, Pretoria is a wonderful destination. There are a number of museums around the city from the Museum of Natural History, Mapungubwe Collection at the University of Pretoria and the Museum of Cultural History. There is are also plenty of monuments, contemporary art installations and art galleries to visit.

Pretoria is the place to be if you like your food. There are a number of award winning restaurants in the city but I chose Kream because it is a beautiful spot that has just the right amount of vibe without turning into a potsoyi (street bash). Kream is stylish – you are allowed to dress up for this – and the food is divine. My fussy partner was more than satisfied with the wine list.

Nestled in the Union Buildings gardens is the 9 meter tall statue of Nelson Mandela. The statue weighs 3.5 tons and was created by South African sculptors Andre Prinsloo and Ruhan Janse van Vuuren. It’s a tourist favourite and so you’ll be fighting with a few foreign accents to get your shot with Madiba. From the Union Buidings you will also get a great panoramic view of the purple city.

By far my favourite stop on my trip was the visit to Freedom Park. A modern and unique celebration of our humanity not just as South Africans, but as Africans and humanity. Hapo Museum inside the Park tells the story of South Africa over seven epochs of history and celebrates the many aspects of our shared heritage. You need at least three hours to take in the splendor of the museum, park and the memorials.

I have loved this museum since I was a wee baby, and I was looking forward to visiting this caretaker of South Africa’s natural heritage. The museum’s collection includes Mrs Ples and Homo Naledi who was found in 2013 at the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. The museum is a little run down and needs a little love, but its worth the visit nonetheless. I would highly recommend a Saturday visit because it’s a little creepy on Sunday without the guides.

Did you know that Pretoria has a free roaming Big 5 game reserve just outside the city? You can even book your own guide! You could spend a day there easily, bird and animal spotting. Game drives are also available from the different lodges in the area, and these do come highly recommended because its not that easy spotting one of the Big 5 on your own.