131 on Herbert Baker is surrounded by a number of Pretoria attractions: Union Buildings, National Cultural History Museum, Voortrekker Monument, Kruger House, Loftus Versfeld and Freedom Park to name a few. The hotel is closely situated to the Groenkloof Nature Reserve, the nature reserve has become a popular location for mountain bikers, hikers, horse riding enthusiasts and 4x4 experiences. Zebra and giraffe are often seen along with a wide variety of bird species. The hotel is a 42km drive to OR Tambo International Airport which is closest international airport to the hotel. The hotel is also situated 10km from both Hatfield Gautrain Station and Pretoria Gautrain Station.
Pretoria’s Union Buildings, the official seat of the national government, house the offices of the South African president and are located atop the Meintjieskop in the Arcadia suburb of Tshwane. An important South African heritage site, the impressive building is surrounded by pretty terraced gardens that offer panoramic views over the city.
The Union Buildings are one of the most recognizable and impressive heritage landmarks in Tshwane. The 285m-long sandstone building was designed by Sir Herbert Baker in 1910 to mark the Union of South Africa. The neo-classical design of the semi-circular building reflects the British imperial tastes of the time and the site itself, high on a central ridge looking out over the city, was chosen thanks to its similarity to the location of the acropolis in Athens. The two wings of the building and their twin domed towers are said to represent the Afrikaans and English languages, joined together by a central curved courtyard, symbolic of the union of the communities following years of war.
The Union Buildings have been the backdrop for some of the country’s most pivotal moments, such as the 20 000-strong march on 9 August 1956, led by South African women of all races protesting against the apartheid pass laws. For international visitors, this iconic building is most memorable as the place where Nelson Mandela was inaugurated in 1994 as the first democratically elected leader of South Africa, a moment which was screened live on television to millions of viewers across the world.
Unfortunately, you cannot go inside the buildings themselves, but visitors are free to explore the terraced gardens that look out over the city. The gardens are a particularly popular place for family picnics or to have wedding photos taken and also often function as the venue for major concerts and festivals.
Within the gardens, you’ll find various monuments to important historic South African figures, including a monument of General Louis Botha riding his horse and an imposing 9m-tall bronze statue of Nelson Mandela that was unveiled here just after his death in 2013.
National Cultural History Museum
Learn more about South Africa’s cultural diversity by viewing a range of permanent and temporary exhibits at the national cultural history museum. Exhibits include San engraving and rock painting as well as one-thousand-year-old Iron Age figurines from Schroda in Limpopo.
These artefacts have been referred to as “the best known” artefacts indicating ritual behaviour in the early Iron Age”. The art gallery includes sculptures and paintings and an exhibition on Marabastad. It is located on Visagie Street in the Old South African Mint which has since moved to Midrand. The museum, also known as the African Window, is the centre for living culture and houses a highly intriguing collection.
The National Cultural History Museum has as its aim to promote living culture through song, dance, drama and visual arts festivals, and to celebrate all South Africans’ heritage through permanent and temporary exhibitions.
The Museum sits behind the Pretoria City Hall, in the Pretoria CBD. There is a Gautrain bus drop-off point at the entrance to the museum.
Monday to Friday: 8am to 4pm (Closed on Christmas Day and Good Friday)
Admission fees: Consult website
Built to commemorate the Great Trek, the often-treacherous journey across the country undertaken by pioneering Boer families who fled British rule in the Cape colony in the mid-19th century. The Voortrekker Monument is one of the most visited heritage sites in Tshwane and one of the popular tourist attractions in South Africa.
The 40metre tall granite monument is located on top of a hill overlooking Pretoria in the middle of the 240-hectare Voortrekker Monument Nature Reserve.
At the foot of the monument stands Anton von Wouw’s bronze sculpture of an Afrikaner woman and her two children, a tribute to the female Voortrekkers who made possible the eventual settlement of the Afrikaner community. The monument itself is surrounded by a corral of 64 ox-wagons, the same number as was used at the Battle of Blood River.
Inside the monument is the Hall of Heroes, a vast commemorative hall which retraces the difficult journey that the Voortrekkers embarked upon once their long columns of ox-wagons rolled out of the Cape Colony. The hall houses one of the world’s longest historical marble friezes, where the trials and tribulations of the Great Trek are depicted and is illuminated by four huge windows of yellow Belgian glass.
One floor below is the Cenotaph Hall which houses a tapestry of more than three million stitches, a collection of historical flags and other artifacts belonging to the Voortrekker families and a massive painting by W.H. Coetzer portraying the struggle of the Voortrekkers as they passed through the Drakensberg mountains.
Other notable features to look out for including The Wall of Remembrance which is located in the monument gardens and is dedicated to the fallen members of the South African Defence Force, a small chapel and the so-called School on Wheels.
The monument should definitely be on your things to do in Gauteng list. For spectacular views over the city of Pretoria and its surrounds, you can climb up to one of the monument’s lookout points and then after your visit, stay on for a light meal and a drink on the terrace at the Monument Restaurant or under the trees in the traditional tea garden.
The Voortrekker monument and reserve are often the venue for major concerts and other events such as antique markets, and on the last Sunday of every month, the popular Park Acoustics music festival is held in the monument grounds.
Open Monday to Sunday from 8am to 5pm
Adults R60, students/pensioners R35, family ticket R120
This modest and informative house museum in downtown Pretoria outlines the life and times of the 19th-century Afrikaans leader and Transvaal President Paul Kruger.
The bungalow-style home was built for the large Kruger family in 1884 by English-speaking architect Charles Clark, who legend has it used to mix his cement with milk rather than water. The long veranda in front of the house is its most famous feature and it is said that the president loved nothing more than to spend time here chatting to passers-by.
Inside the house, period furniture and personal items show how the Kruger family lived in a style that was for the time extremely modern. The house was one of the very first in the city to have electricity and a telephone connection, while the bathrooms also made use of the latest technologies.
For anybody interested in the Anglo-Boer Wars, there is much to learn from the exhibition detailing Kruger's role in the fiercely contested conflicts, and unusual items such as the knife with which Kruger amputated part of his own wounded finger reveal much about the personal character of this controversial figure.
Before you leave make sure to visit the backyard of the house, where various old wagons and Kruger's very own private train carriage are on display.
Hours: open daily 8am to 4pm (closed Christmas Day and Good Friday).
To view upcoming matches, visit https://thebulls.co.za/
Loftus Versfeld is a sports stadium located in the Arcadia suburb of Pretoria, Tshwane, which has a capacity of more than 50 000 and is frequently used to host large-scale rugby and soccer matches. Loftus Versfeld is the home ground of Super Rugby and Absa Currie Cup giants the Blue Bulls and leading PSL football team Mamelodi Sundowns.
Loftus Versfeld Stadium is one of the oldest arenas in the country and sporting events have been held on this site since 1906. The ground was originally known as the Eastern Sports Ground and initially only had capacity for 2 000 spectators, although it was significantly expanded over the years. In 1932 the ground was renamed in honour of the then-recently deceased Robert Owen Loftus Versfeld, a respected South African rugby player who was one of the founding members of the Pretoria Rugby Club and is credited with having introduced grass rugby playing fields to the area.
Over the decades the stadium has gone through numerous renovations and expansions, the most significant of which was made ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. As one of the World Cup 2010 host stadiums, the seating capacity was increased to more than 50 000, a new roof was erected over the eastern pavilion, a new VIP seating area was built, and the stadium’s lighting and power systems were upgraded.
In addition to the FIFA World Cup in 2010, the stadium also hosted matches during the 1995 Rugby World Cup and was the venue for the second Test between the Springboks and the British and Irish Lions during their tour of South Africa in June 2009.
In soccer circles, Loftus Versfeld is perhaps best remembered as the place where the South African national team, Bafana Bafana, registered its first victory over European opposition by beating Sweden 1-0 in the 1999 Nelson Mandela Challenge.
Loftus Versfeld Stadium has not only been the venue for memorable sporting occasions – it has also hosted some of Gauteng’s most memorable concerts, including performances by international pop stars Robbie Williams and Celine Dion.
George Heys, a young man from Durban, made his fortune in the diamond rush in Kimberley by establishing a successful coach transportation business that operated between Kimberley and Pretoria. With his newfound wealth, he commissioned British architect WT Vale to design him a house. In 1886, the three-story stately Victorian mansion complete with turrets and Dutch gables was erected. The house was named Melrose House after Melrose Abbey in Scotland, where Heys and his wife had visited on a delayed honeymoon. The grand house remained in the Heys family until 1968, when it was bought by the city council of Pretoria (Tshwane) and turned into a museum.
Melrose House played an important role during the Anglo-Boer Wars. In June 1900 British troops invaded Pretoria and requisitioned Melrose House to use as their war offices. For 18 months, the war effort against the Boers was strategized from 275 Jacob Mare Street. The Peace Treaty of Vereeniging that ended the war was signed around the massive dining table at Melrose House on 31 May 1902.
The house has remained structurally unaltered, although extensive restoration work took place between 1990 and 1992 to reinstate the building to its former glory. Some of the original décor is still in place, as are watercolors and bronzes owned by the Heys family. The satin and brocade items, gilded ceilings and stained-glass windows are all also original. The coach house in the sprawling – and now overgrown – garden still houses Heys’ car, a Minerva bought in 1920 that he did not actually like.
Today Melrose House is a museum that exemplifies the transition from Victorian to Edwardian architecture and décor. The house has a clay tennis court and library, and the large wrought iron conservatory houses an exhibition on the Anglo-Boer wars.
Visitors can guide themselves through the elegant rooms of this grand house or opt to pay extra for an audio guide.
Every year Melrose House is the location for one of the most popular Antique Fairs in the country where more than 200 stalls are set up in the gardens selling antique collectibles such as jewelry, furniture, porcelain, coins, and other bric-a-brac.
Adults R22, students/pensioners R11, school children R5. Audio guides costs R15.
Open Tue-Sun 10am – 5pm
National Zoological Gardens of South Africa
The Pretoria Zoo, more formally known as the National Zoological Gardens is a great spot for families, students, school groups and tourists alike.
This 85-hectare zoo is home to thousands of species including mammals, birds, invertebrates, reptiles, and amphibians.
If you hadn’t already guessed, it is the largest zoo of its kind in South Africa. This is one of the reasons it has been named the national zoo of South Africa.
You need not drive for hours outside of the city for this super cool outing. The Pretoria Zoo is situated just 5 minutes outside of Central Pretoria and 5.4 km away from Pretoria University (commonly known as Tuks University).
In case you weren’t yet sold, the Pretoria Zoo also houses South Africa’s largest inland marine aquarium as well as a Reptile Shed. It really is fun for the whole family and offers a variety of additional activities.
Rietvlei Nature Reserve
Situated 18km from the center of Tshwane, the 3 800-hectare Rietvlei Nature Reserve surrounds the magnificent Rietvlei Dam which supplies Pretoria with 15% of its water. The reserve comprises endangered Bankenveld grassland and is home to approximately 2 000 animals including cheetah, leopard, buffalo, white rhino and a host of buck, making it one of the better-populated game reserves in Gauteng. The bird watching is remarkable with two dams on the reserve with bird hides which provide open water and wetland habitats.
Activities at the dam include freshwater fishing (catfish, yellowfish, carp, and tilapia), which is allowed at the northern and western shores and a variety of non-motorised water sports, which operate from the yacht club, located on the north-western shore. Guided one and two-day hiking and horse trails can be arranged and guided game drives through the reserve are also available (note visitors must provide their own vehicles, advance booking required).
The reserve has about 60km of well-maintained tar and dirt roads that allow for great game viewing. Look out for cheetah, rhino, leopard, buffalo, blesbok, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, Burchell’s zebra, waterbuck, reedbuck, springbok, mountain reedbuck, steenbok and grey duiker.
It is possible to stay overnight at the park in the Rietvlei campsite, although this must be booked in advance.
If you're looking for activity-filled getaways in Gauteng then a visit to Rietvlei Nature Reserve provides just that.
Freedom Park is a 52ha heritage precinct located in Salvokop, Tshwane (Pretoria) and is one of many historical attractions in Gauteng.
It is a site of remembrance where South Africa honors those who sacrificed their lives in the struggle for a free and democratic South Africa and pays tribute to all the deserving South Africans who played a meaningful role in shaping this nation. Although no remains are kept at Freedom Park, it is full of symbolic monuments and landscaped gardens that represent the heroes of South Africa’s past struggles.
The most striking monument is the 697 metres long Wall of Names. There is space for 136 000 names on the wall and since 2007 the names of 75 000 South Africans who lost their lives in the fight for freedom have been inscribed on the wall.
Wall of names
Wall of names (Image: Portfolio Collection)
The Garden of Remembrance is a tranquil space for reflection and prayer, filled with a symbolic collection of monuments, statues and sculptures. Construction of the garden began in July 2003 and it was completed in March 2004, marking the first decade of democracy in South Africa.
Also found within Freedom Park is the Hapo Museum, whose name is derived from the Khoi word for ‘dream’. The museum tells the story of Africa and South Africa over seven epochs of history – Earth, Ancestors, Peopling, Resistance and Colonisation, Industrialisation and Urbanisation, Nationalism and Struggle, National Building and Continent Building. The Hapo Museum also invites visitors to contemplate the great philosophical questions of life such as, "Who am I and why am I here?" and "What comes before and after death?".
If you're looking for things to do in Gauteng, tours of the park can be organised directly at Freedom Park and guides lead visitors on a journey of remembrance, reconciliation and self-discovery. Maps are also available at the entrance for visitors to take themselves on a self-guided tour.
Pretoria National Botanical Garden
Embark on a floral journey of discovery at the Pretoria National Botanical Garden, a treasure chest of South African flowering plant species and trees and definitely among the more beautiful of the tourist attractions in South Africa.
The Pretoria National Botanical Garden, located in the suburb of Brummeria in east Tshwane, was established in 1946 after the University of Pretoria’s experimental farm and private properties were acquired by the Department of Agriculture. The garden was formerly known as the Transvaal National Botanic Gardens, and was primarily a research facility under the management of the Botanical Research Institute, which dates back to 1903.
In 1989 the institute amalgamated with the National Botanical Garden of South Africa (Kirstenbosch) to form the National Botanical Institute, which became the South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI) in 2004. The Pretoria National Botanical Garden opened to the public in 1984.
Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary
The Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary is located near Muckleneuk in Tshwane. The sanctuary is named after the famous South African ornithologist, J Austin Roberts, who was born in Pretoria (Tshwane) in 1883.
The 11.8ha bird sanctuary is part of the Walkerspruit Open Space System and has fantastic wetlands that attract a large number of bird species. There have been over 170 birds species recorded within the sanctuary, including the blue crane, grey-crowned crane, rock doves, speckled pigeons and the Egyptian goose. The sanctuary has a small bird hide from where you can observe and photograph birdlife in the wetlands.
At the entrance to the park there is a small centre where you can collect a map of the sanctuary. The Blue Crane Restaurant and tea garden overlooks the wetlands and is shaded by trees.
Guided tours may be booked a month in advance via the office at a nominal fee.