[Updated July 2020]
Pretoria holds its own with an amazing mix of cultural, outdoor and foodie experiences on offer. We discover 30 affordable, free and fun things to do in Pretoria and prove why it is a city that should be known for more than just jacaranda blossoms and the blue train. With monthly pop-up markets, free Zulu lessons, the longest urban street in South Africa, and some of the best mountain bike tracks, there are so many things to do in Pretoria. So, in no particular order:
1. Attend the vibey Market @ The Sheds
Visit this social market celebrating good vibes with tunes, people and sassy food like tacos in a kombi. It’s organised by the Capital Collective with the aim of rejuvenating Pretoria’s inner city and creating a space where everyone feels welcome.
The Market @ The Sheds takes place on the last Saturday of the month from 11:00 to 20:00. There are date changes in between to accommodate long weekends and holidays. For updates about the next pop-up market check out the Market @ The Sheds calendar.
Where: 012 Central, 381 Helen Joseph Street, Arcadia
Please note: The market has been cancelled until further notice.
2. Tall Stories and Agatha Panther
Just 20 minutes from Pretoria central is this haven for bibliophiles. They sell well-priced new books and very affordable second-hand ones on a wide range of topics. If you’re lucky, handsome feline, Agatha Panther, will be there to greet you.
Where: Irene Village Mall, Cnr. Nellmapius & Pierre Van Reyneveld Roads
3. Join a drumming circle at Klitsgras
Klitsgras Drumming hosts drumming sessions around a fire that is all about good vibes and good music. Try your hand at drumming or simply chill out with pizza and a cold one while watching fire dancers dance to a didgeridoo and local musicians do their thing around a fire pit.
Where: Garsfontein Road
4. Take in the whole town with a camera obscura
The Camera Obscura (precursor to the modern camera) at Pretoria University is a marvellous invention allowing you to view the whole of Pretoria as you change the direction of the lenses and the view is projected in a darkened room. You’ll even be able to see birds and people scurrying around. It’s recommended that you visit in the mornings to see the best view of the city centre when it’s illuminated by the sunlight from the east.
Camera Obscura Tours are hosted at Sci-Enza, the oldest interactive Science Centre in Africa. Groups must be four or more people at a time and bookings are essential.
Where: Roper Street
5. Free Zulu lessons at Grounded at Echo Café on Saturdays
Grounded at Echo is a place for new ideas, community, and delicious coffee. They also hold free introductory Zulu lessons from 9:00 to 10:00 weekly.
Where: Cnr. 24th Avene & Pierneef Street
6. Afro Boer
This unique restaurant is chock full of attitude and delicious food. Enjoy the garden setting, breakfast, light or serious lunches, and of course, their incredible cakes. They change things up in the kitchen “to keep kitchen, ooms, tannies, and copy-cats on their toes”.
Where: Cnr. Lynwood & Meerlust Roads, Equestria
7. Acrobatics in the trees with Acrobranch
The Pretoria North park consists of eight adrenaline-packed obstacles, including Tarzan swings and a 300-metre-long zip line taking you on an amazing aerial adventure. Kids need to be 9 years and older.
8. Visit the Wonderboom fig tree
The Wonderboom is a fig tree over 1,000 years old which grew in such a way that 13 daughter trees sprung up around it forming a massive shaded area that spans 50 metres and can shelter up to 1,000 people. It’s 23 metres high and a nature reserve has been built around it to protect it. There were also interesting Iron Age discoveries made near the tree and a fort built for protection against the British. Views from the Fort of Pretoria are exceptional.
Where: Lavender Road, Wonderboom
9. Best Italian at Alfie’s
For authentic Italian, head to Alfie’s. Locals rave about Alfredo Fiachetti’s traditional Italian restaurant – the proof is that it’s always full, so remember to make a reservation. You can’t go wrong with bruschetta, fresh pasta, or a rack of lamb.
Where: 11 Hazelwood Road, Hazelwood
10. Park Acoustics
The perfect way to outrazzle the Sunday blues. Park Acoustics is a monthly outdoor music festival that happens at the Voortrekker Monument and features some of the best local musicians.
Park Acoustics is currently hosting free virtual events! View the schedule on their website.
11. Have a cold one at Capital Craft
Craft beer fans will be in heaven, as they add new beers to their collection regularly. Try their new black mushroom and white cheddar burger for vegetarians, or add a beef patty if you’re not. Their Van Coke Smoke burger is a winner, as is their BBQ pulled pork sandwich.
Where: Shop 20, Greenlyn Village Centre, Cnr. 12th Street East & Thomas Edison, Menlo Park
12. Picnic at the Union Buildings
It’s practically always picnic weather in Pretoria, so pack some picnic goodies and head to the gardens of the most famous buildings in South Africa. Be sure to visit the 9-metre statue of Mandela and take in the view.
13. Visit the Boeremark for the best pancakes in the world!
Pretoria’s best kept secret and worth an early Saturday morning start.
Where: Moreleta Street, Silverton
14. Visit Mrs Ples
Pay a visit to Mrs or indeed Mr Ples, one of the most complete examples of a pre-human skull ever found. Mrs Ples is a mighty 2,3 million-year-old skull you can visit at the Ditsong National Museum of Natural History (formerly the Transvaal Museum).
The museum is open every day, except Christmas Day and Good Friday.
Where: 432 Paul Kruger Street
15. Challenge yourself at the Climbing Barn
The Climbing barn is a well-established climbing facility with over 450m squared of climbing walls.
Where: Plot 210, Korhaan Road, Mooiplaats
Please note: the Climbing Barn is temporarily closed.
16. Blue Crane Restaurant
The Blue Crane is a thatched restaurant that has an unbeatable setting with a sun deck by a lake in a bird reserve. Perfect for a lazy weekend lunch. The lunch buffet menu changes every week, so give them a call to find out what’s on offer.
Where: 156 Melk Street, Nieuw Muckleneuk
17. Take a drive down the longest street in South Africa
Pretoria boasts the longest urban street in South Africa and one of the straightest urban streets in the world. Stanza Bopape, Helen Joseph, WF Nkomo and Elias Motsoaledi streets (formerly all known as Church Street) are worth a drive to take in the buzz of the nerve centre of Pretoria, check out the historical buildings, and to reflect on the anti-apartheid struggle.
18. Go mountain biking in Groenkloof Park
Groenkloof Nature Reserve is the first and oldest game sanctuary in Africa. There’s a 20km mountain bike trail to explore and you might pass some curious giraffes and zebra as you navigate the reserve. Various guided horse trails are also available. Though generally safe, exercise caution when running or cycling alone and don’t leave valuables in your car.
Where: Christina De Wit Avenue, Groenkloof
19. Hazel Food Market, Menlo Park
This Saturday market is a staple at Greenlyn Village Centre. Nammie’s mini cakes are a must eat with a bullet-proof coffee. And if you’re feeling adventurous, try a jar of Stanley’s snails in French burgundy butter, parsley and garlic.
Where: Cnr. Thomas Edison and Mackenzie Streets, Menlo Park
20. Seek out the Urban Being Sculpture and Spirit of Tshwane
There is interesting outdoor art to be experienced, if only you know where to look. Marco Cianfanelli is the acclaimed sculptor responsible for the outstanding Mandela Capture Site monument. His Urban Being Sculpture stands at nearly 12 metres high, weighs 8,2 tons and can be found at the front of the Pretoria City Lodge.
The Spirit of Tshwane by Anton Smit can be found at Aramist Avenue, Menlyn Maine. The sculpture is designed to represent the spirit of the local Apies River (known as the Tshwane). The river is symbolised by flowing elements attached to the heads, but Tshwane also means ‘we live together, therefore, we are interdependent” which the sculptor asserts is symbolised by the two main heads growing from each other.
21. Enjoy the Jacaranda trees in full bloom
Yes, there is more to Pretoria than the beautiful purple aliens that line the streets giving hope to frantically cramming students each time a bud falls on their heads (legend has it that when the jacaranda blossom strikes, you’re sure to pass). But these iconic trees are in danger as they have been infected with a fungal condition, also because they are classified as aliens, no more can be planted to replace the diseased trees. So enjoy the jacarandas while they last. Nelson Mandela wrote about sitting under the jacarandas at lunch during the Treason Trial, “those moments under the shade of the jacaranda trees on the vicarage lawn were the most pleasant of the trial.”
22. Spoil yourself with a gourmet milkshake at Mustang Sally’s
Mustang Sally’s is an all American style diner that will make you feel as though you’ve just stepped into the 1950s. It is a feast for the eyes and a great place to kick back with a burger and pretend you’re on a great cross-country road trip, but the most special thing about this place is definitely the milkshakes. We recommend the Candy Floss or Nutella shake.
Where: 1319 Pretorius Street, Hatfield
23. Attend the “Not a Dead Poetry Society”
Die Dowe Digters was established four years ago by Andries De Beer as an informal platform for creative writers, poets, musicians, composers and songwriters to perform and network. It is now an important part of the Pretoria social fabric. Visit the Facebook page for updates on their events.
Where: The Blue Crane Restaurant and Bar
24. Beautiful Botanical Gardens
Formerly known as Old Mutual Music in the Gardens and now To The Roots, this is a Pretoria music staple. Take a picnic blanket, some snacks and have a laid back afternoon enjoying the festive atmosphere and top South African music acts. You can find information about upcoming gigs and events on the Facebook page.
Where: Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden or Pretoria Botanical Gardens
25. Go on a game drive at Rietvlei Game Reserve
Home to protected rhinos, this is the best bush break in a city (the largest game reserve within city borders in the world). Make use of the riverside picnic area, the bird hide and have breakfast or lunch at the café. It is interesting to note that the dam at Rietvlei supplies Pretoria with 15 per cent of its water supply.
Where: Nelmapious Drive, Centurion, Pretoria.
26. Meet on Milner, Waterkloof
Meet on Milner is great for adults and kids alike. Adults can wind down with a glass of wine, excellent fillet steak, live music, and convivial atmosphere while kids are entertained.
Where: Cnr. Long & Milner, Waterkloof
27. Take on Pretoria by bike
Capital Collective (ever active in revitalising Pretoria’s inner city) are involved with the City of Tshwane in creating a new cycling route that stretches from Brooklyn Mall to the Botanical Precinct along the Walkerspruit river.
Let us know what your favourite things to do in Pretoria are in the comments.
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All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of out-dated or incorrectly noted information.