7 ways to explore Tshwane (and the city’s rosy tourism rise)

Posted by Welcome Lishivha on 27 February 2018

Tshwane Tourism is determined to reinvigorate attractions in the state capital to invite more visitors to the area. Although the city has plenty to offer, it’s largely been an underdog in the tourism industry.

Also read: The insider’s guide to Pretoria

However strong this sentiment, it seems like everyone who holds this view must fasten their seatbelts in anticipation of the plans to welcome more visitors and go an extra mile in showing off it’s attractions to the rest of the world.

Last month, the tourism association re-launched their new map-based website visittshwane.co.za to help visitors and locals discover attractions and activities offered in the city. The nifty map feature shows directions and exact locations of the services offered in the city, plus contact details for those service providers.

At the launch, Mayor Solly Msimanga pledged his support to Tshwane Tourism Association and went on to list landmarks and achievements that make Tshwane a one-of-a-kind city, achievements which are not sufficiently wide-spread or celebrated. For example, Tshwane is the only metropolis on the continent that owns its own airport. Tshwane City manager Moeketsi Mosola also pledged to support tourism in the city by allocating more funds towards promoting the region and ensuring that its locals share in equally on opportunities as the industry grows. He also mentioned the responsibility that the private sector had in developing skills within their employment programmes.

Head of Tourism Management Division at the University of Pretoria, Professor Berendien Lubbe, spoke about the country’s competitiveness in the tourism industry. She mentioned that safety, visa openness and environmental stability are crucial factors to keep in mind moving forward. There’s certainly a lot to be done in terms of developing new products and marketing those products, but it seems like the city is determined to plough through the work and make changes. The proof remains in the pudding and we’re keeping our eyes peeled looking for the changes in the metropolitan.

There’s plenty you should be exploring in Pretoria. For those too lazy to come up with an itinerary for trips to explore the city, there are a variety of tours to help both visitors and locals explore different aspects of the city. Areas to explore include Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve, the historic town of Cullinan and Tshwane townships tours with tour operators.

Dinokeng Big 5 Game Reserve is 90000-hectare reserve said to crown Tshwane as the only city in the world with a big-five game reserve in an urban area. Cullinan, a small mining town 45km north-east of Pretoria, is where the largest diamond was found. There’s lots more to do and explore in the city centre too, Tshwane prides itself in its vast portfolio of public art and museums, both historical and modern.

Here are a few ways to get started in your exploration of the administrative seat of our state.


1. Meet locals and buy local products at markets

Locals shopping at the [email protected] Photo sourced.

Hosted on the last Saturday of each month (when everyone’s ideally paid), [email protected] is a great spot to shop for local products and enjoy local music and art. The market is popular with local entrepreneurs, designers, artists and musicians hosted at the trendy multi-space precinct in the Pretoria CBD; 012central. Other markets worth trying out in the city include Hazel Food Market, TripSwitch Market, Irene Village Market and Pretoria Boeremark.


2. Explore South African history

Sunset at Freedom Park in Tshwane. Photo sourced.

Freedom Park celebrates South African history by deepening our understanding of South Africa from the dawn of humanity, through pre-colonial, colonial, apartheid history to the post-apartheid South Africa of today. It’s a museum institution dedicated to chronicling and honouring the many who contributed to South Africa’s liberation. There’s also the National Museum of Natural History that displays African animal skeletons with fossils, including a fossilized skull and bird collection.


3. Spot wildlife

Spot some wildlife at Reitvlei Nature Reserve. Photo by Tyson Jopson.

You can spot wildlife at Reitvlei Nature Reserve, owned and managed by the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality. The game here includes blesbuck, black wildebeest, red hartebeest, eland, Burchell’s zebra, waterbuck, reedbuck, springbuck, mountain reedbuck, steenbuck and grey duiker. You can view game from your own vehicle as the animals are easy to spot on the open plains and the 60km of tarred and dirt roads will take you close up. There are picnic spots at the Marais Dam picnic site, shady spots with braai facilities and a bird hide.


4. Spot wildlife and explore South African history in one place

Monuments of anti-apartheid struggle heroes, collectively known as the Long Walk to Freedom. Photo sourced.

The Groenkloof Nature Reserve is slap-bang in the middle of the city located near the Fountains Valley, which is a popular escape for locals. The reserve was established in 1895 to protect the wildlife endangered by hunters at the time. The wildlife on the reserve includes zebra, jackal, duiker, kudu, impala, blue wildebeest, blesbuck, red hartebeest, ostrich, giraffe and sable. There is abundant bird life as well. In the middle of the reserve, you’ll find a must visit – the National Heritage Monument. The heritage monument is made up of 50 figures of anti-apartheid struggle heroes, collectively known as the Long Walk to Freedom. The range of figures reflects the history of liberation from anti-colonial wars to modern freedom fighters. It’s a new installation and was established as an extensive urban public art and a one-of-a-kind heritage initiative to benefit all South Africans.


5. Picnic and learn about plants at the Pretoria Botanical Gardens

Ndebele traditional medicine garden in the Pretoria Botanical Garden. Photo by Maureen Barlin.

This 76-hectare garden is perfect for warm sunny days over a picnic with family and friends. As the Head Office of the South African National Biodiversity Institute, Pretoria Botanical Gardens bridge the gap between scientific research and the recreational environment. About 50 hectares of the total area is devoted to developed garden with almost all exclusively South African plants. All the flowering plant species to be seen, including 50 percent of the country’s tree species, make this Garden a botanical tapestry. Visitors are offered a glimpse of different biomes such as savanna and forest biomes. The Union Building is another spot that’s fabulous for a picnic, plus it’s free.


6. Explore the Antique route

Owl Books. Photo sourced from Antique Route.

Tshwane Tourism declares the Antique Route as ‘the coolest antique route in the country’. The route is made up of 12 antique shops within a radius of about 5km with each store offering a different variety of products from furniture to art. In the event that you shop ’til you drop, there’s Tony’s Pizza and other coffee shops nearby to rest and recuperate.


7. Explore the historic Cullinan

Cullinan Diamond Mine. This is the hole that’s said to be 4 times bigger than Kimberly’s ‘Big Hole’. Photo by Vaiz Ha.

Located 20-minutes from the Pretoria city centre is the quaint and historic Cullinan. It was in this town that the largest diamond in the world was found. The town offers plenty to do from adrenalin-pumping rides on mountain biking and 4X4 trails at Legends MX to quaint eateries on Cullinan’s famed Oak Avenue, a visit to Cullinan Mine, plenty of antique stores worth exploring and even a vintage steam train ride.

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