Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa and the site of the famous Union Buildings, where Nelson Mandela was sworn in as President after the country’s first democratic elections in 1994. The Union Buildings were designed by Sir Herbert Baker and they are sited in spectacular gardens. Freedom Park on the outskirts of the city has a museum which celebrates the history of Africa. Freedom Park also features a garden of remembrance, commemorating all of those who lost their lives while fighting for a free South Africa. Nearby the Voortrekker Monument celebrates a key moment in the history of white Afrikaners. In the city centre, the Melrose House Museum is where the peace treaty ending the Anglo-Boer war was signed in 1902. Nearby, the Pretoria Art Museum has a wide range of exhibits ranging from the apartheid years to contemporary art. The city is home to South Africa’s State Theatre which has a world-class programme of plays, ballet and classical music. The Zoological Gardens are among the finest in South Africa. Just outside the city, the Groenkloof Nature Reserve offers the opportunity to see animals such as antelope and giraffe in the wild. One unusual experience is to take a restored steam train journey around the city. The steam train also takes visitors to the village of Cullinan where the world’s largest diamond was found.
From December to February, the weather is pleasantly hot, with refreshing thundershowers in the late afternoon. Some travellers prefer the shoulder seasons from March to May and September to November when warm temperatures are ideal for exploring the city. From June to August temperatures are cooler in the evenings, while the days are generally clear and warm. The Pretoria Show in September is one of South Africa’s largest agricultural shows. In October the Jacaranda Festival celebrates the city’s famous jacaranda trees in spectacular full bloom. An antiques fair in December is a popular attraction.