After staying in quite a few hotels around the globe, I must say hotel services in South Africa are the best. They offer airport pick up, cold beverage upon arrival, and so much more.
You would never guess what they offered me in my hotel room in Pretoria.
A guy! A real guy!!
He was changing in front of the mirror when I kicked open the door. The poor guy almost jumped.
Yup! I certainly didn’t expect that to be included in my hotel package 🙂
Besides that, here are 11 other fun things to do in Pretoria (in random order).
1. Visit Hazel Food Market, Menlo Park
I would definitely go to this market every time I visit Pretoria.
The market held every Saturday from 8am to 2pm. It’s ideal to come here early, have breakfast, and walk around. There are so many pop-up tents promoting exotic local products that you could easily spend a few hours here. You can find everything, from high quality spice-infused olives and olive oils to cultured pearl jewelry and super cute hand-made stuffed animals. And of course food and drink. Cappuccino, non-alcoholic mojito, pizza cone (yes, it exists!), local bread, you name it. There are lots of tables and chairs set up under the trees so you could hang out all morning. I lingered here so long that my colleague finally said: We can stay here as much as you want, as long as we leave at 10, okie? He had reasons. My check-in luggage was definitely heavier after this trip.
Address: 64 13th St, Pretoria, 0081, South Africa
Cost: No entrance fee, but I take no responsibility if you spend a fortune here 😉
Note: Most vendors take credit cards, but the machines may not work properly. Bring cash! Load of cash!!
2. Make your muscles work with Acrobranch
YESSSSS… you heard me right! It’s really acrobatics under the trees. Some of them are so high that they make you sweat. You could choose a 2-hour or 3-hour high flying course. The latter comes with 4 levels – the higher the level, the higher off the ground. I was so proud of myself afterward.
Address: 18 Honingnestkrans Street, Soutpan Road, Pretoria North
Cost: 220 rand for 2 hour trip, 290 rand for the 3-hour one. You have your own personal instructor who follows you closely and tortures you mercilessly.
Note: From Hazel Food Market, it would take about 30-minute taxi drive (~300 rand or $18). It’s so easy with Uber. I would recommend you ask your taxi driver to come back and pick you up. This place is quite far from the city so you will not be able to catch a taxi on the road.
Another note: Drink lots of water, and use the bathroom before the trip. Once you are up there, you have no where else to go. Trust me! I had to climb down in the middle of the flying course – it was not the proudest moment of my life.
3. Test your zoological knowledge at Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve
If you don’t have 3 days for Kruger National Park (which is the park everyone is talking about), a half-day in this place is a good alternative. Technically, the animals here don’t live in the wild but it’s a pretty big place to drive around. You have to follow certain driving paths and spot the animals. We saw bison, cape buffalo, white rhino, lion, lynx, hyena, suricate, oryx, eland, waterbuck, zebra, blesbuck, ostrich and some cool birds. There is also a baby animal center where you can play with the cubs. See, I just made a new friend whose claws were a tad too sharp!
Address: 520 Kromdraai Rd, Krugersdorp, 1739, South Africa
Cost: Entrance fee is 160 rand. To play with the cubs, you need to pay an additional cost of 30 rand per species (there are white tiger, lions, and leopards available).
Note: The feeding time is Sunday at 2pm – you can see a lot of animals if you arrive slightly before that.
4. Picnic in front of the Union Buildings
A 9-meter high status of Mandela! Need I say more? Behind him is the most powerful building in South Africa – the Offices of the President. From the terrace of the Presidential palace, you can have a magnificent view of the Union Buildings and the surrounding vast park. I was so tempted to take a photo but the security guards didn’t look at me fondly.
Address: Government Ave, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa
Note: Picnics in the park seem to be super fun. It’s in my to-do-list next time I come back.
5. Learn history at Soweto
You cannot go to South Africa without learning about apartheid. Soweto is a good place to start. As of today, you can see the visible division of two towns on two sides of a single road: an old settlement and a new development.
While you are here, walk around Kliptown (a formerly black township of Soweto), wander along Vilakazi street (the most famous street that produced two Nobel Prize winners, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu), visit Hector Pieterson Museum (the museum in honor of Hector Pieterson who was shot and killed, which ignited the Soweto uprising in 1976).
6. Visit Mandela House
While in Soweto, you must visit Mandela House, which gives a comprehensive history, heritage and legacy of the Mandela Family.
Address: 8115 Orlando West Soweto.
Cost: Entrance fee is 60 rand (do expect a long line of tourists here).
7. Visit the Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid museum provides an excellent illustration of the rise and fall of apartheid. There is so much to learn here that you can easily take at least half a day.
Address: Cnr Northern Parkway & Gold Reef Roads, Ormonde, Johannesburg, South Africa
Cost: 100 rands.
8. Check out the new National Statistics Office
Alright, you don’t have to visit Statistics South Africa as a tourist (not sure you can even get it). This is purely my professional interest – hands down the BEST statistics offices I have ever seen in Africa! It was so modern and well-equipped that I would make another trip here just to say wow. On top of that, their wall murals are super funny. Who said that statisticians don’t have a sense of humor? Myths busted!
9. Try Red Cappuccino
I discovered red cappuccino in a cafe near my hotel. Technically, it is not a cafe (!), but a tea (!!!). I know, right? So, why bother calling it cappuccino then? Well, the short answer is: because it tastes just like a cappuccino. It is rich and creamy with a thick top of foaming milk sprinkled with cinnamon powder. But, instead of a concentrated double shot of espresso, it has a concentrated shot of Rooibos Tea! Alright, I’m losing my mind. It is super interesting! And by the way, the regular cappuccino here is awesome too. I was so impressed. Even the one I had at a random beverage stall in Hazel Food Market tasted several notches above the cappuccino we have in the cafe in the office. Arg… for that reason alone, I could totally work here.
Address: Any where.
Cost: 20-35 rand
10. Eat, eat, and eat a lot
Here are a couple of my favorite places:
- Steaks at Hinterland
I don’t know about you, but eating is definitely among my top fun activities anywhere I go (surprise!). Hinterland is specialized in steak and wine. The meat quality is super and cooked to perfection. If you want medium rare, you get medium rare. There is also a wide selection of wine if you are into it. The french fries are fantastic too!
Address: The Club Shopping Center, 147 Pinaster Ave, Pretoria, 0081, South Africa
Cost: 150-250 rand (they have women’s and men’s portions!)
Note: You can pay with your credit cards almost every where in South Africa. Just make sure that the waiters bring the portable credit card reader to you. Your information may be stolen if you give out your credit card. This restaurant takes American Express.
- Try ostrich fillet at Cafe Beyritz
The cafe has a very nice outdoor settings and super services. I never had ostrich before so was skeptical at first. They cooked it so well – tender and sweet. The taste resembles a combination of fillet mignon and magret de canard. I tried several other restaurants but nothing can beat this place.
Address: 4 Daventry St, Pretoria, 0081, South Africa
Cost: 160 rand (other main dishes range from 100 to 200 rand).
- Explore Indian spices at Namaskar
The location is in the middle of no where. The restaurant is big and empty (also because we arrived at 2pm). Nothing hinted amazing food. Oh how I was wrong! All dishes came out flavorful and tasty. I couldn’t stop!
Address: Stanza Bopape St, Pretoria, South Africa
Cost: 100-150 rand.
Note: We tried butter chicken, lamb rogan josh, namaskar prawn specialty, and seafood trio. Top!!
11. Pamper yourself with manicure/pedicure and massage
Okay. You can laugh as much as you’d like. But the lady must have what she wants to have. I found this chain store called Sorbet near my hotel, and popped in just an hour before heading to the airport. The owner is nice, she would come and greet you personally. The technicians are professional and efficient. My toes colors stay 4 weeks afterward, although my nails did start to chip a few days later. They also serve you hot tea in white porcelain with sugar and cream while you wait. The only down side is that this place is fully booked. I showed up without an appointment, so they turned me away. Luckily, one customer called and canceled her appointment. Phew!
Address: Sorbet, various locations.
Cost: Manicure (quickie 100-180 rand, mini-me 175-260 rand, power 235-330 rand). Pedicure (quickie 105-185 rand, mini-me 180-265 rand, power 235-345 rand). They also provide a wide range of beauty services (facial massage 280-700 rand, body massage 400 rand, wax 65-200 rand, and so on)
Note: Call to make an appointment (0123611768). Bring cash if you want to tip your technician. I told the owner to add the tips to my bill and she looked very surprised. I later found out that she put it as an “add-on service” in my bill. Somehow I got a sense that my technician didn’t get a cent from this. Hmmm!!!