Day trip with the Gautrain – Pretoria

13 Mar 2024
As South Africa's administrative capital, Pretoria is loaded with heritage sites, making it a fascinating destination for tourists and locals alike. While Hatfield arguably has more by way of arts and culture catering to its student population, Pretoria Central's main attractions have for many years been sites of historical significance, and new developments tied to the 012 Central complex in the city that add fresh energy to the area.

Linking Gauteng's two main cities, Joburg and Pretoria, the high-speed Gautrain service is the quickest way to travel between these metropolises and a particularly convenient way to pack in a full sightseeing day trip. A wealth of attractions lies within easy reach of the main Pretoria station. With well-looked-after landmarks, governmental buildings, and excellent museums, there's plenty to plan a day trip around. For even more to see and do nearby, work a stop at the Hatfield Gautrain station into your itinerary – we made you a guide for that, too.


The city of Pretoria was founded in 1855 by Marthinus Wessel Pretorius, who named it after his father. The city's main civic square was created soon after and named Church Square. To this day, Church Square remains the undisputed centre of Pretoria, and from here the inner city spreads out in a grid of wide streets lined by grand, historic buildings and abundant jacaranda trees, earning Pretoria its nickname of Jacaranda City
Looking out over the city. Photo: 012 Central.
Looking out over Pretoria's Church Square. Photo: 012 Central.

Central Pretoria has several major museums that fall under the state-managed Ditsong group of museums, namely, Ditsong Museum of Natural History, Ditsong Museum of Cultural History, and Paul Kruger House Museum. While it's temporarily closed for the time being, history buffs will also enjoy Melrose House Museum, a beautifully preserved Victorian mansion facing Burgers Park. For families, the biggest attraction is undoubtedly the expansive Pretoria Zoo (The National Zoological Garden), the largest zoo in the country.


The relatively compact Pretoria city centre is bordered to the north by the delightful Pretoria Zoo and to the south by the Gautrain station. Its east and west sides are bounded by high-rise residential areas.

On weekdays the circular Pretoria Central Gautrain midi-bus route traces its way through this central business district, making it easy to navigate by public transport. On weekends there is also a Gautrain midi-bus linking to the Pretoria Zoo which plots a similar route. Central Pretoria's manageable size and easy-to-navigate grid system mean that all the biggest museums and heritage sites can easily be reached on foot in about 20 to 30 minutes from the station, or via even shorter Uber or Bolt rides (although you might have an issue ordering an e-hailing service from the station due to ongoing animosity from metered taxi drivers). 


Pretoria Zoo (officially The National Zoological Gardens of South Africa) is the largest zoo in the country and perfect for a family outing. Be sure to take comfortable shoes as the zoo features over 6km of walkways. If you have young kids, it’s worth hiring a golf cart to make the most of your day.

All creatures great and small at Pretoria's National Zoological Garden.
All creatures great and small at Pretoria's National Zoological Gardens. Photo: Pretoria Zoo.

Some of the most interesting species to see at the zoo include Komodo dragons, gorillas, tigers, and sloths, and there's also a small aquarium and reptile park, as well as over 200 bird species. Every weekend the zoo staff present free talks about the lifestyles and habits of the various animals, reinforcing the importance of conservation efforts to protect the world's wildlife. Come lunchtime, there's a restaurant as well as a variety of food kiosks, or you can pack some snacks and find a place to relax in one of the many picnic spots scattered throughout the zoo's massive grounds.
232 Boom Street, Daspoort 319-Jr. 

This modest house museum outlines the life and times of the Afrikaans leader and former State President Paul Kruger, who lived here at the end of the 19th century. If you're interested in military history there's much to be gleaned from the exhibits devoted to Kruger's role in the Anglo-Boer wars. Meanwhile, a wealth of personal items belonging to Kruger illustrate the man's distinct and often abrasive personality and speaks to the relative modernity that the family lived in, with electricity and a telephone line. In the yard, the old wagons the family used are preserved, as well as Kruger's private train carriage. 
60 WF Nkomo Street, Pretoria Central.
Tour Paul Kruger's 19th-century home. Photo: Ditsong Museums of South Africa.

Pretoria's most famous square is surrounded by grand, 19th-century Neo-classical buildings. Major landmarks include the beautiful Ou Raadsaal (Old Government) building, The General Post Office, and The Palace of Justice where the infamous Rivonia Trial was held, which led Nelson Mandela and his comrades to a life sentence on Robben Island. At the centre of it all stands a statue of the 19th-century Afrikaans leader Paul Kruger dressed in a top hat and carrying a walking cane.

The small, neatly laid out Burgers Park, with its verdant lawns, century-old trees and flower beds, is a lovely green space to walk through and take time out. 
Thabo Sehume and Jacob Maré Streets, Pretoria Central.

Facing the park is the Melrose House Museum, a beautifully preserved Victorian mansion that is now a museum. Built in 1886 for a local British colonial businessman, Melrose House is an especially significant place as it was here that in 1902 the Peace Treaty of Vereeniging, which ended the Anglo-Boer Wars, was signed. An original copy of the treaty is on display in the house alongside other items detailing this important moment. Note that the museum is temporarily closed at the moment.
275 Jeff Masemola Street, Pretoria Central. 

Melrose House Museum in Pretoria. Photo: Eenblond Tours.

The grand Neo-classical City Hall and Natural History Museum buildings face each other on Pretorius Square, just a few blocks from the Pretoria Gautrain station. The imposing Ditsong Museum of Natural History houses a collection of various stuffed animals, including an extensive collection of birds and geological exhibits.
432 Paul Kruger Street, Pretoria Central.

A short walk away, behind the City Hall, is the Ditsong Museum of Cultural History. Looking broadly over the variety of cultural histories and traditions of South African peoples, there are San rock art paintings and engravings, Iron Age artefacts from Limpopo, and examples of traditional beading, painting, textiles, pottery, clothing, furniture, as well as other everyday items.
Cnr Bosman and Visagie Streets, Pretoria Central.

Freedom Park is a short drive from Pretoria Central and is a worthwhile stop to add to your day. The 52-ha park is an impressive memorial to South Africa’s history and heritage, themed around humanity, freedom, and healing. Rich in symbolism, the park showcases the different struggles South Africa has faced along the path to democracy. The huge Wall of Names, which lists the names of the South Africans who lost their lives fighting for freedom and equality, is particularly moving. A guided tour is highly recommended to appreciate the full scope and nuance of the park and its facets.
Cnr Koch Street and 7th Avenue, Salvokop.
The Palace of Justice on the northern façade of Church Square in Pretoria. Photo: Eenblond Tours.


City Property is breathing new life into Pretoria Central, creating a multi-space precinct in the heart of Gauteng's capital. The project's cornerstone is the 012 Central venue, a large, urban environment dotted with art and greenery. This is where Pretoria's most stylish gather on the first Sat of every month from 11:00 – 24:00 to enjoy art, fashion, food, and live music at Market @ The Sheds.

Pretoria's Market @ The Sheds is the place to be. Photo: 012 Central.

On the corner of Helen Joseph and Sisulu Streets, look out for Hannelie Coetzee's porcelain and glass tile mosaic Tant Koek, a tribute to the artist's paternal great-aunt that was commissioned by City Property. Don't forget to turn around for a glimpse of the impressive building with its mirror-like finish that houses the South African Reserve Bank just across the street. And watch this space: City Property has its sights set on revamping the historic Church Square next.
012 Central is at 387 Helen Joseph Street, Arcadia. Free parking at 216 Sisulu Street gives direct access to the market.

Hannelie Coetzee's porcelain and glass tile mosaic Tant Koek. Photo: Sanet Oberholzer.


South Africa's first tram lines were laid in 1889, an iconic part of the country's history. While the trams are no more, the nostalgic Tramshed Mall merges past and present. The vintage tram depot turned commercial shopping centre is a pretty building to walk through, whether or not you're looking to buy anything.
324 Francis Baard Street, Pretoria Central.


A stalwart in South African performing arts, The South African State Theatre occupies an entire block in Pretoria's City Centre – you can't miss it. As the largest theatre complex in Africa, it seats 2,700 people across its six venues. The theatre staged its first show in 1981 and has featured a wide range of productions since, from opera and ballet to children's theatre performances. If you time your visit right, you might even catch an art exhibition in the foyer.
320 Pretorius Street, Pretoria Central.

A previous exhibition by fine artist Kganya Mogasho titled Women are the Architects of Society in The State Theatre's foyer. Photo: Sanet Oberholzer.


On the Sat before the first Sun of every month, Brooklyn Mall hosts one of Gauteng's finest antique fairs, known for its carefully curated selection of top antique dealers from the South African Antique Dealers' Association. This will require a short ride from Pretoria Central to the leafy suburb of Brooklyn.
Cnr Veale and Middle Streets, Brooklyn.

Shop for unusual treasures at Brooklyn Mall's monthly antique fair. Photo: Supplied.
Shop for unusual treasures at Brooklyn Mall's monthly antique fair. Photo: Supplied.


A few blocks east of Church Square, The Wing Republic at 367 Helen Joseph Street is a youthful spot with a spacious courtyard that serves what many claim are the best chicken wings in town as well as mouth-watering ribs. Be cautious with the extra hot sauces, they are extremely spicy! If you're looking for something to snack on, the freshly cooked mielies from the informal traders at the landmark neo-Dutch-style Sammy Marks Square (also host to a fun, futuristic glass-walled McDonald's) and along Church Street are filling, simple, and delicious. For coffee, swing past South African roastery TriBeCa's shop at 220 Madiba Street. The restaurant at the Sierra Burgers Park Hotel at 424 Lilian Ngoyi Street provides a peaceful setting for lunch between your adventures, or stop by for drinks before catching the Gautrain back home.
A mielie vendor along Church Street. Photo: Eenblond Tours.


Pay for your Gautrain and midi-bus trips using a contactless bank card by simply swiping in and out of the turnstiles at stations and tapping the touchpoint on the midi-bus when you enter. Alternatively, buy a Swift card at the station and top it up with credit to pay for your trips.

The Pretoria Gautrain station opens at 05:17 and closes at 21:17. The first southbound train departs the station at 05:32, while the first train going north leaves at 06:05. The last train going south departs the station at 20:43, and the last northbound train departs at 21:06. Trains leave every 10 minutes during weekday peak rush hours and every 20 minutes during off-peak hours. On weekends trains depart every 30 minutes. The first Gautrain midi-bus leaves Pretoria at 06:13 during the week and the last at 21:13. An the weekend, the first midi-bus departs Pretoria station at 09:15 and the last at 18:15. 

Download the Gautrain app for real-time updates on when the next Gautrain and midi-bus is due or find the schedule online at For a helpful overview, check out our guide to using the Gautrain here.


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