a VirtualTourist member from Canberra asked on Dec 3, 2012
I have very limited time - two days for Joburg/Pretoria (will visit Soweto separately). Re Pretoria I (2 of us) want to see Vorrtrekker, Freedom Park, Union Building and Church Square.
I am thinking to get early Gautain out from Sandton.. noting that Voortrekker
opens 8am .....or do we go Hatfield and Gautrain bus to (close to) Union Buildings to start then Church Square then the other two??
Hard to determine from map if one can walk to Freedom Park and thence
Voortrekker from Pretoria station or if taxi etc is required.
What sequence would you suggest for above and how would you recommend getting between them ...
Theoretically Pretoria Station would be the best for the Voortrekker Monument and Freedom Park, and probably Hatfield for the Union Buildings - and neither is particularly close to Church Square. However, none of the Gautrain feeder buses go to any of these destinations, so it's quite a long walk. Also, given that you're from Canberra (welcome!) and I assume that you're unfamiliar with walking around cities in South Africa, I think that you'd risk making yourself unnecessarily vulnerable. And reliable, roadworthy taxis are hard to come by. Otherwise, if you're really not keen on driving, consider hiring a driver for the day (although this is the most costly option)
This is one instance where I really think that you'd be much better hiring a car for the day. We drive on the same road as the Aussies (usually!) and with the cost of the train tickets and taxis, it would probably be cost neutral if there are two of you (and you hire a bog standard car). The roads are in good condition (as the endless upgrades have finally been completed) and it's easy to find your way around.
As to the order, I personally always start at the furthest point and work my way back. I'd begin with the Union Buildings, then cut over to Church Square. If you're there, then I'd strongly recommend visiting the Kruger House (this is usually the best place to park for Church Square). And as you're an Aussie, then you might consider a short detour west to see Breaker Morant's grave, the apartheid era Heroe's Acre (including the grand high priest of apartheid, H.F. Verwoerd) and the Boer War graves in the Church Street Cemetery.
From there, you can connect to the highway back towards Jo'burg. Just at this intersection is the offramp to Salvokop (which is where Freedom Park is located), and if you're feeling particularly macabre, the Correctional Services museum (more often known as The Gallows) has opened in the last few months at Pretoria Central Jail (which is right by the turnoff). Here you can tour the condemned block and the gallows that could hang seven people at one time: not everyone's cup of tea, but a chilling reflection of how efficient the Old Order could be on issues that it considered a priority.
The last stop would be the Voortrekker monument - which includes the dinky Boer War era Fort Schanskop ... or, if you still have energy, a final detour via Jan Smuts' House, which I would highly recommend (it has a very nice cafe where you can catch your breath after a busy day).
You could do all of that in a busy day - or less, depending on your interests and priorities. If you'd like help on route planning from wherever you're staying, then just let me know.
Hope this is enough to get you started.
Cathy, thanks for the most comprehensive reply it is truly appreciated.
After I posted the initial query I did a bit more research and agree a car rental is the way to go. It will Also give us additional time to look at some of the other sights you mention.
We will take car for two days so cover airport transfers too. Question.. As we will be there Friday and Sat ..based on traffic conditions and other factors perhaps, would you do Pretoria on Friday and Jo'burg (sights to be determined but will include Apartied museum ) on Sat or vice versa or doesn't it matter much?
We are staying at Sandton hotel.
Glad to be of help!
Given a choice, I think I'd do Pretoria on a Friday and then Jo'burg on a Saturday. It won't make a huge difference if you want to do it the other way around, but particularly if you want to spend a couple of hours in the Jo'burg CBD, then Saturday is less crowded and parking is easier.
If you look on my Jo'burg page, you'll find some suggested itineraries, so you can decide what catches your fancy. However, if you have only one day, then I would suggest that the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill are probably the two highlights that you wouldn't want to miss. The Apartheid Museum is open 09:00 - 17:00 and can get fairly busy, so either do it first (allow about 30 minutes driving time in light traffic from Sandton ) or do it late afternoon (especially if you'd like to catch a show at the Gold Reef Casino). Using my principle of going to the furthest point and working your way back, my preference would be to do it early in the morning. Allow yourself about two hours maximum, simply because the experience is so intense (not gory, but deeply, deeply sad) that you probably will reach saturation point by then.
Both the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill are world class tourist attractions, but I would caution that they deal with difficult subject matter, and I would try to avoid doing them back to back, which could be pretty depressing. I would recommend the excellent World of Beer as a great interlude (allow yourself two hours), from where you could also take a walk around the Newtown precinct, featuring the small but very evocative Workers' Museum (a converted hostel). If you have time, you could also take a stroll around the Marshalltown area, with the newly gentrified Main Street precinct, which will give you a taste of Johannesburg's rich mining history - this is mostly overlooked by tourists, and would be very quiet on a Saturday afternoon.
I would plan to end up at Constitution Hill, which is best appreciated on a tour - their website is hopeless when it comes to details, so call the day before to check tour times. Usually they say that if there are only a couple of you, you don't need to book, but the downside of this is that if they don't have people booked on tours later in the day, they may decide to cancel them altogether, so booking is probably to your benefit.
Lastly, when are you planning to be here? Like Oz, the school summer holidays fall over the Christmas period (most schools break up on 7th December)and people tend to head out of town, particularly after the Day of Reconciliation public holiday on 16th December (this year, 17th is a holiday because 16th falls on a Sunday). Things will quieten down considerably from then on - just for anyone else reading this, 16th December is the worst day of the year to visit the Voortrekker Monument, as it is inundated by thousands of Afrikaners celebrating the former Day of the Vow (which commemorates the Voortrekkers' victory over the Zulus at the Battle of Blood River).
Thanks again Cathy.
I think Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill will be it and we will do them back to back .. Museum first with short lunch break - especially if we do Jo'burg on Sat as Hill closes at 3pm.
By way of recovery/reward we will likely follow with one of your other tips ... high tea at the Westcliff.
We will be visiting 29-30 March.. Which covers Easter / school holidays.
Yes the Constitution Hill web site is rather lacking. I have just received the following email from them which contains useful information for you and others.. Why they don't put it on the web site who knows.
"Our tours are very hour on the hour from Monday to Friday between 09:00 -16:00(last tour is at 16:00), on Saturday we open between 10:00- 15:00(last tour departs at 14:00)
At the moment we do not have a coffee shop on site but there are nearby restaurants The site comprises the following;
Number Four prison- This section held the black, coloured and Indian men. Amongst others were Robert Sobukwe and Mahatma Gandhi.
Women’s Prison- Built in 1910 this housed the likes of Winnie Mandela, Albertina Sisulu, Daisy De Melker, etc. It held both black and white women arrested for pass offences, or illegal occupation, etc.
Constitutional Court- This court is built around the remaining stairwells of the old Awaiting Trial Block. It is designed to be open, accessible and transparent. It comprises the Judge’s Chambers, Art Gallery and the Court Foyer.
Old Fort Prison- This was a white men section and also held Nelson Mandela who was the only black person imprisoned in this section.
Below are our pricing structure:
R50 per adult, R25 for pensioners and R20 for students/children for a tour of 2 sections of the prison (Women’s Jail and Number Four Prisons) and the Constitutional Court lasting an hour and a half.
R30 per adult, R25 per pensioner and R20 per students/children for an hour tour that takes you to one section of the museum and the Court.
R70pp (across all ages) with this tour you are guided through the whole site seeing all the 3 sections (Women's Jail, Number Four and Old Fort prison) plus the Court. This can take up to 2 hours .
A booking is necessary if bringing 10 or more people."
Off to your Cape Town pages now-:)
Is there any way of copying above conversation to Jo'burg section where it would be very useful?