Quick Facts: Pietermaritzburg
- Pietermaritzburg is the capital of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa
- Botanic Gardens
- City Hall: it is the largest red-brick building of Victorian architecture in the Southern Hemisphere; unfortunately is was destroyed by fire in 1895, but was rebuilt in 1901; it has a 47m high bell tower
- Railway Station
- Art Gallery: the Tatham Art Gallery in Pietermaritzburg is housed in the old Supreme Court. Works of South African artists, as well as European masters like Edgar Degas, Henri Matisse and Pablo Picasso are on display.
- Church Street
- Burger Street Jail
- Bonsani Art and Craft Centre: there is a selection of Zulu crafts, a gallery and a ceramics room
- Garden of Remembrance: this commemorates the servicemen who lost their lives in the two world wars. Sap oozes from the famous Weeping Cross of Delville Wood on the anniversary of the battle in which many South African soldiers died.
- Midlands Meander
- Nature Reserves
- Golden Horse Casino & Hotel: situated in Scottsville, Pegasus, a 14m horse statue greets visitors to the casino
- Sport: Comrades Marathon, cycling, canoeing, swimming, golfing
- Howick Falls
- Midmar Dam
- Vortrekker Museum: The Church of the Vow, built by the Voortrekkers after the Battle of Blood River is the focus of this museum.
- Albert Falls Dam Nature Reserve: this is a 30 min drive from the city; it offers game viewing, boating, fishing, rock climbing and nature trails as well as abundant bird life
Distance to Airport: 5 km
Distance to City: 1 km
Pietermaritzburg is the capital of KwaZulu-Natal and is situated in the heart of the Natal Midlands. Pietermaritzburg is a city of charm and dignity, at its loveliest in spring when masses of azaleas burst into bloom.
It was founded in 1838 by the Voortrekkers. Britain took it over in 1843 and became the seat of the Natal Colony’s administration. When the Union of South Africa was formed in 1910, Natal became a province of the union but remained the capital. It is now the commercial, industrial and administrative center of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands.Pietermaritzburg in South Africa was named after two famous Voortrekker leaders – Pieter Mauritz Retief and Gert Maritz. The Zulus called this area Umgungundlovu meaning “Place of the Elephant” or another meaning “The Elephant wins”. The Zulus hunted elephant in this region and sold the ivory to English traders at Port Natal (Durban).
There are numerous historical buildings with a British colonial air, Victorian, Edwardian, Indian, African and modern architecture can be seen. Many monuments, as well as galleries and museums can also be visted in Pietermaritzburg. There are many schools and tertiary institutions one being the University of Natal which was founded in 1910. Pietermaritzburg is also famous for the incident which took place in 1893. Mahatma Gandhi had bought a first-class ticket to Pretoria. A white man objected to his presence in the first- class carriage and Gandhi was ordered to move to the van compartment at the end of the train. He refused and was thrown off the train at Pietermartizburg and that night sitting in the waiting room of the station he made the decision to stay in South Africa and fight the racial discrimination against Indians. His bronze statue stands in Church Street.
Another historical event was the arrest of Nelson Mandela in 1962 in the nearby town of Howick north of Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal.This marked the beginning of his 27 years of imprisonment. A small monument has been erected at the location of his arrest.
The Burger Street Jail in Pietermaritzburg was built in 1862 and closed in 1989 but is now open for tours. It is the oldest government building and unique because of its re-brick and sandstone construction.
The Church Street in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, has been converted into an attractive pedestrian shopping mall shaded by stinkwood trees and lined with well-preserved historic buildings. At the African Arts and Craft Centre visitors can see traditional and contemporary work, including sculpture, hand-woven rugs and tapestries, batiks, jewellery and collectors’ pieces.
Golf in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal
The Maritzburg Golf Club is one of the oldest golf clubs in South Africa dating back to 1886. It has lush, smooth cynodon greens, pine trees line many of the fairways and water hazards feature on seven holes. It features numerous bunkers and is a very hilly course with beautiful scenery. The Victoria Country Club is the most picturesque golfing venue and adjoins the Queen Elizabeth Nature Reserve.
The Comrades Marathon has been run since 1921 and attracts thousands of entrants every year in South Africa. The start of the Comrades Marathon race alternates between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
Amashova is a 106km road cycling classic race held since 1986 which starts in Pietermaritzburg and ends in Durban.
The Dusi Canoe Marathon route follows the Msunduzi River and ends at the mouth of the Mgeni River.
The Midmar Mile in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, is one of the largest open-water swimming events in the world. It takes place at the Midmar Dam, situated north of Pietermaritzburg and attracts over 16,000 swimmers from around the world.
Pietermaritzburg Botanic Gardens
This area is 46 hectare and established in 1872. It is famed for its long avenue of plane trees, planted in 1908, at the end of which is a bell tower that houses a ship bell from the HMS Princess on which King George V crossed the channel in 1918. It essentially focuses on conservation and propagation of rare and endangered indigenous plants.
Pietermaritzburg Railway Station
This is an attractive red-brick Victorian building. It is notable for its contrasting stone facings and cast-iron lace work. Mahatma Ghandi was evicted from a train here in 1893, a famous incident which launched him on his political career.
This is a cultural and natural history museum. Gigantic insects cling to the outside walls of this museum. Superb displays include African mammals, birds and dinosaurs. There is an exhibit of the last wild elephant in Natal plus a life-size T-rex model.
The Midlands Meander in South Africa is also known as the “Arts and Crafts route”. It is located north of Pietermartizburg and is 80km long and has more than 160 places to eat, drink, sleep, shop and play. There are weavers, potters, woodcrafters, leather worker, artists etc. Historical buildings are visited as well. Also on this route is the Midmar Dam, Drakensberg Mountains and visiting the Battlefields.
- 18km north of Pietermartizburg is the town of Howick with its magnificent waterfall, the Howick Falls. It is equal in height to the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe.
- 27km north of Pietermartizburg is the Midmar Dam. It is well known for fishing and watersports.
- Drakensberg: trips to Royal Natal National Park, Giant’s Castle, Cathedral Peak and Champagne Castle.