Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Pietermaritzburg
Pietermaritzburg, capital of the province of KwaZulu/Natal, lies in a fertile agricultural region. It is the seat of South Africa's Supreme Court and the University of Natal, and is also an important industrial and commercial center.
Pietermaritzburg was founded in 1838, after the Boer victory over the Zulus in the battle of Blood River, and named after the two Boer leaders, Pieter Retief and Gerrit Maritz. When the republic of Natal was established in the following year Pietermaritzburg became its capital. After the annexation of the republic by Britain the headquarters of British administration was moved to Pietermaritzburg (1843), a garrison was stationed here and Fort Napier was built. The town later became capital of the British colony of Natal and in 1910 the seat of government of the province of Natal.Pietermaritzburg is abundantly supplied with parks and gardens and with historic buildings, now protected as national monuments or museums, and has preserved much of its British colonial architecture and atmosphere. In 1990 Church Street became an attractive pedestrian precinct and shopping mall with a great variety of shops, including a very well-known bookshop, and handsome buildings.The city center can be seen on foot, in a tour starting from City Hall in Churchill Square, immediately adjoining which are the tourist information bureau and parking lot facilities.
A concentration of museums, government buildings and civic buildings are found in Pietermaritzburg's city center.
The Natal Museum, to the south of the City Hall, is one of South Africa's five National Museums. The building dates from 1905. The Museum has collections of South African mammals, birds, amphibians, insects and mollusks as well as valuable paleontological and geological material. The ethnological department has artifacts from different parts of Africa. There are also a room devoted to the history of Natal and a reconstruction of a Victorian street, with houses and shops.
Address: 237 Jabu Ndlovu Street, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal 3200, South Africa
The City Hall (now a national monument) is claimed to be the largest brick building south of the Equator. It has a 47m/154ft high bell-tower and magnificent stained glass.
Tatham Art Gallery
Opposite the City Hall is the Tatham Art Gallery, installed in 1990 in a building which was occupied by the Supreme Court from 1906 to 1983. The gallery has a remarkable collection of work by 19th and 20th C European artists, including pictures by Corot, Sisley and Sickert and drawings by Picasso, Braque, Chagall and Moore, as well as a large collection of South African art.
Address: Box 321, Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal 3200, South Africa
Along Loop Street is Macrorie House (1862), in which Bishop William Macrorie lived from 1869 to 1891 and installed a small chapel. It is now a museum of Victoriana, with period clothes and furniture.
Old Colonial Building
From Pietermaritzburg railroad station, a Victorian brick building, Church Street (partly pedestrianized) runs northeast. The most striking building in this street is the handsome Old Colonial Building of 1899, which housed various offices of the colonial government.
Old Government House
An impressive building is Old Government House (1860), once the residence of the Governor of Natal.
The restored Voortrekker House built in 1847 is the only surviving building of the pioneering period in Pietermaritzburg with period furniture. Note particularly the yellowwood ceilings.
Address: 351 Langalibalele Street, South Africa
Voortrekker Museum & the Church of the Vow
The Voortrekker Museum and the Church of the Vow form part of the museum complex. The church was built by the Boers in 1841 to commemorate their victory over the Zulus in the battle of Blood River. Beside it is the thatched two-story house of Andries Pretorius, commander of the Boer forces in the battle. The museum displays mementos of the voortrekkers, including a replica of a trek wagon. In the forecourt are statues of Pieter Retief and Gerrit Maritz, the Boer leaders after whom the town is named.
On the south side of the city center is Alexandra Park (area 65ha/160ac), with an abundance of flowers, shrubs, aloes and succulents. It also has a splendid bandstand of 1890. In the annual Art in the Park show in May South African artists display their work. There is a flea market in the park on the first Sunday in the month.
Pietermaritzburg Hindu Temples
The two Hindu temples (in Longmarket Street), Sri Siva Soobramoniar and Mariammen, are the religious centers of the town's Indian inhabitants. Annually on Good Friday a festival, with fireworks, is celebrated here.
The town's principal mosque is in Church Street, to the north of the city center.
Marathon House Museum
In a restored Victorian house southeast of the city center is a museum illustrating the history of the South African Marathon.
Fort Napier, built in 1843 as a British headquarters, preserves a number of guns and other military exhibits. The military cemetery dates from the same period as the fort. The garrison church of St George (1897) also displays mementos of the British garrison.
In Taunton Road, to the west of the city center, is Wylie Park, with many indigenous plants, including proteas, and exotic azaleas, which put on a glorious show of blossom in spring.
The Botanic Gardens have separate sections for indigenous and exotic plants. Some of the trees are of great age.
More on PlanetWare