When it comes to South African cities, Cape Town, Johannesburg and
Durban seem to steal the show.
Cape Town for its natural beauty, and
artistic flair, Johannesburg for its riches, fast pace and fashion and
Durban for its laid-back vibe, rich cultural tapestry and beaches
However, there are more South African cities than
only these three!
We take a look at five of the most underrated and tell
you why they're totally worth exploring.
many South Africans Bloemfontein is just a convenient pit stop next to
the N1 during the annual cross country trek from the north to the ocean
in December, or from the ocean to the north for a winter bush break.
However, there's a lot more to discover in our country's judicial capital than you may think.
history lovers, Bloemfontein is pretty much the best place to learn
more about the Anglo-Boer war with an exploration of the War Museum and Women's Memorial.
Looking for something slightly more representative?
Check out the National Museum's wide
array of exhibitions, including everything from a display of African
cultures to paleontology and astronomy. Keep on the cultural track by
paying the Oliewenhuis Art Museum to experience the richness of South Africa's artistic heritage.
Shopping: If shopping is your thing, then you'll be pleased to know that Bloemfontein boasts its very own Loch Logan Waterfront! The mall covers an area of 80 000 m², making it the quintessential shopping Mecca in central South Africa.
Nightlife: The Mystic Boer is
a great spot for a relaxed late afternoon beer and pizza, and if you
stay long enough it turns into quite a jol with dancing and live music.
Nature & recreation: Finally,
Bloem also has a wealth of natural beauty to explore and is widely
known as the ‘city of roses,' due to its explosion of fragrant,
colourful flowers in spring. Get a little taste of the blossoming glory
by paying a visit to the Free State National Botanical Gardens on the outskirts of town. Just beyond the city perimeters you will find a number of nature reserves.
Maritzburg does get a measure of attention every May when the Comrades
Marathon either starts or finishes here, it's worth extending your visit
to explore some of the intriguing attractions.
than any other province in the country, KwaZulu-Natal is a supreme
melting pot of all sorts of cultures: English, Indian, Boer and Zulu, to
mention just the main ones. Start your cultural tour by visiting the Msunduzi/Voortrekker museum,
where you will find a wide array of interesting artifacts dating back
to tumultuous time when dissatisfied farmers trekked from the Cape
Colony all the way beyond the Drakensberg. After this, check out the Mahatma Gandhi statue in Church Square, which commemorates the vital role he played in the fight against the oppression of Indians in South Africa.
Shopping: Liberty Midlands Mall is your one-stop go-to place for everything from groceries to clothes, movies to restaurants.
Nightlife: Pietermaritzburg has a few funky chillout spots. Head to Franki Bananaz for
cocktails, or the Monday beer & burger special (R45). If you'd like
to sample a number of different draughts and ales, head to the Firkin
and Ferret for a top quality pub experience.
Nature & recreation: The magnificent KwaZulu-Natal Botanical Garden is
located in Pietermaritzburg and well worth a visit! The avenue of
London Plane trees is one of its main features and the perfect spot for a
romantic stroll. Head to Butterflies for Africa to
experience the colourful dainty creatures flitting all around in the
Butterfly house and shop for all things papillon at the gorgeous craft
3. Port Elizabeth
as the Friendly City, Port Elizabeth gets a lot of flack for being a
so-called ‘boring' city. However, this couldn't be any further from the
Culture: A great way to start your weekend/holiday in PE is to take a stroll along the Donkin Heritage Trail. The
5 kilometre trail follows in the footsteps of the 1820 Settlers,
linking 47 historical sites in central Port Elizabeth, including Donking
House, the Donkin Reserve and the fascinating Frederick Fort that dates
back to 1799. Experience another part of Port Elizabeth's diverse
heritage by visiting theRed Location Museum in New Brighton. After this, consider going on a township tour to sample some of the local dishes and brews.
Shopping: There is no shortage of good places to shop in PE. Make your pick of Walmer Shopping Centre, Green Acres and a number of pokey stores along Cape Road. The Boardwalk Casino is
also a great place to go for a meal, watch a movie or, yes, if you
really have to, spend some money at the black jack table or slot
Nightlife: Port Elizabeth has a little bit of everything on offer as far as nightlife goes. Barney's is a super chilled spot right next to the beach, perfect for an after work beer and grub, while Danskraaldraws a large crowd of sokkie-jollers. If dancing all night is what you're after, head to Aqua Nightclub.
Nature & recreation: The
city's bounty of outdoor activities and natural beauty is quite
possibly its biggest drawcard. Port Elizabeth's coastline is made up out
of long, white beaches with warm water and pleasant waves. With its
Blue Flag status, Humewood beach is considered to be the jewel in the city's crown. If you feel like taking a bit of a drive, head to the wild and wonderful Sardinia Bay with its huge sand dunes and choppy waters - it's excellent for long walks, horse rides, kite surfing and skinny dipping.
Even though Bayworld's
famous dolphins no longer draw massive crowds (since they relocated to
the US), paying the Oceanarium, snake park and museum a visit is a
must-do, especially if you have kids. There are also a whole host of
hiking trails, water-based activities and nature reserves on the
immediate outskirts of town.
may have started out as nothing more than a dismal township on the
outskirts of Johannesburg, but these days Soweto is a city in its own
Culture: Wow! Where do we start? Just like
Bloemfontein is the go-to place for anything Anglo-Boer war related,
Soweto is surely the best place to brush up on your Apartheid facts.
There's the Hector Pietersen memorial, Regina Mundi church, the Mandela Family museum and just up Vilakazi Street, the house Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu used to live.
For a more joyous cultural experience, check out the Jazz Maniacs restaurant that pays tribute to the township jazz culture of the 1950s.
Shopping: The glitz and glam Maponya Mall is a popular hangout for Soweto locals and offers a wide array of activities for adults, kids, teens and pensioners.
Nightlife: The Rock in Rockville is a great spot to soak up the lively soccer culture on the night of a big game. Norman's Corner in Diepkloof is
an excellent venue to experience kasi tradition - with their wide
variety of music, you can either just sit and relax while enjoying a
drink, or you can hit the dance floor. Finally there's Ozone, or Oz as
it's affectionately known, which is THE venue for an all-out-Soweto
night club experience. There are two different floors - one for the all
out party animals and another with a more laid-back lounge feel.
Nature & Recreation: If you're an adrenaline junky you simply HAVE TO do a power swing between Soweto's two famously colourful Orlando Towers. More of a picnic in the park type of person? That's okay too! Head to Dorothy Nyembe Park in Mofolo North to
appreciate the unusual sculpted figurines. The park also has a nursery
that is part of a project using a process called 'hydro-seeding.'
renamed Mbombela, Nelspruit is widely considered to be not much more
than a convenient gateway to the Kruger National Park. However, if you
take the time to explore the city itself (and the immediate surrounds)
you may be surprised by the rich culture, history and fun activities.
part of the lowveld (Nelspruit, White River and Barberton in
particular) holds a strong attraction for artists of all disciplines,
lending the area a vibrant and colourful energy.
An absolute artistic must-do is checking out the ceramic creations of the Bosch family in White River - visit the studios of Esra Bosch and Anton Bosch, and be prepared to want to spend! Apart from art, Nelspruit also boasts its very own independently-owned movie theatre, called Boulevard Cinema where you can enjoy screenings of the latest art house hits.
If you don't mind heading about half-an-hour out of the city, be sure to check out the Shangana Cultural village close
to Hazyview. The village preserves the rich heritage of the Shangaan
people and is an example of South Africa's great cultural diversity.
really spoiled for choice when it comes to shopping in Nelspruit. There
is a variety of malls, as well as a whole array of quaint little shops
dotted around town.
Nightlife: If a simple pub or bar
is what you're looking for, Nelspruit has a whole lot of interesting
spots to check out. However, if dancing the night away is more your
thing, there's one place you simply have to go: the cowboy-themed Stables.
Nature & Recreation: As with PE, Nelspruit's outdoor lifestyle is definitely its greatest attraction. Head to the Lowveld National Botanical Gardens for a picnic or set out on one of the magical Kaapschehoop hiking trails that will take you through lush forests, along steep cliffs and into the heart of waterfall-rich mountains. The Sudwala Caves and adjacent Dinosaur Park are also absolute must-visit destinations, especially if you have kids.