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Founded in 1838 and named after two Voortrekkers, Pietermaritzburg is the provincial capital of KwaZulu-Natal Province in South Africa. Although a fairly large city, Pietermaritzburg has retained some of its quaintness with the old market square, pavilion & bandstand and narrow pedestrian lanes in some parts of the city.
Pietermaritzburg became a British stronghold in the 1840s and rich Victorian architecture and a bygone military presence is evident throughout this city.
The Midlands Meander, a scenic arts and crafts route, begins in Pietermaritzburg.
Pietermaritzburg is known the world over for the Comrades Marathon, a 90km endurance race that has taken place between Durban and the city since 1921, the number of entrants reaching 20000 annually.
Sometimes referred to as Sleepy Hollow, other times as the City of Flowers, Pietermaritzburg has a great deal of historic charm with a vitality owing to the vast amount of KwaZulu-Natal University students in attendance.
Top 8 reasons to visit Pietermaritzburg
1. Take a walk around the city to visit the red brick City Hall, the Voortrekker Museum, Garden of Remembrance and many other beautiful Victorian and art deco structures. Fort Napier, 3km out of town, housed the first British garrison and is worthwhile visiting.
2. The Natal Museum opened its doors over a century ago and is the custodian of significant Zulu craft objects. The museum has the largest shell collection in Africa and fascinating African culture and European settler history displays.
3. Another historic venue is the Tatham Art Gallery that has since 1903 hosted contemporary and other stimulating art exhibitions. Entrance is free. The gallery has an education programme for all interested artists.
4. Drive Route 1 of the Midlands Meander starting from Pietermaritzburg and travelling through various neighbouring areas. Highlights include the Zulu-Mpophomeni Tourism experience, the Howick and Karkloof waterfalls and the Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve.
5. The flat 18-hole course at Maritzburg Golf Club is suitable for both rookie and pro golfer alike. Visitors are welcome.
6. The Natal Lion Park is a 25km drive out of Pietermaritzburg. Here, the visitor has an opportunity to see 11 species of mammal (4 of the Big 5; lion, leopard, elephant and rhino) and other reptiles along a 7km loop. Look out for the elusive green mamba snake.
7. The 5ha Doreen Clark Nature Reserve conserves a pristine evergreen forest in a region known as the mist belt. The reserve has various walking trails and a picnic site to enjoy the varied birdlife. Free entrance.
8. Situated on a racecourse, the Golden Horse Casino has 450 slots machines and 20 tables for gaming, a golf driving range, mini golf and a science and culture centre for young adults. Racegoers can attend a race meeting while at the casino.
Pietermaritzburg has its own domestic airport, Oribi Airport, for flights to and from OR Tambo International in Johannesburg. Chartered flights can be taken from King Shaka International Airport in nearby Durban to Oribi Airport. Pietermaritzburg has various car rental agencies, however, a rental can easily be ordered online. Metered taxis operate in Pietermaritzburg and from the airports. Pietermaritzburg lies on the main railway line between Durban and Johannesburg and most bus liners travel via the city.
Did you know?
KwaZulu Natal’s first newspaper, The Natal Witness, was printed here in 1846. The editor David Buchanan once setup his office in the local gaol after being jailed for contempt of court. The newspaper is still going strong, now published under the name The Witness. Buchanan also introduced the first postal service between Pietermaritzburg and Durban.
The wooden cross in the Garden of Remembrance weeps tears of resin most years and around the June anniversary of the WW1 Battle of Delville Wood. Scientists have suggested the weeping may be caused by cold weather.