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Cities in South Africa

Fast Facts
Location: Africa
Capital: Pretoria, Bloemfontein, Cape Town
Currency: South African Rand
Language: Afrikaans, English, Ndebele, Northern Sotho, Sotho, Swazi, Tswana, Tsonga, Venda, Xhosa and Zulu
Best Time to Visit: December to March for coastal cities, May to August for inland areas
Time Zone: GMT +2
Calling Code: +27
Major Airports: OR Tambo International (JNB, Johannesburg) and Cape Town International (CPT)
The Republic of South Africa is one of the most culturally diverse countries on the planet. Its constitution acknowledges eleven official languages originating from both European and tribal roots, ensuring the modern cities in its nine provinces are a melting pot of customs and cuisines. Within its borders are 1,739 miles of coastline and some of the most magnificent mountains you might ever encounter.
Cape Town, South Africa’s “Mother City,” sprawls around the foot of Table Mountain out onto gorgeous beaches. With 300 years of cultural history, it has many world-class restaurants serving tremendous South African wines. If a hike or cable car ride to the top of the mountain isn’t your thing, visit the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens, one of the most acclaimed nature parks in the world. Be sure to schedule time for the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront, which attracts visitors interested in the finest shopping and sailors looking to cast off into Table Bay. Or, if you’d prefer more of an educational excursion, you’ll find Robben Island where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned, just offshore.
If you like the hustle and bustle of a large city, then Johannesburg is for you. The city center has destinations for art lovers, like the Civic Theatre, Newtown Cultural Project and Museum Africa. Thrill seekers can visit Gold Reef City to enjoy the roller coasters. Afterwards, history buffs will want to take in the Apartheid Museum for a sobering look at South Africa’s past. And no trip to “Joburg” would be complete without a visit to Soweto Township. A guided tour of the slums and shanties is safest, giving travelers the opportunity to experience some of the city’s most vibrant music and theater scene without getting lost among the township’s 3.5 million people.
Purple-blossomed Jacaranda trees line the streets of Pretoria, providing brilliant color in this city north of Johannesburg. It is the executive capital, making it home to the President. A central point during the Boer Wars, its history museums are among the best in South Africa: The Transvaal Museum, the Cultural History Museum and Smuts Museum are well worth a visit. If you’d rather spend some time in the great outdoors, go to the nearby Premier Game Reserve or Cullinan Diamond Mine next door, where the world’s largest diamond was found.
Of all the cities in South Africa, Durban is often the preferred location for beachgoers. The Golden Mile along the country’s east coast is famous for waves surfers and swimmers love. Divers head to Protea Banks, a must-see for scuba enthusiasts. (Only the bravest stop at Aliwal Shoal to join the tiger sharks.) If you tire of the sunshine and ocean breezes, stop by The Bat Centre and enjoy the local arts scene. Nature lovers will want to tour the Umgeni River Bird Park, home to more than 3,000 birds and four waterfalls. After all that walking, stop by The Promenade for dinner in one of its many restaurants or, if you have energy, stop at the uShaka Marine World aquarium.
Bloemfontein is the busy inland capital of the Free State province, a former independent Boer republic. Its name in Afrikaans means “spring of flowers,” leading local officials to ensure the thousands of rose bushes along its thoroughfares are as healthy as possible. Naval Hill is a nature reserve within its borders, a rare maintained habitat for small game inside one of South Africa’s mid-size cities. The museums and statues commemorate a variety of natural history and warfare, but the Women’s Monument – erected in memory of thousands of women and children that died in British concentration camps during the Boer Wars – is visited most often.
Finally, Port Elizabeth is far away from the glitz and glamour of Durban or Cape Town on the southeastern coast of South Africa. Though one of the country’s largest cities, it is still considered a secret jewel on the Indian Ocean. Some popular attractions may seem gloomy, like the cell of Black Consciousness activist and martyr Steve Biko or the many graveyard and ghost tours, but “PE” booms like the better-known metropolitan areas. Restaurants and shopping line the fashionable Boardwalk, while at the same time surfers and scuba divers enjoy the waters of Algoa Bay. Plus, if you’d like to see some wildlife, Addo Elephant National Park and several hiking trails are within a short drive.
No matter if you want the relaxation of sitting ocean side or the buzz of a big city on your vacation, there are plenty of options. Regardless of your interests, South Africa’s cities have much to offer, without a doubt.?

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