Pretoria, like the rest of South Africa, has entered times of massive urban renewal. Since hosting the World Cup in 2010 Pretoria, along with Cape Town and Johannesburg, has successfully revamped particular neighborhoods into vibrant and interesting places. Unfolding in Pretoria’s prettiest neighborhood is a real-life open-air exhibition of human, cultural, and architectural contrasts. Hatfield’s grounds are cultivated with student dorms, rustic bungalows, and stately diplomats’ houses. For good reasons, however, Hatfield is often referred to as party area, catering to University of Pretoria students. When moving away from the main streets, the sounds of sprinklers watering flower beds slowly replace the honking of horns and traffic noises. In Jacaranda shaded streets like these, you will find hidden shops, restaurants, and backyard pagodas typically unseen by the average visitor to Pretoria.
Taxi buses come and go, carrying and loading at least twice their capacity, before speeding off. The antique Volkswagen 1s that dominate the streetscape, purr in front of traffic lights. Hustling and bustling with activities, central Burnett Street provides you with a good first impression of modern day South Africa. With its cafes, fast food restaurants, hotels, and diverse shops, it’s the throbbing heart of Hatfield. Many young people spend most of the day smoking hookah in one of the many bars on Hatfield Square. However, beyond this lively square there is much more to experience.
Photo by Flickr user: Ockert Botha CC2
Leave the chaos behind you by heading north. Rest your feet in Springbok Park where giant, hungry Hadada Ibis birds roam in search of a snack. Continue your way along the borders of at least a dozen countries, housed in fine ambassadorial villas. Passing the enormous American embassy, unsurprisingly bigger and more grand than its neighbors, you’ll find Eastwood Village Centre. Tucked away in the shadiest corner sits Café 41, one of Pretoria’s most enjoyable lunch spots. The cafe is praised for its good deals on continental dishes, cozy seating, and cosmopolitan vibe. Alternatively, Harrie’s Pancakes offers some of the most exotic pancakes around, both sweet and savory.
Pop into one of the few shops that have not yet been swallowed by one of many malls that scatter Pretoria. For artsy shoppers, enchanting Duncan Yard is an absolute must-see. These formerly ruinous buildings on the corner of Duncan and Prospect Street have tastefully been converted into a mini shopping center connected by picturesque corridors and stoney passages. Nowadays, the Yard is home to twenty stores selling exclusive furniture, unique merchandise, and delightful food. Maybe not as quirky but certainly charming is Owl Books just down the street. Among its dusty and unorganized shelves there are literary gems to be found. The Hatfield Flea Market, held every Sunday afternoon in the parking lot of Hatfield Plaza mall, is the place to stock up on African curios and souvenirs. Early birds can start off the weekend with a visit to the Boeremark (farmers market). Here you’ll find organic cheeses, honeys, and cakes. Be sure to be there on time since stalls are bound to be sold out by 9am.
If eating food sounds more appealing than shopping for food, you won’t come short in Hatfield’s multicultural dining scene. In self-proclaimed bastion of good times, Bravo Pizza, you can laze around, do your laundry, or pick out a good quality cut in the butchery area whilst you are waiting for your pizza. On Burnett Street, Shen Zhou Chinese Dumpling Restaurant cooks up the sweetest chili chicken you have ever tasted. With prices so cheap you keep ordering, the shabby exterior is easily ignored. On the brink of being pretentious, Papa’s Real Food is a good value, serving international dishes and rich viands. Their minced meat and bell pepper stuffed pizza Calzone, in particular, does not leave room for dessert. All the way in the back, the attractively lit courtyard promises the same ambiance as neighboring Duncan Yard. For an elegant dining experience, try Braza in Menlyn Mall. Their Brazilian dishes, predominantly seafood, will leave you speechless; and not just because the dishes’ names are so hard to pronounce. Taste typical South African cuisine at Boer’geoisie, situated off the main roads in the middle of quiet Brooklyn. Once here, go for the Bobotie, a traditional and delicious South African version of meatloaf.
Squeeze in between uber-fanatical rugby supporters or soccer fans at Lady Chatterley’s Pub for after-dinner drinks. Low-key Aandeklas attracts similar crowds but preserves a more laid-back atmosphere. Postpone ordering beers until halftime or risk getting caught up in passionate cheering. For live action, consider a free evening game of university league rugby or soccer at the LC de Villiers sports campus. Unleash your sports-related frustrations or celebrations on the beer pong table in Herr Gunters. Mind-blowing dance-offs are common occurrences at Cheeky Monkey, a bar on the other side of the square. Ultimately, by far the poshest nightclub is Moloko Club. Balancing a strictly enforced dress-code and refined ambiance with the right amount of exuberance, this club has become one of the region’s hippest nightlife destinations.
In a land that is known for its magnificent natural beauty and coastline, metropolitan areas have always come second. Previously believed to lack noteworthy sights and, even worse, presumed to be foul, unsafe, and highly populated, Hatfield proves outdated presumptions wrong. Following the path of its predecessors, Hatfield offers an intimate and dynamic neighborhood experience as well as an urban escape from nature.