Choose your country and language:

Africa

  • Global
  • Angola
  • Botswana
  • DRC
  • Ethiopia
  • Ghana
  • Kenya
  • Malawi
  • Mozambique
  • Namibia
  • Nigeria
  • South Africa
  • Tanzania
  • Uganda
  • Zambia
  • Zimbabwe

Americas

  • USA
  • Argentina
  • Brazil

Asia Pacific

  • China
  • India
  • Japan
  • South Korea
  • Australia

Europe

  • France
  • Germany
  • Italy
  • Netherlands
  • United Kingdom
Back

HHistory and culture in Pretoria have shaped a lot about the character of this city. Once the capital of the old independent Transvaal Boere Republic, the new democratic Pretoria lies in Gauteng province, as part of the Tshwane municipality, and is the administrative and diplomatic hub of the country.

Given its often turbulent past, it’s no surprise that landmarks of these moments are everywhere. To the south, the Voortrekker monument watches over the diverse population in constant flux, while a leisurely stroll around the city centre takes discerning visitors to a line of grand and historic buildings that will be familiar to a European set of eyes.

YYou can’t help but be absorbed into this history as you peruse Die Raadsaal (the parliament buildings of the former Boer Republic), the Palace of Justice (used as a military hospital until 1902) and Paul Kruger Street Synagogue, commonly known as the Old Synagogue. Designed to resemble the architectural traditions of the Eastern Roman Empire in 1897, the Old Synagogue was the first Jewish house of worship to be consecrated in Pretoria.

For more than 50 years, the ornate synagogue was characterised by its sandstone plinth, coloured brickwork, as well as its stained glass and top, hung windows - until the Department of Public Works (DPW) expropriated the building in 1952. In an effort to address the unwavering resistance against the government, the DPW transformed the synagogue into a Supreme Court complex – which allowed for relatively large numbers and effective crowd dispersal.

Pretoria was a remote city that was inconvenient to Johannesburg, and certainly to the black townships where many of the accused and their supporters lived. However, that did little to deter the deluge of supporters who thronged the streets outside the courtroom and disrupted the legal proceedings with songs of protest.

It was in this remodelled edifice – furnished with a dock, tables, chairs and public pews all bearing a civil service number – where leaders of the African National Congress (ANC) were tried for acts of sabotage designed to overthrow the apartheid government during the Treason Trial.

AAmong them were Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu who, in 1958, spent copious amounts of time locked in the newly-added holding cells built outside the main synagogue – which was repainted in a cream colour to add to its political significance. Despite all the changes and additions that were made to the synagogue, it was still ghosted by its former function as a religious space.

Unintended and unanticipated by the state, one of the witnesses in the Treason Trial, M.Mkalipe, brought his Bible into the witness box. To the surprise of the judges, who were seated where the rabbi often stood alone, he read a few verses from the book of Daniel to his assembled ‘congregation’. He did this to deliberately invoke the rich history of the Old Synagogue – once a religious space distinct from the Calvinist Dutch Reformed roots of the National Party apartheid regime.

The Old Synagogue

Food
When to visit
How to get here

Related articles

Shebeens – your uniquely South African local tavern experience

Vibrant culture
Shebeens – your uniquely South African local tavern experience

The first shebeens in South Africa were local bars and taverns where mostly working-class urban males could unwind, socialise, and escape the oppression of life during the Apartheid era.

Explore amazing organic wine farms and blankets of wildflowers

Vibrant culture
Explore amazing organic wine farms and blankets of wildflowers

Prepare to be enchanted by whitewashed fisherman’s cottages, seasonal wildflowers, seafood fresh from the sea, and wines with complexity and conscience.

The fascinating story behind the birth of gumboot dancing

Vibrant culture
The fascinating story behind the birth of gumboot dancing

Gumboot dancing was originally a means of communication amongst miners who were forbidden from talking to one another.

Basotho traditional cuisine - stews, salty porridge, dried veg, yoghurt and spicy seeds

Vibrant culture
Basotho traditional cuisine - stews, salty porridge, dried veg, yoghurt and spicy seeds

Basotho traditional cuisine is all about think stews, salty porridges, dried veg, yoghurt and spicy seeds. The culture is rich, hearty and historical.

aha Shakaland Hotel & Zulu Cultural Village - the greatest Zulu experience in Africa

Vibrant culture
aha Shakaland Hotel & Zulu Cultural Village - the greatest Zulu experience in Africa

Shakaland is a cultural replication of a Zulu “Umuzi” or homestead, complete with 55 very comfortable beehive huts that overlook the Phobane Lake.

Victoria Street Market - a unique and colourful shopping stop

Vibrant culture
Victoria Street Market - a unique and colourful shopping stop

Linger longer as your senses take in the smells, sounds and tastes of different spices and incense or let your sight drink in the vibrant and colourful fabrics.

An enduring symbol of unity and overcoming adversity as a nation

Vibrant culture
An enduring symbol of unity and overcoming adversity as a nation

The South African flag is an enduring symbol of unity and overcoming adversity as a nation.

Art and science - The Cape Town Museum and Planetarium

Vibrant culture
Art and science - The Cape Town Museum and Planetarium

A walk up the beautiful Company’s Garden, at the top of Cape Town, takes you to the South African Museum.

A commemoration of a bold life – The Luthuli Museum

Vibrant culture
A commemoration of a bold life – The Luthuli Museum

Albert Luthuli was the first African to receive a Nobel peace Prize. The Luthuli museum commemorates his life and achievements.

Pretoria Central Prison - Pretoria Central Prison bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past (1)

Vibrant culture
Pretoria Central Prison - Pretoria Central Prison bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past (1)

Pretoria Central Prison is arguably the most infamous prison where Mandela was held before he was transferred to Robben Island.

Pollsmoor Prison - ‘A tent of blue which prisoners call the sky’

Vibrant culture
Pollsmoor Prison - ‘A tent of blue which prisoners call the sky’

The Iziko Slave Lodge tells a story of slaves who were captured in South East Asia and brought to the Cape by the Dutch East India Company.

Emirates Airline Park - How Emirates Airline Park played host to SA’s post-apartheid reconciliation

Vibrant culture
Emirates Airline Park - How Emirates Airline Park played host to SA’s post-apartheid reconciliation

Emirates Airline Park played a significant role in South African sporting history, after hosting the 1995 Rugby World Cup final.

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

Vibrant culture
The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory is committed to preserving the work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation.

The Nelson Mandela Museum

Vibrant culture
The Nelson Mandela Museum

Walking in the footsteps of a great man - a remarkable museum dedicated to Madiba

Mandela Day Marathon - Run for Unity

Vibrant culture
Mandela Day Marathon - Run for Unity

Run for unity at the Mandela Day Marathon and enjoy the beautiful KZN Midlands scenery.

Pretoria Central Prison - Pretoria Central Prison bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past

Vibrant culture
Pretoria Central Prison - Pretoria Central Prison bears testament to South Africa’s turbulent past

Pretoria Central Prison is arguably the most infamous prison where Mandela was held before he was transferred to Robben Island.

Footsteps to Freedom

Vibrant culture
Footsteps to Freedom

Footsteps to Freedom will take you on a walking tour of all the great struggle sites in Cape Town.

Steve Biko Museum, a journey of remembrance and discovery through our struggle history.

Vibrant culture
Steve Biko Museum, a journey of remembrance and discovery through our struggle history.

The Steve Biko Centre is located in Ginsberg, King William's Town, Eastern Cape and entrance to the centre is free.

St Mary’s Cathedral - St Mary’s Cathedral: Once a faithful bulwark against the forces of apartheid

Vibrant culture
St Mary’s Cathedral - St Mary’s Cathedral: Once a faithful bulwark against the forces of apartheid

St Mary’s Cathedral in Johannesburg is significant in taking a firm stand against apartheid.

Groote Schuur Building - Explore the house where South Africa’s freedom was born

Vibrant culture
Groote Schuur Building - Explore the house where South Africa’s freedom was born

The old official residence of the president of South Africa, Groote Schuur, is the very place where the country’s bright, new future first came into being.

House of Dr. A.B. Xuma in Sophiatown - If walls could speak: The fascinating stories inside Dr. A.B. Xuma’s home

Vibrant culture
House of Dr. A.B. Xuma in Sophiatown - If walls could speak: The fascinating stories inside Dr. A.B. Xuma’s home

Dr. A.B. Xuma’s house in Sophiatown tells the story of a way of life during apartheid.

Bishopscourt - Bishopscourt is a slice of heaven

Vibrant culture
Bishopscourt - Bishopscourt is a slice of heaven

Bishopscourt is a spellbinding residential suburb that boasts a rich history, lush valleys, oak-lined trees and pristine homes.

The Market Theatre in Newtown - Rhythm and blues at The Market Theatre

Vibrant culture
The Market Theatre in Newtown - Rhythm and blues at The Market Theatre

The Market Theatre has played and continues to play a pivotal role in South Africa’s story. .

Copyright © 2018 South African Tourism
|Terms and conditions|Disclaimer|Privacy policy