Where in the World is Pietermaritzburg?

Pietermaritzburg can be found at 29s37, 30e16. More simply, it is in South Africa, just an hour's drive from Durban and about five hours' drive from Johannesburg. If you're looking it up on a map, it's just north-east of Durban, and south-south-west from Johannesburg.

What in the World is Pietermaritzburg?

Pietermaritzburg is a small city, and the capital of KwaZulu-Natal. Established as a town in 1838, it was originally known as uMgungundlovu, the place of the elephant. Famed in song by Sugardrive, who dedicated a song to it, it is an educational city, with many, many schools, a university, large city library and many regional libraries, museums, and several technical colleges. On the industrial side, it hosts warehouses and manufacturing plants for the likes of Hulett Aluminium, CAT and Belgotex. Other amenities include three large hospitals and several smaller ones, an airport, three major shopping centers, two movie-houses, and a multitude of restaurants, bars, and clubs.

What to do in Pietermaritzburg?

Pietermaritzburg is an old city, with a lot of history. Interesting sites include the Church of the Vow, built in 1839 to commemorate the Boer victory over the Zulus in 1838(very politically unfashionable nowadays, but still interesting), Fort Napier, which was built by the Boers in 1843 to give protection against the Zulus (are you beginning to spot a trend here?), and the city hall, which was reopened in 1901 after being destroyed by fire in 1898. It is the largest all-brick building South of the Equator. There is a statue of Mahatmas Ghandi in Church Street, set in place to commemorate his eviction from a whites-only train, which in turn led to his famous stand against apartheid.

On the activities side, there are many exciting events on at different times during the year, including the Comrades marathon, which is run between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, the Dusi Canoe marathon, which is run between Pietermaritzburg and Durban, and the Midmar Mile, held at Midmar dam, just 20 minutes from Pietermaritzburg. The Royal Agricultural Show is held every year, and is a great day out for the whole family, with craft competitions, show jumping and polo competitions, too. There is a craft market on the first Sunday of every month.

Also, for those prepared to get up early in the morning, World's View is an amazing spot from which to watch the sun rise over the city.

How is the nightlife in Pietermaritzburg?

Pietermaritzburg has a number of clubs and bars, all of which have a friendly atmosphere and jovial vibe. Amongst these are Crowded House, which has a pig night every Tuesday and Thursday night (drinks free until 11), 9Bar, which often gets in national DJs, as well as the occasional international DJ. Cliffy's has strong support for local bands, including Henry Ate, Perez, Cutting Jade, Spoon Feedas and Zen Arcade. Liquid D's always plays some fine rave and dance music. McGinty's in Pietermaritzburg is a great pub, as is Crossways.

What's the weather like?

The weather in Pietermaritzburg is generally fairly mild, although during the summer months (between November and February), the temperature can climb up to 30 degrees Celsius, and during winter (March to August), can go down as low as 12 degrees Celsius. There are summer thunderstorms, but on the whole the weather is sunny and pleasant.

Tourist tips

While the city is relatively crime-free, tourists are recommended to keep an eye on their belongings, and not to walk around alone too late at night in bad areas.

Look out also for street children, who will beg for money at stop-lights. Giving them money only aggravates the problem, and there are several very good programs in place to get these children off the streets.

Bring both warm and cold weather clothing, as the city can be quite cool in the morning and fairly hot later on.

Try and take a Midlands Meander, for which you can find pamphlets at the publicity house (just down the road from the city hall). This tourist route takes you up into the Midlands, to some incredible shops and places of interest north of the city, including the Nelson Mandela capture site.

And finally, for those who have read through this all, and are interested, let me know - I'd be happy to take a day off and show a fellow Everythingian around.

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