South Africa it’s not just about the World Cup

 With the FIFA World Cup 2010 taking place in South Africa, a lot of attention has been focussed on the country at the southern tip of the African continent. This is the first time the event will take place on the African continent and for many visitors will represent the first time they set foot on African soil. However, there is much more to South Africa than the occasional major international sporting event and visitors may well wish to see a little bit more of the country in between matches. With matches taking place in a number of different venues spread across the country, there is a lot to see and do, as each city and region has its own unique character. Here follows our quick insider’s guide to what to see and do in each of the cities to make sure you have the complete South African experience.
Cape Town
Cape Town is the southernmost city in Africa and recognised the world over for its beauty. Nestled between the ocean and the coastal mountain ranges, the vista of the city is dominated by Table Mountain, a flat-topped mountain that towers over the city and the port below.
   The city played host to the first European settlement in South Africa, with the Dutch establishing a replenishment station there in 1652 to supply traders on their way to and from the East.
   The area features a Mediterranean climate, which means the World Cup takes place during rainy season in Cape Town. However, the climate also makes the area ideal for vineyards, and there are many historic wine estates around the city. These are well worth a visit, with most also boasting excellent on site restaurants.
   In the waters just off Cape Town lies Robben Island, home to the infamous prison in which former South African president Nelson Mandela spent much of his incarceration.
   The city is also the seat of South Africa’s parliament.
   World Cup games, including one of the semi-finals, will take place in the newly-constructed Green Point Stadium.
   
Durban
   
   As the busiest port in Africa, it is no surprise that Durban boasts a rich and varied mix of cultures.
   Two UNESCO World Heritage sites can be found in the area – the Greater St Lucia Wetland Park and the Ukahlamba/Drakensberg National Park, which boasts a great concentration of pre-historic rock paintings.
   The area is home to the Zulu nation, revered as warriors under great leaders like Shaka Zulu, and feared by other tribes as well as the colonial powers that once ruled the area. There is also a very strong Indian community, so if you order a curry in Durban, be aware that this will not be your toned-down English curry – this will be the real thing.
   World Cup games, including one of the semi-finals, will be hosted at the newly-constructed Moses Mabhida Stadium.
   
Johannesburg
   
   Known as eGoli, or the City of Gold, Johannesburg is the economic heart of South Africa. In the late 19th century it was the centre of the gold rush, and the area is still the centre of South Africa’s wealth, housing the stock exchange. It also has a rich history, espe-cially when it comes to South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle. No visit to the city would be complete without a tour of Soweto township and Vilikazi Street, where struggle icons like Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived.
   Johannesburg is home to not one but two World Cup stadiums. Ellis Park, scene of South Africa’s dramatic 1995 Rugby World Cup victory, recently immortalised in the film Invictus, will host some of the games. However, it is Soccer City that will host the prestigious final of the World Cup, after also playing host to the opening match.
   
Bloemfontein
   
   The judicial capital of South Africa, Bloemfontein is the seat of the Court of Appeal, the highest court in South Africa. The city is also the capital of the Free State province.
   Historically, Bloemfontein played an important role in the Anglo-Boer War, with many monuments and museums in the city recalling the Boer republics’ struggle against the British colonial power.
   The province also features the natural beauty of the Golden Gate National Park, as well as the Vredefort Dome, the oldest known impact crater on earth, dating back 2,023 million years.
   The recently-renovated Free State Stadium will host World Cup games in Bloemfontein.
Nelspruit
   
   The most important thing most visitors will want to know about Nelspruit is that it is close to South Africa’s most famous game reserve, the Kruger National Park. The area is also home to many other excellent game reserves, making it the perfect place to spot the big five – elephant, rhinoceros, lion, giraffe and buffalo. There are also many other natural sites worth seeing, including Mac Mac waterfalls and the Blyde River Canyon.
   From Botshabelo, which preserves the Ndebele culture, to Pilgrim’s Rest, a preserved frontier mining town, the area has a rich cultural history as well.
   The newly-built Mbombela Stadium will host the World Cup games in Nelspruit.
   
Rustenburg
   
   The city of Rustenburg is characterised by the rugged natural beauty that surrounds it. Situated in the North West Province, at the foot of the Magaliesburg Mountains, the area gains its importance through the presence of rich platinum reserves, which has lead to a great inflow of money into the area.
   The area has a number of excellent game reserves, including the Rustenburg Nature Reserve and the Pilanesberg National Park, the fourth largest national park in Southern Africa at around 55,000 hectares.
   It is also home to one of South Africa’s most famous resorts, Sun City, as well as one of the best golf courses in the country, the Gary Player Golf Course, which plays host to some of the world’s best professional golfers every year for the Million Dollar Golf Challenge.
   World Cup games will be hosted at the Royal Bafokeng stadium, named for the tribe that originally settled the area.
   
Port Elizabeth
   
   Known as the Friendly City, Port Elizabeth is famous for its beaches. The city has a strong English influence due to the English settlers who landed there from 1820 onwards. The Easter Cape province in which the city is situated was also the birthplace of many notable struggle leaders including Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.
   The city is also an important port.
   The Addo National Park is quite close to the city and is well worth a visit for anyone interested in viewing elephants up close.
   The newly-constructed Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium will play host to the third and fourth place playoff.
   
Pretoria
   
   The capital of South Africa, Pretoria is a city rich in history. The Union Buildings, which command an impressive view of the city, has been the setting for all presidential inaugurations since South Africa’s first democratic elections.
   With many historical buildings and museums, the city is a great spot for those with an interest in history. The many hills around the city are dotted with national monuments, including Freedom Park and the Voortrekker Monument.
   The city was the scene of the Rivonia treason trial which resulted in the imprisonment of Nelson Mandela. It is also close to Johannesburg, which makes a quick visit easy for anyone attending World Cup games in either city.
   There are also nature reserves in Pretoria, as well as the National Zoological Gardens.
   World Cup games will be hosted at the Loftus Versfeld Stadium.
   
Polokwane
   
   The city of Polokwane is situated in an area that can date human settlement back to the Iron Age, but Stone Age nomads also frequented the area. Due to the proximity to neighbouring countries Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique, the area has great cultural diversity as well.
   One of the sites well worth a visit is Makapan’s Cave, where archaeological finds have shown human habitation from the early Stone Age.
   The decorated homes of the Ndebele tribe are also something not to be missed, with the fascinating geometric designs they use. The Ndebele also do very intricate beadwork, which can make for excellent memorabilia from a trip to South Africa.
   The recently-constructed Peter Mokaba Stadium will host the World Cup games in Polokwane.