10 Fascinating Facts About South African Cities

First Car Rental brings you the top 10 most fascinating facts about your favourite South African cities. Pack your bags, book a car and head out to explore.

1. First Steam Train

First steam train launched in Durban

The first steam railway in South Africa was opened in Durban in 1860. The line was only 3.2 km long.

During the time, transport by ox wagon was expensive and slow taking some three or more days from the port to Pietermaritzburg. The cost of haulage per ton from Durban to Pietermaritzburg was higher than the freightage from England to Durban.

In January 1859, the Natal Railway Company was formed to build a three kilometre railway from the harbour at the Point to the north of Durban Market Square where the old Durban Station is located.

On 26 June 1860, the first steam train in South Africa made its first official journey between Durban and the Point.

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Durban

2. Original Capetonians

Original Capetoninans - Khoisan people

Table Mountain and the surrounding area was home to the Khoisan people long before the first Europeans arrived. And, in fact, they were the original Capetonians.

The Khoisan people called the city //Hui !Gaeb - "the place where the clouds gather", and they were skilled and industrious people with an unmatched knowledge of the local fauna and flora. They also gave Table Mountain its first name: Hoerikwaggo, or "Mountain in the sea".

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Cape Town

3. Africa's largest 'dry port'

Africa's largest dry port, Johannesburg

Johannesburg is the world's largest city not built on a coastline, or on a lake or river. That's why Joburg is also called the world's biggest 'dry port'. More than half of the cargo that arrives through the ports of Durban and Cape Town arrives at the container terminal at City Deep.

City Deep is the only inland terminal that functions as a dry port, as it is the only inland terminal where customs clearance of goods takes place for container traffic from abroad and domestically.

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Kempton Park (Pomona)

4. Oldest 'Bowling Green'

Oldest bowling green, Port Elizabeth

Port Elizabeth is home to South Africa's oldest bowling greens. The Port Elizabeth Bowling Green Club was founded on August 14, 1882. The first lawn, or "green", as they are known by the bowling fraternity, was opened on January 5, 1884 by A C Wylde and named "Founder's Green," in the picturesque setting of St George's Park.

The Bowling club is still operational today and houses a modest cricket museum with interesting cricket memorabilia.

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Port Elizabeth

5. Largest Fire Service Museum

Vintage fire truck, Manguang Fire Station Museum

The largest Fire Service Museum in South Africa is situated at the Ehrlich Park fire station in Bloemfontein.

The Museum houses 17 vintage fire engines dating from 1926 to 1984 as well as vintage mayoral cars, motor bikes, steam engines, ox wagons, fire brigade equipment, ambulance equipment, photos and uniforms.

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Bloemfontein

6. History in Pictures

Hugh Exton Museum

The Hugh Exton Photographic Museum in Polokwane houses a magnificent collection of over 23,000 cultural and historical photos taken between 1892 and 1945. Original glass negatives capture the fascinating first few years of the town's history by photographer Hugh Exton.

Visitors can find images of architecture, industry, clothing, trade and famous town residents. The photos provide great insight into the times and capture people of all races, religions as well as historic events of the time.

Visitor can also view the vintage camera collection as well as browse through Exton's appointment books containing notes of every photo he took, the subject and the cost.

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Polokwane Airport

7. Longest Straight Street

Church Street, Pretoria

Pretoria's Church Street, now renamed to 4 different streets, is the longest urban street in South Africa and, at 26 km, is one of the longest straight streets in the world.

The streets of Pretoria are also lined with Jacaranda trees, which has led to the city being nicknamed 'Jacaranda City'. These trees are in full bloom in Spring and have a characteristic purple colour - which is quite a beautiful sight.

There is a popular belief that if a jacaranda flower falls on a student's head, he or she will pass their exam. This because Spring season coincides with the University of Pretoria's end of year exams.

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Hatfield | Pretoria

8. Home of Kwaito and Kasi Rap


Soweto is credited as the birthplace of Kwaito and Kasi Rap. Kwaito and Kasi Rap are styles of hip-hop music unique to South Africa.

These styles blend different elements of house, American hip-hop and rap, and traditional African styles of music. Kwaito and Kasi have become popular among South Africans and are gaining international popularity as well.

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Roodepoort

9. Farm turned Railhead


Nelspruit, which means literally 'Nels stream', was named after the owners of the original farm - the three brothers Nel.

In 1892 the construction of a station up the Crocodile River valley commenced on their farm. Nelspruit was established as a railhead of the first section of construction on the railway from Mozambique to Pretoria.

Nelspruit attracted traders and farmers of high profile because of the natural richness of the soil, adequate water for irrigation and a level valley floor.

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Nelspruit

10. Diamond City


Kimberley was founded in 1871 when diamonds were discovered on a nearby farm named Vooruitzicht (owned by the De Beers brothers).

The town was also known as 'New Rush' before it was renamed to Kimberley (after then British Secretary of State for the Colonies Lord Kimberley). The town was incorporated into the Cape Colony in 1880.

Closest car hire near me: First Car Rental Kimberley

Book a car with First Car Rental and explore South Africa's fascinating cities.

First in Car Hire. First in Service.