The 10 Best Museums in Pietermaritzburg

Pietermaritzburg, affectionately known as ‘Maritzburg, is a city steeped in history and culture. It’s no wonder that it’s home to some of the most fascinating museums in South Africa. Whether you’re a history buff, art enthusiast, or just looking for a way to spend an afternoon, these museums offer a window into the past and a reflection on the present. Let’s dive into the top 10 museums that are a must-visit in this charming city.

Voortrekker Museum

Nestled in the heart of Pietermaritzburg, the Voortrekker Museum stands as a testament to the pioneering spirit of the Voortrekkers. It’s housed in the largest red-brick building in the Southern Hemisphere, which alone is worth the visit. Inside, you’ll find a treasure trove of artifacts and exhibits that tell the story of the Great Trek and the battles that shaped the region.

KwaZulu-Natal Museum

A visit to the KwaZulu-Natal Museum is like taking a journey through time. From geological displays that take you back millions of years to cultural exhibits that celebrate the diverse heritage of the region, there’s something for everyone. Don’t miss the life-size T-Rex model that’s sure to be a hit with kids and adults alike!

Comrades Marathon House

For sports enthusiasts, the Comrades Marathon House is a tribute to the world’s oldest and largest ultramarathon. The museum showcases the history of the race, the legends who’ve conquered it, and the spirit of camaraderie that it embodies. It’s an inspiring stop that might just motivate you to lace up your running shoes.

Msunduzi Museum

Previously known as the Natal Museum, the Msunduzi Museum has expanded its focus to include the history of the city and its people. With a variety of exhibits ranging from Victorian to Zulu, it provides a comprehensive look at the melting pot of cultures in Pietermaritzburg.

Macrorie House Museum

Step back into the Victorian era at Macrorie House Museum. This well-preserved residence gives you a glimpse into the life of a 19th-century British family in The Colony. The antique furniture and personal items on display paint a vivid picture of their daily lives.

Old Prison Museum

The Old Prison Museum, also known as Project Gateway, is a sobering reminder of South Africa’s turbulent past. Once a site of incarceration and injustice, it now serves as an educational center and a beacon of hope. The guided tours are eye-opening and not to be missed.

Natal Railway Museum

Train buffs, rejoice! The Natal Railway Museum offers a nostalgic look at the age of steam locomotives. With a collection of vintage trains and railway memorabilia, it’s a journey through the history of South African rail transport.

Art lovers will find their haven at the Tatham Art Gallery. Located in the city hall, this gallery boasts an impressive collection of European and South African art. The rotating exhibitions ensure there’s always something new to discover.

Fort Napier Military Museum

Fort Napier Military Museum is a must-visit for military history aficionados. It offers a detailed look at the military campaigns that took place in the region, with a special focus on the Anglo-Zulu and Boer Wars. The collection of uniforms, weapons, and medals is truly impressive.

Butterflies for Africa

While not a traditional museum, Butterflies for Africa is an interactive experience that’s both educational and enchanting. Walk among hundreds of live butterflies in a tropical environment and learn about these delicate creatures’ life cycles and habitats.


What are the operating hours for these museums?

Most museums in Pietermaritzburg operate from 9 am to 4 pm, but it’s best to check their official websites or contact them directly for the most accurate information.

Are there any entrance fees?

Yes, some museums charge a nominal entrance fee, while others are free. Again, it’s advisable to verify this information before planning your visit.

Is photography allowed inside the museums?

Photography policies vary from museum to museum. Some allow it freely, others may charge a fee, and some prohibit it altogether, especially where sensitive artifacts are concerned.


Pietermaritzburg’s museums are a cultural goldmine, each offering a unique perspective on the city’s rich history and diverse heritage. From the Voortrekker Museum’s historical insights to the Tatham Art Gallery’s artistic treasures, there’s a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to be found. Whether you’re a local or just passing through, these top 10 museums are sure to leave you with a deeper appreciation for ‘Maritzburg’s past and present. So, go ahead, immerse yourself in the stories these walls have to tell – it’s an experience you won’t forget.

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