Billed as the heritage city, and KZN’s administrative and legislative capital, Pietermaritzburg and its grand historic buildings hark back to an age of pith helmets and midday martinis. While many buildings have been converted into museums, much of the CBD has, sadly, lost its gloss, especially in the past few years. This is partly due to the dire state of the local government coffers (at the time of research, the city had been placed under administration). Elsewhere, the inner suburbs – plus Hilton, a suburb 9km northwest of the city centre – are green, leafy and pretty.
Pietermaritzburg comprises a very contemporary mix: the city’s numerous private schools are home to many students; a large Zulu community sets a colourful tone; and the Indian community brings echoes of the subcontinent to the city’s busy streets. Pietermaritzburg is a reasonable base from which you can tackle the Midlands Meander.