There’s a certain charm to most university towns. They tend to be fairly small, have vibrant streets punctuated by student hangouts and boast a few architectural gems. Potchefstroom ticks all these boxes and more.
Situated just an hour and a half from Johannesburg, the town is a world apart from the City of Gold says Danielle Clayton of Harcourts Potchefstroom, who explains that the town has long attracted students from far and wide.
First established in 1838 by the Voortrekkers, the town is the second oldest-settlement of people of European descent in the then-Transvaal. The origin of the town’s name is debated but it is generally held that it stems from the founder of the town Andries Potgieter. “Chef” indicates leader of the Voortrekkers and “stroom” refers to the Mooi River – on the banks of which the town sits.
Unsurprisingly, the majority of the student accommodation is concentrated in the suburb of Die Bult around the beautiful university, the jewel in Potchefstroom’s educational crown. Properties here range from basic bachelor apartments priced at R350 000 to fully-fledged, upmarket apartments priced at R1.7-million. Rentals in Die Bult currently range from R2 000 to R8 000.
In their downtime, Potch’s students gravitate to Steve Biko Street, a quaint, oak-lined street where they can grab a quick, cheap meal or sit and catch up on their studies at one of the many coffee shops. The street also boasts numerous clubs, bars and mini supermarkets.
But it’s not only students who flock to Potch. Those in search of a simpler life also seek the town out says Clayton who explains that aspirant residents can take their pick of plots, sectional title apartments, townhouses and large freehold homes which range in price from R430 000 to R7-million. So keen are some residents to live in the town that they commute to work in Johannesburg, Klerksdorp, Carletonville or Orkney on a daily basis says Clayton.
And there’s always something happening in Potch. Student-organised events are plentiful, markets and church bazaars are held on a regular basis, and the town has earned a reputation for hosting festivals such as the Aardklop Arts Festival. This festival has become so popular that some residents vacate and rent their homes out to visitors for the duration of the festival, which typically lasts for five days.
Potch also boasts numerous monuments and old colonial-style properties, and lies within close reach of Parys which is popular with water-sport lovers, hikers and antiques hunters. Wedding venues are plentiful, the university’s botanical gardens and park are frequently used for picnics, and the town’s business and industrial districts are “booming”. Clayton adds that the town’s property capital growth is enviable by most standards and that the crime rate is pleasingly low.
“There’s something special about Potch,” notes Clayton. “It’s suffused with history and culture and everybody knows everybody else – but not in a bad way. There’s a strong sense of community and it’s said that if you have ever lived in here, you’ll always come back. I should know. I came back and I have no intention of leaving any time soon.”