Although this part of South Africa was home to people since the origin of mankind (the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is situated northwest of the Johannesburg), this city was founded just over 12 decades ago, in 1886.
Johannesburg as a tourist attraction
» By the early 1840s the first farms were established here when Afrikaners (of Dutch ancestry) settled here after they moved out of the Cape Colony as part of the ‘Great Trek’.
» By 1886 this area consisted of various farms with people living a rural lifestyle. Eland were roaming freely on the hillsides of what is today Johannesburg.
All of this changed in 1886 when gold was discovered. In no time thousands of foreigners, mostly from English speaking countries arrived here to come and seek their fortune on what eventually became the world’s biggest and richest gold reef.
» First a mining camp and then a city rose. Eight years after the discovery of gold as many as 80 000 people already lived here.
» After the Anglo-Boer War of 1899 - 1902 Johannesburg became known as the Empire City, a major centre of business, commerce and mining in the British Empire
» By the mid 20th century Joburg became known an internationally renowned business city with a true cosmopolitan character.
» The city played a major part in the struggle against apartheid and has experienced tumultuous cycles of development and decline. Today Johannesburg is experiencing a magnificent rebirth.
» Johannesburg has many nicknames including Jozi, Joziburg, Joburg and Egoli (‘Place of Gold’)
Things to do in Johannesburg
» Johannesburg is situated on the Witwatersrand (white waters ridge’) - a series of hills that form the continental watershed. Rain that falls on the city flows either southwards from this ridge to eventually reach the Orange River and Atlantic Ocean, or northwards to reach the Limpopo River and Indian Ocean.
» Johannesburg boasts some incredible heritage sites related to the struggle against apartheid, many of which have been developed into world-class museums.
» Two of the 20th century’s most famous liberation heroes, first started their legal careers and then their political careers in Johannesburg. Mahatma Gandhi with the Passive Resistance or ‘Satyagraha’ movement in 1906 and Nelson Mandela with the Defiance Campaign in 1952. You can trace some of their footsteps between Chancellor House and Gandhi Square in the city centre.
» Johannesburg has an incredibly electric and energetic vibe. It is the New York of Africa with a massive mix of people from all over Africa and the world living here.
» Joburg is an incredibly creative city and this is most notable around the trendy inner-city precincts of Braamfontein, Maboneng and Newtown.
» The suburbs of Johannesburg form a series of interlinked villages, each with its own village-street and unique character. Parkhurst, Melville, Parkview, Parktown North and Greenside are some of the city’s most popular villages.»
» The verdant northern suburbs of Johannesburg are regarded as one of the world’s largest man-made forests. In summer time the roofs of houses disappear behind the lush, green tree canopies.
» See how South Africa overcame Apartheid: visit the Liliesleaf Museum, the Apartheid Museum
, the Hector Pieterson Museum and the Mandela House Museum.
» Explore the origins of humankind at the Origins Centre at Wits
then visit the Sterkfontein Caves in the Cradle of Humankind.
» Visit Vilakazi Street in Soweto - the only street in the world that was home to two Nobel Peace Prize winners: Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu.
» Explore Joburg’s famous inner-city markets: Neighbourgoods Market in Braamfontein
on Saturdays and Market-on-Main in Maboneng on Sundays. Or feel the African heartbeat of the city along the marketplaces of Kerk Street Mall.
» Explore the city’s gold mining history. Walk along the outdoor museum street known as Main Street Mall
or visit the Mine Shaft Museum at the Standard Bank building. Lastly descent into a mine at Gold Reef City
» View the city’s great art collections. From the Wits Art Museum (WAM) in Braamfontein to the Goodman Gallery, Everard Reed Gallery and Circa on Jellicoe in Rosebank. End the day at the galleries around Arts-on-Main in Maboneng
» Visit Nelson Mandela Square and Sandton City for top-end shops and fashionable eateries.
» Have fun in the sun at the Gold Reef City Theme Park
with your kids or spend the day with them at the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre (science museum) or James Hall Museum of Transport
» Visit Constitution Hill
to see South Africa’s most astounding architectural marvel: the Constitutional Court. This beautiful building celebrates the country’s democratic dispensation and is built on the site of some of South Africa’s most oppressive prisons. Visit the remnants of No 4 prison, the Women’s Jail and the Old Fort while there.
» Take in the incredible views of the verdant northern suburbs (an ever-sprawling man-made forest) either from the pool deck at the Westcliff Hotel or from the ramparts around the Old Fort on Constitution Hill
Johannesburg has a wonderful culture of street-side eateries along the village streets of its suburbs. Parkhurst, Melville, Greenside, Parktown-North, Parkview, Craighall Park, Illovo and Melrose Arch are worth exploring in this regard.
With such a cosmopolitan mix of people you can literally eat food from anywhere in the world in Johannesburg. From traditional African or Afrikaner food, to Portuguese and Greek Cuisine and so much more, you can experience it all in Joziburg.
Fordsburg is a traditionally Indian area known for its great cuisine.
To enjoy Johannesburg’s great weather head to an outside eatery such as Salvation Cafe (44 Stanley Avenue) or Burnsides in Craighall Park.
For those keen to sample real South African food, from exotic venison (anything from Kudu to Crocodile) to less daring but equally scrumptious local food, choose from a wide array of restaurants including Darkie Cafe, Sophiatown Bar Lounge, Gramadoelas, Moyo (various branches) and Lekgotla.
For top-end fine dining try DW 13 in Dunkeld West, La Carnard in Sandton or Roots at Forum Homini (in the countryside west of the city)
For delightful, informal eateries try out Ant Cafe in Melville, Nice in Parkhurst or Corner Cafe in Craighall Park.
South Africans love to ‘braai’ (barbecue). ‘Braais’ always involve Boerewors (local sausage). This is followed by steak or chicken, eaten with delicious salads, veggies and ‘pap’ (corn porridge). Make sure that you experience at least one ‘braai’ during your visit to Joziburg!
To sample local baked delicacies visit Koljander in Melville.
» Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city and situated in the smaller province (Gauteng). It is not the capital of the country (Pretoria /Tshwane is), but it is the capital of Gauteng Province.
» Johannesburg is incredibly high-above sea level (almost 1850 m) and planes taking off from OR Tambo International Airport burn much more fuel than they would at a sea-level airport. Therefore this airport has one of the longest runways of any commercial airport in the world.
» Uniquely for large cities all over the world, Joburg is not situated on a large body of water – be that a river, a lake or an ocean.