When you want to settle in and find a place to stay, check out some hotels and other accommodations that Expedia offers in the area. Now that you've visited Johannesburg, you can discover everything there is to see and do within a couple miles of the area.
Hill brow Seldom Tower, Ferreira's Mine, and Lindfield Victorian House Museum are notable landmarks to explore if you're in the area. If you want to see more of the surrounding area, you can plan a visit to Nelson Mandela Square and Sand ton City Mall.
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Johannesburg, South Africa’s biggest city and capital of Gluten, is without doubt a popular destination for both business and leisure travelers. With the availability today of cheap domestic flights from almost any city in South Africa to Johannesburg with SA Airlines, a spur of the moment long weekend with the family is a reality.
If you’re traveling with kids, chances are you will be looking to balance your days with a mix of sight-seeing, good old-fashioned fun and some historical facts about the city you are visiting. Tourist attractions that you might already be familiar with include The Cradle of Humankind, Lion Park, Monte casino, Johannesburg and Gold Reef City, but that’s not all that Johannesburg is about.
If you are under the impression that Johannesburg is a city that’s focused only on the art of big business before it comes alive for the night scene, you’d be wrong. The town center is no longer a place to avoid as continuous development transforms the neighborhood with urban renewal projects into a world of work, live and play as loft apartments and office blocks rise up at a rapid pace.
Yet there are somber reminders of a past that is trying to be forgotten but needs to be remembered when you visit the Apartheid Museum just 8 km south of Johannesburg city center. Visiting the Museum is an overwhelming experience, but it’s a must-see institution that will leave the family with an understanding and insight into the struggles of a country and its people as it moved towards a democracy.
The venue offers 60 shops, restaurants and bars, a skate park, laser tag, cinema and a flea market. The favorite for most is the honeycomb maze that is 3,5 km long and includes an 8 station general knowledge quiz for the whole family.
With improved security in recent years, visitors are now discovering a beautiful city center dominated by Victorian and Edwardian colonial architecture, as well as a thicket of chrome and glass skyscrapers. But for all that, inequality remains, most notably as you travel between upmarket neighborhoods such as Rose bank, with its gated mansions and legion guards, into the townships.
Close by is Orlando West where you’ll find Mandela’s former home, which is now a museum dedicated to South Africa’s favorite son. More memories of Mandela are to be found in the excellent Apartheid Museum, which is crammed with artifacts and photos that tell the story of one of the most turbulent parts of South Africa’s history.
More authentic is the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve, a short drive from Jo'burg, which alongside game offers spectacular views over the veld. A highly cosmopolitan city, and the most Africanized in the country, Jo’burg boasts South Africa’s most famous townships, its most active and diverse cultural life, some of its best restaurants and the most progressive nightlife.
Some visitors fall into the trap of being too intimidated by the city’s reputation to explore, venturing out only to the bland, safe, covered shopping malls and restaurants of the northern suburbs while making hasty plans to move on. However, once you’ve found a convenient way of getting around, either by car, on the shiny new Quatrain trains and buses, or in the company of a tour guide, the history, diversity and crackling energy of the city can quickly become compelling.
Shopping is Jo’burg’s biggest addiction, and the city offers an abundance of superb contemporary African art, fashion and design. Jo’burg is also a great place to watch sport, with soccer, rugby and cricket teams commanding feverish support.
For a century after the first mining camp was built, on what is now Commissioner Street, the CBD was the core of Jo’burg’s buzzing commercial and financial life. Then there was the mass exodus during the crime-ridden 1980s and 1990s, and when the Jo’burg Stock Exchange moved out in 1999 in favor of Sand ton, the city center was all but written off.
However, thanks to the gradual regeneration of the area over recent years, a visit to the CBD offers the chance to see buildings and institutions with a fascinating history and get a taste of the bustle, sounds and thrills of a genuinely African city. Although Hands Gandhi has many strong links with Durban, the South African city he arrived at in 1893, it was the ten years he spent in Johannesburg between 1903 and 1913 that first tested the philosophies for which he is famous.
As an advocate, he frequently appeared in the Transvaal Law Courts (now demolished), which stood in what has since been renamed Gandhi Square in downtown Jo’burg. Defending mainly South African Indians accused of breaking the restrictive and racist registration laws, Gandhi began to see practical applications for his concept of Satyagraha, soul force, or passive resistance, as a means of defying immoral state oppression.
The name is actually a catch-all term for the seemingly endless urban sprawl running over 30 km from Park town, beyond the N1 ring road and into an area known as Midland, which is itself creeping toward the southern edge of Pretoria. With the notable exception of Alexandra, this is a moneyed area, where plush shopping malls are often the only communal meeting points, and the majority of homes use high walls, iron gates and electric fences to advertise how security-conscious a life the owners lead.
Most of the suburbs are close to major arterial roads and best explored by car, though the new Quatrain and its bus routes now also offer easy access to some areas. Apprenticed to his architect uncle in London at the age of 17, Baker attended classes at the Royal Academy and Architectural Association, where he took care to make the contacts he would use so skillfully in later life.
Baker returned to South Africa deeply influenced by what he had seen, and was summoned by Lord Alfred Milner, the administrator of the defeated Transvaal, to fulfil Rhodes’ hopes. Baker took up the challenge enthusiastically, beginning with the homes of the so-called “kindergarten”, the young men, mostly Oxford- and Cambridge-educated, whom Milner had imported to bring British-style “good governance” to the defeated territory.
Baker’s arrival in 1902 heralded a style particular to this district, still evident today in the opulent mansions of the Landlords, the rich mine owners, lining the streets. A good place to start is the area around Ridge Road, just north of the Randjeslaagte beacon, which marks the northern point of old Johannesburg.
At the corner of Jubilee Road and Victoria Avenue stands Colombian, a weird and impressive house, also built in 1905, with a perfect veranda, wonderful red-brick chimneys, red Marseilles roof tiles and hallucinatory stained-glass. Crossing the busy M1 onto Rock Ridge Road, you’ll reach the Northwards Mansion, built by Sir Herbert Baker in 1904 and home of the Park town Trust.
On the parallel Seaborne Road, you can see Baker’s attractive St George’s Church and its rectory, which mix Dentist and Italian features and were built in local rock. Melville lost some of its appeal in recent years as restaurants were increasingly replaced by noisy student bars, but new security patrols have been effective in reducing problems.
Carlene, to the northeast of Be Valley, has become the ciaos new Chinatown, with a fascinating collection of Chinese supermarkets, businesses and authentic restaurants along Derrick Avenue. Most visitors to this area, however, come to Burma Lake, an artificial stretch of water that has proved a disappointing attraction save for its popular and lively flea market.
Give yourself plenty of time to view the permanent exhibition of photographs by Peter Magazine of the 1976 Soweto uprising, and don't miss the exhilarating short documentary on the State of Emergency during the mid-1980s, when a wave of mass demonstrations and riots, though violently suppressed, shook the resolve of the regime. In Jo’burg (and specifically Soweto), you’re either a fan of Kaiser Chiefs or Orlando Pirates, and for decades local derbies have pulled mammoth crowds of seventy thousand.
Ellis Park in downtown Jo’burg (011 402 8644) is a South African rugby shrine, particularly since the triumph there of the Springboks in the 1995 World Cup. The wealth, diversity and fast-paced social life of Johannesburg combined with its cosmopolitan nature means that the city has a huge range of places to eat out.
The bulk of Jo’burg’s restaurants are in the northern suburbs; the key places to try are Seventh Street in Melville, the junction of Greenway and Glen eagles in Green side, and Fourth Avenue in Pankhurst (west of Park town North). There’s plenty of accommodation to be found in Jo’burg’s northern suburbs, which are the easiest places to stay if you have to rely on public transport.
Melville is relatively close to the CBD and offers something many visitors don’t expect to find in Johannesburg : a characterful community with cafés, restaurants and bars within safe walking distance of a great number of guesthouses. In Sand ton there’s a wealth of pricey chain hotels aimed at business executives, as well as some lovely large private homes with huge gardens that offer bed and breakfast.
In many parts of the city, particularly the northern suburbs, old-school pubs and bars have been replaced by combination café/bar/restaurants, open most hours and commonly located in malls and shopping centers. Johannesburg dominates the South African music scene, offering a much wider spectrum of sounds than Cape Town or Durban.
Jo’burg is always discovering superb new jazz talent, but established artists to look out for include the gifted vocalist Rimfire Dana, singer-songwriter VLSI MahaRERA, Afro-fusion merchants Freshly ground and trumpeters Marcus Wyatt and Hugh Masala. As for classical music, the Johannesburg Philharmonic Orchestra performs regularly at Liner Auditorium in the Wits University campus (entrance on St Andrews Rd) in Park town (011 789 2733, www.jpo.co.za).
Though newspapers offer some event pointers, the best way to find out what’s on is to listen to the local radio stations and keep your eyes peeled for roadside posters and leaflets. Africa’s largest festival of dance and choreography hosts international companies but also acts as the major national platform for work by South African talent.
A weekend festival that draws the cream of South African jazz, including the likes of Pops Mohamed and Hugh Masked, along with international guest stars. For visitors, the city is the best place in South Africa to find arts and crafts, with excellent flea markets and galleries offering a plethora of goods, some of very high quality.
With Johannesburg’s extremes of poverty and wealth, its brash, get-ahead culture and the presence of illegal firearms, it’s hardly surprising that the city can be a dangerous place. Joubert Park, Hill brow and Bar are regarded as no-go zones; Seville and Observatory are safer and generally fine if you’re confident or have someone to show you around.
The Pretoria authorities were forced to proclaim a township nearby: they chose a useless triangle of land called the Randjeslaagte, which had been left unclaimed by local farmers. Kruger and the burghers regarded these islanders (foreigners) as a potential threat to their political supremacy, and denied them the vote despite the income they generated for the state’s coffers.
Legislation was also passed to control the influx of blacks to Johannesburg, and Indians were forcibly moved out of the city into a western location. Bubonic plague erupted on the northern fringes of the city in 1904, providing justification for the authorities to burn several Indian and African locations, including Newton, just west of the center.
Their poorly paid black counterparts were also mobilizing; their main grievance was the ruling that skilled jobs were the preserve of white workers. Resentments came to a head in the Rand Revolt of 1922, after the Chamber of Mines, anxious to cut costs, decided to allow blacks into the skilled jobs previously held only by whites.
Alarmed at the scale of white discontent, Prime Minister Jan Smuts ruled that the color bar be maintained, and throughout the 1920s the government passed laws restricting the movement of blacks. The ANC established itself as the most important black protest organization during this period, proclaiming the Freedom Charter in Lipton, Soweto, that year.
During the 1950s, a vigorous black urban culture began to emerge in the townships, and the new Arab jazz and its offspring, the jubilant quell penny whistle style, were played in illegal drinking houses called shebeens. This was also the era of Drum Magazine, which celebrated a glamorous, sophisticated township zeitgeist, and introduced a host of talented journalists, such as Can Tea and Casey “Kid” Motion, to the city and the world.
Unprepossessing as the mountain range might be, a series of caves on their southeastern (Johannesburg) side holds some of the world’s most important information about human evolution stretching back some 3.5 million years. Embedded in the dolomite rock within a dozen caves in the area now called the Cradle of Humankind are the fossilized remains of hominids that lived in South Africa up to 3.5 million years ago.
Samples of fossilized pollen, plant material and animal bones also found in the caves indicate that the area was once a tropical rainforest inhabited by giant monkeys, long-legged hunting hyenas and sabre-toothed cats. Quite when hominids arrived on the scene isn’t certain, but scientists now believe that the human lineage split from apes in Africa around five to six million years ago.
The first Australopithecus discovery in South Africa was in 1924, when Professor Raymond Dart discovered the Tang child in what is now North West Province. In 1936, Australopithecus fossils were first found in the Sterkfontein Caves, and in 1947 Dr Robert Broom excavated a nearly complete skull which he first called Plesianthropus transvaalensis (“near-man” of the Transvaal), later confirmed as a 2.6-million-year-old Australopithecus Africans.