Johannesburg Destination Guide

Johannesburg Destination Guide Overview. The capital of South Africa’s smallest province, Gauteng, Johannesburg is the economic powerhouse of Africa with its ever-growing suburban sprawl creeping outwards from the central city skyscrapers and ring-road motorways.

The more than 10-million inhabitants live fast and have a restless spirit, which they have imparted into the fabric of the city, also known by its African name as Egoli, ‘the place of gold’. The development of the city, which is just over a century old, has followed the fortunes of the Witwatersrand (White Water Reef), the rich gold-bearing rock reef that stretches across this area of central South Africa. The initial gold rush started in the 1880s, and barely ten years later Johannesburg had become South Africa’s largest town and the site of frenzied development that has been ongoing ever since.

Johannesburg today is a city of contrasts, with glass-paned modern luxury high-rise buildings towering beside a few remaining dilapidated Victorian buildings, and affluent northern suburbs filled with stunning private homes giving way to the squalid streets and tiny shoebox houses of the massive Soweto township in the south. The chasm between rich and poor in the city has given rise to a high crime rate, evidenced by the fortress-like security that pervades the wealthier suburbs.

Most visitors to South Africa, particularly those intent on exploring the game reserves of Mpumalanga, arrive at Johannesburg’s busy International Airport, which is the main point of entry for the country. There is little in Johannesburg itself to grab the attention of tourists, but a few days can be filled taking in some entertaining man-made attractions before heading off to the game parks of the northeast or the coastal regions. The most interesting diversion in Johannesburg is undoubtedly a ‘Heritage Route’ or ‘Shebeen Crawl’ tour of Soweto, but take care only to venture into the maze of the township with an organised tour or professional guide.

Johannesburg Destination Guide Attractions

Kruger National Park

The Kruger National Park is South Africa’s oldest, largest and best-known wildlife conservation area, home to a huge variety of wildlife and most famous for its ‘Big Five’ viewing opportunities. Visitors have an excellent chance of seeing lion, elephant, leopard, buffalo and rhino among the enormous variety of wildlife, including over 140 species of mammals, 500 species of birds, reptiles and amphibians. Situated on South Africa’s north eastern border, Kruger is a primary destination for international tourists, and is visited by more than half a million local and international people every year who are attracted by the different safari options as well as the park’s excellent range of visitor facilities and choice of accommodation, from luxurious game lodges to cottages and camping.

Location: , Johannesburg
Phone:
Email:
Website: www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger
Opening Times: Park gates: daily 5.30am to 6.30pm (January, February, November and December), 6am to 5.30/6pm (March to October). Camp gates open 4.30am (January), 5.30am (February, March and October to December), 6am (April to September); closing times same as park gates
Admission: R120 (foreign adult), R60 (foreign child under 12) per day; R30 per day for South African residents
How to get there:

Gold Reef City

This entertainment complex is essentially a theme park full of thrill rides, but was designed to be a re-creation of Victorian Johannesburg during the gold-rush era. The park, four miles (6km) south of the city centre via the M1 motorway, was built around the No.14 Crown mineshaft that began operations in 1887 and closed in 1975. During its production years 1,400 tons of gold came out of the shaft. Visitors can now descend into the old mine shaft to experience life at the rock face, and watch gold being poured and minted. Gold Reef City also houses a number of museums, and offers performances by traditional gumboot dancers. Youngsters particularly enjoy the rides like the Anaconda roller coaster and Thunder Mountain River Rapids. There are also plenty of restaurants, bars, a massive casino, and a Victorian hotel for those wanting to stay the night.

Location: , Johannesburg
Phone: 011 248 6800
Email: info@goldreefcity.co.za
Website: www.goldreefcity.co.za
Opening Times: Theme park: Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am to 6pm; open daily during Gauteng school holidays; closed on Christmas day
Admission: Weekdays: R70, which includes minor rides, and all shows and entertainment; access to major rides costs an additional R20. Weekends and holidays: R90 inclusive of all rides and entertainment. Mine tours: R60. Concessions and family tickets available
How to get there:

Newtown Cultural Precinct

This complex of buildings in the city centre has been upgraded and restored as part of the city fathers’ urban renewal policy and provides several attractions. The Market Theatre and Museum Africa, for instance are housed in a Victorian building in Bree Street that was originally Johannesburg’s fresh produce market. The Museum Africa is particularly worth a visit with its exhibits that tell the story of the city from its beginnings to the present day, including an interesting section about the Treason Trial of the 1950s in which Nelson Mandela and other activists were accused of plotting against the state. The same building houses a photography museum and the Museum of South African Rock Art. At its eastern end is the Market Theatre, famed for being the venue for many protest theatre productions in the Apartheid era. Also in the area, in President Street, is the South African Breweries Centre, which offers a tour detailing brewing history through some reconstructed gold-rush pubs and shebeens (township bars). Along Jeppe Street is the Oriental Plaza, the commercial centre for the Indian community.

Location: , Johannesburg
Phone:
Email:
Website:
Opening Times: Museum Africa open daily 9am to 5pm
Admission:
How to get there:

Johannesburg Zoo

The Johannesburg Zoo is a favourite place for locals to take a stroll among the numerous enclosures that house more than 3,000 species of animal, including polar bears that can be viewed underwater in their pool. Of course the Big Five are all in residence too. A tractor-tram does circuits of the zoo for those who don’t fancy walking. On the eastern edge of the zoo is the Museum of Military History, which has some interesting exhibits like tanks, fighter aircraft and submarines.

Location: Jan Smuts Avenue, main public entrance on Upper Park Drive, Parkview, Johannesburg
Phone: 011 646 2000
Email: info@jhbzoo.org.za
Website: www.jhbzoo.org.za
Opening Times: Zoo opens daily 8.30am to 5.30pm; the museum opens from 9am to 4.30pm
Admission: R34 (adults), R20 (children 3-12); other concessions available
How to get there:

Sterkfontein Caves

The ancient dolomite caves with an underground lake, situated a few miles north of Johannesburg, form part of what archaeologists call the ‘Cradle of Humankind’. Sterkfontein is recognised as one of the world’s most important palaeontological sites, having yielded fossil deposits dating from up to three and a half million years ago, spanning the development of hominids. Among the most famous finds are the ‘Taung child’, ‘Little Foot’ and ‘Mrs Ples’. Because the cave environment is fragile, visitors are not allowed into certain areas, particularly those that scientists are working on. There are however one-hour guided tours of one of the sections, which include the massive Hall of Elephants.

Location: Kromdraai Road, seven miles (12km) north of Krugersdorp, Johannesburg
Phone: 011 956 6342
Email: bookings@sterkfontein-caves.co.za
Website: www.sterkfontein-caves.co.za
Opening Times: Tours run Tuesday to Sunday, every 30 minutes, from 9am to 4pm
Admission: R35 (adults), R20 concessions
How to get there:

Pretoria

Only half an hour’s drive beyond Johannesburg’s northern suburbs lies South Africa’s administrative and diplomatic capital city, Pretoria, founded by the pioneering Afrikaans Voortrekkers who built the city as the capital of their Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek in the mid-19th century. Pretoria is an attractive, green city, with purple-hued Jacaranda trees lining its streets that are presided over by the Union Buildings, designed by Sir Herbert Baker. They perch like an acropolis on a hilltop and house the offices of the President and senior government officials. There are numerous other historic buildings too, including the Voortrekker Monument, a memorial commemorating the pioneers’ penetration of the interior. Pretoria is also home to South Africa’s National Zoological Gardens, which is one of the world’s finest zoos.

Location: , Johannesburg
Phone:
Email:
Website: www.pretoria.co.za
Opening Times:
Admission:
How to get there:

Hartbeespoort Dam

North of Johannesburg lies one of South Africa’s oldest dams, built in 1923, which provides a favourite day trip for city dwellers set against the Magaliesberg mountain range. A scenic road encircles the dam, culminating in a tunnel just before it reaches the dam wall and the Hartbeespoort village. The village offers a small zoo and snake park, cableway, bird park, aquarium and several restaurants and curio shops.

Location: , Johannesburg
Phone: 012 253 1567
Email:
Website: www.hartbeespoortdam.com
Opening Times:
Admission:
How to get there:

Warmbaths

On the national road north towards Zimbabwe is the flat area known as the Springbok Flats, part of the Great Rift Valley. About 80 miles (125km) north of Johannesburg on the edge of the Flats lies the town of Warmbaths, named for the hot mineral springs that rise to the surface there. The spring yields about 20,000 litres of water, enriched with sodium chloride, calcium carbonate and other minerals every hour. The town has now become a popular spa and holiday resort, considered to be one of the most modern of its kind in the world. It has a large indoor pool with underwater jets, outdoor hot and cold swimming pools, wave pools, and water slides.

Location: , Johannesburg
Phone:
Email:
Website:
Opening Times:
Admission:
How to get there:

Sun City and the Palace of the Lost City

Situated in the Bojanala region of the North West Province, the ‘Las Vegas’ of South Africa is one of the largest adult entertainment centres in the world, with casinos, golf, live shows, and the architectural wonder of the Lost City. The vast resort complex is one of South Africa’s top attractions for gambling, entertainment and opulence, a luxury theme park for adults that was the multi-million dollar dreamchild of South African entrepreneur, Sol Kerzner. The Lost City, with its African theme of life-size animals, has at its centre a luxurious ‘palace’ decorated with mosaics, frescoes, palm fronds and elephant tusks. Surrounding it are lakes, forests and a tropical beach. There are a variety of watersports and The Valley of the Waves, the most advanced waterpark in the country, has among other things a wave machine capable of generating almost seven-foot (2m) waves. The resort complex also borders on the Pilanesberg National Park, home to the ‘Big Five’ and a popular game-viewing destination.

Location: , Johannesburg
Phone: 014 557 1000
Email:
Website: www.suninternational.com/resorts/suncity
Opening Times:
Admission:
How to get there: The resort offers a daily shuttle express service between Sun City and Johannesburg (from the airport, Eastgate Shopping Centre, Sandton Sun Hotel and Fourways Mall)

Leave a Reply

Back to Top