Johannesburg, South Africa, is jazzy and bold. The land of gold mines and fortune-seekers is now an impressive urban landscape throbbing with life. You can’t part with the city unless you have marveled at its biodiversity, gazed at its skyline from Carlton Centre, devoured lamb shank, and tasted Chibuku at SAB World of Beer. This South African city is a curious mix of theme parks, art galleries, national parks, atmospheric pubs, and a lingering sense of pride.
Johannesburg is the capital of Gauteng, the smallest province in the country, located in South Africa’s southwest. It is situated in the eastern plateau area of South Africa at an elevation of 5,751 ft. Johannesburg is around 41 miles south of Pretoria and about 250 miles north of Bloemfontein.
The city was founded in 1886 following the discovery of gold. During its heydays, the mines of Johannesburg used to produce 40 percent of the world’s gold every year. The city is believed to have got its name from two men who were involved in inspecting the goldfields during the gold rush. It was in the 1930s that the city witnessed a speedy development. Even today, it remains the prime metropolitan area of South Africa.
Facts about Johannesburg
- Johannesburg is one of the largest cities in Africa.
- The city has more than 40 art galleries.
- The Johannesburg Zoo is the only zoo in Africa that has polar bears. It is regarded as the largest man-made forest in the world with over 10 million trees.
- The 50-floor Carton Centre is the tallest skyscraper in Africa.
Places to Visit in Johannesburg
Johannesburg Zoo – More than a century old, this 55-hectare zoo is home to about 320 species. White Rhino, Scimitar Oryx, Black-and-white Ruffed Lemur, and Wattled Crane are some of the endangered species you get to see in the zoo.
Constitution Hill – This is where travelers come to explore the modern history of South Africa and the nation’s transition to democracy. The place hosts exhibitions that reflect the rich heritage of the nation.
Gold Reef City – The thrill rides at this theme park are a major attraction. Gaming zones and 4D theater also pull in a lot of enthusiasts to this park.
Montecasino – This casino complex in Johannesburg attracts around 10 million visitors every year. It is a venue for several local and international events. The Teatro theater within the complex hosts major musical productions.
Gandhi Square – This upscale public square, named after the Indian freedom fighter, Mahatma Gandhi, is an important business and entertainment hub. Main Street Mall, the famous Rand Club, and the Carlton Centre (tallest building in Africa) are located in the vicinity.
Lion Park – It is home to a large variety of predators that are natives of Africa. It has more than 80 lions including the rare white lions. South African cheetah, Cape wild dog, spotted hyena, and black-backed jackal are some of the proud inhabitants of the park.
Monte casino bird park – This bird park makes for a great family entertainment. Wander the beautiful gardens and gape at a variety of colorful birds, reptiles, mammals and other unusual animals from around the globe. There are more than 60 species of birds here, such as Nicobar pigeons, Scarlet Ibises etc.
Lindfield House – This is a monument dedicated to Victorian life. There’s Katherine Love’s vast collection of daily-life objects from the Victorian era. Get an up-close look at the collection and experience the rooms set in completely different settings.
Things to Do in Johannesburg
Fly Over the Cradle of Humankind – It is one of the eight World Heritage Sites in South Africa and the richest hominin site as it has around 40% of the world’s fossils of humans and their ancestors. A 30-minute journey in a flight over an area of 53,000 hectares and witnessing the diversity of birds, animals, and plants around Magaliesberg mountains is a rare experience.
Visit Apartheid Museum – Come here to get an insight into the eventful history of the country and the gradual transition towards democracy. It’s a place to seek inspiration from heroic stories of struggle.
Take an Art Tour – CIRCA Gallery on Jellicoe is the place where art enthusiast throng. It has a gallery that showcases works of contemporary artists and also hosts lectures and art-related events.
Attend Opera – For a day-long affair with ballet, stand-up comedy, drama and European operas, come to the Joburg Theatre. This bustling complex with three theaters, dance studios, and other entertainment venues, remain alive till late at night. Another popular venue in Johannesburg is the Market Theatre.
Try Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour – To discover the city and its niceties, hop on to a double-decker bus and venture out on a sightseeing tour. Learn about the top attractions as you behold them.
Explore Mary Fitzgerald Square – It is the central hub of the city where you encounter the rich history of jazz music. Explore the art installations around the place and walk past the Jazz Walk of Fame.
Go Shopping – African Craft Market and Art & Craft Market in Rosebank are the best places to look for craftwork from every part of Africa. From curios to clothes and ceramics to jewelry, you can bring home some beautiful souvenirs as vendors from Cameroon, Congo, Ivory Coast, and other countries sell their specialties in these markets. You will be tempted to buy yourself wooden carvings, African masks, and beaded dolls.
Hotels in Johannesburg
The Johannesburg hotels provide a world-class accommodation to tourists with excellent services. There are luxury, budget hotels available in Johannesburg.
|The Peech Hotel||www.thepeech.co.za||4 star||61 North St, Melrose, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa|
|Saxon Hotel, Villas and Spa||www.saxon.co.za||5 star||36 Saxon Road, Sandhurst, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa|
|54 On Bath Hotel||5 star||54 Bath Ave, Rosebank, Johannesburg, 2196, South Africa|
|The Munro Boutique Hotel||themunrohotel.com||5 star||63 St Patrick Rd, Houghton Estate, Johannesburg, 2198, South Africa|
|12 Decades Art Hotel||12decadeshotel.co.za/||3 star||286 Fox St, City and Suburban, Johannesburg, 2094, South Africa|
|Road Lodge Southgate||clhg.com||1 star||Columbine Ave & Golden Highway, Southgate, Johannesburg, 2099, South Africa|
|Mercure Johannesburg Midrand Hotel||3 Star||Old Pretoria Rd, Halfway House, Johannesburg, 1685, South Africa|
|The Hamilton Hotel||4 star||28 Grosvenor Ave & Buccleuch Avenue, Craighall Park, Johannesburg, 2193, South Africa|
While The Peech is a contemporary hotel in Melrose, the Saxon Hotel, Villas & Spa is a luxurious retreat in the suburb of Sandhurst. 54 on Bath is an impressive business hotel in the Rosebank suburb and The Munro Boutique Hotel of Houghton is classy and slightly on the higher range. The 12 Decades Johannesburg Art Hotel offers good value for money. You can check in at the Road Lodge Southgate, Mercure Johannesburg Midrand, and The Hamilton if you are not looking for anything fancy.
Restaurants in Johannesburg
To taste traditional African cuisine, come to D6 District Six or try a wide range of stews at Little Addis Cafe. The Qunu Grill at the Saxon is known for its hand-cut beef tartare and lamb shank served with spiced pumpkin cake. To try an American fare, settle down at the Dukes Burgers or enjoy sweet-potato tacos at Perron. For dim sum and soups or chilli-orange pork, come to The Good Luck Club. The smoked-trout buns are quite popular at The Great Eastern Food Bar. Known for its phyllo pastry and parma ham, The Shunting Yard in Rosebank is a must-visit place for those who crave for Italian and Greek delicacies. It has been serving diners since 1896.
Best Time to Visit Johannesburg
Dry months (June to October) are widely preferred by the travelers because that’s the best time to explore wildlife and enjoy outdoor activities.
How to Reach?
By Air – O.R. Tambo International Airport or the Johannesburg International Airport is the international gateway to the city. This main airport, located about 13 miles from the city center, is also the busiest in Africa.
By Road – Johannesburg is well connected with other cities of the country by a network of highways. The highway N1 connects the city with Cape Town & Bloemfontein and N3 with Durban. Greyhound buses offer services to cities across South Africa. The intercity buses depart from the Park Station.
By Rail – Gautrain is a high-speed train that connects Johannesburg, Sandton, and Pretoria directly with the international airport. It runs between 5 or 5:30 am and 9 or 9:30 pm every day.
Things to Remember
- Since the city has an elevation of 5751 feet above sea level, it takes a couple of days to adjust to the oxygen level in the air.
- Weather can turn whimsical on some days. So, be prepared for a sudden drop and rise in mercury or clear sky giving way to thunderstorms.
- Avoid wearing flashy jewelry or carrying expensive equipment during sightseeing tours.
- Book a sightseeing tour with a reputable company that knows which areas to be avoided.
- Vegetarians may find limited options in some restaurants.