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World Travel Guide > Guides > Africa > South Africa > Johannesburg

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Things to see in Johannesburg

Tourist Offices

Johannesburg Tourism Company

Address: , 195 Jan Smuts Avenue, Johannesburg,
Telephone: (011) 214 0700.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0800-1700; Sat 0900-1300.

Website: http://www.joburgtourism.com

Gauteng Tourism Authority

Address: , 124 Main Street, Johannesburg,
Telephone: (011) 085 2500.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1700.

Website: http://www.gauteng.net

Attractions

Kruger National Park

At 20,000 sq kilometres (7722 sq miles), Kruger National Park is the largest game reserve in South Africa and boasts the world's highest concentration of species.

Created in 1898 to protect the flora and fauna of the South African Lowveld, the park is named after its original proponent, President Paul Kruger. Today, it is home to a wealth of wildlife, including cheetahs, leopards, lions, rhinos, wildebeest, buffalo, elephants, giraffes, antelope and impala. The park is also renowned for its cultural heritage sites, including many native rock art sites.

At Thulamela Hill, visitors can see the excavated remains of a late Iron Age settlement, whilst the village of Masorini provides an excellent example of the way of life of the Stone Age hunter-gatherers who inhabited South Africa long before the first white settlers arrived.

Address: , , ,
Telephone: (012) 248 9111.
Opening times: Website: http://www.sanparks.org
Admission Fees: Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Newtown

Once a downtown slum, Newtown has undergone radical alterations: the creation of Mary Fitzgerald Square, the Nelson Mandela Bridge and the Metro Mall minibus terminus. The famous MuseuMAfricA and Market Theatre are housed in a magnificent Victorian building that was the city's main market before the stall holders, mainly of Indian origin, were moved to the nearby Oriental Plaza, now an excellent place to savour Indian food or buy clothing and fabric at discount prices. MuseuMAfricA, which incorporates the Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography, the Museum of South Africa Rock Art and the Bernberg Museum of Fashion, was South Africa's first post-apartheid museum. Its exhibits cover a wide range of African themes. The Market Theatre hosted protest plays during the anti-apartheid struggle. The South African Breweries (SAB) World of Beer is dedicated to the brewing process, with beer tastings at the end. There are also mock-ups of a shebeen and a honky-tonk pub.

Newtown is accessed off the M1 or over the Nelson Mandela Bridge from Bertha Street in Braamfontein to Ntemi Piliso Street in Newtown.

Address: , 121 Bree Street, Johannesburg,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website:
Admission Fees: Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Apartheid Museum

Johannesburg's powerful and critically acclaimed Apartheid Museum documents the implementation of apartheid by the National Party from 1948 to the release of Nelson Mandela and the birth of democracy. Among the highlights are a room where 121 nooses hang from the ceiling, representing the 121 political prisoners executed during apartheid; footage of a remarkable 1961 interview with Nelson Mandela; and a room dedicated to the 1976 Soweto student uprising when police opened fire on defenceless children. TVs show footage from the era, reminding the visitor just how recent this slice of history is.

Address: Ormonde, Corner of Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Road, Johannesburg,
Telephone: (011) 309 4700.
Opening times:

Tues-Sun 1000-1700.

Website: http://www.apartheidmuseum.org
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Johannesburg Zoo

Guided day, night and 'behind the scenes' tours can be arranged at this zoo and children are particularly well catered for. Over 2,000 animals live in its spacious vegetated plots, arranged in zones: the Spice Route (animals found in Asia), Heart of Africa (gorillas, chimpanzees and other central African species), Southern Safari (local animals), Extreme Environments (camels, polar bears and penguins) and Amazonia (animals of South America).

Address: Parkview, Corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Upper Park Drive, Johannesburg,
Telephone: (011) 646 2000.
Opening times:

Daily 0830-1730; last entry 1600.

Website: http://www.jhbzoo.org.za
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Gold Reef City Theme Park and Casino

Conceived to replicated downtown Johannesburg circa 1890, Gold Reef City's gold rush museums and curiosity shops have been eclipsed by the 'largest rollercoaster in the Southern Hemisphere', a 60-table casino, the Globe Theatre and the Lyric Theatre. However, (literally) beneath the theme-park veneer lies a gold mine that operated from 1887-1971. Tours take visitors down a 200m (656ft) shaft where workers sweated, toiled and died. The detailed and fascinating model of the surface and subterranean installations is one of the highlights. A gold bar is poured once a day - legend has it that anyone who can pick it up with one hand can take it home with them.

Address: Ormonde, Gold Reef City, 8km (5 miles) from city centre,
Telephone: (011) 248 6800.
Opening times:

Tues-Sun 0930-1700.

Website: http://www.goldreefcity.co.za
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Soweto

Soweto (an acronym for South Western Townships) has become a symbol of victory over oppression. Nelson Mandela lived here before being sentenced to life imprisonment for treason by the former apartheid government. An intimidating labyrinth of tiny council houses, grim-looking dormitory-style, mine-worker hostels and ostentatious mansions, it was originally intended to provide temporary shelter for contract workers toiling underground in the Witwatersrand gold fields, but it's now a lively and characterful district housing around one million people. Due to the absence of street signs and lack of safe public transport, Soweto is best visited with a tour operator that offer fascinating half-day and full-day historical tours or evening trips to the shebeens (informal pubs), with resident guides who really capture the history and character of the place.

Address: , Soweto, Johannesburg,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website: http://www.soweto.co.za
Admission Fees: Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Art galleries

Johannesburg has a surprising number of excellent galleries, ranging from the corporate to the private and the off-beat to the mainstream. The Edward Lutyens-designed Johannesburg Art Gallery houses traditional African art, contemporary South African landscapes and the interesting William Kentridge collection. The Goodman Gallery encourages contemporary South African artists, while the Kim Sacks Gallery displays traditional South African artefacts and contemporary crafts.

Address: Joubert Park, King George Street (off Klein Street), Johannesburg,
Telephone:
Opening times: Website:
Admission Fees: Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

South African Museum of Military History

Near the zoo, this small but comprehensive museum covers most periods and armaments of South Africa's military history. Displays include uniforms, tanks, artillery pieces (including the South-African-built G-6), small arms, 12 aircraft, a military submarine and CASSPIRS, the armoured personnel carriers used by security forces in the townships during black uprisings against apartheid.

Address: Saxonwold, 22 Erlswold Way, Johannesburg,
Telephone: (011) 646 5513.
Opening times:

Daily 0900-1630.

Website: http://www.militarymuseum.co.za
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Melville Koppies Nature Reserve

Just north of the suburb of Melville, this reserve protects an extensive area of typical highveld vegetation and includes archaeological remains of both Stone and Iron Age settlements, including iron furnaces. It's popular with dog walkers and birdwatchers. Melville itself is also worth exploring. Wander along bohemian Seventh Street, delve into its second-hand bookshops, antique dealers, and pavement cafés.

Address: Westdene, Entrance from Arundel Road at the north end of 3rd Avenue, Johannesburg,
Telephone: (011) 482 4797.
Opening times: Website: http://www.mk.org.za
Admission Fees:

No.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Lesedi Cultural Village

Lesedi is a Sotho word that means 'light' - the nickname for the founder of the Basotho nation (Lesotho), King Moshoeshoe. The 2.5 hour experience includes displays of indigenous dancing, recreated Zulu, Ndebele, Sotho, Xhosa and Pedi villages, and a meal of local cuisine at the Nyama Choma restaurant

Address: on the R512 towards Hartbeespoort Dam, Broederstroom, Johannesburg,
Telephone: 0847 940 9933.
Opening times:

Daily (1130) and evening (1630) shows, or by arrangement.

Website:
Admission Fees:

Yes.

Disabled Access: No
UNESCO: No

Constitution Hill Museum

This excellent interactive museum stands on the site of the notorious old Number Four prison complex which used to process some 2,000-3,000 black prisoners a day, typically for not carrying their pass books. Famous inmates included Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Original graffiti is still etched on the back of cell doors, giant pots from which the prisoners were made to feed like dogs are still encrusted with porridge, and visitors can see the dark pits where prisoners would spend up to a year in solitary confinement living off nothing but rice water. TV monitors throughout the complex display period footage and interviews with former prisoners.

Address: Braamfontein, Corner of Kotze and Hospital Streets, Johannesburg,
Telephone: (011) 381 3100.
Opening times:

Mon-Fri 0900-1700, Sat-Sun 0900-1500.

Website: http://www.constitutionhill.org.za
Admission Fees:

Yes (except for Tuesdays).

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

Johannesburg Botanic Gardens

Covering 148 hectares (365 acres) of highveld hillside rising up from the western shores of the Emmarentia Dam, this is one of the city's most tranquil spots. The dam has a yachting and canoeing club, while the gardens include a magnificent terraced rose garden (allegedly the world's largest) set among water features with a classical theme. Although a park ranger is on duty, it is not advisable to wander into remote areas unless with a group. Picnics and braais (barbecues) are permitted and there's a restaurant.

Address: Emmarentia, Olifants Road, Johannesburg,
Telephone: (011) 782 0517.
Opening times: Website: http://www.jhbcityparks.com
Admission Fees:

No.

Disabled Access: Yes
UNESCO: No

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Featured Hotels

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The Palazzo Montecasino

This extravagant Johannesburg hotel is part of the Montecasino gambling, leisure, entertainment and shopping complex in Fourways, just 30 minutes from OR Tambo International Airport. Styled like an Italian palace, its luxurious accommodation overlooks lush, landscaped Tuscan gardens. All rooms have one king-size or two double beds, custom air-conditioning, internet point, hairdryer and refreshments. There is also a fully equipped fitness centre, outdoor swimming pool, plus the 1,900-seater Montecasino Theatre.

The Westcliff

This claims to be Johannesburg's most luxurious hotel and with unique features such as the city's best sunset and moonrise viewing spot, it probably is. It clings to a steep mountainside, with breathtaking views of the Magaliesberg Mountains and of elephants in the zoo below. The rooms and suites are individually furnished; most also feature charming terraces, balconies or private courtyards. Facilities include a magnificent hilltop heated swimming pool. The Westcliff is conveniently near upmarket shopping districts and golf courses.

Faircity Quatermain Hotel

The epitome of gracious living and a home-from-home atmosphere, The Quatermain, located in the upmarket suburb of Morningside, provides a convenient and tranquil base close to Sandton and Johannesburg. Set in manicured indigenous gardens with oak trees and swimming pool, The Quatermain offers Zimbabwean teak furniture and queen- or king-size beds in all 114 rooms.

Sunnyside Park Hotel

Built in 1895 as a gracious country residence, the Sunnyside Park Hotel is a National Monument. Set in glorious English gardens, it retains its original magnificent balustrade, wood panelling, historic fireplace and glittering chandeliers, but has been extensively refurbished to provide modern touches. Located just off the M1 freeway in exclusive Parktown, it is a few minutes' drive to the Killarney Mall, Rosebank and Sandton City and 30 minutes to the airport. Its restaurant, Milners, is all starched linen and quiet elegance with a British bent in food, tempered to suit all tastes.

StayEasy Eastgate

This ultra-modern hotel in Johannesburg fits into the budget bracket but is surprisingly well equipped, with air-conditioning, a swimming pool and secure parking. Situated 15 minutes' drive from OR Tambo International Airport and 10 minutes' walk from the Eastgate Shopping and entertainment complex (10 cinemas), it's just off the start of the N12/R24 freeways, within easy reach of Sandton, Pretoria, Durban and Kruger National Park. Continental breakfast is available in the lobby and guests can order meals delivered from local restaurants.

Indaba Hotel

Set in a 30 hectare (74 acre) country estate featuring indigenous flora and fauna, the white-walled, thatched buildings of this well-equipped hotel are minutes from the N1 highway. There are 210 very reasonably priced en-suite, air-conditioned bedrooms, three popular restaurants, a swimming pool, tennis courts, volleyball, outdoor chess, a beauty therapist and a jogging track.