Johannesburg, also referred to as “Egoli” (Zulu for “Place of Gold”), is perched on the 80-km long Witwatersrand ridge. It is a cosmopolitan city, home to all the diverse groupings that constitute the South African people. It is also the largest city in South Africa, the third largest in Africa, and the commercial, financial and communications nerve centre of the country. Many national and international businesses have their South African headquarters in the city and all the major banks make up Bank City in the inner city.
Mine dumps and skyscrapers etch the horizon, depicting its growth from a humble gold mining camp to the bustling cosmopolitan city it is today. The mine dumps from the gold mines are now being reworked by modern techniques to recover the trace minerals that were not extracted during earlier mining operations.
Johannesburg is named after the two people who were mainly responsible for its establishment: Johannes Joubert, Head of the Mines Department of the Transvaal (the South African Republic), who was sent to investigate the gold resources of the area, and Johannes Rissik, the Surveyor-General who was responsible for choosing the site on which the mining town would be built. “Burg” is the Afrikaans word for “town”. In keeping with the fast pace of the city, most people these days prefer the shorter version of Jo’burg, or Joeyies.
Johannesburg is vibrant and alive and growing. New developments such as the Nelson Mandela Bridge, Bank City, Newtown Cultural Precinct – all indicate a population with plans, a people with potential and a city with ambition.
Adventure And Sport
Adventure and Angling: Come and have an African adventure at Gauteng’s Vaal River and other streams that offer full and half-day adventure packages that include mountain biking, fly-fishing, hiking, bird watching, game viewing, micro-light flying, river rafting, canoeing and horse trails. Lure in some big fish at any of the following venues: Rainbow Trout Farm, River Country Estates and the Footloose Trout Farm.
Bezuidenhout Park: Located in the suburb of Dewetshof, east of the city centre, the park was built on a 100-year old farm and the original farmstead and graveyard are still intact. The park also features a miniature train, playground, caravan park, picnic spots and walking trails.
Braamfontein Spruit Hiking Trail: The ideal alternative to fast city living is the Braamfontein Spruit Hiking Trail, a 25-km network of self-guided urban trails. Hikers can explore the spruit from Emmarentia Dam in central Johannesburg, through Randburg and Sandton to the Klein Jukskei River. Each trail can be completed in a day and can be joined from any point in these suburbs.
Sandspruit Hiking Trail: The Sandspruit Hiking Trail follows the Sandspruit through Sandton.
Ellis Park Stadium: The stadium hosts public sports events as well as entertainment events.
Golf: Johannesburg offers golfing enthusiasts many golf courses on which to test their skills. These courses include Bryanston Golf Club, CMR Golf Club, Crown Mines Golf Club, Durban Deep Golf Club, Engineers Golf Club, Glenvista Golf Club, Houghton Golf Club, Johannesburg Golf Club, Killarney Golf Club, Modderfontein Golf Club, Observatory Golf Club, Parkview Golf Club, Randpark Ridge Golf Club and the Wanderers Golf Club. The Houghton, Glendower and Royal Johannesburg Golf Clubs have been singled out as three of the country’s favourite golf courses. The tenth hole at the Royal Johannesburg Golf Club is reputed to be the world’s longest par-four.
Guided Walking Tours: These tours can be undertaken in the 600 ha Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve next to Fairway and Peggy Vera Avenues, Kibler Park.
Harvey Wild Flower Reserve Trail: An unmarked hiking trail leads through the Harvey Wild Flower Reserve in Linksfield Ridge and ends at Gillooly’s farm, east of the city.
Standard Bank Arena: This major sport venue is also used for large-scale entertainment events and international concerts.
Water Sport: Spend a day in the sun at Emmarentia Dam, adjacent to the Braamfontein Spruit (“Stream”) and the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens. The Dam offers entertainment for canoeists, board sailors, scuba divers and model-boat enthusiasts.
White-Water Rafting: (grade 1 and 2 rapids), Just one hour’s drive from Johannesburg, is a popular pastime. The trips offered by River Adventures are open to all ages and are undertaken in rafts designed to be safe, comfortable and stable.
Archaeology And Palaeontology
The area around Johannesburg has always held an attraction for people, even from the earliest times. Archaeological digs have unearthed evidence of stone-age settlers who lived in the area north of Johannesburg as long as 250 000 years ago.
Bernard Price Institute (BPI) for Palaeontological Research: This institute, in Jorissen Street, Braamfontein, falls under the University of Witwatersrand. It is the only museum in South Africa entirely dedicated to fossils. The museum exhibits some of the most important fossil finds of southern Africa. These include remains of prehistoric mammals, reptiles and dinosaurs such as “Fred” and “Fang”. Fang provided proof that North America was not the only home of the Tyrannosaurus Rex, as it is older than the famous T-Rex found in America. Fred (Tapinocaninus) is twice as old as Fang and is a three-metre long, mammal-like reptile that lived in the Karoo. Visitors may also watch while laboratory technicians prepare and clean fossils.
Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve: Klipriviersberg (“Stone River Mountain”) Nature Reserve has a rich archaeological heritage. Some 250 000 years ago Stone Age settlers lived and hunted in the area, indicated by the artefacts found here. Nineteen stone walled settlements and about 90 Iron Age sites have been identified in the area of the reserve. Tswana peoples lived in the hills with their cattle, sheep and goats and cultivated sorghum fields. They were a peace-loving people and were overrun by the Zulu leader Mzilikazi in the early 1800s. In about 1850 a Voortrekker settler named Sarel Marais, moved into the area that now forms the southern part of the reserve. He built a farmhouse, wagon house, orchard, irrigation furrow and cemetery. The house survived one fire, but not a second and today a single wall of the wagonhouse is all that remains. The City Council bought the farm in 1960 and the reserve was proclaimed in 1984. Future plans include building a replica of a Tswana village, restoring the homestead and fencing the reserve.
Melville Koppies (“hillocks”): Melville Koppies, near the trendy suburb of Melville, has national monument status on account of the remains of early civilisations found here. Evidence of Iron Age, Earlier Stone Age and Middle Stone Age civilisations has afforded this area important archaeological status. Some of the relics found here date from 100 000 years ago. Evidence has also been found of a later settlement dating from 50 000 years ago, as well as of early Tswana iron smelters. The site features two Iron Age furnaces and ruins of stone-walled villages. A volunteer local management committee now manages the Melville Koppies. The Koppies are open three Sundays a month and for three hours in the morning or evening visitors are encouraged to walk around the Koppies and picnic at Emmarentia Dam. The site is also wheelchair-friendly.
Museum of South African Rock Art: The museum next to the Johannesburg Zoo features a collection of rock art dating from the Palaeolithic era. The museum is a subsection of MuseumAfrica and gives insight into the lives, families and gods of the San people. These nomadic people have adorned our country with their eloquent paintings and created unique open-air art galleries all over the South African landscape. Before visiting the sites where their paintings may be seen, you are invited to get to know more about the people first.
Art And Crafts
Everard Read Gallery: The Everard Read Gallery in Rosebank exhibits and sells a wide variety of contemporary paintings and sculptures by South African and international artists. It is regarded as one of the best commercial galleries in Johannesburg.
Gencor Gallery: Gencor Gallery is on the campus of the Rand Afrikaans University (RAU) and houses exhibitions of works by national and international artists on a rotational basis.
Gertrude Posel Gallery: Housed in the Senate House of the University of the Witwatersrand, the Gertrude Posel Gallery displays permanent art collections that include traditional Southern, Central and West African art. The Standard Bank Collection of African Tribal Art includes masks, beadwork and Ndebele fertility dolls. It may be visited by prior appointment.
Haenggi Foundation: Haenggi Foundation in Harrison Street houses the Permanent Collection of African and Modern Art (Pelmama), a collection not to be missed.
Johannesburg Art Gallery and Sculpture Gardens: The gallery is home to an impressive collection of national and international artworks. The collection includes works by French Impressionists as well as twentieth century Abstract works. The gallery is on the Klein Street side of Joubert Park, in the city centre, near Johannesburg Station. The works of artists such as Picasso, Rodin, El Greco, Henry Moore and van Gogh are included in the collection. Many valuable prints of the works of Rembrandt, Whistler and Toulouse-Lautrec are also exhibited at the gallery. South African art has not been neglected and the works of many South African artists are on show. The South African Collection is at present the largest of the Gallery’s collections and includes the works of Gerard Sekoto, Alexis Preller, Sydney Kumalo and Ezrom Legae. The museum also offers an excellent educational facility and guided tours.
Learn more about South African history through the art. It is considered to be one of the ten best art galleries in southern Africa.
Katlehong Art Gallery: This gallery is in Katlehong Township, south east of Johannesburg, and has an extensive collection of modern township art for collectors who want to broaden their artistic horizons.
Kim Sacks Art Gallery: “Art with a difference” is on the menu at the Kim Sacks Art Gallery, on the corner of Cavendish and Francis Streets, Parkwood. The gallery exhibits tribal and folk art.
Standard Bank Gallery: This gallery, on the corner of Simmonds and Frederick Streets houses changing exhibitions of art that have won awards at the Standard Bank Arts Festival. This festival is held annually in Grahamstown in the Eastern Cape.
Visual Arts Gallery: This gallery is ideally situated in the arty suburb of Melville, which has been virtually recreated since it became fashionable for artists and actors to live there. It is a dynamically designed gallery that contains a large selection of art, sculptures, graphics and prints.
Wire, wood and tin crafts: The entrepreneurial spirit that is at the core of growth in Gauteng is alive and well among the enthusiastic street sellers who sell their innovative wares made of wire, wood and tin. No world traveller should be without one of these works of art. The creativity of the artists allows them to see and create beauty from almost anything, even from old Coke cans. Their work is also on sale at various flea markets and street stalls.
Newtown Cultural Precinct: This entertainment hub is home to several entertainment venues that include Kippies, the jazz club where traditional African cuisine can be enjoyed, “Gramadoelas” (Out in the “sticks”) Restaurant and Curios that offers a feast of genuine South African fare, such as fried mopani worms and crocodile meat.
Restaurants: Fast food restaurants, hot dog carts on the pavements, family restaurants, informal barbecues on street corners, formal restaurants with dress codes, coffee shops – there really are as many choices of eateries as there are appetites. And the surroundings in which to enjoy the dishes are just as diverse – modern shopping centres, tree-filled gardens, flea markets, entertainment complexes – the city can truly cater to all tastes. Eating out can also either be a true African experience, with dishes such as crocodile steaks, ostrich meat or mopani worms, or a cosmopolitan adventure at one of the theme restaurants that serve the traditional foods of many countries.
African Herbalist Shop: The shop is located at the Adler Museum Medicine at 14 Diagonal Street in Newtown and provides guided tours for visitors. The wares include medicinal herbs, animal skins and bones (“muti”) that have been used by traditional healers for centuries to cure everything from infertility to flu.
Lesedi Cultural Village: Visit the Lesedi Cultural Village in the Swartkops Hills north of Johannesburg for a truly African experience. Although it lies in North West Province, it is so close to Johannesburg that it would be a pity to omit it from your Gauteng itinerary. In this multi-cultural village Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi and Basotho cultures combine to give the visitor a glimpse of the diverse life and spirit of some of the many people that make up the South African nation. Visitors can watch traditional dances, look at the art and culture and listen to the music of the various tribal groupings and may even share in a traditional African feast. Visitors are also welcome to spend the night with families belonging to the different tribes.
Newtown Music Centre (formerly known as Mega Music): This popular venue has long been known for its music concerts, recording launches and performances. Great musicians like Hugh Masekela, Femi Kuti, Letta Mbulu, Sipho Hotstix Mabuse, Salif Keita, Taria Maria and M’chelle N’dege O’chello have graced the stage with their outstanding performances. The Newtown Music Centre is open for business, music rehearsals and dance training and it also has a resource centre.
Phumangena Zulu Kraal: Zulu craftsmen built this kraal at Heia Safari Ranch in DF Malan Drive near Johannesburg, with indigenous materials brought all the way from Zululand – a one hundred per cent authentic Zulu village. Phumangena hosts Zulu tribal dancing displays, demonstrations of how ceremonial outfits and weaponry are made, talks about the myths and legends of the Zulu people and serves traditional meals while the “sangoma” (traditional healer) predicts futures.
Traditional African Medicine (“Muti”): Many visitors come to Africa in search of the ultimate cure and some might just find it in the centre of the city, in one of the many side shops that sell traditional African medicine (‘muti’). This muti may consist of anything from dried plant material to dried carcasses of vervet monkeys and birds, to be taken according to the prescriptions provided by the traditional healers (“sangomas”).
Entertainment And Shopping
Civic Theatre: The theatre in Kotze Street on Hospital Hill could be described as a more conventional venue than the Market Theatre. It regularly hosts productions of ballet, children’s theatre, drama and musicals. The complex also has three smaller venues but the main theatre is one of the most technologically advanced in the country. Visitors love the tour of the backstage facilities.
Evening Entertainment: Entertainment, arts and culture – Johannesburg offers every conceivable form of entertainment. Visit theatres with a choice of South African and international productions, nightclubs and jazz venues, casinos for gaming opportunities, music concerts or travel around the fleshpots of the world by dining out at a theme restaurant or enjoy a leisurely movie – the choice is up to you. Shopping and entertainment centres are buzzing with life late into the night with entertainment for the entire family. Obtain up-to-date entertainment information from the local press, or simply ask the first local person you meet.
Fashion District: The Fashion District comprises the eastern area of the Johannesburg Central Business District between Delvers, End, Jeppe and Market Streets. The Johannesburg Development Agency is developing the district around the existing clothing industry and aims to create a fashion experience that will thrill the most experienced fashion fanatic.
Flea Markets: Visiting flea markets is a favourite family pastime and offers a golden opportunity to discover all kinds of interesting trinkets and treasures at reasonable prices. Flea markets abound all over the city and are mostly open over the weekends, not during the week. The Rooftop Flea Market, on the upper parking level of the Rosebank Shopping Mall, is open on Sundays. The Market Square precinct hosts a weekend market with some 400 stalls where the African entrepreneurial spirit is victorious. Bruma Flea Market World, off Marcia and Allum Roads, near Eastgate Shopping Mall, is a permanent flea market, open all days of the week. Although part of Germiston, it is so close to the city that it is considered one of Johannesburg’s attractions.
Gold Reef City: Gold Reef City is a theme park in the west of Johannesburg on the site of Crown Mines and is justifiably one of the Big Five attractions of Johannesburg. Crown Mines used to be the richest goldmine in the world until it closed down in 1975. The City was built as an entertainment complex and is essentially a reconstruction of Johannesburg during the gold-rush era.
The Victorian fun fair, pubs, miners’ houses, a brewery, restaurants, a hotel and a stock exchange are all characteristic of the era and there are shopping opportunities galore! Visitors can also take a trip down an old 2 000 m deep mine shaft and see gold being poured. The coin press is reputed to be one of the oldest in the world. A talented group of traditional African dancers performs at regular intervals to entertain visitors. Reserve a whole day to enjoy all this venue has to offer or reserve a place at the excellent hotel and conference centre. Fun rides and a Casino will keep children and adults occupied for hours.
Hermann Eckstein Park: The Hermann Eckstein Park is in Lower Park Drive in the suburb of Saxonwold. The Park includes the Zoological Gardens, the South African National Museum of Military History and Zoo Lake, a picturesque lake where people can rent boats and while away their time on the water.
Jewel City: This is a shopping Mecca aimed at the shopper with a passion for beautiful things. Few people will be able to resist the temptations offered by South African and international jewellery manufacturers, diamond cutters and related shops found in this centre in Commissioner Street.
Kippies: This Jazz club at 141 Bree Street in the Newtown Cultural Precinct is named after the legendary jazz saxophonist, Kippie Morolong Moeketsi. It is a top live jazz venue and keeps the crowds going until late into the night, feasting on traditional African cuisine.
Mai Mai Shopping Village: To the east of the city, past Albert Street, the road ends in Mai Mai, an icon of South Africa’s apartheid past. Mai Mai is a small shopping village that was built in the 1950s for African migrant workers who were not allowed to buy from stores in the white Central Business District. To this day, these shops are able to meet the most exotic needs imaginable; from cheap coffins and colourful African beadwork to the odd live chicken or two.
Market Theatre: The Market Theatre, an integral part of the Newtown precinct, is a popular gathering place for locals and visitors alike. This internationally renowned theatre complex developed on the site of the former Indian Produce Market. The former rundown Edwardian Market Hall was saved from demolition by a dedicated group of actors who pooled all their money. Today, the Theatre continues to play a large role in developing and encouraging local talent. If you are looking for innovation and a celebration of creativity, the Market Theatre is the place to frequent.
Metro Mall: The mall was opened in January 2003 and displays some of Joburg’s unique public art, including sculptures, murals, mosaic and much more. Inside the building the shopper has everything at his or her fingertips, from restaurants and CD shops to fresh vegetables. The mall is situated between Simmonds, Sauer, West and Pimm streets and incorporates the Bree Street taxi rank.
Michael Mount Organic Market: For the Health-minded, the Michael Mount Organic Market in Bryanston is a must. Only products made from natural materials and one hundred per cent organically grown produce are sold here. Products for sale include fruit and vegetables, pies, quiches, cheeses and herbs. Other stalls sell handmade arts and crafts, all made from natural materials.
MuseumAfrica: The museum, part of the Newtown Cultural Precinct, exhibits the geology, anthropology, archaeology and history of Southern Africa since the Stone Age. MuseumAfrica includes exhibitions featuring the Freedom Struggle, the Treason Trial, Sophiatown and the life of Mahatma Gandhi.
Nelson Mandela Theatre: The celebration of our culture is an important part of our national pride and this world-class theatre showcases works by many local artists, but also regularly hosts international productions. The theatre is in Loveday Street in Braamfontein.
Newtown Cultural Precinct: The Newtown Cultural Precinct extends over Pim, Goch, Bezuidenhout and President Streets and is one of Johannesburg’s most successful urban reclamation projects. Where workers once worked, lived and protested in the open square, a number of warehouses and buildings have been renovated to house a microcosm of South African culture, represented theme museums such as MuseumAfrica. On Saturdays, the square becomes the Johannesburg Market. Less energetic visitors can sit and enjoy a pint of beer at the South African Breweries (SAB) Centenary Centre while they are introduced to the history of beer making. The complex also includes venues such as the French Cultural Institute, the Foundation for Creative Arts, the Newtown Art Gallery, the Yard of Ale, the Dance Factory and several shops. You have not been to Johannesburg unless you have whiled away at least a few hours here.
Oriental Plaza: The Oriental Plaza in Main Road, Fordsburg, near the city centre, is a virtual shopping wonderland. Buy anything you might need, from clothes and electronic equipment, to traditional Eastern goods. Bargains for everyone!
Pioneer Park: The park on the banks of Wemmer Pan, is on Rosettenville Road, in the southern suburb of Rosettenville, and encompasses the Transport Museum and the Santarama Miniland. It offers miniature tram rides and has a swimming pool, a restaurant and a picnic and barbecue area. It is also home to the Wemmer Pan Rowing Club.
Rhodes Park: Rhodes Park, in the eastern suburb of Kensington, offers the opportunity to relax by the side of the lake, in the restaurant or stroll in the terraced gardens.
Road Vendors: Many people have, in the true spirit of entrepreneurship, taken to exhibiting their wares next to the road. For example, a multitude of wooden wares, furniture, plants and assorted goods are sold along William Nicol Drive. Drivers are advised to be careful when leaving and entering the traffic stream when they buy from these dealers.
Shopping Centres and Malls: Shopping is one of the main pastimes, enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. Johannesburg, as befits a metropolitan area of its size, has a wide variety of shopping centres and malls that will appeal to the very young, the very old and to everyone in between. Although they vary in size, they all have much to offer, including a multitude of restaurants and coffee shops. Some of the better known shopping centres are: North Gate Shopping Mall, South Gate Shopping Mall, Killarney Mall, Fourways Mall, Sandton City and Rosebank Shopping Mall. Truly South African wares, international fashions, books, CDs, etc. – in Johannesburg one can seriously attempt to buy yourself some happiness.
Wemmer Pan: Wemmer Pan allows people to forget about the stress of city life while taking a stroll near the water. The Wemmer Pan Musical Fountains are a symphony for ears and eyes. Watch the night sky light up and the water dance to the strains of beautiful music. The Musical Fountain is switched on every evening except on Mondays.
Fauna And Flora
Cumberland Bird Sanctuary: The Cumberland Bird Sanctuary is in the suburb of Bryanston and has two dams, a wetland area and two bird hides from which 92 species of birds can be observed.
Delta Park and Environmental Centre: The ideal venue for a family picnic, the centre includes a model railway exhibit and animal and bird displays. Videos are also shown at specific hours over the weekends to keep the children occupied. The Florence Bloom Bird Sanctuary, situated in the Centre, is an added attraction.
Flora Farm Garden Village: Plant and flower lovers will enjoy a visit to the Flora Farm Garden Village in Honeydew Road West, northwest of the city. The Flower Market is well worth a visit, not only because of the large range of fresh flowers but also to watch how people bid for large quantities of flowers.
Florence Bloom Bird Sanctuary: The Florence Bloom Bird Sanctuary in Delta Park, Rustenburg Road, has two dams and several viewing hides from which to study the prolific bird life. Among the feathered inhabitants are the giant kingfisher and the purple heron. The Delta Park Environment Centre is also the headquarters of the Johannesburg Wildlife Society.
Harvey Wild Flower Reserve: The Harvey Wild Flower Reserve is in Kallenbach Drive, in an undisturbed section of Linksfield Ridge, east of the city centre. The walking trail through the reserve ends at Gillooly’s Farm and affords beautiful views of Johannesburg and the Magaliesberg Mountains.
Houghton Estate: Guided tours take visitors through the Wilds (Houghton Estate), an 18 ha park that includes two rocky ridges, where a variety of indigenous plants grow. Four plant houses and several sign-posted trails complete the reserve.
Johannesburg Botanical Gardens: The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens in Thomas Bowler Street, Roosevelt Park Extension, on the banks of Emmarentia Dam, cover 148 ha and were planted in 1969. The gardens feature a bonsai collection, herbal garden, medical and literary garden and a rose garden that is believed to be the world’s largest.
Kelland Bird Sanctuary: The Kelland Bird Sanctuary is a recent addition to the area and is situated next to the Randpark Golf Course in Windsor Park, north of the city.
Melrose Bird Sanctuary: The Melrose Bird Sanctuary in James and Ethel Gray Park in Melrose Road has a hide for birdwatchers from which they can watch the wide variety of birds that nest in the reeds beside the dam.
Melville Koppies: This area was declared a nature reserve in 1959 and is a sanctuary for birds and other wildlife. Over 175 species of bird have found a home here. An added attraction is the flora in the area – some 80 per cent of floral species recorded on the Witwatersrand grow here. The 67 ha of the reserve is mainly aimed at protecting this flora. Hiking trails crisscross the reserve and give access to the archaeological sites and other lovely spots. The site is open only between September and April and guided tours are conducted on the third Sunday of these months between 15:00 and 18:00. The entrance to the reserve is in Judith Road.
Zoological Gardens: The beautiful 54 ha Zoological Gardens in Jan Smuts Avenue are an ideal venue for picnicking or for a leisurely stroll. The various guided tours both educate and entertain visitors and include personalised tours in buggies, as well as night tours, which allow visitors to learn more about the habits of night animals. Some tours allow visitors a view of the hospital where sick animals are treated and of the kitchens where the food for the zoo animals is prepared.
Zoo Lake: Pack up the kids and the dogs and head out to the Zoo Lake. The spacious area is the ideal venue for relaxing strolls, bicycle and roller blade rides and a romantic row on the lake at dusk time. Nothing beats the Highveld sunset with your partner close at hand.
History And Architecture
ABSA Group Museum: Dedicated to the history of the ABSA banking giant, this museum is the only one of its kind in South Africa. It traces the story of the development of money, from primitive to modern currency and houses the largest collection of South African currency in the world.
Adler Museum of Medicine: The Adler Museum of the History of Medicine, in the grounds of the SA Institute for Medical Research, pays tribute to the history of medicine, dentistry and pharmacy in South Africa. Dr Cyril Adler founded the museum in 1962 for this purpose. The displays include equipment to make drugs in the early 1900s, a medical and dental surgery and a century old dentist’s drill. One of the most recent additions is an African Herbalist Shop that sells many of the traditional African herbal remedies. The museum is wheelchair friendly.
AECI Dynamite Factory Museum: For those who like “explosive action”, the Dynamite Museum at 2 Main Street, Modderfontein, north-east of the city, tells the story of the development of the dynamite industry. The museum is housed in a mining official’s residence dating from 1895.
Apartheid Museum: This extraordinary museum at Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Road in Ormonde tells the story of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and inequality. The powerful displays of large blown-up photographs, metal cages, monitors featuring apartheid scenes set in double volume ceilings, concrete red brick walls and grey concrete floors are the nearest some of us will thankfully ever come to experiencing the horrors many had to endure for years. There are 22 individual exhibition areas leading visitors through an emotional journey illustrating the events and human tragedies of the 1970s and 1980s Apartheid Era.
Art Deco Buildings: Johannesburg has the world’s third largest number of art deco buildings (after New York and Miami) and has launched a concerted effort to preserve this heritage. Buildings by the renowned South African architect, Sir Herbert Baker, are also to be seen throughout the city.
Bensusan Museum: The Bensusan Museum, part of MuseumAfrica, covers the subject of the development of photography throughout the century. It is definitely more than merely a selection of old cameras.
Bernberg Fashion Museum: Fashion trends ranging from the eighteenth to the early twentieth centuries may be seen at the old-world style Bernberg Fashion Museum on the corner of Jan Smuts Avenue and Duncombe Road in Parktown. The exhibits are adapted and changed frequently. The building that houses the museum is part of its charm. The Victorian house still features most of its original furniture and decorations, providing a graceful background for the beautiful fashions on display.
Chris Lessing Boxing Museum: A series of photographs and exhibits at the Chris Lessing Boxing Museum at Gate no 2, Administrative Building, Rand Show Road, Nasrec, is dedicated to the courage and energy of the sparring fighter in the ring.
City Hall: The Johannesburg Central Business District City Hall at the corner of Rissik and President Streets currently houses the legislature of the Gauteng Provincial Government. In the past the area has seen many political protest actions. Close by you can see the Cenotaph dedicated to military veterans of all wars involving South Africans. Other interesting spots associated with the political struggle are Kapitan’s Cafe, once a favourite haunt of former President Nelson Mandela. The Cafe was one of the few multi-racial restaurants that existed during the Apartheid era.
Constitution Hill (Hospital Hill): The newly named Constitution Hill is situated between Hospital, Joubert, Sam Hancock and Kotze Streets in the eastern area of Braamfontein. Previously known as Hospital Hill, named after the old General Hospital, the site houses among other museums and buildings, the Johannesburg Fort. The Fort was a stopover for many political activists on the road to eventually achieving a true democracy in South Africa. Many people involved in the Struggle for Freedom were incarcerated here, starting with Mohatma Gandhi. Perhaps this is therefore the most appropriate setting for the new development of the Constitution Hill Campus that will house the Constitutional Court and several statutory bodies, such as the gender commission. The campus will also be geared to cater for visitors, with several museums, entertainment venues, heritage sites, offices, shops and other facilities. The Fort was originally built in the 1890s to house a garrison of the State Artillery, complete with cannon and machine guns, to control the Johannesburg diggers, but it never saw action. After the Anglo-Boer War, the fort was used as a prison. Pass-law violators were imprisoned here during the Apartheid era. Enter in the footsteps of the prisoners on the south side, through a set of huge doors to the reception area. Imagine what it must have been like to be stripped and sprayed with cold water in the delousing room, before being kept in the Awaiting Trial Block. Once convicted, white prisoners were kept in the Fort, black men in the Native Gaol and women in the Women’s Gaol. The Fort has seen inmates such as the anti-British rebels during World War I, Albert Luthuli, Nelson Mandela, the 1950 Treason Trialists and even children – those who took part in the 1976 Soweto uprisings. The Medical Research Institute, the Civic Centre and the Civic Theatre are also on the Hill.
Ferreira Mine Camp: The nineteenth century Mine Stope in Simmonds Street is part of the old Ferreira Mine Camp, one of the many sub-surface diggings in the area. Ferreira’s Camp was one of the earliest mining camps to be formed on the Witwatersrand and was the forerunner of the city of Johannesburg that would grow out of its ashes. The site of the camp has been declared a national monument.
First National Bank Museum: The First National Bank is one of the oldest financial institutions in South Africa. The First National Bank Museum is situated on the corner of Market and Harrison Streets and focuses on the history of money making and on the bank’s history.
First National House: The an ultra-modern skyscraper housing First National House, also known as the Diamond Building, is set at an angle on Diagonal Street. When it was completed in 1983 it added a striking new dimension to Johannesburg’s skyline.
Gandhi Square: Mohandas Gandhi, one of the greatest spirits the world has ever known, was born in India in 1869, and came to South Africa in 1893. He practised law in Johannesburg in the early 1900s, but after witnessing the unfairness, he became involved in resistance politics. After a call to all Indians and Chinese to burn their pass books, he was convicted and sentenced for pass law offences. In 1914 he returned to India to implement his campaign of passive resistance to free India from British rule. A statue of Gandhi presides over the square, site of the city’s first courthouse, in the Central Business District at the corner of Rissik and Fox Streets. The square still functions as a bus terminus, but also has several banners and information panels that tell Gandhi’s story.
George Harrison Park: George Harrison Park is situated in Main Reef Road, marking the location of the main gold-bearing reef Harrison discovered. The park also has a 10-stamp battery mill that was once used to crush ore.
Guild Hall: Guild Hall, on the corner of Harrison and Market Streets, is the oldest pub in Johannesburg, reminiscent of the gold rush days of yesteryear. The antique furniture and old photographs create an authentic atmosphere.
Harry and Friedel Abt Jewish Museum: Situated on the corner of Kruis and Main Streets, the museum focuses on the history of South African Judaism since the 1920s and includes a collection of Jewish ceremonial art. Lovely religious artefacts are on display.
Hindu crematorium: The Hindu crematorium is in Cemetery Road and was built in 1918. Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi bought the ground on which it is built and played an integral part in paving the way for the building of this crematorium, the first in South Africa and in fact the first in Africa. Up to and before that time, most Hindus were buried, a practice that was contrary to their religious beliefs.
Indian Mosque/Temple: Near the corner of Market and Nugget Streets stands a beautiful Indian mosque that was built in 1916. The mosque is refreshingly different from the modern architectural buildings that surround it and can easily be recognised by its 30 m tall minaret. In keeping with ancient custom, female visitors are not allowed in during prayers.
James Hall Transport Museum: Transport enthusiasts would be well advised to pay a visit to the James Hall Transport Museum in Rosettenville Road, Pioneer Park. The museum is dedicated to the history of land transport in South Africa, displaying methods of transport from the earliest to the most recent. Bicycles, animal-drawn vehicles, steam vehicles, municipal vehicles, petrol-driven vehicles and steam locomotives and cars are depicted in all their erstwhile glory. The various halls are dedicated to different displays and together they give an astounding amount of information on man and movement through the ages.
Kholvad House: True to its ever-changing spirit, Johannesburg was also the scene of many of the historical events that changed the political history of South Africa. Mahatma Gandhi built Kholvad House in Commissioner Street to house Indian immigrants to South Africa. This was also the place where the first actions by “Umkhonto We Sizwe” (the military wing of the ANC) were planned by Ahmed Kathrada and Nelson Mandela. Through the years, the house also hosted meetings of the ANC Women’s League and visits by the likes of Helen Joseph, Lillian Ngoyi and Albertinah Sisulu, famous for their role in the Struggle.
Liliesleaf Farm: Liliesleaf at 8 Winston Avenue, Rivonia, played a strategic role in the political struggle for freedom. It was once a “safe house” for leaders of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military arm of the ANC. On the surface Liliesleaf was a working farm where black labourers went about their daily tasks. No one was to know that leaders such as Nelson Mandela, who was known as David, a cook and general labourer, planned their resistance tactics from here. In July 1963 the Security Police raided the farm and caught several important roleplayers such as Walter Sisulu. The Rivonia Treason Trial followed and several members of the MK High Command, among them Nelson Mandela, were sent to life imprisonment. Today Liliesleaf is an upmarket guest house and conference centre.
MuseumAfrica: MuseumAfrica at the corner of Bree and Wolhuter Streets in the Newtown Cultural Precinct, next to the Market Theatre, depicts the story of life in South Africa from the Stone Age to the nuclear age and beyond, from the Big Bang to the Silicon Chip. The focus, as the name implies, is on the people of Africa, where they come from and who they are. This museum is regarded as one of the ten best in the country. Up-to-date information on subjects such as geology, archaeology,
anthropology and history is combined to enable exhibitions of startling reality to be designed, bringing the visitor face-to-face with the realities of the past and the dreams for the future. MuseumAfrica is a large complex and includes the Bensusan Museum of Photography, the Museum of Southern African Rock Art, the Geological Museum and the Worker’s Museum. “Alhazen’s Light House” explains the properties of light, shadow and colour very effectively. The Geological Museum covers the many geological formations and types found in South Africa as well as the history of gold mining. The Worker’s Museum pays tribute to the Working Man and is housed in the restored Electricity Department compound at 52 Jeppe Street, where the workers used to live. There is also a Worker’s Library and a display depicting the living conditions of the workers of those times. The SA Breweries Museum sheds light on the history of beer brewing in South Africa, starting with first sorghum beer made by early Africans. The entry fee includes free beer, an opportunity that no tired and thirsty visitor should pass up.
Museum of Military History: The South African National Military History Museum is set in the peaceful surroundings of Saxonwold, one of Johannesburg’s most distinguished suburbs. The entrance is near the zoo in Herman Eckstein Park in Erlsworld Way. It has an internationally recognised collection of aircraft, tanks, uniforms, medals, guns and military art that covers every period of conflict in the South African history. It also has a section on Umkhonto We Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress.
Nelson Mandela Bridge: This suspension bridge, one of the latest additions to the inner city, has improved access to areas such as the Newtown Cultural Precinct, Braamfontein and Constitution Hill, the three areas making up the Cultural Arc.
“Ou Kaaphuis” (Old Cape House): This house in Pretoria Avenue, a “little Cape away from the Cape” is furnished with authentic antique furniture relevant to the Cape Dutch period.
Parktown: Parktown was the first garden suburb to be added to the mining town of Johannesburg. A walk through this shady suburb takes you past some lovely old houses. Sir Herbert Baker designed some of them, such as Stone House and Moot Cottage. Other beautiful buildings are St David’s Place, Wanooka House, Dolobran, Outeniqua and Parktown Convent.
Poswohl Synagogue: This national monument in Doornfontein is one of the oldest synagogues in the country.
SA Transport Museum: The SA Transport Museum lies on the old concourse at the Johannesburg Station Complex in De Villiers Street, in downtown Johannesburg. It features a magnificent collection of vintage steam engines and motorcars and ox wagons, as well as some paintings by the renowned South African artist, JH Pierneef.
Sophiatown Tours: Sophiatown was once the home of a mix of artists, writers, musicians, journalists and workers, the fount where South African black urban culture sprang from. In the 1950s, the suburb was razed to the ground and its inhabitants relegated to a demarcated black area – a legacy of the Group Areas Act and forced removals. In its place rose the white suburb of Triomf. However, the essence of Sophiatown still lives on in its distinctive music, fashion, dance and language. Some of the former residents have returned to take visitors on tours of buildings such as Church of Christ the King, the Huddleston Memorial, St Joseph’s Home and Good Street, once alive with the night lights of shebeens and nightclubs.
Stationary Museum: For those who hanker back to the years when people travelled at a slower pace, the Stationary Museum in Len Rutler Park, off the Gold Club Road in Florida, allows a trip back in time. It houses the largest collection of miniature oil engines in South Africa and is also the meeting place of the Rand Society of Model Engineers.
St Mary’s Anglican Cathedral: The cathedral on De Villiers Street, close to the Hoek (Corner) Mall, was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and built in 1926 of dressed sandstone.
Tolstoy Farm: This farm outside Johannesburg was once the South African home of Mahatma Gandhi. The farm is in the process of being developed as a heritage site.
Wits University: The University of the Witwatersrand (“Wits”) in Jan Smuts Avenue, Braamfontein, was originally established in Kimberley and moved to the Witwatersrand in the 1920s. Wits was often in the news during the political upheavals in our recent history. Historical buildings and institutions on the campus include the African Art Museum, the Anthropology Museum, the Geology Museum, the CE Moss Herbarium, the Music Museum, the Palaeontology Museum, the Planetarium, the Zoology Museum and the Medicine Museum. The Zoology Museum contains a large collection of butterflies, moths and shells. The Rock Art Research Centre is located in the Van Riet Lowe Building for Archaeology and Palaeontology. The Adler Museum of the History of Music contains a collection of valuable musical works and instruments. The Bleloch Geological Museum houses a collection of more than 50 000 mineral and rock specimens from all over southern Africa. Displays of crystallography, South African stratigraphy and economic and physical geology add to the interest value of the museum. The Department of Historical Papers was established in 1966, and houses over 2 400 separate collections. The Independent archives come in all forms, such as letters, minutes, memoranda, diaries, notes, documents, parish registers and press clippings. Visits to the centres and museums are strictly by appointment only.
Jewel City: Jewel City in Commissioner Street has demonstrations of diamond cuttings. The history of diamonds in South Africa is also explained and visitors can see how jewellery is designed, set and manufactured. Last but not least, jewellery can be bought at very reasonable prices.
Planetarium: Let an experienced astrologist take you on a journey to galaxies far beyond our solar system, while sitting in a comfortable planetarium chair. Organise a group visit to the planetarium and take part in the educational programmes presented by the Planetarium in Yale Road on the campus of the University of the Witwatersrand. Presentations include talks, audio-visual shows and multi-media displays.
South African Broadcasting Corporation: The South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) in Auckland Park offers free tours that allow visitors to examine some of the world’s most technologically advanced television studios. Booking is essential.