| Unlike other South
African cities (such as Cape Town, with its well known Table Mountain,
and Durban, with its amazing beachfront parade of towering hotels)
Johannesburg has no clear single feature to differentiate
it from many other drab and sprawling inland cities. The 30 minute
drive from the remarkable and efficiently managed Johannesburg International
Airport serves as a great introduction to this city. From here,
a 6 lane highway (the R24 and N12) carves a path 1st through a high
tech industrial and commercial district, then through thriving,
upper income suburbia, passing between Eastgate Shopping Centre
(arguably Africa’s largest) and Bruma Lake Market World (self
proclaimed Africa’s Biggest), before entering Hillbrow, a
gangster and vagrant riddled high rise flatland, residence to 42
different nationalities from Africa alone.
This introduction might primarily suggest that Johannesburg is a
threatening and risky place. However, it contradicts the fact that
areas and sites (such as shaking Soweto, mellow Melville Village,
grandiose Gold Reef City Theme Park and Casino, tranquil Johannesburg
Zoological Gardens and Military History Museum, and the extraordinary
Newtown Cultural Precinct, among others) reveal a side to the city’s
multi faceted character that is tourist< friendly,
fascinating and relatively safe.
Johannesburg has a surprising number of brilliant art galleries,
varying from the corporate to the private and the off-beat to the
mainstream. 3 are advised for their commitment to African and South
African works. The Johannesburg Art Gallery houses contemporary
South African landscapes, traditional African art, and the particularly
appealing William Kentridge collection. The Goodman Gallery displays
contemporary South African artists, with works by William Kentridge,
Penny Siopis, Kendell Geers, Willie Bester and Sue Williamson, among
others. The Kim Sacks Gallery encourages customary South African
artefacts and contemporary South African crafts.
A comprehensive listing of all of South Africa’s galleries
(telephone, address, e-mail and websites) can be found at online.
Other relevant websites are www.artslink.co.za.
Arts Collective’s website is also advised.
This Edward Lutyens designed building houses remarkable collections
of 19th century South African works, 18th and 19th century British
and European art, 17th century Dutch paintings, a wide contemporary
collection of 20th century local and international art and a print
cabinet containing works from the 15th century to the present.
Address: King George Street (off Klein Street), Joubert Park
Telephone: (011) 725 3130/80.
Facsimile: (011) 720 6000.
Email address: email@example.com
Website address: www.joburg.org.za
Opening hours: Daily from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.
The Alliance hosts contemporary South African and international
art exhibitions, generally by solo artists, with recent shows by
Clifford Charles, Rene Paul, Wayne Barker, Trevor Coleman, Pauline
Mazibuku and others. Exhibitions are solicited through proposals.
Address: 17 Lower Park Drive, Parkview
Telephone: (011) 646 1169.
Facsimile: (011) 646 4521.
Admission: often free, some exhibitions are R 20 to R 50.
Address: 163 Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkwood
Telephone: (011) 788 1113.
Facsimile: (011) 788 9887.
Website address: www.goodman-gallery.com
Opening hours: Daily from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.
Everard Read Gallery
Address: 6 Jellicoe Avenue, Rosebank
Telephone: (011) 388 4805.
Facsimile: (011) 788 5914.
Bag Factory, aka
Fordsburg Artists’ Studios
Johannesburg’s longest established communal artists’
studio complex houses some of South Africa’s most recognised
Address: 10 Minnaar Street, Fordsburg
Telephone: (011) 834 9181.
Facsimile: (011) 834 9181.
JHB Civic Gallery
Address: Civic Theatre, Loveday Street, Braamfontein
Telephone: (011) 403 3408.
Facsimile: (011) 403 3412.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sat 12.00 pm to 8.00 pm or by appointment.
Commons (formerly the Randburg Waterfront)
Johannesburg is a long way (550 kilometres / 344 miles) from the
nearest beaches (Durban) and this cluster of restaurants,
shops, bars, cinemas
and amusements encircling a man made lake has been
completely rebuilt and re opened as Brightwater Commons is a forced
attempt at echoing the highly popular (and authentic) Cape Town
Waterfront in Johannesburg’s rival city. This is perhaps the
only after dark venue in Johannesburg where one can dine and stroll
under the stars in a secure and pleasant park attractively surrounded
by nightclubs, movie theatres and restaurants.
Address: Republic Road, Ferndale, Randburg
Telephone: (011) 789 5052 or (080) 000 1312.
Website address: www.brightwatercommons.co.za
Transport: Metro bus 80, 81, 82 or 83 to Randburg.
Opening hours: Daily 24 hours.
Admission: Free, some clubs have entrance charges ranging from R
20 to R 60.
Gold Reef City Theme
Park and Casino
Initially conceived as a likeness of downtown Johannesburg circa
1890, during the gold rush, Gold Reef City’s museums and curiosity
shops (housed in replicas of the original Victorian and Edwardian
buildings) have now been eclipsed by the ‘largest
rollercoaster in the Southern Hemisphere’ and a 60
table casino. This does not, however, detract from the fact that,
for a fairly authentic glimpse into Johannesburg’s captivating
past, Gold Reef City is still the best place to go.
Gold Reef City’s true charm is that (literally) underneath
all the theme park veneer, there lies a labyrinth of tunnels,
built around Number 14 Shaft of the original gold mine that operated
from 1887 to 1971. Depending on bookings, there are usually many
tours down a mine where workers from all over southern Africa quite
recently sweated, toiled and died. Add to this, 14 museums, many
craft and curio shops, daily displays of traditional gum boot and
can - can dancing and the casino,
which includes the 300 seat Globe
Theatre and the result is an astonishing mix that simultaneously
provides entertainment and insight. The minutely detailed and fascinating
model of the surface and subterranean installations of a gold mine,
which follows the process from shaft sinking to gold bar production,
is 1 of the highlights. As is the daily pouring of a gold bar, popular
legend has it that anyone who can pick it up with 1 hand can take
it home with them.
Gold Reef City, 8 kilometres (5 miles) from city centre
Telephone: (011) 248 6800.
Email address: email@example.com
Website address: www.goldreefcity.co.za
Transport: Metro bus 55 a, 55 b or 313 to Southgate from Ghandi
Square, by car on the M1 South Freeway to the Booysens or Xavier
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sunday 9.30 am to 5.00 pm.
Admission: R 50 weekdays, R 70 weekends, concessions available.
Address: 15 Becker Street
Telephone: (011) 838 6734.
Opening hours: Fridays, 8.00 pm onwards.
Admission: R 20.
Botanic Gardens and Emmarentia Dam
Covering 365 acres (148 hectares) of highveld hillside
rising up from the western shores of the Emmarentia Dam, this is
1 of the city’s most tranquil spots. The Dam has a yachting
and canoeing club, while the gardens contain a magnificent terraced
rose garden (allegedly the world’s largest) set among ponds
and water features with a classical theme. Although a park ranger
is on duty, it is not recommended to wander into remote areas unless
with a group. Picnics and braais (barbecues) are permitted at the
spots provided and the shady restaurant does brilliant tea and scones
as well as light meals.
Address: Between Thomas Bowler, Olifants and Louw Geldenhuys Streets,
Telephone: (011) 782 0517.
Website address: www.jobot.co.za
Transport: Metro bus 71 to Fairland, 74 to Blairgowrie or 81 to
Randburg via Blairgowrie.
Opening hours: Daily sunrise to sunset.
Admission: Free (however plans are afoot to start charging).
Johannesburg Zoological Gardens
Apart from offering a peaceful and secure relief from the city’s
busy streets and garish shopping malls, the zoo provides a great
opportunity for visitors to make sure they know the difference between
leopards and cheetahs before going
on safari – or just to ensure they do see the big 5. The facilities
(both for human and beast) are highly rated internationally, children
and the disabled (electric buggies are available for R 70 per hour)
are predominantly well catered for. Guided day,
night and behind the scenes tours can be arranged and the Zoo Ferry
(pulled by a tractor) does standard rounds for a quick reconnoitre
before exploring on foot. Highlights include the magnificent new
lion enclosure and Max, the lowland gorilla
(and his companion Lisa), who became a local crime fighting hero
a few years ago when he wrestled to the ground a burglar who incorrectly
scaled the wall of his pen while fleeing police.
Address: Upper Park Drive, Forest Town
Telephone: (011) 646 2000 or 486 0552, for organised tours.
Facsimile: (011) 486 2866.
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website address: www.jhbzoo.org.za
Transport: The Metro bus 1 to Parktown North, 78 to Randburg Mall,
78a to Craighall or 79 to Parkhurst.
Opening hours: Daily from 8.30 am to 5.30 pm.
Admission: R 25, concessions are available.
Lesedi is a Sotho word that means light, the nickname
for King Moshoeshoe, the founder of the Basotho nation (Lesotho).
The 2 and a half hour experience consists of displays of authentic
indigenous dancing, recreated Sotho, Ndebele, Zulu, Xhosa and Pedi
villages, a restaurant serving local (the famous ‘nyama Choma)
and international cuisine, a fully equipped conference centre and
en suite guest cottages.
Address: Broederstroom, on the R512
Telephone: (012) 205 1394 or (0800) 119 000, toll free.
Facsimile: (012) 205 1433.
Website address: www.lesedi.com
Transport: By car, travel along the M1 north and then west (towards
Roodepoort) onto the N1 at the Woodmead interchange. At the Lanseria
off ramp, along the R512 north (Hans Strydom Drive), 50 kilometres
(31 miles) along the scenic R512, Lesedi is clearly marked on the
left hand side of the road.
Opening hours: Daily (11.30 am ) and evening (4.30 pm) shows, or
Admission: R 380.
Address: 121 Bree Street
Telephone: (011) 832 1641.
Website address: www.markettheatre.co.za
Opening hours: They vary, depending on production.
Admission: The price varies, depending on production.
Melville Koppies Nature Reserve
The Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, just north of the suburb, protects
an extensive area of typical highveld vegetation and consists of
archaeological remains of both Stone and Iron Age
settlements, including iron furnaces.
Address: Melville Koppies Nature Reserve North Melville
Telephone: (011) 782 7064.
Opening hours: Third Sun of every month (September to May).
Generally, the residents of Johannesburg’s upper income northern
suburbs only walk if their car has just been stolen, although, Melville
is a quirky, pleasant exception. Just a short distance from Park
City, the suburb’s neighbourly atmosphere is largely due to
its chaotic mix of residential and commercial properties, which
sometimes mingle to a point where one may find oneself mistakenly
settling down in a private home and wondering where the waitress
has got to. The main streets, especially bohemian Seventh Street
(the setting and title of a local TV drama), are worth wandering
along, delving into the 2nd hand bookshops, antique
dealers and body piercing salons, or sitting in
the pavement cafés to watch people walk
by. Many of Melville’s nicest homes, some of which date back
to the 19th century, have been converted into charming bed and breakfasts
and guest houses, which are increasingly popular with foreign travellers.
Address: Melville, northern suburbs
Telephone: (011) 726 5634.
Facsimile: (011) 482 4769.
Transport: Metro bus 67 to Melville, 66 to Sophiatown or 71 to Fairland.
Military History Museum
Situated on the same block as the Zoo, this small but comprehensive
museum covers most periods and armaments of South Africa’s
military history. Displays include tanks, uniforms,
artillery pieces (including the South African built
G-6), small arms, 12 aircraft
and a military submarine. However, there are unfortunately
small sections on the anti - draft (End Conscription Campaign) movements
and the participation of black people in the Anglo-Boer War, although
CASSPIRS, the armoured personnel carriers used by security forces
in the townships during black uprisings against apartheid, are on
Address: 20 Erlswold Way, Saxonwold
Telephone: (011) 646 5513.
Website address: www.militarymuseum.co.za
Transport: Metro bus 1 to Parktown North, 78 to Randburg Mall, 78a
to Craighall or 79 to Parkhurst.
Opening hours: Daily from 9.00 am to 4.30 pm.
Admission: R 10.
Address: 121 Bree Street
Telephone: (011) 833 5624.
Website address: www.museums.org.za
Opening hours: Daily from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.
A few years ago, this area was collapsing into a derelict slum land
dominated by the brooding, crumbling cooling towers and the cavernous
turbine hall of Johannesburg’s 1st coal fired power station.
The general air of decay and neglect, symptomatic of several parts
of the city’s Central Business District, is being addressed
as part of the Johannesburg Metropolitan Council’s iGoli 2000
urban renewal strategy. The Newtown Precinct has undergone quite
radical alterations, which consist of improvements
and additions to long standing attractions (such as the Market Theatre
and the Oriental Plaza) as well as relative newcomers (such as MuseumAfrica,
the Horror Café (café / theatre opposite the Electric
Workshop) and the South African Breweries World of Beer ).
The well known MuseumAfrica and Market
Theatre are housed in a magnificent Victorian building,
once the city’s major fresh produce market, which had stall
holders who were largely of Indian origin who were moved to the
nearby Oriental Plaza. The Plaza is a brilliant place to savour
Indian food or buy clothing and fabric at discount prices. MuseumAfrica,
which includes the Bensusan Museum and Library of Photography, the
Museum of South Africa Rock Art and the Bernberg Museum of Fashion,
was conceived as South Africa’s 1st post apartheid museum.
It offers exhibits covering an assorted range of themes, ranging
from early man to the struggle against apartheid.
This is possibly the best place in Johannesburg from which to consider
the impact of colonialism. The Market Theatre Complex
houses 3 theatres, Main Theatre, Laager Theatre and Barney Simon
Theatre. The Market presented much protest theatre during the struggle
years and was the birthplace for such seminal works as Athol Fugard’s
Sizwe Banzi is Dead (1973) and Mbongeni Ngema’s Sarafina (1988).
It was here where John Kani (now the theatre director) and Winston
Shona were 1st seen in Fugard’s Master Harold and the Boys
(1982). It was also here that political satirist Pieter-Dirk Uys
(in the persona of his drag alter ego, Evita Bezuidenhout) 1st performed
anti-apartheid 1 man shows to packed houses. Long presumed to be
Johannesburg’s best jazz venue, Kippies (a converted Victorian
toilet) still belts it out every weekend, just a few steps away
from the entrance to the theatre.
Address: Newtown Cultural Precinct
Transport: Metro bus 63 to Newlands or 66 to Sophiatown.
Address: Sixth Avenue, Fordsburg
Telephone: (011) 838 6572.
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 500 pm, Saturday 8.30
am to 3.00 pm (Restaurants stay open late).
Despite the tyranny of apartheid legislation (such
as the Group Areas Act that, in 1948, banished black people to townships
and homelands), some parts of Johannesburg continued to be gloriously
mixed race until the early 1960's. One such suburb was Sophiatown,
which was bulldozed by the authorities and cynically recalled Triomf
(Afrikaans for ‘triumph’). Sophiatown, which newly received
its name back, not only produced such singing legends as Dorothy
Masuka, Sophie Mcina and Abigail Kubeka but also inspired a world
famous musical (called Sophiatown) and is still remembered 40 years
after its destruction with great passion.
The Toby Road home of Dr Alfred Bitini Xuma (who died in 1962),
President General of the ANC in the 1940's, is now a National Monument.
Christ the King, 47 Ray Street, the tiny, beloved church of late
anti apartheid stalwart Archbishop Trevor Huddleston, and St Joseph’s
Home for Children, corner of Gerty and Hermans Streets, a National
Monument, are both outstanding Sophiatown buildings.
Transport: The Metro bus 66 to Sophiatown or 63 to Newlands.
SAB World of Beer
Address: 15 President Street
Telephone: (011) 836 4900.
Website address: www.worldofbeer.co.za
Opening hours: Tuesday to Sat 10.00 am to 6.00 pm.
Admission: R 10.
For decades, in the forefront of a struggle against the tyrannical
regime that endorsed white supremacy, Soweto’s 2 million residents
made their home renowned as a living symbol of victory over oppression.
Nelson Mandela, 1 of the icons of the late 20 th
century, lived in Soweto (an acronym for South Western Townships)
before he was sentenced to life imprisonment (he served 27 years)
for treason, by the previous apartheid government.
Officially within the municipal boundaries of greater
Johannesburg, an extensive mine waste dumping area and a hectic
concrete highway separate Soweto from the city limits. An intimidating
sprawl of 1000's of rows of tiny 2 roomed council houses, bleak
looking dormitory style mine worker hostels and brazen mansions,
this township was initially only intended to provide temporary shelter
for contract mine workers toiling underground in the once fabulously
rich Witwatersrand gold fields.
Visitors wishing to see where South Africa’s peaceful
revolution was conceived, born and nurtured will be struck
both by the amount of formal tourist facilities and the fact that
the prominently barren surroundings are contrasted against such
lively, friendly and characterful people.
Due the absence of street signs and dangerous public transport options,
Soweto’s labyrinth is best discovered in the company of 1
of the several good tour operators that offer what have been called
the Heritage Route or Shebeen Crawl tours.
The Heritage Route includes the Hector Peterson
Memorial, former residences of Nobel Peace Prize-winners Nelson
Mandela and Bishop Desmond Tutu, Regina Mundi Church, Avalon Cemetery,
Freedom Square, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Winnie Madikizela
Mandela’s house, Morris Isaacson School (where the 1976 student
uprising started) and Credo Mutwa Village. The 13 year old boy,
Hector, was 1 of the 1st of 100's of people shot by police during
the dramatic 16 June 1976 rebellion. His memorial includes a touching
and powerful photograph taken by veteran journalist Peter Magubane
of Hector’s body being carried through Soweto’s frenzied
The Regina Mundi Catholic Church, a venue for 100's
of protest meetings, still has the bullet holes left by police who
often used violence to scatter gatherings. Ma Africa Galleries in
a room off the hall presents paintings of township scenes. Situated
in Kliptown and the oldest part of Soweto, Freedom Square is at
the site where the Freedom Charter was offered to a mass gathering
of the people.
South African Communist Party leader, Joe Slovo,
who died of cancer in 1995, became the 1st white person to be buried
in the Avalon Cemetery. At the time of his assassination in 1993,
Hani’s stature was 2nd only to Mandela’s, so it is fitting
that the world’s largest hospital has been renamed after him.
Built by Nelson Mandela for his separated wife soon after his release
from prison in 1990, Winnie Madikizela - Mandela’s mansion
is still occupied by the former president’s ex wife, who continues
to enjoy high stature in Soweto. A student and practitioner of customary
African rites and religions, Credo Mutwa’s mysticism is reflected
in his sculptures, paintings and writings on display at Credo Mutwa
The Shebeen Crawl is geared more toward the entertainment
feature of the township. Irish miners may have presented the word
to South Africa but shebeens (also called taverns and formerly outlawed
by the apartheid regime) have become equal with the rich and often
harsh social life of Sowetans. They range from a few stools in front
of a simple shack to stylish, flashy and entirely fledged nightclubs.
While some of the Soweto shebeens may have accustomed their menus
and prices in response to an influx of tourists, the same cannot
be said of Wandi’s Place (Dube). It serves traditional dishes,
such as morogo (wild spinach), umngqusho (stamped corn and bean
stew) and the evergreen Soweto favourite, chakalaka (chilli and
Former owner of the Blue Fountain Saloon Godfrey
Moloi (self styled ‘Godfather of Soweto’) died recently
however his generous, flamboyant spirit lives on in what he referred
to as The warm heart of Soweto. African dishes, buffets and set
menus are accessible. The famous wall of fame is a mural representing
liberation struggle heroes, signed by famous visitors. Tebogo calls
his trendy tavern, The Rock, ‘New York in Soweto’ and
this is where the upwardly mobile young black professionals hang,
food is traditional and contemporary African. People come to Vardo’s
Place to watch soccer (South Africa’s favourite sport) on
1 of the several screens and listen to music with an African Beat.
Early shebeens were all in 1 of the typical 2 room Soweto homes
and at Pinky’s Place drinks are still served in the lounge
and dining room. At DJ’s Place, one of Soweto’s oldest
restaurant / shebeens, beer is still served by the quart, while
Palazzo di Stella, currently Soweto’s only live jazz club,
is also its 1st pizza restaurant.
Tours of Soweto can be arranged through Jimmy’s Face-to-Face
Tours (telephone: (011) 331 6109, website: www.face2face.co.za)
or Imbizo Tours (telephone: (011) 838 2667, email address: email@example.com)
and cost from R 300 to R 600.
Soweto (South Western Townships), 15 minutes west of central Johannesburg
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website address: www.soweto.co.za
Transport: Main Reef Road.
Gauteng Tourism Authority (previously Tourism Johannesburg)
Address: Rosebank Mall, Upper Level, corner Baker and Cradock Streets
Telephone: (011) 327 7000.
Facsimile: (011) 327 7000.
Email address: email@example.com
Website address: www.gauteng.net
Opening hours: Monday to Friday 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.
There are also tourist information kiosks in the
main concourse at Park Station, and at Johannesburg International
Airport (telephone: (011) 327 2000), which are open from 9.00 am
to 6.00 pm.