In spite of its bawdy start as a mining shanty town, today Johannesburg is the second largest city in Africa and frequently forms the first port of entry for South African tours. The city owes its existence to the discovery of gold by prospector George Harrison. Harrison, who pegged the first claim on the reef, sold it for just ₤10 and disappeared without a trace. Built on the site of the greatest gold-mining area on earth, today this vibrant city is not just an industrial giant but the heart of the country’s economy.
A diverse cultural melting pot, this City of Gold (or iGoli as it is sometimes locally known) offers everything from traditional markets to exclusive boutiques in upmarket malls, theatres, museums, world-class restaurants and more.
Visitors who tour South Africa frequently arrive in Johannesburg, where highlights include cultural tours and reminders of the country’s turbulent history. Guided tours of Johannesburg’s vibrant township of Soweto reveal the city’s colourful culture, while the Apartheid Museum is a poignant reminder of its past and the beautiful Nelson Mandela Square is a tribute to South Africa’s former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner. The magnificent mansions of gold magnates still stand in beautiful Parktown, while downtown Johannesburg is home to landmarks such as the old mining houses, the City Library, Old Telephone Exchange, Rissik Street Post Office and Old Stock Exchange, as well as the traditional healers’ market and other historic sites, including the offices of legends such as Mahatma Ghandi and Nelson Mandela.
- Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa.
- Bungee jumping from the Orlando Towers in Soweto.
- The Cradle of Humankind Site comprises a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossillised remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids.
- The dolomite in which the caves formed, started out as coral reefs growing in a worm shallow sea about 2.3 billion years ago.
- This was the setting for President Nelson Mandela’s historic inauguration in 1994.
- See the Union Buildings, designed by Sir Herbert Baker and completed in 1913. They are considered by many to be the architect’s greatest achievement and South Africa’s architectural masterpiece.
- Pretoria National Botanical Garden, a treasure chest of South African flowering plant species and trees.
- Lesedi Cultural Village-this living village is a combination of the rich tradition of various African tribes.
Summer (October – April)
Min 24°C/75°F Max 32°C/90°F
Winter (May – September)
Min 24°C/75°F Max 32°C/90°F
Best time to travel – year round. Summer brings hot days, afternoon thunderstorms and clear evenings. Winters are dry and cold, perfect for eating out.