Johannesburg, affectionately called Jo’burg, Jozi, and E’Goli, the “city of gold,” is the financial and industrial metropolis of South Africa, built on a rich history of gold mining. The city is rapidly evolving from a crime-tainted safari stopover to a vibrant hub for arts and culture. Cutting-edge contemporary galleries and the new Maboneng Precinct, with its funky restaurants, cafes, and art studios, now rank among the city’s top tourist attractions along with the poignant Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill. Glaring disparities still remain – the shanty towns of Soweto, birthplace of the nation’s struggle for democracy – still contrast sharply with the walled villas of wealthy enclaves and the city’s gleaming skyscrapers. However, rapid changes are coaxing tourists to linger. Travelers can hop aboard one of the new Gautrain trains and buses to explore or take a guided tour. Not far from the city’s borders more adventures await. Visitors can commune with wildlife at a popular lion park; stroll among the beautiful gardens and parks in Pretoria, the country’s administrative capital; and explore the UNESCO-listed Cradle of Humankind, one of the richest paleoanthropological sites in the world.
1 The Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid Museum graphically portrays the apartheid story through photos, artifacts, newspaper clippings, chilling personal accounts, and film footage. The sights and sounds of the apartheid era assail visitors as they move through the thought-provoking permanent exhibits on an emotional journey through South Africa’s history. Paths follow the country through decades of oppression to the birth of democracy. Reserve at least two hours and preferably longer to get the most out of a visit here. Those interested in learning more about South Africa’s struggle for freedom, should also visit Liliesleaf Farm Museum, the former center for the leaders of the liberation movement.
Address: Cnr Northern Parkway & Gold Reef Road, Ormonde, Johannesburg
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Johannesburg – TripAdvisor.com
2 Constitution Hill
Overlooking the city of Johannesburg, Constitution Hill is a former prison that provides fascinating insight into South Africa’s history. At the site, visitors can explore provocative exhibits at the Number Four museum, the Women’s Gaol museum, and the Old Fort museum. Together, the precinct was once known as The Fort, and it forged a reputation for its brutal treatment of political prisoners, common criminals, and passive resistors; famous former prisoners include Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. Today, the old Awaiting Trial building has been transformed into the Constitutional Court of South Africa, a symbol of freedom, which works to protect the rights of all the nation’s people. The court welcomes visitors who want to attend hearings and watch the judicial process. Guided tours of Constitutional Hill offer valuable insight into its rich history.
3 Gold Reef City
At Gold Reef City, eight kilometers from the city center, visitors are whisked back to the gold rush days through a series of thrilling theme park rides and historical exhibits. This family-friendly attraction hosts reproductions of buildings and businesses from the era, including houses, shops, the Royal Theatre, a hotel, a Chinese laundry, a tailor’s workshop, a chemist’s shop, a newspaper office, and Johannesburg’s first stock exchange. Visitors can also tour a disused shaft of the Crown Mines, one of the richest gold-mines in the world, which gives a vivid impression of the work of the gold miners.