Johannesburg is the financial capital of South Africa; it is a sprawling and bustling city, alive with colour and excitement. Historically, Johannesburg was a mining city with exceptional wealth and exceptional poverty, segregated from the African population living mostly on the outskirts in townships like Soweto and Alexandria. In recent decades though, with racial borders erased, Johannesburg has become a home for all South Africans, and a melting pot too for many different African nationalities. The net result is a city with historical, social, cultural, and sporting attractions that will excitedly entertain any travelling visitor. Call up your travel buddy and begin your exploration at these awesome sights in Johannesburg, South Africa.
1) Apartheid Museum
To end any uncertainties about the city and the country’s segregated past, start your tour at the Apartheid Museum next to Gold Reef City with its thought-provoking and often brutal reminders of the days of restrictions on movement, marriage, access to jobs and education, and other social rules geared at maintaining political power in the hands of the white minority.
2) Soweto Township
A tour to the massive Soweto Township offers an eye-opening encounter with African life in South Africa, where rich and poor live side by side. Here, you can take any one of the many tours on offer through the township for a look at the lifestyles of the common people and their religion, social, and leisure activities. Of course, treat yourself to fabulous African food in a very festive setting with great music and dance to follow.
3) Oriental Plaza
A visit to the Oriental Plaza in the Newtown Cultural Precinct with its 350 shopkeepers selling all manner of wares, from linens to fruits, incense to carpets, and suits to jewels and perfume, is worth a visit, although it is a little rough and tumble but certainly colorful. Even though it’s more like a mall, you can always haggle.
4) Joburg Zoo
The Johannesburg Zoo has long been a favourite family outing with the children. The grounds are very large, and all manner of animal is housed in reasonably acceptable cages and encampments, from snakes to elephants, giraffe to fabulous birds, and a host of exotic animals too. It is a great outdoor activity on a good weather day.
5) National Museum of Military History
The South African National Museum of Military History in Saxonwold is really a thrilling war museum and will occupy the mind of any war enthusiast for at least a day. The Johannesburg Fort in Hillbrow has a long and interesting history and has held such famous inmates as Nelson Mandela, while Constitutional Hill offers a great insight into South Africa’s legal history and is home of the Constitutional Court.
6) Botanical Gardens
The Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and Emmarentia Dam are a great day’s outing. If there is music at the Dam, the day is even more enjoyable as you can take a picnic basket and simply soak up the atmosphere after a relaxing wander first through the superb gardens.
7) FNB Stadium
Finally, for the sports enthusiast, there is the FNB Stadium in Soweto, an architectural marvel and host ground to the 2010 World Cup Football Final. This is a great place to see a local football derby or an international rugby match, while the Turfontein Race Track is a lovely place to spend a Saturday afternoon to either put a small wager on one of the horses or simply soak up the atmosphere and colour.