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Johannesburg - South Africa's City of Gold

Jo’burg, or ‘Jozi’ as it’s more commonly known by those who call or have adopted it as home is the economic power-house of South Africa.

Born from the gold rush in the 19th century and nicknamed Egoli (place of Gold), Johannesburg with it's now population of 3.2million is the largest city in South Africa and capital of Gauteng province.

It's past life of spiraling gun crime and poverty, a white ruling elite and the other half of the population on looking through cracks in 10m high walls topped with barbed wire, are thankfully in the past.

While gold is still the main backbone of the Johannesburg economy, the city is slowly changing and embracing tourism.

The 21st century looks good for this city and while wandering around you can't help but notice a new sense of self-confidence that permeates throughout the people and businesses.

Top 10 things to do in Johannesburg

Apartheid Museum

Established in 2001, the museum is one of Johannesburg's most important tourist attractions illustrating the rise and fall of apartheid in South Africa.

Interestingly, the museum is a non-profit organisation and is wholly owned by a casino consortium and therefore relies solely on donations from the consortium and the public.

The museum, located at Northern Parkway & Gold Reef Road in Ormonde, has 22 separate exhibition areas that guide the visitor through the changing landscape of apartheid in the country.

The exhibits include film footage, photographs, text panels, and artifacts.

Admission is R40 for adults and R25 for children. Tours cost from R5 per person. Opening hours are Tue - Sun, 10:00 - 17:00.

Gold Reef City

"Thar be gold in them thar hills..."

Located on an old goldmine, Gold Reef City is a large amusement park approximately 8km from the city centre.

The amusement park is themed around the1880's gold rush on the Witwatersrand range of hills. The park staff wearing traditional period costumes and all the buildings have been designed to mimic those that were in use back then. It truly does transport you back to ye olde gold mine days.

A favourite haunt for families with small children, the park has numerous water and roller coaster rides to keep them thrilled all day long and there are plenty of eateries and shops to keep the adults happy.

For those traveling without kids, you could always tuck yourself in for a night on the casino tables or enjoy a relaxing dining experience Back O' The Moon restaurant and jazz bar, amongst many others.

Opening hours and prices for the theme park change regularly, so it's best to check the website for the latest information.

Constitution Hill

The Constitution Hill precinct, located at the western end of the suburb Hillbrow, is the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Being a relatively new building, the first court session was held here in 2004.

The hill was formerly the site of a fort which was later used as a prison to house white male prisoners in 1892.

The Old Fort was built around this prison between 1896 and 1899 to protect the South African Republic from the threat of British invasion. Later, Boer military leaders of the Anglo-Boer War were imprisoned here by the British.

The court building itself was built using bricks from the demolished awaiting-trial wing of the former prison and is open to the public who want to attend hearings or view the art gallery in the court atrium.

Once at the top of the hill, you will get some great views of downtown Johannesburg and it's surrounding suburbs.

Lion Park

About a 45 minute drive from Johannesburg, the Lion Park located in Gauteng Province near Lanseria Airport, is about as close as you can get to a real safari without going on one.

The park offers a range of activities including petting zones where you can handle small cubs. The guides are great and will give you precautionary tips on spotting signs of aggression, and some do's and don'ts.

You can also see ostriches, giraffes and zebras here before you drive out into the enclosures of fully grown wild lions and lionesses.

Cheetahs, wild dogs, brown hyenas, striped hyenas, spotted hyenas, black-backed jackals, side-striped jackals, and a wide variety of antelope also roam freely in the enclosures.

The guided tour 4x4's are fully air-conditioned so there's no need to roll down a window and with several ¼ ton hungry adult lions eyeing you up from the roadside that's probably a good thing.

You can of course do a self-drive the main park. Just make sure your car has a full tank of gas before heading off!


Found in the suburb of Emmarentia, the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens were established in 1968 and cover an area of around 1.25km².

One of the most visited areas is the Rose Garden which holds over 10,000 roses of varying species and colours. The small ponds and fountains in this garden make it very picturesque.

There are eating, picnic and BBQ areas dotted around the gardens which can get fairly busy on summer weekends.

The Emmarentia Dam is also within the park and with it's waters gently lapping at the bank, this is an ideal place to sit down, relax and enjoy the tranquil surrounds.

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The Johannesburg Zoo is located on Jan Smuts Avenue, Parkview and is dedicated to the accommodation, enrichment, husbandry, and medical care of wild animals since 1904.

The zoo houses approximately 3000 different species of animals.

While you are free to wander around, the zoo also offers tours and excursions where a guide will give you some additional information about the animals, their natural territory and what the zoo is doing in respect to conservation programme's.

It is one of the few places in the world with white lions, and has had considerable success in their breeding.

The Johannesburg Zoo is also the only zoo in South Africa to have successfully bred Siberian Tigers, the largest cats in the world.

There are always different events scheduled and the website is the best source for seeing what's on as well as checking the prices.

Carlton Centre

The Carlton Centre in downtown Johannesburg is the tallest building in Africa at 223m high and 50 floors.

The building houses both offices and shops, and has over 46 per cent of the floor area below ground level.

It's not the prettiest skyscraper you're likely to see, however, it is the one with the best view.

There's a great observation deck on the 50th floor that gives, on a clear day, outstanding panoramic views of Johannesburg. The elevator ride up costs a meager R8 or if you're really really fit (or more likely mega stingy) you could take the stairs for free.

Gandhi Square

The Gandhi Square plaza is located in the CBD area of Johannesburg.

The square was renovated around 2001 and renamed from Van Der Bijl Square to Gandhi Square after the famous political activist and pacifist, Mahatma Gandhi.

You'll find lots of shopping arcades, restaurants and other food outlets around the square which has become a vibrant hub of activity over the years.

A statue of Gandhi proudly sits in the middle of the square with plaques on each side attributing his achievements.

Sandton City

If South African shopping is on your to-do list, then best head over to Sandton City, a shopping centre located in Sandton.

Sandton City Shopping Centre showcases the very best fashion and lifestyle brands that South Africa and the world have to offer and is a favourite with international and local shoppers alike.

You'll also find a wide range of food outlets, restaurants and a cinema within the complex.

Sun City

Sun City is a luxury casino and resort, situated in the North West Province of South Africa. it's about a two hours' drive from Johannesburg, near the city of Rustenburg.

With its combination of golf, game and gambling, as well as four world class hotels, Sun City is certainly an all-in-one holiday resort with a little something for everyone.

The variety of entertainment on offer ranges from slots to safaris; theatre extravaganza to a games arcade for children; horse riding to golf; the Valley of the Waves to The Lost City.

The Valley of the Waves, ideal for kids, is designed as a tropical fantasy-land where visitors can enjoy a number of beach and water activities.

This completely over-the-top water park is surrounded by tropical forest and set in a valley against a hilly savanna backdrop. The Palace of the Lost City stands perched on a hill overlooking this exotic water park giving you the sense that you really are lost on some faraway island.

An artificial beach and ocean are the central attraction at the Valley of the Waves. A wave-machine capable of generating 1.8m waves every 90 seconds pumps out waves every half an hour, letting swimmers splash about excitedly, while ducking, dodging and body surfing waves.

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