The largest city in South Africa, Johannesburg has a turbulent history and a mixed reputation. Reminders of the years of Apartheid are everywhere in the culture and the city itself, but in recent years the city has embraced its heritage and its newfound pride has created a culture of understanding that is gratefully received by travellers and locals alike, as well as heralding the development of the cultural centre of the city in a bid to attract more tourists. With cheap flights to Johannesburg available from several different airlines, this exciting city is no longer simply a stop off point but a proud and exciting terminus.
In celebration of its image overhaul, here are my top ten things to see in Johannesburg.
- The Apartheid Museum – Sometimes, the elephant in the room can only be addressed by naming it. The Jo’burg city council has done just that, and the result is a truly fascinating museum whose collections and artefacts give a comprehensive insight into the Apartheid years and Johannesburg’s place in the larger cultural shifts of South Africa throughout the 20th Century.
- Soweto – The Apartheid Museum is just one of the many interesting destinations in this former township, which takes its name from the words ‘South Western Township’. A highlight is the previous residence of iconic former president Nelson Mandela.
- Lion Park – Feeling adventurous? Then head down to Lion Park in Lanseria, a 45-minute drive away from the city centre. In total, over 80 lions prowl the grounds, as well as jackals, hyenas, leopards, zebras and many more in a safari-type setting.
- Carlton Centre – The Carlton Centre is a commerce centre, but it also features a tower with an observation deck which commands breath-taking views out over the city.
- Market Theatre – This vibrant art complex is a melting pot of culture. Leading the way for non-radical theatre, this is the most lively live art venue in town, with three theatres each staging live shows into the evening. Market stalls sell everything from clothes to arts and crafts trinkets, and galleries line the streets showcasing the best in local artistic talent.
- Johannesburg Art Gallery – Located in Joubert Park, the Johannesburg Art Gallery features over 9,000 art pieces, including an extensive South African contemporary art collection and a historical art collection featuring works from the Dutch and Flemish Masters of the 17th century.
- Museum Africa – Taking a different spin on African history, the Museum Africa has attempted to shed light on the glory days of the African continent, charting its history and its development over the years, with a focus on indigenous African art and culture.
- Newtown – Hailed as the creative capital of Johannesburg, this bustling suburb is filled to the brim with art galleries featuring local talent, as well as traditional dance and music. Newtown is also home to the famous SAB World of Beer – quite a trip in itself!
- Constitution Hill – This city precinct is redolent with history. Interactive tours take visitors through the city and country’s difficult transition to democracy, via the Old Fort Prison Complex where Nelson Mandela was held.
- Oppenheimer Gardens – This sprawling city park is dense with subtropical and indigenous flora. Nestled among them is the Credo Mutwa Cultural Village, the ‘place of stories’, filled with sculptures in the ancient African style.