Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrJohannesburg in Afrikaans, also known in local African languages as “e goli” (city of gold), “jozi” or “Jo’burg” in the urban language or “slang”, is the largest city in the Republic of South Africa in terms of population, and has the largest economy of any other great cities in Sub-Saharan Africa.
HistoryOriginally inhabited by the San people; Bantu speaking populations started arriving around the 13th century; namely the Sotho-Tswana Bantu speaking populations. It is believed that the area was exploited for its mineral wealth way before the arrival of the Europeans. The Dutch speaking Voortrekkers arrived in the early 19th century; driving away local populations and claiming sovereignty over what is now known as Johannesburg, by making it part of the South African Republic, formally called the Transvaal Republic. It was the discovery of gold in the Witwatersrand, by a man named Jan Gerritse Bantjes, that attracted European settlers to the region. In the 19th century, Johannesburg was a rough disorganized place, like any other major cities in the process of development at that time, mainly populated by white miners from all over the world and indigenous Africans for unskilled mine work.
During the second Boer War (1899-1902), the British forces occupied the city on the 30th of May 1900, after a series of battle to the south of its then-limits. It caused all African miners to withdraw from the city, which in turn created a labor shortage. The mine then decided to bring in laborers from China. A Johannesburg Chinese community was then born.
Some major building developments took place in the 1930s. In the 1950s and 1960s, the apartheid government constructed a massive agglomeration of townships known as Soweto. In the 1960s and early 1970s, tower blocks filled the skyline of the Central Business District . In the 1980s and 1990s, due to an increase in the crime rate and large amounts of capital being invested in suburban shopping malls, the central area of the city underwent a decline. Sandton City was opened in 1973; followed by Rosebank Mall in 1976 and Eastgate in 1979.
What to see in JohannesburgJohannesburg is renowned for its amazing cultural diversity, but also for its architecture, history, and contribution in arts and science. The city has numerous museums, historical sites and architectural marvels, we couldn't fit them all on our list.
- The Apartheid Museum: A museum complex dedicated to illustrating apartheid alongside the 20th century history of South Africa. Built with the funds of the Gold Reef City Casino, the exhibits in the museum have been created by a team of prestigious curators, filmmakers, historians and designers. The museum exhibitions illustrate the rise and fall of the apartheid doctrine.
- Lindfield Victorian House Museum: A totally furnished house, designed by Herbert Baker, from the Victorian era. It is considered as a provincial heritage site. The Majority of rooms in the house are opened to the public. It offers you the opportunity to discover the family life and fashion trends, of the beginning of the 19th century in Johannesburg.
- South Western townships or Soweto: Located in the urban area of Johannesburg, it contains many historical buildings from the apartheid era. It's considered the historic heart of freedom struggle that took place in South Africa. Soweto was once, also home to the Late Nelson Mandela. You can have a concrete insight on the consequences of apartheid on people when you visit Soweto.
- Origins Center: A world renowned venue, where humanity origins are showcased. The exhibits, go deep into the evolution process of mankind, which started millions of years ago in Southern Africa, to the present day human being.
- Bush Babies Monkey Sanctuary: Built to provide an environment where primates could have more freedom in a totally natural environment. It is situated in one of the gorges of the Magaliesberg mountain range.
- Aerial Cableway Hartbeespoort: Constructed in 1973, it offers panoramic views of Magaliesberg. Ideal for a family day trip; it's known to be addicting. You can also find restaurants, express food stalls and a bar on site.
- Peacemakers’ Museum: Opened in 2012, it presents a very inspirational exhibition of Nobel laureates; from all over the world who have dedicated their lives in making the world a better place. The accent is made more on South African peace makers; like FW de Klerk, Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu. You won't believe the influence that these men have in the world.
HotelsThe city of Johannesburg offers a wide range of hotels. From luxurious to cheap accommodations, you can find good service almost anywhere. The majority of hotels recommended to tourists are clean and offer well balanced meals during the day. Here’s a list of well-known hotels (ranked from most expensive to least expensive):
- The Sandton Sun: An award winning hotel, reputed as one of the best in the city. It offers rooftop cocktails, a landmark on the Sandton skyline, and offer environmental friendly designs. It is ideal for business travelers and leisure seekers. The staff will treat the guests like royalty.
- The Residence: Won the travelers’ choice award in 2013. It is a magnificent boutique hotel. Also ideal for business travelers and tourists. Its atmosphere is warm and hospitable.
- Garden Court Sandton City: One of the hotels where affordability concord with quality. It has an outstanding service, fully equipped rooms, conference and event facilities and an up to date fitness center.
- Genesis Suites: Offers suites and conferencing venues. It is very convenient because it’s located close to Oliver Tambo International Airport, the business district of Johannesburg; Sandton city , Rosebank, and Melrose Arch.
- Protea Hotel Parktonian: Renown for its spacious rooms, it is located 30 minutes away from the airport; with easier accessibility to the N1 freeway, which makes it easy to explore the city’s most popular areas. The hotel also has a complimentary shuttle bus available in evenings from Monday to Friday, for drop-offs and pick-ups at nearby entertainment venues.
- The Devonshire: With friendly staff and a flexible manager, it has spacious rooms which require some updating but are clean overall. It has a very professional and friendly atmosphere. It is advised is to book a room on a higher floor, so you can have a great view of the city.
Bistros, restaurants and cafes
RestaurantsJohannesburg, is one of the South African cities were the cultural diversity of this nation is well felt. No wonder it is called the “Rainbow Nation”, with its culinary tastes ranging from Africa, Europe, the Mediterranean, and even Asia. Restaurants vary from chic to simple styles, and marry professionalism with quality dishes that makes you want to come back for more.
- District 6 Eatery: It has been designated as the best destination for international visitors. It offers a large selection of breads, curries and desserts.
- Beefcakes: Has great burgers with interesting toppings, and shirtless waiters, a must see for tourists, plus, the experience is particularly enhancing.
- Koi (Rosebank Sandton): Offers contemporary Asian cuisine in a pleasant, vibrant setting. Their salmon and tuna are highly recommended.
- Ramen: Where they serve simple yet tasty dishes. It is located in the heart of Braamfontein .
- Clico Boutique Hotel: It specializes in fine dining. It is a comfy restaurant that still retains a smart feel. The menu includes soups and innovative starters.
- Five Hundred: It’s known as the best restaurant in Johannesburg. The prices of the dishes are worth it. Apart from their delicious menu, they also offer tables located on the terrace, allowing you view the city at night.
- Bistro Vine: Their plump oysters are recommended, nice atmosphere and setting.
- Coobs: Freshly served meals, made out of the vegetables grown in their owned garden. This restaurant is suitable for vegetarians or people who love healthy, organic dishes.
- The Leopard: A very special bistro specializing in French and Ethiopian dishes.
- Burnsides Café: Renown for its beautiful presentation of meals.
- Café Picobella: Specializes in Mediterranean dishes.
Shopping in Johannesburg
- The Rosebank Craft Market: This market offers a good selection of African crafts. It’s a unique African cultural shopping destination as well as offering ultimate exercises in social upliftment. This craft market offers, not only, South African art but also a wide variety of art coming from other African countries.
- Chinatown Cyrildene : Own mainly by Asian migrants, the arrangements of storefronts include supermarkets, tea shops, fish stalls, vegetable market stalls, massage parlors, acupuncturists, and hair salons, just to name the few.
- Gecko Jewelers: Based in Midrand, it offers a huge range of designer jewelry made from stones which came from their company-owned mine. It’s one of the most popular attractions of the city.
- The Oriental Plaza: It is said, that most of stores in Oriental Plaza are owned by the shopkeepers. You can negotiate prices with the owner. Their prices are affordable, but the lack of diversity in brands are a bit disappointing.
- Sandton City Shopping Mall: One of the biggest malls in the city. It offers a wide range of goods and leisure to its visitors like: Art and galleries, bakeries and confectionery shops, baking services, gifts shops, fine wear, computers and audio, and so much more that we couldn't fit it all on the list.
- Eastgate Shopping Mall: Located in the eastern suburb of Johannesburg. The mall offers shopping opportunities as well as entertainment and family fun.
- Back to Basix: A nightclub where live music is played while you can enjoy a warm dish of pasta or even a pizza (your choice). All of the live performances are done by local successful artists. It offers a personal and intimate environment.
- Bassline: It hosts top jazz and blues performances by local and international artists. They occasionally play reggae, afrobeat, rock’n’roll and even some hip hop music.
- Emperor’s Palace: Situated not so far from the Oliver Tambo International Airport, the palace offers luxurious accommodation, a beauty spa, a casino, and restaurants.
- The Blues Room: This upmarket nightclub, has been voted the best jazz and blues venue in the city for four years in a row. Live performances range from blues, jazz, fusion, comedy, and rock ‘n’roll. It is a well-run establishment.
- Voodoo Lounge: It offers all types of music, from
African to house, and even hip hop. It’s where the upper middle class and the entertainers come to dance together. It
has a very interesting setting, were live models can be seen throughout the night. It creates some sense of originality
and extravagance, it really lives up to its reputation.
TransportThe lack of convenient public transport in Johannesburg is, unfortunately, one of the weakest points of the city, and a serious obstacle for tourists. Fortunately, there are some transportation options that might help, when visiting the city.
- Minibus taxi: It is probably the cheapest form of transportation but chaotic as well. The adventurous tourist, perhaps, wouldn't mind using it. The only problem though, would be the mastering of unwritten lore of hand signs, which supposedly indicates which taxi travels where, adding to that is the knowledge of the different routes.
- Metered taxi: They have to be summoned by telephone, but major hotels always reserve bays for taxi companies.
- Railway system: Another cheap form of transport, the advantage rests in the fact that it connects Johannesburg to suburban areas surrounding it. The problem with it, is its location in the old Johannesburg areas. Sandton and Melrose, for instance, do not allow access via railway.
- Bus services: The main bus company is the Metrobus. It has up-to-date buses which
are fitted with hydraulic wheelchair lifts.
Some important facts about safetyJohannesburg, once one of the most dangerous and corrupt city in the world, is improving in terms of security. Being the most important, and consequently highly visited city in the country, local municipalities are trying to improve its reputation, especially since hosting the World Cup in 2010. Drastic measures have been taken to lower the crime rate in the city. Since December 2008, every street corner in Johannesburg are under high-tech CCTV surveillance. Furthermore, the police department is able to detect stolen vehicles by scanning plate numbers of every vehicle traveling through the Central Business District (CBD) and then comparing the collected data to the eNaTIS database. The new response time by police for crimes committed in the CBD is 60 seconds. But corruption is still very present in the South African police service.
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Author: Comasco. Last updated: Dec 14, 2014
Pictures of Johannesburg