Johannesburg Skyline

Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest city, and its main commercial and financial centre. It is often referred to as Joburg or Jozi. The African name for the city is eGoli, meaning “place of gold”. Settlement started in 1886 when gold was first discovered in the area. The population of the broader Johannesburg area is now over 10 million.

The city is located in the north-eastern area of the interior of the country, on the plateau referred to as the “Highveld”, and hence lies 1763 metres (about 5800 feet) above sea level.

The central areas of Joburg can be potentially dangerous for tourists, and so when travelling to locations around the city centre, a good option is the City Sightseeing Tour. The same tour company also offer the option of a tour to Soweto, the famous massive township that on its own has a population of over a million people. Despite the African sounding name, Soweto actually gets its name from “south west township”. If you are staying in Johannesburg, a good option for accommodation is the upmarket area of Sandton, located approximately 10km (6 miles) to the north of the central area.

Possibly the best attraction to visit is Gold Reef City, a theme park that is based around Joburg as a mining town in the 19th century. You are able to go over 200m (650 feet) underground in a mine shaft and visit a number of museums relating to the history of mining in the area. In addition there are plenty of white knuckle rides for thrill seekers, along with some more gentle rides.

The Carlton Centre, located in central Joburg, is over 200m high and is the tallest office building in the whole of Africa. On a clear day it is worthwhile to go to the top, for great views stretching as far as Pretoria.

MuseuMAfricA is a combination of a number of previously separate smaller museums, and if you only visit one museum in your trip to South Africa then this is probably the one that you should choose. It has geological exhibits, lots of photography and traditional African arts, and items relating to the history of city. Another highly recommended museum in the city is the Apartheid Museum. Understanding the history of apartheid is crucial to understanding South Africa as it is today, and here the full story is told, right from when you go into the museum through one of two different doors based on the colour of your skin.

Find out all you need to know about finding accommodation in Johannesburg.

Photo by Mark Jelley used under a Creative Commons CC BY-SA license.
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