Johannesburg

Johannesburg epitomizes South Africa's paradoxical makeup—it's rich, poor, innovative, and historic all rolled into one. And it seems at times as though no one actually comes from Johannesburg. The city is full of immigrants: Italians, Portuguese, Chinese, Hindus, Swazis, English, Zimbabweans, Nigerians, Zulus, Xhosas. The streets are full of merchants. Traders hawk skop (boiled sheep's head, split open and eaten off newspaper) in front of polished glass buildings as taxis jockey for position in rush hour. Sangomas (traditional healers) lay out herbs and roots next to roadside barbers' tents, and you never seem to be far from women selling vetkoek (dollops of deep-fried dough) beneath billboards advertising investment banks or cell phones.

The Greater Johannesburg metropolitan area is massive—more than 1,600 square km (618 square miles)—incorporating the large municipalities of Randburg and Sandton to the north. Most of the sights are just north of the city center, which degenerated badly in the 1990s but is now being revamped.

To the south, in Ormonde, are the Apartheid Museum and Gold Reef City; the sprawling township of Soweto is just a little farther to the southwest. Johannesburg's northern suburbs are its most affluent. On the way to the shopping meccas of Rosebank and Sandton, you can find the superb Johannesburg Zoo and the South African Museum of Military History, in the leafy suburb of Saxonwold.

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  • 1. Constitution Hill

    City Center | Historic District/Site

    Overlooking Jo'burg's inner city and suburbs, Constitution Hill houses the Constitutional Court, set up in 1994 with the birth of democracy...Read More

  • 2. Origins Centre

    City Center | Museum/Gallery

    This modern museum is dedicated to exploring human development over the past 100,000 years, and in particular the tradition of rock art—of which...Read More

  • 3. Diagonal Street

    City Center | Neighborhood/Street

    This street in the city center is lined with African herbalists' shops, where you can acquire a mind-boggling array of homeopathic and traditional...Read More

  • 4. Johannesburg Art Gallery

    City Center | Museum/Gallery

    This three-story museum hosts excellent local and international exhibitions in 15 halls and has collections of 17th-century Dutch art, 18th...Read More

  • 5. Johannesburg Planetarium

    City Center | Observatory

    This planetarium, dating from 1960, has entertaining and informative programs on the African skies and presentations that range from space travel...Read More

  • 6. MuseuMAfricA

    City Center | Museum/Gallery

    Founded in 1935, this was the first major museum to acknowledge black contributions to the city's development. The museum, which is in the city...Read More

  • 7. Nelson Mandela Bridge

    City Center | Bridge/Tunnel

    A symbol of the renewal process going on in the city, this modern, 931-foot-long bridge with sprawling cables spans the bleak Braamfontein railway...Read More

  • 8. Ponte City

    Hillbrow | Notable Building

    If there's a symbol of Johannesburg, it's Ponte City, a massive, hollow 54-story cylinder of apartments perched on the edge of the central business...Read More

  • 9. SAB World of Beer

    City Center | Museum/Gallery

    SABMiller is Africa's largest brewing company, and its unusual museum is dedicated to that great South African favorite—beer. You can find out...Read More

  • 10. Standard Bank Gallery

    City Center | Museum/Gallery

    At the home of the Standard Bank African art collection you can admire contemporary South African artwork. The gallery hosts high-quality, ever...Read More

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