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. Maropeng Visitor Centre

    Sterkfontein | Museum/Gallery

    Maropeng is the official visitor centre of the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site and offers much more than information about the region...Read More

  • 2. National Zoological Gardens

    Zoo/Aquarium

    The city's zoo, covering nearly 200 acres, is considered one of the world's best, with about 9,000 animals from almost every continent (including...Read More

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  • 3. 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

  • 4. Sterkfontein Caves

    Sterkfontein | Ruins

    It was in the Sterkfontein Caves, in 1936, that Dr. Robert Broom discovered the now famous Mrs. Ples, as she is popularly known—a skull of an...Read More

  • 5. Gold Reef City

    Ormonde | Amusement Park/Water Park

    This theme park lets you step back in time to 1880s Johannesburg and see why it became known as the City of Gold. One of the city's most popular...Read More

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  • 6. Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and Emmarentia Dam

    Roosevelt Park | Garden

    The large and beautiful botanical gardens here are five minutes from Greenside. This gigantic parkland, dotted with trees, statues, fountains...Read More

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Johannesburg Zoo

    Parkview | Zoo/Aquarium

    Smaller than its Pretoria counterpart but no less impressive, the city's zoo makes for a pleasant day-trip, and with plenty of lawns and shade...Read More

  • 9. Melville Koppies Nature Reserve

    Emmarentia | Ruins

    A small nature reserve and heritage site on the southern side of the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens, Melville Koppies has guided ecology walks...Read More

  • 10. Pretoria National Botanical Garden

    Park (National/State/Provincial)

    Natural grassland and lawns fringed by indigenous flowers provide a welcome contrast to city life in Pretoria. Within the main garden a succulent...Read More

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  • 11. Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve

    Zoo/Aquarium

    Rhinos, lions, wild dogs, cheetahs, hippos, and crocodiles are among the animals you can see at the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve. You can spot...Read More

  • 12. Wonder Cave

    Cave

    Wonder Cave is a huge single-chamber cave with a number of intact stalagmites and stalactites and formations up to 50 feet high. An elevator...Read More

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