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. Apartheid Museum

    Ormonde | Museum/Gallery

    The Apartheid Museum takes you on a journey through South African apartheid history—from the entrance, where you pass through a turnstile according...Read More

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  • 2. 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

  • 3. 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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  • 4. 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

  • 5. 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

  • 6. Lesedi Cultural Village

    Museum Village

    This is not just a place to stay and eat (although you can stay here in a very comfortable hut); it's a place to learn about the cultures and...Read More

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