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. Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum

    Orlando West | Museum/Gallery

    Opposite Holy Cross Church, a stone's throw from the former homes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Vilakazi Street, the Hector...Read More

  • 3. 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

  • 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. Ditsong National Museum of Cultural History


    This museum offers an insightful look at the country's indigenous cultures. You can marvel at San rock art, African headdresses, clay sculptures...Read More

  • 6. Ditsong National Museum of Natural History


    This massive natural-history museum has an extensive collection of land and marine animals from around the world, with an emphasis on African...Read More

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Kruger Museum


    This was once the residence of Paul Kruger, president of the South African republic between 1883 and 1902 and one of the most revered figures...Read More

  • 9. 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

  • 10. 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

  • 11. Sammy Marks Museum


    About 23 km (14 miles) east of Pretoria's city center, this furnished, 48-room Victorian mansion, in a mixture of grand styles, and its outbuildings...Read More

  • 12. Smuts House


    This small wood-and-iron country house in Irene, an outlying suburb of Pretoria, was the residence of three-time South African prime minister...Read More

  • 13. South African National Museum of Military History

    Saxonwold | Museum/Gallery

    In a park adjacent to the Johannesburg Zoo, this museum has two exhibition halls and a rambling outdoor display focusing on South Africa's role...Read More

  • 14. 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

  • 15. Tswaing Crater Museum


    The huge Tswaing meteorite crater was formed about 220,000 years ago. Today the area is a nature reserve home to 240 bird species, zebra, impala...Read More

  • 16. Voortrekker Monument and Museum


    This famous landmark is regarded as a symbol of Afrikaner nationalism and independence. Completed in 1949, the monument honors the Voortrekkers...Read More

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