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. Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre

    Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge

    The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre (formerly the De Wildt Cheetah Centre, it has been renamed after its founder) is respected for its conservation...Read More

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  • 2. Elephant Sanctuary

    Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge

    The Elephant Sanctuary is home to 5 of the big mammals and has elephant rides. Visits must be prearranged and include interactive educational...Read More

  • 3. Lion Park

    Zoo/Aquarium

    This highly-rated drive-through safari park offers a rare chance to get up close with Africa’s iconic predator. And while the experience might...Read More

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  • 4. Madikwe Game Reserve

    Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge

    This 187,500-acre game reserve in the North-West Province (about four hours from Johannesburg) close to the Botswana border is open only to...Read More

  • 5. 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

  • 6. Pilanesberg Game Reserve

    Nature Preserve/Wildlife Refuge

    The 150,000-acre Pilanesberg Game Reserve is centered on the caldera of an extinct volcano. Concentric rings of mountains surround a lake filled...Read More

  • 7. 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

  • 8. Tswaing Crater Museum

    Museum/Gallery

    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

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