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. 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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  • 2. 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

  • 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. 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

  • 5. Snake and Animal Park

    Zoo/Aquarium

    The Snake and Animal Park is not big (you can walk through in less than two hours) but it has lions, tigers, pumas, jaguars, hyenas, many primate...Read More

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