Johannesburg Travel Guide

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Johannesburg Travel Guide

Johannesburg Local History

Johannesburg was founded in 1886, when George Harrison an Australian prospector first found the main Witwatersrand gold-bearing reef. The area was almost immediately flooded with diggers from near and far. The authorities were forced to proclaim the area a township. A surveyor named Johan Rissik called it Johannesburg, either after himself or the then president Paul Johannes Kruger. Cecil John Rhodes and Barney Barnato, who possessed the necessary capital, exploited the world's richest gold reef. Their 'Chamber of Mines' attempted to bring some order to the digging frenzy. They also introduced the colour bar, which excluded black workers from all but manual labour.

During the Anglo-Boer War of 1900, Johannesburg fell into the hands of the British. The High Commissioner Sir Alfred Milner brought in some whiz kids fresh out of College to modernize the city. At the same time, townships such as Sophiatown and Alexandra were established for the black migrant workers. In 1922 white miners became unionized, a lot of fights broke out, over pay and working hours. Poorly paid black workers were also mobilizing; their grievance was all skilled jobs were exclusively for the white workers. When the Chamber of Mines decided to allow blacks into skilled jobs, battles broke out in the streets. This was known as the 1922 Rand Revolt.

Throughout its turbulent history, Johannesburg has managed to survive and became a faced-paced frenetic city, doing what it does best, making money and getting ahead.

Johannesburg Attractions

Top Attractions

Cradle of Humankind - The area consists of a series of dolomitic caves. These caves have produced almost forty percent of the world's hominid fossil discoveries, over the last fifty years. Many of the caves are fragile and jealously protected and tourist facilities are few. However, should you still wish to see inside the famous Strekfontein Caves, there are excellent specialized paleontological tours are available.

Hector Pieterson Memorial - In 1976 the students rose up in protest against the Afrikaans language being taught in their schools. This memorial to one of the students killed during the uprising is a stark, haunting exhibit. Using old photographs and video it tells a chilling story which will leave you with chills down your spine.

Market Theatre This is one of Johannesburg's most important live theatre venues. In 1974 the theatre was at the forefront of non-racial theatre. It is worthwhile to visit the theatre and immerse yourself in some of South African culture. The complex is easily one of the highlights of Johannesburg and is situated at the old fruit market and consists of recycled market buildings. If you visit on a Saturday when the market sets up in nearby Market Square it could easily take a full day. Nearby is also the Museum Africa which is also worth a visit.

Pino's Italian Coffee Shop-Main St This is a lovely, homey coffee shop in the best part of Johannesburg CBD. It is owner run and has a cosey atmosphere with the best tramezzinis in Joburg. It is just a breakfast and lunch place from Monday to Friday. Don't get confused, there is a Pino's on Fox and Simmonds. This is the one on Simmonds Street, near the corner of main.
submitted by Laura Dion, 23/06/07

La Vista Social Club Cuban-inspired comfort food in an old school setting. Most delicious coconut milk based vegetable curry, deboned oxtail wrapped in pastry..... The best food ever! & the chef is hot, too!
submitted by Karabo, 19/02/07

Amoeba Lighting Concepts Amoeba offers local artists and designers a place in which to showcase their work. A unique concept in interior design and art, the venue encourages innovation, fine craftsmanship and a distinctively unique aesthetic. Meticulously hand-crafted by experienced, talented professionals, Amoeba's wide range of original products has something for everybody, including gifts, lighting, furniture, ceramics, jewelry, and a unique collection of art.
submitted by Claire Regnard, 13/01/07

Johannesburg Shopping

Johannesburg is the best city in South Africa to find arts and crafts. They have excellent flea markets with exceptionally high quality. Johannesburg is home to over twenty major malls, some not so good and other which are plush and enormous. If you are going mall shopping try the Mall of Rosebank, one of the nicest with craft shops, boutiques and outside cafes. For sheer size and mind-boggling amount of shops try the Sandton City Shopping Centre.

For those who want to find fine local crafts try Bruma Lake Flea Market at Bruma Lake this is a permanent and huge market with African crafts and souvenirs which are fairly cheap.

Market Africa next to the Market Theatre is the liveliest, with colourful blankets from Mali and various other African masks and more. The market is ony open on Saturdays from 9am 4pm.

Johannesburg Activities

Zoo Lake off Jan Smuts Avenue This pleasant lake is man-made. Boating is available on the lake and the surrounding park is very popular and safe for walking. The wide open spaces make it ideal for children to play and for picnics. Outdoor performances are occasionally hosted and include an all day music event when the Arts Festiva is held in September. There is a very pleasant restaurant in the gardens.

Johannesburg Zoo opposite Zoo Lake The zoo houses over three thousand species of animals including polar bears. Although no longer in its prime, there is still plenty to see. Entry is $3 Daily 8.30am 5.30pm

Gold Reef City This is essentially a theme park, however, there are some other interesting areas to see, such as the old gold mine itself. You will be able to descend to 200m and get an idea of how it was to work underground. There are also the tribal dancers who are excellent. Some period houses such as Olthaver and Nourse House may also be of interest. But for children the most interesting will be the thrill rides such as the Raging Rapids and the really scary Anaconda roller coaster to name a few. The rides are included in the entrance fee of $8. The park is closed on Mon. Tues Sun 9am -5pm

Johannesburg Parks & Gardens

Melville Koppies Nature Reserve - Is a pleasant pleasant hillside reserve to the north of Johannesburg it containing hundreds of species of indigenous flora and fauna. There are also archeological remains of both Stone and Iron Age settlements. There are a number of good walking trails, but is open only on the first three Sundays of every month.

Johannesburg Botanical Gardens Olifants Rd, Emmarentia This wonderful gigantic parkland is a haven amid the bustle of a big city. It is a fine place to walk and you can relax on the benches beneath the weeping willow trees. The garden is noted for its wide open spaces and is safe for walkers or joggers. Emmarentia Dam is close by and boating and rowing is available. Entry is Free. Daily sunrise - sunset

Burgers Park - Jacob Mare St. between Van der Walt and Andries Sts., Pretoria This Park is almost in the centre of Pretoria and lies across from Melrose House. There are beautiful rose gardens and flower beds filed with indigenous plants. Take special notice of the gates, they are all that remain of a once Victorian mansion. A restaurant in the centre of the park was once a Victorian house. Entry Free

Johannesburg Restaurants and Bars

A local cuisine has never emerged due to the cultural interaction in Johannesburg. There are however, all sorts of styles, from fusion cafes to Chinese eating dens. There are authentic French, Italian and Portuguese restaurants due to the cosmopolitan nature of Johannesburg.

Johannesburg Restaurants

Gramadoelas at the Market Theatre - Wolhuter Street, Newtown - tel 011 838 6960 If you want excellent Cape and African dishes this is the one of the best restaurants. They have dishes like sosaties (meat on sticks), mopane worms and melktart (custard tart; it will certainly lighten your pocket. Closed Sun & Mon lunch.

Ruby Grapefruit - 24 4th Ave, Parkhurst This sushi bar is fun and funky, unfortunately it is only open during the day. They also serve other healthy snacks and drinks are also on offer.

Sam's Cafe - 11 7th Street, Melville - tel 011 726 8142 - Although the name does not say much this restaurant is smart and comfortably sophisticated. Mediterranean dishes are mostly served and are tasty at moderate prices (particularly the specials). Closed Sat lunchtime & Sun.

The Codfather - 1 First Ave, cnr Rivonia Road, Morningside - tel 011 803 2077 This hugely popular restaurant has a vast display of fresh fish, which you can select and have cooked to order. It is simple, but delicious fare and has a sushi bar alongside. Daily noon–10pm.

Johannesburg Bars & Clubs

Kofifi - Newtown Cultural Precinct, Newtown - This bar serves inexpensive burgers and simple African dishes. It is very lively and is situated directly opposite the Market Theatre, there is occasionally live music.

Bassline - 7 7th St, Melville - tel 011 482 6915 - This local venue has the finest of southern Africa's jazz and blues musicians. It is an intimate and unflashy club which serves reasonable food. If you want a good seat it's worth coming early. Otherwise, fill up the back spaces with the rest of the mixed crowd.

Carfax - 39 Pim St, Newtown - tel 011 834 9187 This club features some of the highly rated resident DJs. It is a seriously hip alternative venue, offering performance art and jazz bands.

Buzz 9 - On the corner of 7th Street and 3rd Avenue, Melville Although it appears to be a seriously stylish bar everyone seems to relax after one or two cocktails which are a speciality of the cub. The vibe carries on late into the night.

Johannesburg children's activities

Zoo Lake off Jan Smuts Avenue This pleasant lake is man-made. Boating is available on the lake and the surrounding park is very popular and safe for walking. The wide open spaces make it ideal for children to play and for picnics. Outdoor performances are occasionally hosted and include an all day music event when the Arts Festiva is held in September. There is a very pleasant restaurant in the gardens.

Johannesburg Zoo opposite Zoo Lake The zoo houses over three thousand species of animals including polar bears. Although no longer in its prime, there is still plenty to see. Entry is $3 Daily 8.30am 5.30pm

Gold Reef City This is essentially a theme park, however, there are some other interesting areas to see, such as the old gold mine itself. You will be able to descend to 200m and get an idea of how it was to work underground. There are also the tribal dancers who are excellent. Some period houses such as Olthaver and Nourse House may also be of interest. But for children the most interesting will be the thrill rides such as the Raging Rapids and the really scary Anaconda roller coaster to name a few. The rides are included in the entrance fee of $8. The park is closed on Mon. Tues Sun 9am -5pm

Useful Johannesburg Links

Johannesburg Hiking Club
Take a hike... interested? Meet like minded outdoor and conservation orientated people who wear heavy boots and smell like the mountain air.

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