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South Africa Safari

Johannesburg & Guateng Province - Tourist Information & Activities

Gauteng Province, South Africa

Sunset over Berea and Hillbrow, Johannesburg, South Africa Emmerentia Dam, Johannesburg, South Africa Springboks Rugby fan at the Tri Nations Rugby International Jacaranda-lined street, Pretoria, South Africa Golf tournament, Gauteng, South Africa
Return to Map of Gauteng Province            Images © South African Tourism

Gauteng is where the creative spirit of a nation converges in a dense, cultural heartland. It is the intersection of African and global trade – incorporating Johannesburg, Pretoria and Soweto. Gauteng is a cosmopolitan, multicultural mix of people from all walks of life, from all corners of the world.
Gauteng's primary attraction is big business, but there is so much more to this province. There is a wealth of culture to be mined in the museums, galleries, art routes and historical battlefields. Gauteng is also an entertainment playground, offering a plethora of world-class restaurants, shebeens, shopping malls and music venues.

Where else on earth can you find a mini-Big Apple existing alongside the remains of the first hominids? Gauteng has a legacy of larger-than-life heroes and villains, ancient civilisations, as well as turbulent political history.

Johannesburg - also called ‘Joburg’ - dates back to 1886 when the main Witwatersrand gold-bearing reef was discovered. Almost immediately, the Transvaal (as it was known then) was swamped by diggers from near and far.

In 1900, Johannesburg fell to the British (during the Anglo-Boer War). Around this time, the black townships were established - such as Sophiatown and Alexandra. The thirties gave birth to the township of Orlando - in the southwest of Johannesburg. This is the area around which Soweto evolved. Much of the history of the province was defined by apartheid and forced removals.

Gauteng is the most densely populated province in South Africa. It houses more than seven million of the country's people. Being the transport hub of the continent, the mix of people here is quite staggering, as is the level of integration amongst races. About 70% of Gauteng’s population is African; 23% white; 4% coloured (mixed race) and 2% Indian/Asian.

The Highveld is said to offer one of the world’s best climates: summer days are warm and wind-free (relatively) and winter days are crisp and clear. Gauteng’s summer-rainfall area has hot summers and mild winters with frost. Hail is common during the summer thunderstorms. Snowfalls rarely occur.

Gauteng’s restaurants offer everything from the most mundane franchise burger joint, to elaborate and exotic themes reserved for the well-heeled. From Africa, local traditions are up against the best from our neighbours in Mozambique and even as far afield as Morocco. Asia is represented in a choice of Chinese, Indian, Japanese, Thai and even Vietnamese restaurants. The traditions of Europe and the Middle East have also filtered through in innumerable gastronomic offerings.

Gauteng is a melting pot of music and entertainment. It is a place where cultures converge and continents collide. Jazz bars and live music hangouts offer some of the best local music on the continent.

Gauteng offers some of the best shopping this side of the equator. From world-class sprawling malls, to outdoor flea markets, country stalls and even muti markets – this part of the world is a shopping Mecca for every taste.

The many monuments, such as the Hector Petersen Memorial (Soweto) and the Women's Memorial (Pretoria), are some of the historic testimonies to the bravery of our heroes. The Sharpeville Memorial - a reminder of where protestors were killed, the Hector Petersen Memorial - a tribute to the youth of Soweto who died in the 1976 uprising, and many others stand as testament to the sons and daughters of Gauteng.

Melting Pot
One of the world's most cosmopolitan cities, Johannesburg is an interesting melting-pot of race and culture. Its lively streets reflect the diversity of people populating the city - Europeans, Americans and Australians flocked here to seek their fortunes during the gold rush of the late 19th century. As the city expanded from a fledgling town to a beating heart of prosperity, traders and entrepreneurs from India, China, Japan and Eastern Europe also laid down their roots. In recent years, West, East and Central Africans have made their home here, adding their own distinct stamp to the city's profile. The result is a city that mirrors the fantastic cultural mix of its inhabitants, who have managed to retain their personal identities as well as merge into a unified and unique whole.

Easily laying claim to the title of cultural capital of South Africa, the city that truly has it all boasts a variety of impressive options for the visitor - exciting nightclubs for every taste, theaters - including the world-famous Market Theatre in Newtown; and music venues such as the legendary Kippies, where one can jive to the rhythms of jazz maestros. Brimming with quaint and delightful flea and craft markets from Rosebank Rooftop to vast Bruma Lake, the array of uniquely South African creations on offer in the city is endless.

Possessing its own symphony orchestra; Joburg is also fertile ground for a diversity of other musical groups. These include the highly popular Buskaid Soweto String Project, which ensures that many underprivileged musicians become annual world players in the international arena. Arts Alive keeps it global with a September music festival that sees local and international acts performing under African skies.

Keep your wallets ready and checkbooks poised in this shopper's paradise. Whether it is large malls a la Sandton City, more intimate shopping zones like Melville Village, or a truly cultural shopping experience at The Oriental Plaza, Johannesburg has it all. From exquisite jewellery and high-fashion designer clothes to cutting- edge local style, your every wish can be fulfilled.

Famed for quality antiques, Parkhurst is a collector's dream while Hyde Park Corner abounds with exclusive boutiques. A key focus for traders from all around the continent, Joburg gives the opportunity, at authentic stores such as Art Africa, to browse through an array of fascinating African artefacts and wonderful souvenirs. Shop to your heart's content in relaxed environments offering original as well as world-class consumer goods

The Struggle for Freedom
It is natural that Johannesburg, a city radiating the spirit of Africa, which drew to itself such a diversity of peoples, became the center and focal point of South Africa's political activity. Soweto - the city's satellite township - was the focus of global attention during the student protests of the 1970s.

However, long before that, the streets of Joburg were alive with the sounds of marching feet, as those from various walks of life and races stood up against the unjust laws of the apartheid state, bringing with it the living museum for the struggle for democracy. From the Hector Pieterson Museum, a shrine of reflection dedicated to one of the first student victims of police bullets, to Nelson Mandela's place of residence, Lilliesleaf Farm, Kliptown, Freedom Square, the Apartheid Museum and Constitution Hill, home to Mandela, Tutu and in earlier years Gandhi, as well as many other struggle leaders, there is so much to share in the historical and political memories of a country reborn.

Abuzz with vivd social culture, Soweto simply must be visited, as it represents and reflects joy and freedom, human rights, justice and reconcilliation. Another township must is Alexandra. Visit the Alexandra Cultural Village.

Living in a busy metropolis, 'Joburgers' escape the rat race by embracing the city's year-round temperate weather. Outdoor life is an essential part of living in Joburg. The city and its surrounds offer a wealth of invigorating leisure activities from nature trails, sparkling lakes and boating on the Vaal Dam to exploring the beautiful botanical gardens in Emmarentia and Roodepoort. Well-kept parks are filled with a lush variety of indigenous and imported plant life. Relax by jogging, strolling or walking the dog through expanses of grassland in Delta Park or exploring the rugged, unspoilt terrain of Melville Koppies and Klipriviersburg Nature Reserve, and a newly rehabilitated dam and park in Soweto, Moroka Dam. The Johannesburg Zoo is renowned for being one of the best and most informative in the world.

Craft Markets
Experience authentic Africa by browsing through the array of flea markets and craft markets dotted around the city. Well-organized and bursting with goods from all over the world, African artefacts brought in by traders from North, East and Central Africa feature strongly. Especially sought-after are the imaginative handmade goods created by craftsmen and women from the rural areas of the country. Rosebank African Market and Bruma Lake offer an assortment of these ethnic arts as well as elegant wrought-iron furniture, hand-painted ceramics, fine jewellery, bed linen and a diversity of foods to fill hungry stomachs. Michael Mount Organic Market provides a selection of natural foods, vegetables and homemade cakes. For hours of shopping and fun-filled relaxation, stroll through Joburgs atmospheric markets.

Museums and Galleries
Fascinating museums, both public and private, to suit every interest are spread throughout Johannesburg. From the Military Museum to the powerfully evocative Apartheid Museum, cultural interests will be more than satisfied with the wide variety of museums. The intriguing Museum Africa in the Newtown Cultural Precinct showcases a series of reconstructions of the city's history. Across the way is the Worker's Museum - a must-see that revisits the history of laborers who came from all comers of the world to help build the thriving metropolis that Joburg is today. Home to some of the best art galleries in the world, a visit to Joburg would not be complete without a visit to the many private galleries with world class pieces on display and for sale, showing the multitude of African talent in our midst.

Johannesburg has some of the finest first-class restaurants in sub-Saharan Africa, equal to any major European or American city. International cuisine abounds but local South African food is becoming famous for its fresh, spicy and yet subtle flavours. Some old classics such as snoek, a pickled fish dish, is still popular, along with such delicacies as rock lobster served with either lemon butter or in a French soufflé. South African wine, now world renowned, will compliment any meal, not only for its fresh taste but also its variety, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Burgundy.

When it comes to relaxing and enjoying time out, Joburg has something for everyone. A city that loves to laugh. Joburg Comedy nights provide chuckles courtesy of our best performers - experience the talents of some of South Africa's stars, or choose to chill to the beat of Africa at the distinctly different Drum Cafe. Laid-back evenings can be spent at the Cinema Nouveau, which screens art films from around the globe. There is theatre galore for those who love the thrill of the stage - catch a play at the legendary Market Theatre or watch a thrilling extravaganza of dance and cabaret at one of the city's bigger venues.

If gaming gets you going, pick from a dazzling array of luxury casinos from the Roman-themed Caesars Palace to the awesome Montecasino. Kick back in an exhilarating city that works hard and plays harder. With nightlife to rival the best international cities, Joburg has a party vibe all of its own with options to fit every budget and all tastes. Dance, trance. Drum 'n Bass, R&B or classical - whatever melodies move you, Joburg has them all. Listen to the soothing sounds of live Jazz at the famed Bassline in Melville, or get your groove on to the rhythms of house and township Kwaito at one of the many nightclubs around town. Dress up, see and be seen at trendy hotspots, with DJs playing cutting-edge tunes. Take in a cocktail at an upmarket bar, like that at the new Melrose Arch hotel, or down a draught at a gritty watering hole like The Jolly Roger. If rock is your thing, boogie down at Roxy's to our thriving music industry's best bands. Party until the early hours in a city vigorously alive with distinct sights and sounds.

Things To Do
A myriad of things to do awaits the Johannesburg visitor or resident. Gold Reef City is a trip back in time, reconstructing The City of Gold at the turn of the Century. A tour to Sun City with its impressive jungle-themed Lost City is not to be missed, as is a game drive into the Pilansberg Nature Reserve, which offers the exciting chance to spot game in their natural habitat. Sterkfontein Heritage site, or the Cradle of Humankind, where civilization is thought to have begun, are unusual adventures. Stare into starry skies at The Planetarium. Add go-karting for speed freaks, rowing on Zoo Lake and historic walking tours to the lengthy list of what to do when out and about in Joburg.

South of Johannesburg is Soweto, a city developed as a township for black people under the apartheid system. Most of the struggle against apartheid was fought in and from Soweto. The name Soweto is an acronym, made up - in apartheid days - from the first letters of the words ‘south western township’.

Soweto is a city of enterprise and cultural interaction. It is a popular tourist destination with sites such as Kliptown (where the Freedom Charter was drawn up), the home of former President Nelson Mandela, the Hector Petersen Memorial site, restaurants and shopping malls.

Some 50 km north of Johannesburg lies Pretoria, which resides within the City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality - a cluster of metropolitan municipalities and councils that amalgamated in December 2002.

As administrative capital of the Republic, Pretoria is dominated by government services and the diplomatic corps of foreign representatives in South Africa.

Pretoria is renowned for its colourful gardens, shrubs and trees, particularly beautiful in spring when the 50 000 jacarandas envelop the avenues in mauve. Pretoria has more than 100 parks, including bird sanctuaries and nature reserves.

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