From visiting the poignant Apartheid Museum to experiencing the vibrant Maboneng Precinct – a mecca for the arts – Johannesburg is filled with rich history and flourishing activity that will leave you spellbound.
1. The Apartheid Museum
The Apartheid Museum is a must-see for all visitors to South Africa. You will be transported into a journey of the past through emotional exhibits on South Africa’s daunting history. Decades of oppression all the way to democracy is chronicled through photos, personal accounts and footage. The museum even segregates visitors going in, giving you an immediate feeling of what it was like to be a person of colour during Apartheid.
2. The Maboneng Precinct
The newly revamped precinct in the heart of Johannesburg sees old and new come alive. Maboneng means place of light and it’s filled with galleries, restaurants, shops, hotels and entertainment. There is a weekly event, Market on Main, which attracts a youthful crowd on weekends. Sit back, relax and enjoy a locally-made beverage while overlooking the incredible city landscapes.
3. The Cradle of Humankind
Just an hour outside of Joburg, The Cradle of Humankind is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also one of the world’s most productive and important paleo-anthropological areas. Excavations here have unearthed the humanoid creature known as Australopithecus africanus (Mrs. Ples) estimated to be two million years old. Another major attraction is the Sterkfontein Caves. Guided tours are available for both the caves and the Cradle.
4. Voortrekker Monument
It might not be in Johannesburg, but the Voortrekker Monument is a must-see and is just a 45-minute drive from the city. The majestic monument is in Pretoria and commemorates the pioneer history of Southern Africa. It has a Hall of Heroes and it is the world’s longest historical marble frieze. It is also the most visited heritage site in the Gauteng region and the only Grade 1 national heritage site in Pretoria.
5. Johannesburg City Tours
If you have limited time in Johannesburg and want to wrap up the best of what the city has to offer, then book yourself a red bus tour. The hop-on hop-off tour bus gives visitors the chance to experience the main sites the city has to offer. The cost doesn’t include entrance into individual attractions, but you’ll still get to experience the sights and sounds of Joburg’s city.
6. Constitution Hill
Home to the Constitutional Court – the highest court of the constitution in South Africa – the hill is host to historical buildings and prisons. Daily tours take you through the notorious Number Four prison and women’s jail (below). Here, visitors will see what it was like to live in solitary confinement and how “criminals” were treated during Apartheid. Well-known former inmates here included Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
7. Orlando Towers
Located in the heart of Soweto, the Soweto Towers (then: Orlando Towers) is an adrenaline junkie’s dream. From bungee jumping off the iconic towers to a SCAD (suspended catch air device) freefall, brace yourself for a faster heart rate. And with other famous landmarks in Soweto just up the road, you’ll be able to enjoy a drink at one of the famous restaurants afterwards. Prices are very reasonable, but be advised that prior booking is essential.
8. Vilakazi Street, Soweto
The most famous road in South Africa once counted Nelson Mandela and former Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu as residents. In fact, Tutu still lives on the street. Mandela’s house has been converted into a museum alongside the Hector Peterson museum. Peterson was an iconic figure killed by police during the 1976 student uprising. The street is now home to vibrant and bustling markets and restaurants. It is the one attraction you simply can’t miss.
9. The Lion and Safari Park
With the promise of up close encounters with the king of the jungle, The Lion and Safari Park is a 600-hectare wildlife reserve in Johannesburg. The park boasts the brown and white lion, wild dog and cheetah. There is also a host of buck including gemsbok, springbok, blesbok, sable and nyala. Guided tours are available and guests have access to detailed information on conservation efforts.
Hidden in the upmarket suburb of Rivonia in Johannesburg, Liliesleaf was once the center of the liberation movement in South Africa. It is regarded as one of South Africa’s most incredible heritage sites, where the journey to democracy in South Africa is honoured. In the early 1960s, the property was the headquarters for covert operations and housed many leaders. It was here that Nelson Mandela was arrested in a raid that saw him jailed for 50 years.
– TEXT BY JESSICA LEVITT
PHOTOS APARTHEID MUSEUM FACEBOOK PAGE / THE MABONENG PRECINCT FACEBOOK PAGE / MAROPENG – CRADLE OF HUMANKIND FACEBOOK PAGE / VOORTREKKER MONUMENT FACEBOOK PAGE / CITY SIGHTSEEING SOUTH AFRICA FACEBOOK PAGE / CONSTITUTION HILL (SOUTH AFRICA) FACEBOOK PAGE / ORLANDO TOWERS FACEBOOK PAGE / LION AND SAFARI PARK FACEBOOK PAGE / LILIESLEAF FACEBOOK PAGE
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.