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 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.
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.
| Johannesburg - The City Of Gold
First established in 1886 when gold was discovered on the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg has been rebuilt four times in the past century. It started as a tent town, worked itself up to a tin-shack settlement, then a four-storey Edwardian settlement and finally graduated as a modern city of glass and concrete skyscrapers.
They don’t call ‘Joburg’ or ‘Jozi’ the Big Apple of Africa for nothing. Johannesburg is one of the youngest major cities in the world and is quite possibly the most cosmopolitan city on the African continent.
Situated high on the escarpment at just over 2 000m, Johannesburg is a vibrant, energetic and bustling metropolis. As South Africa's largest city and economic hub it's home to 3,2 million people, including the residents of Soweto.
Like New York, this city never sleeps. The young and energetic can dance the night away at one of a myriad of nightclubs (anything from jazz to R&B to kwaito). Cigar lounges, sophisticated eateries and world-class theatre productions are also on offer, or a more authentic South African experience can be enjoyed in the shebeens of Soweto and Alexandra. If Soho-style living is your thing then enjoy the laid-back vibes in villages like Melville, Parkhurst and Norwood.
With massive inner-city renewal, the cultural precincts of Newtown and Constitution Hill (the birthplace of democratic South Africa) are high on visitor itineraries.
Johannesburg boasts over 150 heritage sites, and the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is a mere 30-45 minute drive from the urban centres. Don’t forget to pop into the Rhino and Lion Park en route.
Johannesburg is known for its sprawling mall culture, and if shopping is your thing there are so many options to choose from: Sandton City, Hyde Park, Rosebank or Northgate, Eastgate, Southgate or Westgate – and that’s just for starters. There's also the popular weekend Rosebank Rooftop Market and MichaelMount Organic Market.
Pretoria, or Tshwane as it is to be renamed, once had the dubious distinction of being South Africa’s most staidly city. But it has been in the throes of renaissance following the first free elections in 1994 and it is now widely regarded as one of the country’s finest cities. It has got the mix of vibrant life and tranquil suburbia just right; made all the more beautiful in spring by the flowering of the ubiquitous jacaranda trees that turn the city purple overnight.
Jacaranda City, as it is popularly known, is home to many of the international diplomatic corps as well as the official seat of government, the Union Buildings, giving the city a cosmopolitan edge. While it’s proximity to Johannesburg – an hour by car – makes it the ideal alternative for tourists wanting a little less hustle and bustle.
And it has a multitude of attractions for the visitor.
Pretoria is blessed with a fantastic climate and there are plenty of sports facilities, as well as a variety of day walks and other outdoor excursions. A pleasant way to spend the afternoon is watching birds from a hide at the Austin Roberts Bird Sanctuary in Brooklyn, relaxing on the grass of Magnolia Dell, or strolling through the beautiful Pretoria Botanical Gardens.
Animal lovers will not want to miss a trip to the excellent National Zoological Gardens, with an equally good snake park and aquarium next door.
And if, by some miraculous chance, you find yourself without anything to do, Pretoria is a great base from which to explore the northern parts of the country where game reserves and adventure sports are king.