?Really?? He looked doubtful.
But it?s true. Johannesburg is South Africa?s foremost city, and its inhabitants have to keep amused somehow. While nosing around, I discovered a very different city to the one imagined by people who say there?s ?nothing to do in Joburg?.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
The Cradle of Humankind, just a few minutes? drive from Randburg, is one of the world?s most important archaelogical sites, and will fascinate anyone remotely interested in where we came from and what our ancestors looked like. Mrs Ples and Little Foot were both discovered in caves here and are major finds that changed our knowledge of paleontology. Visitors can take a guided tour of the Sterkfontein caves themselves, visit the new exhibition centre, and enjoy lunch at one of the city?s best restaurants.
Constitution Hill and the Old Fort is fast becoming one of the city?s best known tourist attractions. The present seat of the Constitutional Court is also host to a major art collection and a museum commemorating the building?s previous function, as a prison which housed many prominent human rights activists, including Mohandas Gandhi. There?s a coffee shop in the grounds and ample safe parking. The courtyard has also become a favourite venue for live music.
The Apartheid Museum and the Hector Pieterson Memorial should be compulsory stops for all South Africans. The first gives visitors a harrowing insight into life under apartheid, while the second, dedicated to the first student shot by police in the 1976 riots, looks specifically at the events of that day.
For a glimpse of old Johannesburg, join one of the regular tours organised by the Parktown and Westcliff Heritage Trust. They?re advertised in the press beforehand and are a good way to find out about oft-neglected chapters in the city?s history.
Tired of all that history? Johannesburg?s public parks and gardens offer a welcome respite from the city environs. Take a picnic and the Sunday papers, borrow your neighbour?s dog, or just chill out on the shady lawns. Some of the most popular are the Walter Sisulu Botanic Gardens in Roodepoort, which is also host to Sunday afternoon concerts at certain times during the year, the Johannesburg Botanic Gardens at Emmarentia Dam (no dogs allowed) and the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve.
Gold Reef City is perenially popular and is a great day out if you have kids in tow. Go down a mine shaft, visit the world?s deepest pub, laze around the historical village and enjoy the rides. The casinos of Gold Reef City and Montecasino are both popular with gamblers.
Speaking of Montecasino, the Tuscan-styled hotel, casino and shopping complex in Fourways has built a delightful aviary featuring mainly exotic breeds. The Bird Gardens are a much needed green space for Fourways, and you can get up close and personal with two-toed South American sloths, pythons and cycads.
Johannesburg is the only place outside Europe where you can visit the famous Lipizzaner Horses, though admittedly they do sometimes go on tour to Cape Town. The Lipizzaner stables are based in Kyalami and they have regular Sunday performances. It?s a show that is only performed in one other country, Austria.
Still not tired of seeing animals? The Johannesburg Zoo offers popular night-time tours and is a favourite picnic spot on weekends. The Lion Park in Krugersdorp lives up to its name and gives city-slickers a glimpse of safari life.
Take a tour to Soweto, erstwhile home of Archbishop Emiritus Desmond Tutu, Chief Albert Luthuli, Oliver Tambo and Nelson Mandela. No visit to Johannesburg would be complete without a look at the country?s most famous township.
The Johannesburg Art Gallery is the largest gallery on the sub-continent. The international collection includes luminaries such as Picasso, Monet, Degas and Pissarro. The South African collection houses greats such as Gerard Sekoto, Alexis Preller, Maud Sumner, and many others. There are several other art galleries in the city: the Standard Bank Gallery is one of the best. The Everard Read and Goodman Gallery pride themselves on the quality of their work for sale.
Don?t miss the Newtown Cultural Precint. The Market Theatre, the Dance Factory and live music venues Bassline and Couch & Coffee are all located here. There are lots of other attractions too, including MuseumAfrica, the SAB World of Beer, and Moyo and Gramadoelas restaurants. There is plenty of safe parking and the precint is within easy reach of the M1 and M2 highways.
Go shopping! The Rosebank Rooftop Flea Market is widely considered one of the best markets in the country. Held on Sundays and public holidays at the Rosebank Mall, the market offers a rabbit warren of stalls selling food, clothing, art, antiques and collectables, plants, soaps, and much more.
If you?re looking for healthy stuff, the Michael Mount Organic Market in Bryanston is held at the Waldorf School on Tuesdays and Saturdays. Bruma Flea Market, at Bruma Lake, attracts over a million visitors every year and the Oriental Plaza in Fordsburg is a must for bargain-hunters.
For more info...
- Visit the Gauteng Tourism Authority