Showcasing the City of Gold
Johannesburg. It means so many different things to so many different people – from the suburban housewives who see only the upmarket restaurants and storefronts of Sandton City, to the streetwise working-class masses who throw themselves into the hard grind of the inner city, to the young professionals who have come to Jozi to find their place in corporate South Africa.
Almost lost in that hustle and bustle is a Johannesburg full of history and legend, as well as hidden tourist gems, that all too often go unseen as residents and visitors alike chase after wealth and fame.
Fortunately, agencies such as South African Tourism and the Gauteng Tourism Authority have been working hard to showcase Johannesburg as much more than a business hub, and as the city’s tourist attractions gain prominence, so its reputation as a destination will improve.
For those who are interested in taking in the city, we have compiled a list of 10 activities and places that are worth exploring:
- Wine tasting at Morara Wine and Spirits Emporium in Mofolo, Soweto. Owned and managed by Mnikelo Mangciphu, wine lovers will swoon at the sight of the many wines on display.
- Quad biking on the streets of Soweto. Soweto Outdoor Adventures offers a unique way to explore Soweto, travelling through its dusty back roads, through the squatter camps and down Vilakazi Street, where Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela once lived. You will also get the opportunity to feast on magwinya (also known as vetkoek or fried dough, a South African specialty) or pap and skop (sheep’s head) on a street corner.
- Guided walking tours in the city, from Parktown to the mining district and from Fordsburg to Maboneng. There are a number of companies that offer these tours, including Joburg Places and Past Experiences. The tours are led by passionate Jozi experts with an eye for the interesting and an intimate knowledge of the back streets, alleyways, nooks and crannies.
- Guided walks in Jozi’s two Chinatowns. Chinese immigrants from Guangdong province in south China settled in South Africa from the late 1800s, creating a community that is now as South African as the protea. Old Chinatown is situated at the western end of Commissioner Street, in downtown Johannesburg, and new Chinatown can be found in Cyrildene, east of Johannesburg, along Derrick Avenue. A trip to these areas is incomplete if you don’t sample the delicacies, so make sure you visit their restaurants.
- Museum Africa in Newtown. The museum has a huge collection of objects that tells the story of South Africa. Permanent displays show urban life in Johannesburg and its place in South Africa’s history. Other displays include one about the 1956 Treason Trial, during which Nelson Mandela and 155 others were imprisoned at the Johannesburg Fort, now Constitution Hill.
- Jo'burg’s fashion district in the inner-city's eastern quadrant. You can get there on the C3 Reya Vaya bus from Park Station. Get off at Fashion Square. There are some incredible garments for sale at great prices in a variety of stores.
- Ethiopia – well, sort of. There’s a multi-storey shopping mall in downtown Jo'burg that’s operated entirely by members of the city’s Ethiopian community. If you’re into seriously great coffee, you have to visit Little Addis. Or try an injere, a communal Ethiopian meal comprising a massive pancake with fillings on top.
- Bungee jumping or SCAD (Suspended Catch Air Device) jumping at Orlando Towers. For those seeking the thrill of an adrenalin rush, Orlando is the place to be. The Orlando Towers bungee site was established in 2007 by a company called Skyriders, with the aim of developing the disused cooling towers into a vertical adventure facility. The site offers bungee jumps, power swings, internal swings and SCAD jumps.
- Sushi at the Maboneng District. If you are in the CBD, you cannot leave without visiting Blackanese, owned by entrepreneur Vusi Kunene.
- The mining district in the CBD. Jo'burg’s unofficial name, Egoli, is a reminder of the city’s mining-town heyday. Our streets may not be paved with gold, but a walk down Main Street will introduce you to the companies that have played a starring role in the mining history of South Africa. Here you will see one of Johannesburg’s most iconic artworks: the Leaping Impala or Impala Stampede. Originally installed at the Ernest Oppenheimer Park near the centre of town, the sculpture was vandalised during the inner-city’s decline around the turn of the century. The piece has since been restored and is now installed at the Anglo American campus.