Johannesburg is situated in Gauteng - previously known as Southern Transvaal, in the heart of the Witwatersrand region. The city, affectionately referred to by its inhabitants as Jo’burg, Jozi, eGoli or the “City of Gold”, is located at an altitude of 1,750 metres, 45 km south, southwest of Pretoria. Johannesburg was founded in 1886, following the discovery of gold deposits in the area around the city, and is now the most populated and important city in South Africa.
The city, with its straight and ordered streets, has a modern feel to it and is very easy to travel around. The appeal of Johannesburg comes from being a city of great contrasts, a city that is capable of merging its varied and irreconcilable soul: from the luxurious shopping centres, the steel and glass skyscrapers to the desperate and pitiful shanty- towns, from the elegant districts of Houghton and Parktown, surrounded by jacaranda and Australian acacie trees, to the Zulu ghettos and the Beverly Hills district with its black millionaires, where their magnificent villas stand next to the painted shacks, that dominate this residential zone of the bourgeois Zulu.
The South-Western-Townships are large squatter camps with Soweto being the most important. This sprawling and sometimes frightening mass of bungalows, huts and shacks is can be visited. A tour is organised, which includes stops at the old residences of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, together with visits to restaurants, shops and other places of interest. The tour costs 150 rand. It is here in Soweto, that the anti-apartheid uprising began in 1976. The area is host to 4 million inhabitants, divided into 9 ethnic groups: predominantly Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa, the tribe to which Nelson Mandela belonged.
Johannesburg has numerous cultural institutions, among them The University of Witwatersrand, founded in 1922, The Witwatersrand Technical College, an astronomy observatory, a geology museum and an art gallery. Some of the most important buildings include: Saint Mary Anglican Cathedral, built of sandstone in 1926, The Carlton Centre, with its panoramic floors and towers, The City Hall, the Public Library, The Civic Theatre complex, The Stock Exchange building and The Rissik State Post Office, built in 1897. Johannesburg is not a difficult city to find your way around. The city’s main bus station is in Vanderbijl Square, where an information desk provides details of the bus service. Few buses run after 5:30pm, after this time it is more convenient to catch one of the mini-buses which operate as taxis and which can be found throughout the city. The International Airport, situated 25 km from the city centre, has a bus service which connects it to the city. This service runs every half hour from the airport to Leyds Street, next to the railway station. The train station is the main departure point for all the region’s trains.
Hotels and lodging
The Chamber of Mines organises trips to the local gold mines. The African Museum has exhibitions detailing the dawning of South Africa and the African Museum in Progress has an ethnology exhibition, with reconstructions of old dwellings, tools and equipment.
At Phumangena u Muzi, near Aloe Ridge, visitors can stay in an old style Zulu village, complete with food and tribal dances. The Bernberg Fashion Museum hosts a complete collection of South African costumes. The era of the great gold rush, which began in 1886, can be re-lived at Gold Reef City. This mine with its old foundry, now offers a hotel, restaurant, chemists, Chinese- laundry and gold exchange.
Maps and transportation
Getting to Johannesburg
For those wishing to see lions and antelopes in their natural habitat, visit the Honeydew Lion Park and the Neighbouring Kugersdorp Game Reserve, both located less than half an hour ‘s drive away from the city. The Gauteng Snake Park, at Midrand, north of the city, provides an ideal setting for its large collection of African Reptiles.
Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa, with its wide tree-lined streets, is located 45 km from Johannesburg. Sun City, the entertainment highlight of South Africa is situated to the north-east of the city. Sun City is a pay to enter vast recreational complex,with numerous slot machines gambling tables. The Sun City complex offers the most ostentatious hotel structures on the African continent, set in a wonderland of sub-tropical gardens,lakes,paths and waterfalls.
The best way to get around Johannesburg is using a rental car. If you want a good deal, try Pace Car Rental. Car Rental Johannesburg is generally good value for long term car rental although a good idea to check the excesses on the insurance. They can be very high at times.
Practical information and resources
Currency : South African Rand
Electric supply: 220/230 volts, necessitates the use of an adaptor
Climate : The Summer temperatures rarely exceed 30 °C. The Winters are warm and sunny with temperatures ranging from 6 °C to 17 °C
Language : Afrikaans and English
Opening hours : The banks are open Monday to Friday, 9.00am to 3:30pm.The main bureaus of exchange are open Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm, Saturday from 8am to 6pm, Sunday from 10am to 4pm. The main shopping centres are open until 9pm; shops close at 5pm
Telephones : There are many private telephone services throughout the city. The most practical method is to purchase a phone card from the various Telkom branches. The number for local information is 1023. The General Post Office is in Jeppe Street and is open from 8am to 4:30pm and from 8am to noon on Saturdays.
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