At a loss over the holidays? Looking for more than mall-hopping or watching movies? The Joburg Tourism Company has some suggestions.
THE City of Gold has been the heart of South Africa since a rich seam of the shiny metal was found on its western boundary. It is still the country’s financial centre. But there’s more to the city than lucre.
If you want to discover Joburg, there is plenty to keep you entertained. Here are the Johannesburg Tourism Company’s top 10 attractions.
The walkway to the Constitutional Court
Constitution Hill is set on the site of Johannesburg's notorious Old Fort prison complex. It is here that you can trace the story of South Africa’s turbulent, often troubled, past and its extraordinary transition to democracy.
The notorious Number Four helps visitors to understand what it meant to be placed at the bottom of the racial hierarchy, while the Mandela Cell documents Mandela’s time at the Old Fort complex and his emotional return to its transformation as Constitution Hill a few years later.
This national heritage site has seen a century of South Africa’s history. Opened in 1893, the first building was a high-security prison which originally housed only white prisoners. Later a fort complex was built around the prison. During the South African War (1899 - 1902) the Old Fort on the site was used by the military for, among other purposes, incarcerating prisoners of war. At the end of the war it became a temporary prison - which stayed for the next 80 years.
Over time more buildings were added, including the Number Four prison - the infamous black men's prison - and the Women's Jail.
Between 1947 and 1948 there were some 90 000 prisoners in jail here.
In 1956 a new breed of prisoner became to be incarcerated in the Old Fort complex. These were the political prisoners, including the Rivonia Treason Trialists like Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu.
Into the Old Fort
The prison officially ceased operations in 1983 when the last of the prisoners was transferred to Diepkloof Prison in Soweto.
In a move that was uniquely South African, the highest court in the Land - the Constitutional Court - took up residence on the site in 2004. It heard its first case on 24 February and was officially opened on Human Rights Day, 21 March 2004.Visitors to Constitution Hill can now see the Old Fort; Number Four; and the adjacent Constitutional Court.
The old prison cells have been converted into an interactive museum with a state-of-the-art audiovisual system that shows footage of former prisoners recounting their experiences. Photographs and prison artefacts - including recreations of the blanket and soap sculptures made by the inmates - help capture the rich heritage of the site.
Across at the Constitutional Court visitors can attend hearings and view its impressive art collection.Visitor info
Corner Kotze and Hospital streets, Braamfontein
Tel: 011 274 5300
Open: Every day from 9am to 5pm (closed Christmas Day and Good Friday)
There are tours every half an hour. Tours of more than 10 people need to be booked 24 hours in advance by phoning 011 403 5191.
Africa is the birthplace of humankind - the place where our ancestors evolved into human beings. So it's fitting that this is where you can find a museum dedicated to our origins.
Opened in 2006, the Origins Centre offers visitors a unique experience of Africa’s rich and complex past.
A history told in stone
Combining technology with the creativity of South Africa’s foremost artists, the narrative structure of the museum takes visitors through an 80 000 year journey of discovery: from the origins of humankind and through the development of art, symbolism and technology. It gives visitors an insight into what inspired and motivated humans in their search for innovation, putting them on the evolutionary path to today's complex and diverse cultures.
Visitors can experience the oldest known ritual still practised today, the San/Bushman trance dance, as well as viewing the diverse southern African rock art traditions, the world’s oldest continuous art form. The San have genetic markers linking them to Homo sapiens who lived 160 000 years ago.
There is also an exhibit showing how genetic testing contributes to understanding our ancestry and visitors are also able to trace their genetic makeup.
The Origins Centre, as stated on its website, "seeks to restore the continent to its rightful place in history - where everything that makes us who we are today originated".
This sentiment is captured in the museum’s motto: We are who we are because of who we were.
At the centre visitors can see the earliest image made by man, found here in South Africa.
Address: The Wedge Complex, University of Witwatersrand, Corner Yale Road and Jorissen Street, Braamfontein
Tel: 011 717 4700/4703/4704
Hours: Tuesday to Thursday 9am to 6pm; Friday 9am to 8pm; Saturday and Sunday 10am to 5pm.
Sci-Bono Discovery Centre
Making science and technology exciting is the mission of the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre.
The centre in Newtown is the largest science centre in southern Africa and it has loads of fun, interactive things for youngsters of all ages. There are displays of dinosaurs and lots of electronic experiments to take part in. The emphasis is on showing just how exciting the numerous scientific achievements that shape our lives can be.
Capturing the sun's energy and the observers' imaginations
It has been compared to similar centres across the globe, such as the Exploratorium in San Francisco and the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney.
Address: Corner Mirriam Makeba and President strees, Newtown
Tel: 011 639 8400
Visitors to the Apartheid Museum travel, via a series of 22 exhibition areas, on an emotional and dramatic journey through the history of apartheid - a state-sanctioned system based solely on racial discrimination.
The journey is a multi-media, multi-sensory experience which has been put together by a team of filmmakers, historians, designers, architects and curators.
Film and video footage collected from around the world documents the history of South Africa under apartheid - from the building of Afrikaner nationalism and life in the townships, to black and white resistance to this iniquitous system.
There are some experiences that offer visitors a glimpse of life under apartheid: tickets are plastic cards that indicate "white" or "non-white", and visitors can stand on the top of a Casspir (an assault vehicle used by the police and military in the 1980s) and view footage of police vehicles driving through the township.
The nooses, a chilling reminder of the past
Chillingly, 121 nooses hang from the roof, representing political prisoners executed during the apartheid years.
Visitors can also leave their own historical artefacts such as passbooks and photographs, and record their experiences under apartheid.
Cnr Northern Parkway and Gold Reef Rd, Ormonde
Tel: 011 496 1822
Open: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm
Gold Reef City
Gold Reef City is an amusement park that takes visitors back to early Johannesburg. Located on an old gold mine, the park is themed around the gold rush on the Witwatersrand.
There is a museum dedicated to gold mining where visitors can view a gold-containing ore vein and see how real gold is poured into barrels.
In addition to the historic side, there are a wide range of attractions at Gold Reef City, including water rides and roller coasters.
For the adult visitors there is also a casino that offers a range of entertainment as well as the usual slots and tables and sports betting.
Gold Reef City is also the site of the Apartheid Museum.
Gold Reef City: historical and modern
Ormonde, 5km south of the city centre. Off the Xavier Street exit of the N12 or the Boise's exit of the M2 West.
Tel: 011 248 6800
Open: Tuesday to Sunday 9.30am to 5pm. Closed Christmas Day
Hector Pieterson Memorial
The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum stands not too far from where 12-year-old Hector was shot on 16 June 1976 during the Soweto uprising - a stark memorial to all those who lost their lives in the struggle against apartheid.
Hector Pieterson was one of the first casualties of the march through Soweto on 16 June 1976, when police were ordered to shoot at a crowd of demonstrating students.
Sam Nzima's photograph of the dying Hector Pieterson being carried by a horrified student and his shocked and crying sister became the iconic image of the time.
For years, 16 June stood as a symbol of resistance to the brutality of the apartheid government. Today, it is known as Youth Day – a day on which South Africans honour young people and bring attention to their needs.
The museum is next to the Hector Pieterson Memorial, and the whole area has been declared a national heritage site: visitors can walk along a series of ramps and look through strategically placed windows at scenes such as Orlando Stadium and the police station.
There is also television footage of the uprising.
Participants and witnesses are invited to record their own experiences of the day.
8288 Khumalo Street, Orlando West
Tel and fax: 011 536 0611
Open: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 5pm, Sunday from 10am to 4pm
Nelson Mandela's Soweto house on the famous Vilakazi Street is one of the top tourist attractions in Johannesburg.
House No. 8115 Vilakazi Street in Orlando West, Soweto itself was identical to hundreds of other houses in the area. It had the same standard tin roof, the same cement floor, a narrow kitchen and a bucket toilet at the back. It was to here that Mandela moved in 1946. And it was here, for a very brief time, that he stayed on his release from prison in 1990.
Nelson Mandela's Vilakazi Street residence
The house is now a public heritage site, giving visitors a glimpse of a by-gone time in the life of the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
8115 Vikakazi Street, Orlando West, Soweto
Tel: 011 936 7754
Open: Every day from 9.30am to 5pm
Out in the northern reaches of Johannesburg is the Kyalami base of the South African Lippizaner horses - the only performng Lippizaners outside of Vienna. They have become a much vaunted part of the city's cultural heritage.
The elegant white Lippizaners are highly trained, performing a range of complex moves dating back to the 15th and 16th century. These moves are central to the horses' public performances.
The South African Lippizaners are affiliated to the Spanish Riding School, and a close association is maintained between the two establishments.
Elegant and highly trained
The stallions at Kyalami are direct descendants of a select group of Lipizzaners rescued from war-torn Austria in 1944 that were brought to South Africa.
Visitors can see the shows at the Kyalami venue every Sunday morning and on special occasions.
Visitor infoOpen: Sunday mornings
1 Dahlia Road, Kyalami
Tel: 011 702 2103/072 542 5628
Liliesleaf FarmLiliesleaf Farm, in the tranquil suburb of Rivonia, was the meeting place for many of the ANC activists in the 1960s. It was here that many of the leaders who shaped the struggle against apartheid met to discuss their plans and it was here that MK was born.
Visit what was the birthplace of Umkhonto we Sizwe (MK), the military wing of the African National Congress.
At one time Nelson Mandela also stayed here, under the guise of a caretaker in blue overalls.
Liliesleaf is uniquely connected with the Rivonia trial. On 11 July 1963 the police raided the farm and captured Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Ahmed Kathrada, Denis Goldberg, Andrew Mlangeni, Lionel "Rusty" Bernstein, Raymond Mhlaba, Bob Hepple and Arthur Goldreich.
The subsequent trial catapulted what was happening in South Africa on to the international stage and the trialists became icons of a struggle against an oppressive regime.
Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia
Visitors can now experience a first-hand account of the circumstances leading up to the infamous raid and learn more about the people who helped shape South Africa's democracy.
The farm boasts a resource centre, a museum, a liberation centre and a liberation path.Liliesleaf will be closed from 19 December 2009 to 4 January 2010.
Visitor infoOpen: 9am to 4pm daily, unless by prior arrangement
Tel: 011 803 7882/3/4
Museum AfricaIt has a huge collection of artefacts, paintings and photographs, collected since 1935, telling the story of South Africa: the permanent displays show urban life in Johannesburg and its place in South Africa's complex history. Themes include work as a gold miner, home in a shack and township jazz.
Museum Africa is Joburg's major historical and cultural museum.
There is also a striking exhibition of the 1956 Treason Trial, during which Nelson Mandela and 155 others were imprisoned at the Johannesburg Fort. They were acquitted of treason after four years.
Other displays depict early man, stone and iron age communities, San rock art in a reconstructed shelter and the lifestyle of the first white settlers in the Johannesburg area.
Joburg's flagship museum
In addition there is a separate photographic museum with a light and shadow display, a range of old camera equipment and some wonderful photographs.
121 Bree Street, Newtown, Johannesburg
Tel: 011 833 5624
Open: Tuesdays to Sundays 9am to 5pm. Closed on Good Friday, Christmas Day and 26 December.