South Africa’s non-stop, full-steam-ahead province with a heart of gold.
Gautengers (as Gauteng-dwellers are known) proudly claim that of all of South Africa’s provinces, theirs is the most gloriously alive. Yes, they may be biased – but where else will you find a destination with as much variety and sheer, spontaneous energy?
First stop for most visitors to Gauteng is Johannesburg – and with good reason. Legends of old claimed that Johannesburg’s streets were paved with gold, and while tar is, in fact, the order of the day, the city remains South Africa’s undisputed economic hub – with a vibe to match. Expect a humming nightlife, magnificent malls and a plethora of cosmopolitan restaurants.
Where to enjoy the best of the city’s spoils? Unload your wallet at Sandton City, where plush haute couture pieces rub shoulders with locally made treasures – all at a price that will make you smile. Then refuel at one of Johannesburg’s chic ‘sidewalk suburbs’: the bistro-lined streets of Greenside and Parkhurst offer something for everyone.
Catch up on culture by visiting Constitution Hill, Johannesburg’s newest tourist attraction. Home to the country’s Constitutional Court, Constitution Hill is built on the site of one of the most notorious jails for political prisoners during the apartheid era, and pays tribute to those who suffered during South Africa’s dark days. A visit to the Apartheid Museum, located at Gold Reef City, will also enlighten you about the country’s political struggle. While you’re there, be sure to mingle in the ‘City’s’ streets; the replica of Johannesburg as an old mining town even offers visitors an opportunity to go down a mineshaft. Alternatively, MuseuMAfrika, in the fabulous Newtown Cultural Precinct, presents another view of the city’s colourful history. And speaking of colourful – don’t miss SAB’s World of Beer, a fascinating tour of brews.
Scratch the surface of Johannesburg’s sophistication, and you’ll find that the city is pure Africa at heart. And there’s nowhere better to enjoy the fun-loving side of Jozi (the locals’ affectionate name for their city) than Soweto. South Africa’s largest township is known for its festive atmosphere – visit a shebeen (pub), and you’ll see why. Your best bet for an authentic shebeen experience is Wandie’s Tavern, one of the most popular in Soweto.
Soweto has its serious side, too, however. The township’s streets were no stranger to violence during apartheid, and much of the struggle for freedom took place within Soweto’s suburbs. No tour of Soweto would be complete without visiting the Hector Pietersen Memorial, a tribute to the first child killed during the student uprisings of 1976, or the Regina Mundi church, which offered shelter to many members of the struggle. The Nelson Mandela House Museum – once home to the much-loved former statesman – is another noteworthy attraction. Interestingly, the house is located on Vilikazi Street – the only street in the world to be called home by two Nobel Peace Prize winners (Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu).
Your urban adventure isn’t over yet. Visit Pretoria, South Africa’s capital, and you’ll experience yet another of Gauteng’s many faces. Less brash and busy than Johannesburg, Pretoria has a grace and tranquillity – not to mention a strong sense of history. Key attractions saluting Pretoria’s past include Jan Smuts House and the Kruger Museum, both recalling former presidents, as well as the Voortrekker Monument. The Union Buildings are another must-see, not only for their political significance, but for their architectural aesthetics, too. Pretoria is also home to the State Theatre and a number of art galleries, making it an ideal stop-off for culture vultures.
It’s time for more history at the Cradle of Humankind. The region – located just a short drive from Johannesburg - is the richest site of hominid fossils in the world, a fact that has led scientists to believe that it is the birthplace of Man. Enjoy an interesting journey back to your roots, with some great scenery along the way, at this World Heritage Site.
You’ll find the Cradle of Humankind close to other attractions along the Crocodile Ramble, an arts-and-crafts route that traverses the outskirts of the Magaliesberg valley. You’ll find some great country eateries, art galleries, cheese farms, food stalls and other quaint country staples, just minutes from Johannesburg.
Visit the Gauteng Tourism Authority Site
- Gauteng is easily accessed from Johannesburg International Airport, Lanseria Airport, Rand Airport and Wonderboom Airport.
- The province has an excellent road infrastructure and transport is readily available from taxis and car rental services.
- Ensure you have a pleasant stay by following basic safety rules: don’t leave your goods unattended, and avoid dark and deserted places.
- Gauteng’s water is safe to drink – it is, in fact, ranked amongst the cleanest in the world.
Article courtesy of Avis South African Magazine.
Photographs courtesy of SA Tourism.