Africa

South Africa: Discover the Historic Side of Johannesburg

Cape Town and Durban have all the fun. Or do they? South Africa’s formidable coastal duo lure innumerable tourists, domestic and international alike, to frolic in the surf and mix it up in a multicultural haze.

But what of Jozi? The premier metropolis of South Africa is known for just that: size. And big the city is, with a considerable urban sprawl that covers over 7 million people. Yet amid the humdrum financial clockwork and feverish workaday pace of Johannesburg proper lurks a mosaic of cultures and heritage. This tapestry spans millions of years, from a UNESCO fossil site on the outskirts to a posh suburb with designer garden homes from the 1920s. From apartheid era prisons to phenomenal pan-African museums, eye candy architecture to military depots, take a look at Joburg’s irrepressible historic side.

Johannesburg, South Africa – Photo credit

AECI Dynamite Factory Museum

The name hides the vitality of the museum but think again and it hits you. Dynamite. Mines. Diamonds. Gold. The indelible industry that gave shape to South Africa in the late-19th century comes to life in this former factory, with ample commentary to colour the explosive displays.

Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill is a precinct in the Hillbrow suburb of Johannesburg that was once the notorious Old Fort Prison. “Number Four”, the innocuous nickname for the penal complex, was home, for a time, to the likes of Mohandas Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and scores of other anti-apartheid movement lions.

Madiba Freedom Museum

The eponymous museum of the family clan of one Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela charts South Africa’s emergence out of the long, dark shadow of apartheid and into the light of democracy. A bumpy journey, one can add, not quite complete.

Museum Africa

The MuseuMAfricA dates to 1933 but took on a different sheen after the official end of apartheid. Now the first-rate museum, which sits in the former produce market of Newtown, close to Mary Fitzgerald Square and the venerable Market Theatre, offers much more comprehensive exhibits. In addition to the the Geology Museum and Bensusan Museum of Photography, visitors can expect to see collections of miscellaneous artefacts from every corner of the continent.

South African National Museum of Military History

Like history in South Africa in general, the military history of the country is fraught with incendiary controversy. The South African National Museum of Military History has done well of late to sidestep pitfalls and strike a balance. Above all, the facility has some remarkable vehicles and hardware on display.

Norwood

The handsome garden suburb of Norwood, Gauteng unfurls boulevard after boulevard of Interbellum era homes. Historic architecture is not the only draw, however. Norwood is also a prominent enclave for tony, gourmet restaurants.

Cradle of Humankind

Talk about history. The Cradle of Humankind UNESCO World Heritage Site – or to be more specific, the Fossil Hominid Sites of Sterkfontein, Swartkrans, Kromdraai, and Environs – features archaeological vestiges of human settlement and evolution that date as far back as 4.5 million years. All a mere 50 km northwest of Joburg.

Where to stay:

The Peech Hotel Johannesburg

The Westcliff Hotel Johannesburg

Intercontinental Sandton Towers Hotel Johannesburg

Radisson Blu Hotel Sandton Johannesburg

Johannesburg City Guide

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