Johannesburg

Overview

Introduction

Johannesburg, South Africa, is often affectionately called Jo'burg, Joeys or Jozi. The city was founded in 1886 on one of the richest gold reefs in the world and started life as a simple wagon camp for early prospectors on the bare, open Highveld. Johannesburg quickly grew into the economic powerhouse of southern Africa and the largest urban space in sub-Saharan Africa.

Despite being predominantly a business destination, Johannesburg has a wealth of urban attractions, such as art galleries, museums, parks and zoos. Gold Reef City (the oldest and last of Johannesburg's gold mines to be shut down) is now a theme park and mine tour, where visitors can explore Johannesburg's legacy of gold mining. The countryside, too, is easily accessible—craft markets, country inns, wildlife projects, dams and mountains offer a breath of fresh air.

To the southeast of Johannesburg is famous Soweto (an acronym for South West Township), where black people were restricted to living during apartheid. Soweto holds an important place in the heart of modern South Africa for its activities and the rise of peoples' voices that contributed to the demise of apartheid. The vibrant township spawned activists Nelson Mandela and Walter Sisulu, among many others. Soweto tours are hugely popular with international visitors, and museums such as the Apartheid Museum and Hector Pieterson Museum also tell the story.

Johannesburg is very modern by African standards, but crime can be a problem—you'll be reminded over and over that you shouldn't walk downtown after business hours and that you shouldn't carry a purse or wear expensive jewelry. The authorities are addressing the problem successfully and constructively, however. Most hotels and nightlife are in the safer suburbs, you can visit major tourist attractions safely, and a number of half- and full-day city tours are offered.

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