Johannesburg, the largest city in South Africa, is a financial and industrial metropolis that attracts visitors from all over the world. It’s a stunning urban center of rapid changes and diverse cultural experiences. Otherwise known as Jo’burg, Jozi, or “the city of gold,” Johannesburg is home to over 3 million people of different cultures and backgrounds. The city has come along way from its state of decline for over 20 years. Now it’s a hub of arts and attractions that make it one of the worlds must see destinations.
Museums in South Africa use a variety of mediums to portray different aspects of the country’s history. The Apartheid Museum, which documents South Africa’s struggle for freedom, uses artifacts, personal accounts and film. Liliesleaf Farm Museum, the former center for the leaders of the liberation movement, also houses exhibits on the country’s struggle for freedom. The Lindfield Victorian House Museum is a “living museum” where the owner, who’s lived there since 1967, dresses in Victorian clothing and leads guests on a two-hour tour. The South African Museum of Military History traces the country’s military conflicts through exhibits on fighter planes and bombers, medicine at war and life in the trenches. If you’re in the mood for something different, the Market Theater is a big part of the city’s cultural life, hosting some of the finest productions in the country. You’ll also find a bookshop, art gallery, restaurants and Museum Africa near the complex. Gold Reef City is another family friendly attraction that has theme park rides and historical exhibits. The reproductions of buildings and businesses from the gold rush era will give you a blast to the past in no time.
Travel companies offer day trips from Johannesburg that range from nature tours to active excursions. You can take an Elephant Walk and see wildlife in their natural habitat, visit one of the many villages surrounding the city, or even go scuba diving. If you want to plan your own day trip, Parys is a small town known for its Afrikaans culture and cuisine. It’s a small town just 110 kilometers south of Johannesburg, with a relaxed, riverside feel, antique shops and a variety of water sports including waterskiing and powerboating. If you want to see where all humankind supposedly originated, the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site is just northwest of Johannesburg. The Sterkfontein Caves nearby are the site of the oldest paleontological dig in the world.
There are some fantastic deals that you might find from time to time, not to mention the interesting accommodations you’ll come across. Stay at a game lodge, where you can enjoy complete opulence or rustic charm. Johannesburg also has a range of camping options from glamorous camping to completely roughing it. Self-catering accommodations are budget friendly ways to add homey touches to your stay, while cottages and chalets are also alternative options to hotels. Guesthouses will give you the privacy of a hotel with B&B vibes, while actual B&Bs may give you a glimpse of local life. Boutique hotels may add a touch of whimsy to your stay, not that there’s any shortage of resorts and luxury hotels to fit your needs.
As with any city, there are multiple forms of transportation that will get you to your destination. Minibus taxis, a popular form of transport in many African cities, are not your typical Western taxis. They are small-scale bus services that don’t follow particular timetables or formal stops. They’re often unmarked, but they’re one of the cheapest forms of transport in Johannesburg. You’ll have to familiarize yourself with the local hand signals to hail a minibus taxi, but this’ll get you closer to locals and their customs. Metered taxis are also a form of transport, but you’ll have to book a cab on the phone. Most hotels will have taxi bays or will book rides for their guests upon request. The metro railway system is another inexpensive form of getting around, but only cover the southern districts of the city. The Metrobus system has 80 scheduled routes throughout the city, so you may have more luck getting to stops in northern Johannesburg via bus. You can also take the Gautrain from Park Station in central Johannesburg to the northern business districts. You’ll have to buy a Gautrain Gold Card from any station, but this option in pretty reliable, running daily from 5:30 AM to 8:30 PM.
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