Founded in 1886 by colonials who came here to exploit the largest deposit of gold known to man, over the years Johannesburg has grown to such an extent that it is now one of the most populous cities in the world, not to mention the economic and financial capital of South Africa.
Book a flight to Johannesburg to discover a city of rich contrasts, where wide forest areas alternate with cement, typical African restaurants coexist alongside trendy cocktail bars and townships like Soweto are found next to sparkling neighbourhoods like Rosebank and Sandton and creative quarters such as Braamfontein and Bamioneng. And there is no lack of cultural activities: you can discover the tragic story of apartheid in a special museum, the history of the gold rush in the Gold Reef City theme park, and admire the remains of the first men in unique places like The Cradle of Humankind. With a brief excursion you will also have the chance to enjoy an emotional safari in one of the most famous nature reserves in the world: Kruger Park. Below you can find a few of things to do during a trip to Johannesburg.
Soweto is the largest township in South Africa and played a fundamental role in the history of apartheid. Built in 1904 to provide accommodations for workers in the mine, over the years of racial segregation it saw the relocation of the black population of Johannesburg with a consequent rise in poverty and unemployment. Today it is a mix of classes and home to a unique melting pot of cultures and sub-cultures. The greatest attractions include the neighbourhood of Kliptown, where the Freedom Charter was signed, and Vilikazi Street, where the famous Soweto Revolt broke out. Here you can also find the first house of the former president Nelson Mandela, which has now been transformed into the Mandela Family Museum.
The museum provides an accurate overview of the history of racial segregation in South Africa through films, documents, records and eyewitness accounts. A visit to the museum is a must for anyone who wishes to better understand that dramatic period. It is an experience that is made even more extraordinary by some moving installations, including a tiny cell with 131 nooses that represent opponents of the apartheid condemned by the government.
GOLD REEF CITY
If you are interested in finding out more and reliving the times of the South African gold rush, you can't miss this theme park constructed on an old gold mine. In addition to its fascinating historical itineraries and practical demonstrations of gold extraction, there are adrenalin-fuelled rides that are a sure hit with children, making it the perfect destination for the whole family.
This enormous reserve will give you the chance to experience an emotional safari on a photographic hunt for the Big Five: lions, elephants, leopards, rhinoceroses and buffalos. The park hosts an additional 150 mammal and 100 reptile species, as well as various archaeological sites and a wide array of trees and stunning flowers. You can choose whether to explore the savannah on your own, with a guide provided by the organisers or looking down from above in a hot-air balloon.
THE CRADLE OF MANKIND
One of the eight UNESCO World Heritage Sites in South Africa, it is situated at Maropeng, 50 km from Johannesburg. In this landscape full of limestone caves, more than a million fossils have been found of hominids that have been essential in reconstructing the history of man. Once you enter in the main cave, a pleasant boat ride on an artificial lake will transport you to the exhibition area, with special displays on themes such as the development of the brain, the origin of language and the discovery of fire. Along with the Maropeng tour, which will delight children, you can also combine a visit to the caves of Sterkfontein, where exceptional discoveries have been made such as the fossils of Mrs Ples and Little Foot, as well as an Australopithecus skeleton from over three million years ago.
The best time to book a flight to Johannesburg for is the dry season, which lasts from May to September, thanks to the milder climate and fewer rainy days compared to the summer. It is also the best time to visit Kruger Park, when the temperature is mild in the mornings and the clear skies enable you to move easily to spot the animals. The park is in any case open all year round, just like the other attractions in the city.
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