Johannesburg, South Africa’s very own concrete jungle, is a busy blend of colour and commotion. Nicknamed the ‘City of Gold’ (because of its past as a mining mecca), Johannesburg is both the economic hub of the country and an exemplary model of the ‘modern African city’. In fact: Joburg’s city limits has swelled so much that it is now virtually connected to neighbouring Pretoria!
Nowhere is Johannesburg’s work-hard-play-hard attitude more evident than in affluent Sandton. Not only is Africa’s richest square mile (as Sandton’s commonly known) home to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange but it also boasts one of Africa’s largest shopping centres: Sandton City. Here you can shop yourself fabulous at high-end boutiques and big-brand stores, or dine in top-notch dishes to match your exacting taste. In the mood for something more low-key? Sip on craft beers or shop for street-style fashion in Maboneng, the city’s oh-so-edgy hipster hotspot.
For all its flash and cash, Johannesburg hasn’t forgotten its roots. The moving Apartheid Museum is an absolute must for anyone passing through the city. If you want to discover more about South Africa’s tumultuous past, head to the blooming township of Soweto and pay a visit to the Hector Pietersen Museum or Nelson Mandela’s former home on Vilakazi Street.
- South Africa’s business capital and home to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange
- Sandton City will delight any shopper with its wide range of high-end stores
- O.R. Tambo International Airport is the largest airport on the continent
- Delve into South Africa’s tumultuous past at the Apartheid Museum, the Hector Pietersen Museum, or Nelson Mandela’s old home on Vilakazi Street in Soweto
Facts and Information
Johannesburg is the business capital of South Africa, and the economic powerhouse of Africa. It produces a large proportion of the country's GDP and attracts investment and skills from all over the world. It is also one of Africa’s main travel hubs and an inevitable access point to many Southern African destinations.
It’s a cosmopolitan city with people from all over the continent and the rest of the world. With a population of about 8 million in the greater metropolis (including Soweto), the city has expanded and now connects to Pretoria, South Africa's administrative capital. It is the only real global city in sub-Saharan Africa and the capital of Gauteng, South Africa's wealthiest province.
The city was formed in the 1880s after gold and diamonds were discovered on the Witwatersrand. This gold rush led to numerous people flocking to the area in search of riches and labour and the settlement quickly expanded to become the largest in the country. The locals refer to it as Egoli - City of Gold in the Zulu language. Mining is still a major part of the industry around ‘Joburg/Jozi’ but business and information technology are now leading the way.
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Time: GMT/UTC + 2
Population: 8 million
The Land: The altitude in Johannesburg is 2,000m above sea level. 40% of the world's gold has been found in the region. Johannesburg has an average of 12 hours of sunlight a day. There are 7,519km of roads, of which only 905km are not tarred. The average travel time for commuters is 48 minutes. There are 1,569ha of nature reserves and 12 river systems which run through the city. 40% of all the world's human ancestor fossils have been found in areas adjoining the city.
Cuisine: Johannesburg is a cosmopolitan city with some of the country’s best restaurants – you’ll find any type of cuisine you are looking for. For those looking to try some authentic township cuisine, there are a number of restaurants in Soweto - Wandie’s Place is a must.
Seasons and Weather: The summer months run from October – March which is also the rainy season. Known as the ‘highveld’ due to its high altitude above sea level, Johannesburg typically has late afternoon thunder showers in the summer which last for an hour or two. Summer temperatures range from about 25 degrees centigrade up to a max of about 38.
Winters are temperate and dry with no rainfall and crisp, clear days. The winter runs from May – August. Evenings and early mornings can get quite cold with temperatures ranging from 0 degrees centigrade up to a max of around 22. Daytime temperatures average at around 15 degrees centigrade.
Language: English, Afrikaans, Zulu and Xhosa are the predominant languages.
Flora and Fauna: There are over 10 million trees in Johannesburg (2.5 million in parks and along pavements, and 7.5 million in private homes). When the jacarandas bloom it is quite something to behold creating a perfumed scent across the city.
There are 4,443ha of open fields (veld), 1,616 parks, 24,6ha of bird sanctuaries, 107km of nature trails & 80ha of botanical gardens. Johannesburg has about 150 heritage sites, half of which are national monuments.
Johannesburg houses the only two polar bears in Africa, at the Johannesburg Zoo. It is surrounded by game reserves which are accessible by car or by plane, including the Kruger National Park (approx 6 hours drive), Madikwe Game Reserve (approx 5 hours drive) and Pilanesberg Game Reserve (approx 3 hours drive).