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Your Johannesburg holiday

To visit the epicentre of South Africa's post-apartheid renaissance, spend a holiday in Johannesburg and experience a city buzzing with energy and opportunity.

So take a flight to Johannesburg to explore the history of a city rising again after years of struggle. From the wealthy suburbs to the vibrant townships, Johannesburg is constantly evolving.

Set up camp in a Johannesburg hotel and investigate the culture and food of this great metropolis. And if you long for a bit of space, spectacular scenery and wildlife are less than an hour away.

The history of South Africa's capital began with gold. In 1886 they first found the glittery stuff at Witwaterstrand Rand, a line of hills crossing through Gauting, the province in which Johannesburg is located. The discovery triggered a gold rush that would account for almost half of the gold ever mined on the planet.

With the prospect of fame, fortune, or just a steady job in the mines, people flocked to Witwaterstrand from far and wide, and Johannesburg was born. What started as a small settlement to house miners while the gold lasted became South Africa's biggest city within a decade as the gold continued to come out of the ground.

British mining companies clashed with the local government over the newfound riches and in 1899, the country went to war. The Second Boer War went the way of the British. The Imperialists now took charge of the Orange Free State and the Transvaal, and so began the displacement of the black population from the centre of Johannesburg.

The lamentable policy of apartheid was given official recognition by the National Party in 1950, with the Group Areas Act. The city map was redrawn along racial lines, giving birth to townships like Soweto.

Tensions reached boiling point in 1976 when a population tired of inequality and injustice took to the streets of Soweto. Police shot at a student demonstration and in the ensuing chaos 23 people died. Despite the bloodshed, apartheid persisted until Nelson Mandela's triumph victory in the 1994 elections.

Since then Johannesburg has come a long way and in 2010 got to show the world just how much progress has been made by hosting a memorable World Cup.

Top Johannesburg attractions

Apartheid Museum

South Africa has confronted its troubled past like few other nations. There is a passion to educate tourists as well as its own citizens in order to learn from the mistakes of history and nowhere is this better seen than in the capital's Apartheid Museum. Few punches are pulled as the story of apartheid is told from its beginnings in 1948.

Through photographs, film and the testimony of the people who lived through it, visitors are guided through the sufferings of a population treated as second-class citizens, to the joy of Nelson Mandela's release and the dawn of democracy.

Soweto

Just one of the townships earmarked during the early apartheid era to house black people evicted from their homes in central Johannesburg, Soweto is an abbreviation of South Western Township. It rose to international attention in 1976 when a demonstration turned sour with police firing on students and ending with 23 people dead.

Today Soweto is a huge, vibrant, but still very poor community. Organised tours are the safest and most informative way to discover this historic area.

SAB World of Beer

Somewhere between a theme park, a museum and a bar, lies South African Breweries' World of Beer. It sets out with the not insignificant aim of recounting the history of the alcoholic beverage from its earliest origins to the present day.

With guides, tours of the working brewery and plenty of audiovisual aids on the way it does a pretty good job. And just as you feel you have had your fill of hops history it will be time for the ice cold beers included in the admission price.

The Cradle of Humankind

Less than an hour's drive out of the steel and glass of modern Johannesburg lies one of the world's most important and longest running archaeological sites, the Cradle of Humankind. Some of the most significant fossils ever excavated were found in the 47,000 hectares of veldt that make up the World Heritage Site. One of the stars of the show is “Mrs Ples”. The skull of something neither human nor ape but somewhere in the middle, she remains an important piece of evidence for evolutionists.

Tip * Booking your Tours, Transfers & Airport Parking before you go will save your money & time and ensure a stress free start to your holiday

Johannesburg highlights

Get an adrenaline rush at Gold Reef City

Names like “Tower of Terror” and “The Anaconda” should give you some idea of what you are getting yourself into when you decide to sample the rides at South Africa's premier theme park, Gold Reef City.

With a casino, opera house and cinema also on site, there is plenty on offer for the less adventurous as well.

Get a bird's eye view of South Africa

From the 223-metre high 50th floor of the Carlton Centre you can get a real idea of the contrasting nature of Johannesburg's urban geography. Below you, new office buildings glisten the sunshine, ramshackle houses in the poorer areas sprawl for miles, and on the horizon the grassed-over mine dumps that stand as a reminder to Johannesburg's gold rush past.

Experience World Cup fever

After the resounding success of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and with the vuvuzelas still ringing in everyone's ears, Johannesburg has opened the doors of its flagship stadium to the public.

The FNB Stadium, also known as Soccer City, is one of the world's most colourful arenas and is symbolic of the enthusiasm with which South Africans embraced their national sport's showpiece tournament.

Catch a show at the “Theatre of Struggle”

A bastion of cultural hope during the apartheid regime, the Market Theatre bravely staged anti-government plays in the 1980s, running the risk of censure and imprisonment in the process.

Housed in the charming old Indian fruit market, the building is worth the trip alone. Inside the impetus is on promoting new South African plays while not losing sight of its heroic heritage.

Walk with the elephants

The Elephant Sanctuary in Hartbeespoort gives visitors the opportunity to get up close and personal with one of the planet's most breathtaking animals. Just an hour outside the capital, the sanctuary provides a home for animals due to be re-introduced into the wild while at the same time teaching people about these amazing creatures and how to care for them. Visitors are encouraged to walk side by side with the elephants and short rides are also available.

Where to stay in Johannesburg

The Misty Hills County Hotel is not even half an hour outside of Johannesburg city centre but once you arrive you would think you were deep in the bush. The complex of two-storey buildings is designed like an extended hunting lodge, with thatched roofs occasionally popping into view among the trees. Perfect for fitness fanatics, the hotel has indoor and outdoor pools, tennis courts, a gym and even a spa for the less active guests.

In the financial centre of South Africa, Sandton, you will find the Protea Wanderers Hotel. The 229-room luxury hotel is the perfect base from which to explore all of Johannesburg and Standton itself. The city's richest suburb, South Africa's biggest companies moved their headquarters here in the late 1990s and the wealth has followed them. These days it is a haven for shopping and fine dining.

Housed in the opulent former Saxonwold Post Office, as you approach the Monarch Hotel, you know you are in for a special stay. Impeccably decorated, the Monarch offers all that the discerning traveller could want, from period features to DVD players. Modern South African art keeps the place from dwelling too long in the past and the dining room offers some of the finest food in the city.

If you feel like something a little different when it comes to accommodation, why not check in at The Peech Hotel. Situated in the plush Johannesburg suburb of Melrose, the verdant vegetation is the first thing that catches your eye at this eco-hotel. The owners take their environmental responsibility seriously while ensuring there is no compromising when it comes to comfort.

How to move around in Johannesburg

Arriving by Air

Served by two airports, O.R. Tambo International is the main arrival point for overseas travellers in Johannesburg. A very busy terminal, arrive early before your departure to sidestep the long queues. The majority of hotels and even hostels run shuttle services to and from the airport. Private companies will also bus you the 20km to the city.

Public Transport

Where public transport exists in Johannesburg it is dangerous and best avoided by foreign tourists. The metro connects many of the cities poorest areas and is a no-go zone. City buses can be waved down anywhere but again are unsafe, as are the minibuses that serve the main routes.

Taxis

Unlike in most cities, taxis are not easy to come by in the streets of Johannesburg. There are ranks at the main travel terminals but apart from that you will see few driving around looking for business.

There are two types of taxis, shared minibus taxis or the more standard form, which often have metres. The roadworthiness of many minibus taxis is questionable and sharing with strangers is generally to be avoided. When it comes to the standard taxi, the fare should be negotiated before getting in if there is no metre. Ask your hotel or a local if you want an idea of how much your journey ought to cost.

By Car

With your options limited when it comes to public transport, hiring a car in Johannesburg is probably your best bet. Driving in the city centre can be chaotic but keep your wits about you and you will be fine. Take a look at our Johannesburg car hire offers.

Johannesburg restaurants

With pink flamingos adorning the walls in mural form, The Flamingo at the Troyeville Hotel (25 Bezuidenhout Street) is not your standard hotel dining room. Neither is the food quite what you would expect in one of Africa's major cities. The specialty here is Portuguese and Mozambican cuisine. A great place for fresh seafood, calamari is a favourite along with meatier dishes like trinchado, a spicy beef stew. After dinner wander to the balcony for a cocktail and a great view of Ellis Park stadium.

After taking a wander through the bustling, bohemian suburb of Braamfontein, re-fuel at Cafe de la Vie (6 De Beer Street). Mismatched furniture gives a quaint and comforting feeling to the place that is only reinforced by the food. A taste of home for the British palate comes in the form of such staples as curry and even fish and chips. Bear in mind that almost all the fittings and fixtures are for sale, so if you really liked your chair, there's a chance you can buy it when the meal is over.

Aiming to capture all the best bits of African cuisine on one menu is an ambitious project, but that's the goal at up-market restaurant bar, Moyo (Shop 5 The High Street, Melrose Arch). The décor is just as varied as the food in this cathedral to African cooking, with several levels each complete with hidden pockets that remind you of different parts of the continent. If that is not enough, live music, dancing and other entertainment gives yet another dimension to this Johannesburg must-see.

Health & Safety

Vaccinations and Hygiene

In Johannesburg there is no risk of malaria. The risk does exist in the north east of the country, so consult your doctor on suitable medication if you are planning to travel there.

There are no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Johannesburg, although boosters for those included in the vaccination schedule are recommended. This includes: Tetanus, Polio and Diphtheria; Measles; Hepatitis A and B; Typhoid; Rabies and Leptospirosis.

There is no problem with drinking tap water in Johannesburg.

Safety

Crime and in particular violent crime is a problem in Johannesburg, especially in the townships. Visitors should take the following precautions to protect themselves: · Photocopy all official documents and keep the photocopies with you, leaving the originals in your hotel safe
● Avoid walking alone or in dimly lit areas at night
● When taking a taxi, make sure the driver's license is on display
● Drive with doors locked, windows up and no valuables on display
● Ignore car accidents on the roadside as it may be an intended hijack
● Do not drive at night outside of the well maintained major roads
● Avoid busy taxi or minibus collection points
● Steer clear of no-go areas and townships, in particular
1) Hillbrow
2) Berea
3) Yeoville
4) Alexandra
5) Diepsloot

General Advice

In case of emergencies, dial 112 for healthcare. For police and the fire service, dial 10 111.

Women should avoid dressing in revealing or provocative clothing.

Johannesburg is not an area at risk from natural disasters.

MORE Johannesburg Hotels

See all 898 Hotels in Johannesburg
Southern Sun O.R. Tambo International Airport

Southern Sun O.R. Tambo International Airport

Jones Road, Kempton Park
4.5 out of 5.0
4.0 out of 5 (2 reviews)

Situated in the business district, this hotel is 0.8 mi (1.2 km) from International Terminal Duty Free Mall and within 3 miles (5 km) of Kempton Park Golf Club ...

£82

£82
City Lodge Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport

City Lodge Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport

Above Multi-Storey Parkade 2, Level 5, Kempton Park
3.5 out of 5.0
4.0 out of 5 (1 reviews)

Situated in Kempton Park, this hotel is 0.6 mi (1 km) from International Terminal Duty Free Mall, and within 3 mi (5 km) of Kempton Park Golf Club and Festival ...

£87

£87
The Aviator Hotel OR Tambo International Airport

The Aviator Hotel OR Tambo International Airport

Corner of Bosch Street and Kempton Road, Kempton Park
3.5 out of 5.0
3.9 out of 5 (12 reviews)

This family-friendly Kempton Park hotel is located near the airport, within 2 mi (3 km) of Festival Mall and Kempton Park Golf Club. International Terminal Duty ...

£34

£34
Peermont Metcourt at Emperors Palace

Peermont Metcourt at Emperors Palace

Emperors Palace, 64 Jones Road, Kempton Park
3.5 out of 5.0

Situated near the airport, this hotel is 1.7 mi (2.8 km) from International Terminal Duty Free Mall and within 6 miles (10 km) of Value Mall and East Rand Mall. ...

£69

£69
Premier Hotel OR Tambo

Premier Hotel OR Tambo

73 Gladiator Street, Kempton Park
4.5 out of 5.0
4.0 out of 5 (1 reviews)

This family-friendly Kempton Park hotel is located near the airport, within 2 mi (3 km) of Kempton Park Golf Club and Festival Mall. International Terminal Duty ...

£51

£51
Park Inn Sandton

Park Inn Sandton

118 Katherine Street, Sandton
4.5 out of 5.0
4.0 out of 5 (6 reviews)

This family-friendly Sandton hotel is located in the business district, within 1 mi (2 km) of Nelson Mandela Square, Johannesburg Stock Exchange and Sandton ...

£40

£40
Genesis All-Suite Hotel

Genesis All-Suite Hotel

10 Sandler Road, Johannesburg
4.5 out of 5.0
4.5 out of 5 (2 reviews)

This family-friendly Johannesburg hotel is located near the airport, within 3 mi (5 km) of Satyagraha House and Houghton Golf Club. Melrose Arch Shopping Centre ...

£78

£78
Aero Guest Lodge

Aero Guest Lodge

81 Kempton Road, Kempton Park
4.5 out of 5.0
4.0 out of 5 (1 reviews)

Situated near the airport, this lodge is within 3 miles (5 km) of Festival Mall, Kempton Park Golf Club and International Terminal Duty Free Mall. Modderfontein ...

£34

£34
Hilton Sandton

Hilton Sandton

138 Rivonia Road, Sandton
5.0 out of 5.0

Situated in Sandton, this luxury hotel is within a 15-minute walk of Johannesburg Stock Exchange and Sandton Convention Centre. Sandton City Mall is 0.7 mi (1.1 ...

£59

£59
Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel Sandton Johannesburg

Radisson Blu Gautrain Hotel Sandton Johannesburg

Corner of Rivonia Road and West Street, Sandton
4.5 out of 5.0
4.4 out of 5 (5 reviews)

Located in the heart of Sandton, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Nelson Mandela Square, Sandton City Mall and Sandton Convention Centre. Johannesburg ...

£71

£71
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Prices reflect the lowest "base rate" found over the next 30 days. Rates are subject to change and may not include taxes and fees, hotel service charges, extra person charges, or incidentals, such as room service. Converted rates are provided for your convenience. They are based on today's exchange rate, but the hotel will charge you in the local currency. Local charges may apply