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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 ...
Southern Sun O.R. Tambo International Airport£75Southern Sun O.R. Tambo International Airport£75
Situated near the airport, this hotel is within 3 miles (5 km) of Kempton Park Golf Club, International Terminal Duty Free Mall and Festival Mall. Value Mall ...
Protea Hotel by Marriott O.R. Tambo Airport£60Protea Hotel by Marriott O.R. Tambo Airport£60
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 ...
City Lodge Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport£96City Lodge Hotel at OR Tambo International Airport£96
This family-friendly Randburg hotel is within 2 mi (3 km) of Johannesburg Zoo and South African Museum of Military History. Museum Africa is 2.5 mi (4 km) ...
Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg£192Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff, Johannesburg£192
This family-friendly Johannesburg hotel is located in the historical district, within a 15-minute walk of Standard Bank Gallery and Museum Africa. Sci Bono Discovery ...
Faircity Mapungubwe Hotel Apartments£38Faircity Mapungubwe Hotel Apartments£38
This family-friendly Kempton Park hotel is located near the airport, 2.6 mi (4.2 km) from International Terminal Duty Free Mall, and within 6 mi (10 km) of Value ...
Peermont Mondior At Emperors Palace£93Peermont Mondior At Emperors Palace£93
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 ...
Premier Hotel OR Tambo£59Premier Hotel OR Tambo£59
Located in the heart of Sandton, this hotel is within a 10-minute walk of Johannesburg Stock Exchange and Sandton Convention Centre. Sandton City Mall is 0.5 ...
Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton£59Protea Hotel by Marriott Johannesburg Balalaika Sandton£59
This family-friendly Johannesburg hotel is located near the airport, within 3 mi (5 km) of Rosebank Mall and Johannesburg Zoo. Sandton City Mall and Sandton ...
Crowne Plaza Johannesburg - The Rosebank£39Crowne Plaza Johannesburg - The Rosebank£39
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