10 Things You Didn’t Know About Johannesburg

If you don’t know much about Johannesburg you could mistake it for another faceless industrial city. However, Jozi, as it’s more commonly known, is filled with amazing locations, rich history and fantastic people.

So, whether you’re visiting the gorgeous City of Gold on a business trip, or you’re taking a much-needed vacation, here are 10 facts that will change your mind about the busy city and open your eyes to its unique charms:

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1. O. R. Tambo International Airport

Did you know, O. R. Tambo International Airport can handle 28 million passengers each year? In fact, some might even argue that O. R. Tambo is one of the busiest airports in Africa.

O. R. Tambo got its name from Oliver Tambo, a former president of the African National Congress. The airport itself is located 1,700 metres above sea level –the perfect altitude for testing the world-famous Concorde aircraft back in the 1970s. Not to mention, it also has one of the longest runways in the world, because at high altitudes aircrafts need more space to take off and land.

2. The Gautrain

Upon arriving in Johannesburg you may be tempted to arrange a taxi for yourself, but we strongly advise you give the pricey cab ride a skip and try Joburg’s famous rapid rail and bus service, the Gautrain.

The Gautrain isn’t only convenient because it stops off at the airport and runs from the Northern suburbs of Johannesburg, where a number of businesses are located, to South Africa’s capital city, Pretoria. It’s also reasonably priced, so you don’t have to break the bank to get to where you want to go.

3. City of Gold

Seen the characteristic mine dumps while travelling through Johannesburg? They’re actually a part of Joburg’s history.

In 1886, Johannesburg became a bustling town because a prospector found gold in the area. Sadly, most of the other towns that came about because of the gold rush dried up when families moved on to make their fortunes elsewhere.

Joburg, however, survived and is fondly known as the ‘shanty town that keeps on growing’.

Over 125 years later, gold is still being mined in the greater Gauteng area, specifically beneath Johannesburg where a labyrinth of mining tunnels has been formed.

Want to find out more about the mining in Johannesburg, or have a bit of free time? We suggest you visit Gold Reef Cityto see how the gold mines work.

4. A City Oasis

In contrast to the copper and gold mine dumps, there’s a whole lot of greenery that’s well worth your attention.

Joburg is home to one of the world’s biggest man-made urban forests. In fact, it’s estimated that there are about 10 million trees planted in the greater Johannesburg area.

5. Water, or the Lack of It

Did you know Joburg is one of the only cities that hasn’t been built near a natural body of water? Unlike other cities, Johannesburg wasn’t established near a source of natural water, like a river, lake or the ocean.

Instead, Johannesburg’s major water sources are man-made structures like dams. That’s why the water levels at the Vaal dam are so important – if the water levels are too low, Joburg has little to no access to fresh water.

6. Downtown Johannesburg

Johannesburg’s inner city has undergone a fantastic transformation, and we strongly suggest you go and see it for yourself.
Once an area considered dangerous, Joburg’s inner city is now a colourful area with a vibrant atmosphere that often attracts overseas tourists.

There are historical reasons to visit this part of Johannesburg too. In fact, downtown Joburg is home to the Apartheid Museumand Chancellor House, where Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo practised law in the 1950s.

Want to have a night out on the town? Why not try the great restaurants, jazz clubs and the world-renowned Market Theatrein the very popular area of Newtown?

Thinking of staying in this trendy part of town? Book your stay at City Lodge Newtown, where you’ll be close to the famous Joburg nightlife, markets and so much more.

7. The people of Johannesburg

United in their diversity, the locals of this cool, cosmopolitan city are warm and friendly. Joburgers represent a melting pot of traditions and cultures from around South Africa, Africa, and the world.

It’s funny to think that all these cultures have come together in a city that is just over 120 years old, especially considering how close the origins of mankind are.

Yes, that’s right, the The Cradle of Humankindsits just outside the city at Maropeng, a World Heritage site where some of the oldest hominid fossils have been found.

8. Johannesburg Shopping Centres

North, South, East or West, no matter where you are in Joburg, there’s a place to shop ‘til you drop. The city has some of the finest malls in the country.

So, If you’re looking to do a little retail therapy, you’re definitely in the right city! Visit Sandton City, The Mall of Rosebank, Eastgate Shopping Mall, Cresta Shopping Centre, Mall of Africaand Hyde Park Corner.

If you’re planning to visit Sandton City, don’t forget to stop by Nelson Mandela Squareto take in the splendour of the towering sculpture of South Africa’s favourite son – former president and human rights activist, Nelson Mandela.

It’s also a great place to stop for a meal because the square is filled with some of the finest restaurants and cafés.

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9. The Hillbrow Tower

Formerly known as the JG Strijdom Tower, this landmark dominates the Johannesburg skyline and is visible from almost anywhere in the city.

Standing at 269 metres, the Hillbrow toweris one of the tallest buildings in Africa and is used for telecommunications purposes.

The city of Joburg also has world-class communications infrastructure, which includes excellent cell phone and WiFi coverage – most cafés, hotels and shopping centres have WiFi hotspots. Even the High Courts of the city, which acquired WiFi facilities in August 2012, have brought the city’s justice system firmly into the 21st Century.

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10. Constitutional Hill

Speaking of a 21st Century justice system, did you know that the Constitution of South Africa is regarded as the most progressive constitution in the world?
South Africa’s Constitution came into effect in 1997, nearly three years after South Africa’s first democratic elections, and is the supreme law of the land, emphasising universal adult suffrage and a Bill of Rights.

The highest court in the land, the Constitutional Court, is situated on Constitution Hill, on the sight of the Old Fort Prison Complex in Johannesburg. Many political activists, including Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandelaand Walter Sisulu, were detained here.

The new “ConCourt” building is also an architectural marvel which speaks to the values and ethos of a democratic South Africa.

What have you experienced in Joburg? What 10 things have made your business trips to Johannesburg worthwhile?

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