Johannesburg is often ignored as a tourist destination in South Africa, with Cape Town and the Kruger National Park traditionally being the destinations of choice for visitors to the country. Part of the reason for this seems to be the fact that Johannesburg has not marketed itself as a tourist destination strongly enough, despite having a number of worthwhile and historically significant places of interest.
Johannesburg has the largest population of any city in Africa, and has a colourful past as well as an exciting present.
Johannesburg was the location of the Old Fort Prison which housed many political prisoners during the apartheid era including Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Luthuli and Robert Sobukwe. Today, visitors can go on tours of the Old Fort Prison, which has been preserved as a tourist attraction. The area where it is located is called Constitution Hill, and was named after the Constitutional Court which shares the property with the Old Fort Prison.
The Johannesburg Zoo is another worthwhile attraction for visitors. It is home to more than 2050 animals, and one of its unique offerings is its night safaris, which allow visitors to explore the zoo by moonlight and view the zoo’s numerous nocturnal animals.
Johannesburg also has a vibrant nightlife and a large amount of cultural and musical entertainment. The city plays host to a popular annual jazz festival, Jazz on the Lake, which takes place in early September and which features a number of well-known local and international jazz artists.
Another worthwhile activity for tourists is to visit Soweto, a vibrant metropolitan township on the outskirts of Johannesburg. Soweto played a significant part in South Africa’s history and has a number of historically significant sites.
On June 16, 1976, violent riots took place in Soweto when African school children took the struggle against apartheid into their own hands and protested against the government requiring them to learn in Afrikaans instead of in their home languages. Many children died during these riots, the most famous being 12-year-old Hector Peterson who was gunned down by the apartheid police. Today, the Hector Peterson Museum in Soweto is dedicated to the memory of Hector Peterson and the other children who died in the Soweto riots.
In addition to the Hector Peterson Museum, Soweto offers visitors the chance to visit Nelson Mandela’s old house and to eat traditional food and drink traditional beer at a number of restaurants run by locals. For the young and the young at heart, Soweto offers bungee jumping at the world’s only bungee jump between two cooling towers. Abseiling and rap-jumping are also on offer at the Soweto Towers.
Johannesburg has much to offer as a tourist destination, and should certainly be on the itinerary of any visitor to South Africa because of the varied, exciting and interesting attractions on offer.