A Hedonist's Guide to Johannesburg: Best Sightseeing

By Andrew Ludwig
Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg
HISTORY ON THE HILLTOP: Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg (City of Johannesburg)

1) Apartheid Museum
A thirty-minute drive from Sandton, situated between the Jo'burg CBD and Soweto, this is an incredibly powerful and emotional museum. Housed within the interesting architecture are a collection documents that testify to the atrocities committed against black South Africans during the segregation imposed by the Nationalist Government regime between 1948 and 1994. The museum is full of chilling reminders of this period, including passbooks, cages and the symbolic 121 hangmen's nooses. The museum attempts to give visitors an insight into every day township life during the 1970s through the use of photography and original video footage.

2) Hector Pieterson Memorial & Museum
This particular museum marks the day of the Soweto uprising in 6 June 1976, within 100 meters of where the 12 year-old Hector was shot. He was made famous by the photographer, Sam Nzima, who, during the riots, captured an image of the young boy being carried, dying, in the arms of a fellow student along side his sister. The protest was in response to the imposition of Afrikaans on the curriculum throughout schools in the townships. Like the Apartheid Museum it does well bringing the era and the senseless human tragedy to life. Haunting images, videos and sounds of the period help visitors appreciate the daily struggles of the subjugated black population Guided tours are available.

3) Lesedi Cultural Village
The Lesedi Cultural Village was established to provide an authentic showcase of the traditional cultures of some of the well-known African tribes, who have their home in South Africa. Representatives of these tribes were involved in the design of the villages to ensure an accurate, historically representative portrayal of their indigenous cultures. They are meant to showcase and highlight a more traditional way of life, day-to-day activities and give an intimate view of tribal rituals. The villages are lived in today by members of these communities, which serves to breathe life into their fascinating cultures. Situated within the Cradle of Humankind, Lesedi provides the visitor with a better understanding of the rich cultural background of the traditional peoples of South Africa.

4) Constitution Hill
Built on the site of the Old Fort Prison Complex, where Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and numerous others were unjustly imprisoned and mistreated, Constitution Hill is now home to the democratic Constitutional Court of South Africa. The architecture is spectacular, a juxtaposition of original structures and contemporary additions. Guided tours are available too, tracing the history of the site back to the Boer War.

5) Jo'burg Zoo
The Jo'burg Zoo, opened in 1904, is based around four basic principles—education, conservation, recreation and research. Beautifully designed and well maintained, the exhibits and enclosures work to bring visitors closer to many of the animals that cover our world. The animals are definitely not restricted to those found on the African continent and contain: big cats, bears, monkeys, snakes and all manner of smaller creatures. For a real treat, book an evening tour of the zoo. Guests are driven around by one of the vets in a tractor with carriages behind it, with the idea being visitors will see a different side of the animals, as well as some of the more shy ones, all accompanied by expert commentary.

To discover more of Johannesburg’s hottest hotels, restaurants, clubs, and bars, order your copy of A Hedonist’s Guide to… Johannesburg here.

Published: 12 May 2010 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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