Jo'burg & Pretoria Holidays
While Gauteng may geographically be South Africa's smallest province it is an urban playground of note with the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria. Johannesburg is South Africa's largest city as well as the financial and commercial heart of the country, while Pretoria is the administrative capital which is both a showpiece of South Africa's sad and controversial past, and of its vibrant new life.
Built on the discovery of gold in 1886, Jo'burg, as it is commonly known, has worked hard over recent years to reinvent itself and is rapidly changing. Visitors are now discovering a beautiful city centre dominated by Victorian and Edwardian colonial architecture, modern skyscrapers, exclusive boutiques, opulent shopping centres, vibrant pavement cafes and entertainment complexes. Art galleries and museums can be found in the cultural districts of Newtown and Braamfontein, while the inner city is becoming a tourist gem.
Change has yet to reach all areas though and some contrasts still exist, most notably between the upmarket neighbourhoods, such as Rosebank, Melrose Arch, Hyde Park and Sandton, and the townships. Soweto, the most renowned of the townships, was brought to prominence during the anti-apartheid uprisings of the 1970s and eye-opening tours give visitors a view of everyday life.
To gain a perspective on the history of South Africa, visit the Apartheid Museum for a fascinating if not disturbing record of South Africa's recent turbulent past. There's also the impressive Constitutional Court, the protector of basic human rights and freedom. While both recapture the darker aspects of South African history, they also conclude with a positive affirmation of new beginnings.
Just an hour outside Johannesburg and well worth a visit, is the Cradle of Humankind, a World Heritage Site known for its unique wealth of fossil-bearing caves which contain a superbly preserved record of the stages in the evolution of humankind over the past four million years.
Pretoria is just a short drive north of Johannesburg and while the country's administrative capital is decidedly less urbane, it is somewhat grander with numerous stately buildings, attractive museums, leafy suburbs and jacaranda-lined streets. Statues, monuments and landmarks commemorate the country's history and the most famous is the crescent-shaped Union Buildings. It was here, in 1994, where Nelson Mandela took office as President. Just outside the central business district is the Transvaal Museum, the country's leading natural history museum.
However, Pretoria is not all about the past. It is a modern and growing city with first-rate shopping, beautiful parks and gardens, top restaurants and a lively arts community.
- Fascinating museums
- History and heritage
- Great shopping
- UNESCO World Heritage Sites nearby