Johannesburg - The Hub Of South Africa
Johannesburg - city of gold - is by far the largest metropolis in southern Africa with a population of over 3 million in the central city area alone rising to over 5.7 million people including the townships surrounding the city.
Inner City Buildings
The city covers a large area and presently public transport is underdeveloped, so it may be necessary to hire a car or stay in the north central lively suburbs like Rosebank or Melville which are roughly equidistant between the two stadiums. Alternatively, stay on the western outskirts of Pretoria - maybe as far out as the Hartesbeespoort Dam, a pleasant medium size city and reasonably central to the other northern World Cup venues: Polokwane - 4 hours, Rustenberg - 3 hours.
Johannesburg is a commercial centre of vast size. Having been born as a result of the gold rush days of the 1880s, Johannesburg, which started life as a tented camp for prospectors, has continued to develop and flourish as the mining, commercial and financial centre of South Africa. Gold has been discovered to the west, south and east of the city and the yellow mine waste dumps, some very close to the two soccer stadiums, bear testimony to the extent of the mining.
Johannesburg will have two venues for the 2010 tournament - Soccer City on the western edge of the city, and Ellis Park in the eastern Central Business District.
Soccer City, a new 95,000 venue now under construction on the site of the old FNB stadium, will host both the opening game and the World Cup final. Situated in Diepkloof, 12 kilometres to the southwest of the city centre, the stadium is close to the old west reef gold mines.
Ellis Park/Coca-Cola Park is a modern 60,000 capacity ground presently used mostly for rugby and it is undergoing further upgrading for 2010. It was the venue for the 1995 rugby union World Cup final.
Places of interest
A highly recommended visit is to Gold Reef City, close to Soccer City, where you can take a ride down the gold mine shaft and have a drink at the deepest pub in the world, 225 metres below the surface. The underground tour of the mine, which has produced one and a half million tons of gold since 1897, will take around 35 minutes.
Gold Reef City also has a restored mining village, theatre, gumboot dancing (dances performed by the miners in their wellingtons) , the very realistic Apartheid Museum, restaurants, hotels and a casino. Another relaxed entertainment area is the Waterfront in Randburg to the north west of the CBD, which offers boating, restaurants, bistros, pubs, hotels and shopping.
Excellent art galleries abound throughout Johannesburg, the more famous of which are the Absa, and Standard Bank galleries situated in the CBD, the Johannesburg Art Gallery in Joubert Park (close to Ellis Park stadium) which houses works by Rodin, Picasso and Henry Moore, and the Everard Read, situated in Rosebank , which is the largest commercial gallery in the country.
The Cradle of Humankind, a world heritage site, is situated just to the north west of the city boundary , and it is here amongst numerous caves that it is thought man first developed his upright stance.
Also to the north west, closer to the Magaliesburg Mountains and about 60 km from Johannesburg centre is Lesedi which offers an African feast and cultural experience: a traditional welcome, a guided tour through the homesteads of four separate tribes - Zulu , Basoth , Xhosa and Pedi; a tribal dancing display; an audio visual presentation depicting the lifestyles of the various tribes; and culminates with a "Pan African Feast" (either lunch or dinner). It is possible to stay overnight in the traditional African huts albeit with modern comforts.
Within 5 minutes drive of Lesedi is Glen Afric - a wild life park - where you can experience a small game drive, walk with elephants and watch the feeding of the many orphaned and endangered wild animal species.
This area north west of Johannesburg and close to the huge Hartebeesport Dam is an ideal place to base a soccer tour as it is also one hour from the 2010 venue in Pretoria and 2 hours from the stadium at Rustenberg.
There are many official operators offering tours of Soweto, a `non white` suburb which was initially the creation of the apartheid government, and is now a sprawling metropolis with a thriving middle-class. The people of the area were in the forefront in the battle against the Nationalist regime and the Hector Petersen Memorial and Museum commemorates and depicts the struggles of Soweto`s youth during their uprising in 1976.
Soweto was also home to Nelson Mandela during the 1960s, before his arrest. The small wooden house is now a museum administered by his first wife - Winnie.
There is an `unofficial` Madiba Heritage Trail honouring the country`s much loved first democratic President.
Mandela came to Johannesburg, from the Transkei homelands, in the early 1940s and first stayed in a humble room with yard in Alexandra township (north Johannesburg). There is now an information and educational Interpretation Centre at the site.
The Old Fort, in the Constitution Hill district, a notorious prison held Mandela in 1962 before his term on Robben Island, near Cape Town.
Mahatma Gandhi, who spent 13 years in Johannesburg as a civil rights lawyer, also spent time in the Old Fort in 1906.
Sandton, a plush suburb in the north of the city, is the location of the Saxon Hotel and it is here, while it was still a private residence, that Mandela stayed after his release from prison and where he completed his autobiography.
A fine bronze statue, 6 metres high, of Madiba (aka Mandela) graces Sandton Square, which forms part of the huge Sandton shopping and business precinct.
The sophisticated nightlife of the city is centred around the Melville, Sandton, Rosebank, and Randburg areas which form a corridor going north / north west from the city centre. There are all manner of lively pubs, restaurants and nightclubs.
Major international hotels are situated in these areas together with many local guest houses. Hostels tend to be in more central city areas.
Johannesburg has some `security challenged` areas, and is reasonably complicated to navigate so, it may be wise to stay in the upmarket suburbs in the north west or west which are close to the major road systems, are between the two 2010 stadiums and convenient for entry into and exit from the city.
As an example the N.1 three lane motorway travels from Pretoria, down to Bloemfontein and beyond. It acts as a `ring road` to the west of the city and connects with the M1 motorway close to Soccer City. The M1 in turn connects to roads leading to Ellis Park stadium.
Johannesburg is a vibrant and world-class city that boasts a large array of fun things to do while not enjoying a football match at one of the World Cup stadia, or in the fan parks. The abundance of shopping malls, restaurants, pubs, nightclubs, fun activities and casinos provide hours of entertainment within a unique and inviting South African environment.
Casinos and resorts such as Gold Reef City, Montecasino, Carnival City and Emperor`s Palace allow visitors to enjoy some gambling, theatrical productions and festivals, as well as sporting events such as the South African Tennis Open that takes place at the Montecasino sports grounds. If games are your style but gambling is not, there are places to play indoor or action soccer, cricket, netball, while tenpin bowling, putt putt golf and video game arcades are found throughout Johannesburg.
The nightlife in Jozi is a highlight of this young and lively city. There is always something to do and many places to visit that will keep people busy after the sun has gone down. Bars, clubs, cafes, lounges and restaurants are plentiful, with a wide variety of vibes providing anything from laid back lounging to dancing and live events. The city also contains a few trendy piazza-style complexes with a number of fashionable places to eat and drink the night away.
Theatre productions, concerts and various music and art festivals are hosted in Joburg, and by checking out a site like Computicket.com, tickets to any major and minor events can be acquired. For those more interested in partying the night away, there are various nightclubs to be found in the city, including the wildly popular Manhattan, Chicago, Taboo and Bassline amongst countless others.
Gauteng Tourist Authority (Tel: 011 639 1600; 8am-5pm Mon-Fri) at 1 Central Place is in the Newtown Cultural Project.
South Africa Tourism at 90 Protea Road in Sandton (Tel: 011 895 3000; 8am-5pm Mon-Fri) has general South Africa tourist information.
Air - OR Tambo International Airport (Tel: 011 921 6262), to the east of the city in Kempton Park, is 25km to the east of Johannesburg. There are buses every 30 minutes between 5am-10pm to Park Station. The journey takes about 45 minutes. OR Tambo International Airport is South Africa`s major international and domestic air hub.
Rail - There are trains from Jo`burg to East London (20 hours) via Bloemfontein (9 hours) on the Amatola route as well as trains to Nelspruit via Pretoria (Komati), Cape Town (28 hours) via Kimberly (Trans Karoo) and to Durban (31 hours) via Ladysmith and Pietermaritzburg (Trans Natal).
Bus - International bus services from Jo`burg leave from Park Station. There are buses to Botswana, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe. There are daily buses to Cape Town (19 hours), Bloemfontein (7 hours), Durban (8 hours), East London (15 hours), Port Elizabeth (15 hours), Nelspruit (5 hours), Polokwane (5 hours) and Pretoria (1 hour).
Car hire is a good option for visitors to Jo`burg due to the underdeveloped transport infrastructure in the city, which has been built for the car and is dominated to a large extent by `Minibus` taxis. Taxis are not as readily available as in other cities in South Africa and need to be called by telephone or picked up at a major hotel.
`Minibus` taxis are the cheapest form of transport and travel lifeline for urban workers and depart from specified taxi ranks around the city. `Minibus` taxis are recommended for only the most adventurous of travelers with problems of security, poor vehicle maintenance and hazardous driving. The metropolitan bus system is attempting a comeback in Jo`burg and there are both single and double decker buses plying over 80 routes in the city.
The Bus Rapid Transit system has been developed in time for the World Cup, with routes to and from the stadia in Johannesburg, as well as other areas of the city running on a constant basis with newly built stations and recently commissioned buses running the routes.
The Johannesburg Metro Railway may not be recommended at present for security reasons. The railway connects downtown Johannesburg with Soweto, Pretoria, and towns along the Witwatersrand.
The Gautrain rapid rail project`s east-west line which runs between Sandton and Johannesburg International Airport will be ready for the World Cup.
The South African government are aware that public safety is a major issue and a great deal has been done and is still being done concerning safety and security. The Metro railway system should be used with particular care or avoided altogether. The area around Park Station should be treated with caution by visitors.
Johannesburg is the heartland of South African soccer with the largest number of teams in the South African Premier League of any city in the country.
Kaizer Chiefs (Amakhosi) were founded in 1970 in Soweto. Kaizer Chiefs play their home games at either FNB (First National Bank) Stadium or at Ellis Park Stadium. The Chiefs are one of the top clubs in the country.
The Orlando Pirates are the main rivals to the Kaizer Chiefs and the two teams contest the fiercely competitive "Soweto Derby". The team in black and white is one of South Africa`s oldest clubs, dating back to 1937, and plays its home games at Ellis Park.
Pirates won the African Champions League in 1995. The Moroka Swallows also have a long history having been founded in the 1940s. The Birds play their home games at the 18,000 capacity Germiston Stadium.
Wits University Football Club, aka Bidvest Wits, was founded in 1921 and has close links with the University of the Witwatersrand hence their nicknames of `The Clever Boys` or `The Students`. The team plays at the 5,000 capacity Bidvest Stadium.
Jomo Cosmos is the baby of South Africa soccer legend Jomo "Black Prince" Sono who formed the club in 1982 when he purchased Highlands Park and created the Cosmos, named after his former club the New York Cosmos. The Ezenkozi play their home games at the 45,000 capacity Huntersfield Stadium. The South African professional soccer season runs from September to May.
Although the World Cup will take place during early winter the days in Johannesburg are clear and mild with midday temperatures between 16 and 20 degrees C, however the nights can drop down to freezing point. There should be little or no rain over that period.