Pin It

Johannesburg: South Africa’s Misunderstood Child

Although Johannesburg has a bad reputation, it would be a waste not to visit this intriguing city. South Africa’s heartbeat has a lot going for it and with proper information, it could be one of the best activity-full destinations for a vacation.

Apartheid Museum

Photo credit: Gettyimages

Photo credit: Gettyimages

This astonishing museum is an absolute must-see and it illustrates the rise and fall of South Africa’s era of segregation and oppression. The museum uses film, text, audio and live accounts to provide an insight into the architecture and implementation of the apartheid system.

It has inspiring accounts of the struggle towards democracy and it’s invaluable in understanding the inequalities and tensions that still exist today. The particularly distressing part of the museum is a small chamber in which hang 131 nooses, representative of the 131 government opponents who were executed under antiterrorism laws.

Mary Fitzgerald Square

Photo credit: Iryna Kuchma/Flickr

Photo credit: Iryna Kuchma/Flickr

This square, named after South Africa’s first female trade unionist, is the best place to start a visit to central Johannesburg. It’s the staging ground for a number of annual events and a great place to people-watch at one of the area’s cafes. The square is lined with an array of heads, carved from old railway sleepers by Newtown artists.

The square is bordered by the Jazz Walk of Fame, a Hollywood Boulevard-style walkway that pays tribute to South Africa’s most influential jazz musicians, like Brenda Fassie, who was one of the country’s most popular musicians. There is a bronze statue in honor of the great musician, who died in 2004.

Constitutional Court

South Africa’s new Constitutional Court was built within the ramparts of the Old Fort. It dates from 1892 and was once a notorious prison, where many of the country’s high-profile political activists, like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi, were held.

The court itself is a very real symbol of the changing South Africa: a lekgotla (place of gathering) rising from the ashes of one of the city’s most noted apartheid-system monuments.

The modern structure incorporates sections of the old prison walls, with large windows that allow visitors to watch the proceedings.

Visitors can take a tour that includes the Awaiting Trial Block, which held the 156 treason trial lists of 1956; the notorious Number Four section, which held black male prisoners; and the Women’s Gaol, where female offenders were incarcerated. Their offence was often simply failing to produce an identity card.

CIRCA On Jellicoe

Soon an artistic centerpiece, this remarkable addition to the city is a cultural landscape. It overlooks the northern suburbs, and the spiral structure houses unusual sculptures, sketches and contemporary work from across South Africa.