Johannesburg Travel Guide

Use this Johannesburg Travel Guide to help plan your trip.

Johannesburg is the largest financial, commercial and industrial centre in South Africa. Barely over 100 years old, the discovery of gold transformed this deserted heartland into a vast urban sprawl and made it one of the wealthiest cities in the world. The gold rush brought in settlers from all over the world creating a multiracial and cosmopolitan city, but Apartheid changed all that. Forced relocations altered the fabric of Johannesburg, creating deep divisions in society that are still evident today. Despite Apartheid's demise, Johannesburg is still mostly segregated, albeit no longer by legal requisite. The city centre and neighbouring suburbs, such as Hillbrow, are largely home to the urban black population, a condensed area of overcrowded high-rise flats where poverty and crime is rife. Soweto is a vast, sprawling township of government housing and informal settlements, home to the majority of Johannesburg's black commuters. Most white residents, on the other hand, live in the leafy and affluent northern suburbs.

But things are changing. Soweto has become a city in its own right, with new affluent suburbs and a fast-growing middle class, while a breed of wealthy, successful black people - known locally as 'Buppies' (Black Upwardly-mobile People) - have moved into what were until recently the reserves of rich whites. The notorious city centre, meanwhile, is undergoing extensive regeneration programmes, with streets being cleaned up and closed-circuit cameras deterring casual criminals. But while crime rates have dropped considerably, safety remains an issue, with most visitors, like most well-off locals, confining themselves to the safe suburbs and numerous shopping malls.

This is edited copy from Footprint Handbooks. For comprehensive details (incl address, tel no, directions, opening times and prices) please refer to book or individual chapter PDF
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