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Johannesburg

Four Seasons Westcliff Hotel Johannesburg

One of Johannesburg's nicknames is "Egoli" or “Place of Gold”.

Johannesburg is located in South Africa’s smallest province, Gauteng; the economic powerhouse of Africa and a major transportation hub. A cosmopolitan mix of people from all walks of life, the region is a multicultural melting pot, evidenced in many excellent museums, theatres, galleries, cultural precincts and craft markets. Yet despite being highly urbanised, it is also fresh and breezy with golf courses, botanical gardens and well-manicured parks dotted amongst its modern amenities.

With wealth built on gold, Johannesburg is lively, affluent and cosmopolitan, offering the visitor a tempting array of superb restaurants and hotels, elegant designer boutiques and bustling, world-class shopping malls.

The largest city in South Africa, Johannesburg is also the wealthiest and, without doubt, the economic powerhouse of Africa. “Jo’burg” is a booming, happening city and the emphasis is on making money – whether in business or on the streets – and has been since its beginnings when the world’s richest gold fields were discovered here in the 1880s. To the first-time visitor Johannesburg (or “Jozi” as some locals call it) can be a little daunting, more so because of the misrepresentation by the media of the city as something akin to a war zone. There is crime (although it has declined in recent years) and just like in any large city, you need to keep your wits about you and avoid undesirable areas.

Johannesburg’s inner city, which saw an exodus of big business that moved north to the upmarket suburb of Sandton, is undergoing a complete regeneration. The area close to City Hall and Newtown Cultural Precinct forms the heart of the urban revival program and is worth a visit, either on a private tour or on board the city’s new “topless” sightseeing bus.

But it’s the sprawl of the leafy “northern suburbs” – there are over six million trees in Johannesburg – that draws the visitor: buzzing, trendy suburbs like Parktown and Norwood, with their restaurant-lined avenues, fashionable Melville and the sprawling malls of Sandton, all combine to make the city a great place to be.

Though not touted as an outdoor city, there are a number of parks, nature reserves and natural attractions like the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Garden and the scenic Magaliesberg mountains nearby.

Another place of interest is Gold Reef City, a theme park created around an authentic 19th century gold mine. Gold Reef City has an abundance of history, adventures rides and restaurants. “Jozi’s Story of Gold” is a two-hour tour that includes an underground mine visit, recreated period houses and a gold pouring exhibition. It’s an opportunity go back in time and experience life in the old mining camp that became Johannesburg.