Downtown, Johannesburg

53 Reviews

Johannesburg
  • Downtown
    by CatherineReichardt
  • Downtown
    by CatherineReichardt
  • Downtown
    by CatherineReichardt

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  • CAR BOOT SALE

    by tanyajanehicks Written Nov 22, 2008

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    GRAT BARGAINS TO BE HAD AT THE NEW CAR BOOT SALE HELD EVERY SATURDAY FROM 9AM AT PARADISE NURSERIES IN CEDAR ROAD. WE FOUND A VAST ARRAY OF ITEMS FOR SALE ALL PRICED VERY REASONABLY. THE MARKET CLOSES AT 1PM SO YOU HAVE TO ARRIVE EARLY TO FIND BARGAIN AMONGST ALL THE COLLECTIBLES AND ANTIQUES FOR SALE.

    Address: Paradise Nurseries, Cedar Road past Fourways

    Directions: FROM FOURWAYS MALL CONTINUE ALONG CEDAR ROAD FOR 5 MILES AND JUST AFTER YOU PASS BROADACRES BARNYARD THEATRE THE NURSERIES ARE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD ALMOST OPPOSITE THIRD ROAD. THE ENTRANCE IS ON A SAND TRACK

    Phone: 0829221005

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    Chancellor House: Mandela and Tambo's law office

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Oct 5, 2012

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    As part of encouraging ongoing efforts to uplife the Jo'burg CBD, I am happy to report the completed renovation of the Chancellor House building.

    This small, unprepossessing office building on a street corner opposite the Magistrate's Court is of major historical significance because it housed the offices of the law practice that Nelson Mandela operated with his friend and fellow struggle icon, Oliver Tambo, an arrangement which Mandela himself describes as the first black-owned business in South Africa. The building was purchased by the Essas, an Indian family from the then Northern Transvaal in 1943, and was let to Tambo and Mandela between 1952 and 1960 - quite a risk at the time, since it was technically illegal to rent to Africans in this area (and, Mandela concedes, their rent was sometimes not paid on time).

    For years, the Essa family refused to sell Chancellor House, and by the 1990s, the building had decayed to a derelict shell occupied by squatters. In 1997, the Essas proposed that the site be redeveloped as a car park, and the building was hastily given provisional monument status. The Johannesburg municipality subsequently stepped in, and expropriated the building, restoring it to its original design using original photos.

    The building will house a library and office space. An exhibit which details the building's history and links to both Mandela and Tambo is displayed in the windows facing out onto the street.

    To South Africans, the term 'Chancellor House' has a somewhat more murky meaning. A Google search will bring up a bland description of a "South African group of companies active in the mining, engineering, energy and information technology sectors". What is not immediately apparent is that Chancellor House is the investment vehicle for the African National Congress (ANC), whose specific mandate is to invest funds donated to the ANC to generate income for the ruling party. Since its inception, Chancellor House has been embroiled in a number of scandals which, at best, challenge the principles of good governance, including its involvement as a major beneficiary of the largest contract ever let by Eskom, South Africa's power generation parastatal.

    Address: Corner of Fox and Gerald Sekoto Streets

    Directions: The renaming of streets in the CBD has caused great confusion and you'll probably struggle to find signs for Gerald Sekoto street. Rather head west on Fox Street until you're facing the northern wall of the Magistrate's Court.

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    The gorgeous golden rhino of Mapungubwe!

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Aug 31, 2013

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    One of the most exciting sculptures to be established in the Jo'burg CBD in the last couple of years is a replica of the gold rhino of Mapungubwe, which is located on Fox Street, just opposite the Hollard Street pedestrian mall. As it is mounted on a plinth at about head height, so it can be surprisingly easy to overlook.

    The Mapungubwe rhino is arguably one of the most significant artifacts ever discovered in South Africa and is a figure created by draping thinly beaten gold metal around a wooden frame and securing the gold using tiny nails. It was discovered in 1933 and was found at what is now the Mapungubwe World Heritage Site in Limpopo province (close to the corner where South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe meet).

    The rhino is estimated to be about 800 years old, and is a relic of the Mapungubwe society, which existed between about 1220 and 1290 A.D. It is a particularly interesting culture as, unlike the Bantu cultures that predate it, it is believed to be the first South African society to exhibit a rigid social hierarchy. The king occupied a hilltop fortress - supported by his subjects who occupied the surrounding lowland where they raised crops and livestock. A characteristic of Mapungubwe society was its sophisticated metalwork (both in gold and iron) and beautiful pottery, and items unearthed on the site indicate that Mapungubwe society actively traded with a number of other societies, including the Chinese, the Indians and the Arabs.

    The rhino is made of fibreglass but treated to appear as though it is metallic. It is hugely upscaled, as the original is only 12cm (about 4") long and about 6cm high.

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    The headframe that echoes Jo'burg's mining past

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Oct 5, 2012

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    Of all the efforts have been made to upgrade the Jo'burg CBD in recent years, probably the most successful from a tourism point of view have been the creation of the Hollard Street and Main Street precincts, which celebrate Jo'burg's rich mining heritage.

    Jo'burg experienced serious inner city decay in the 1990s, but the Marshalltown area in the south eastern corner of the CBD - adjacent to Ferreirasdorp where the first large scale mining took place in Jo'burg - fared better than most. This was principally due to the dogged determination of major companies such as Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Standard Bank who refused to vacate their traditional head offices and follow their peers to the perceived safety of Sandton. Instead of joining the exodus, these companies chose to participate in the upliftment of this area and worked closely with government to improve security. The first phase of the project saw the introduction of an extensive CCTV network and visible policing - which has resulted in a security guard per block - and as a result, crime levels in the area dropped immediately. The security initiatives were coupled with programmes to combat litter and develop amenities and tourist infrastructure.

    The most imposing new addition to this area has been the mine head frame that now stands on the western side of the corner of Sauer and Main Streets. These structures are constructed over the entrance to the mine shaft, and allow the winching of men and materials between surface and underground. This particular head frame was relocated from Langlaagte, a few kilometres west of the CBD, which was close to George Harrison's original gold find that triggered the start of the Gold Rush in 1886.

    At the base of this head frame is a memorial to the Struben brothers, which discovered the Main Reef Group in the late 1880s. This has proved to be the richest gold seam in the entire Witwatersrand gold deposit, which is itself the richest and most extensive gold field yet discovered anywhere in the world. In their time, Harry and Fred Struben were a formidable team, with Fred prospecting for gold-bearing reefs, whilst Harry handled the commercial and financial aspects of the business, and have the distinction of having had a suburb - Struben's Valley - named in their honour.

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    All you can eat

    by sebblit7 Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    www.kulula.co.za is a local airline with many cheap flights. At their website you can find many things to do around the major urban centres, the direct link currently is https://www.kulula.co.za/(S(52l51g55fm1dae45oxza1w45))/Default.aspx but if the page gets moved just visit www.kulula.com click the Kicks link then choose your destination city. As a Joburger I really didn't realise there was actually so much going on around here. You can book online for any of the activities.

    Also look here for some must see shops and things to do: http://www.joburg.org.za/december/shops.stm

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    The Brixton TV tower

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Aug 31, 2013

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    The Johannesburg skyline is dominated by not one, but two communications towers: the iconic Hillbrow Tower and the Brixton Tower, which evokes much less interest and precious little affection.

    The Brixton Tower is located in an inner western suburb close to the headquarters of the South African Broadcasting Company. Sometimes known as the Sentech Tower, it's an unlovely structure with no obvious redeeming features that i can identify. It was opened in 1961 (at which point it was known as the Albert Herzog tower) and, at 237m high, was at that time the highest building in Africa, until it was overtaken by the Hillbrow Tower in 1971

    It does have a viewing platform at the top, which might have redeemed it in terms of touristic value, but this has been shut since 1982, when the fear of this communication facility being bombed by anti-apartheid insurgents was deemed too great.

    Without wishing to be too harsh, its major value to tourists is probably as a navigational check to orient yourself when you're in the CBD: the Brixton Tower it to the west, whereas the Hillbrow Tower is to the east.

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    The Old Gas Works in Milpark

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Aug 31, 2013

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    The Old Gas Works in Milpark is probably the most visible piece of industrial architecture in the Johannesburg CBD area.

    The works were constructed in 1937 to convert coal to gas, and comprise three gasometers (circular gas storage towers) and a distinctive red brick complex of buildings. The redevelopment potential of this site has long been recognised but has not been possible until recently, as remediation of the soil due to the dumping of the tar byproduct created during gas generation first needed to be completed. Plans are now afoot to develop the site into an upmarket mixed use complex, incorporating loft style apartments, shops and restaurants that are compatible with the neighbouring trendy 44 Stanley design precinct and adjacent film studios,

    These days, natural gas is piped in from Mozambique and distributed by the rebranded Egoli Gas (Egoli means 'place of gold'). Connections to its frustratingly limited inner suburb network are highly sought after as an alternative domestic fuel option to the increasingly temperemental Eskom (colloquially known as 'Eishkom', based on an Afrikaans expression of frustration) electrical grid power supply.

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    Top of Africa

    by ATLC Updated Mar 25, 2003

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    The highest point in Africa.

    One of the big skyscrapers is open to public for a magnificent view over the city. It's called Carlon Center. It's a shopping center and you follow signs to the panorama. Buy a ticket (don't know how much, but it isn't very much) and go up the elevator to the 50th floor.

    I found the ticket, 2 1/2 yrs after having been there. It's 7,50 ZAR and nowadays that's about € 0,75 !

    Address: Carlton Center, Commissioner street, Jo'burg

    Directions: Parking underneath Carlton Center

    Phone: 331 2629

    JOHANNESBURG TOP OF AFRICA
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  • Mary Fitzgerald Square

    by cybernation Updated Apr 4, 2011

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    Mary "Pickhandle" Fitzgerald made her name in Johannesburg for her trade union activities and a number of firsts - first woman trade unionist, first woman printer and first woman city councillor.

    She was born in Ireland in 1885 and after immigrating with her father to Cape Town in 1900, she got a job at The Castle as a typist.

    She moved to Johannesburg in 1902 with her husband, John Fitzgerald, with whom she was to have five children. She soon found a job as a shorthand-typist with the Mine Workers' Union, where she became involved in collecting money for burials of phthisis victims.

    Many miners were dying from phthisis - a disease in which the fine underground sand coated the lungs and made them as hard as a rock and thereby considerably shortened a miner's life - with no compensation for their dependants. The workers were disorganised and working under appalling conditions, with mine accidents accumulating.

    Before long she was making rousing speeches to union members and became the country's first woman trade union organiser. She became more and more vocal and was involved in the miners' strikes of 1913 and 1914.

    MuseuMAfricA in Newtown is located in Mary Fitzger
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    Join a local tour where you'd...

    by Krystynn Written Aug 24, 2002

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    Join a local tour where you'd be taken for a delightful tour of the city of Jo'burg. But DON'T travel alone! This is Jo'burg - a VERY dangerous city if you're walking along the streets ON YOUR OWN. Believe me, they can sniff you out and guess that you're just an innocent tourist. My dear sister was actually robbed of US$700 in cash right here in Sandton City, I think. Let me go check with her again. So, please be careful O.K.?

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    Explore bohemian Art on Main

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Oct 5, 2012

    Art on Main is a warehouse redevelopment project on the corner of Main and Nugget Streets, a particularly unloved - and unlovely area - that has not so much been overlooked as forgotten completely. It is notable in that it's the first major urban renewal project that I know of that's taken place east of the CBD: the Hollard Street and Main Street pedestrian precincts, Newtown and Turbine Square are all located on the western fringe of the CBD, and Braamfontein with Constitution Hill - hosting the Constitutional Court, Women's Prison, No.4 prison and the Nelson Mandela Theatre complex are on its northern fringe).

    The complex comprises a New York style redesign of a series of warehouses into an attractive and original series of design studios and boutique shops. However, its main attraction is the fact that on Sundays and the first Thursday night of the month, Arts on Main hosts a food market, showcasing gourmet food from local producers. It is a splendid place to graze, first sampling the produce from the stalls and finally plumping for the one that grabs your fancy. And if you're hungry for something more substantial, there's even a restaurant on the perimeter of the complex where you can sample a strong contender for South Africa's national dish: nyoma chomo (barbecued goat)!

    Art on Main's Thursday night cocktails and Sunday in the City are fast becoming an institution, and if you're looking for that new York boho vibe, then this is the place to be. Grab a Mojito and lounge amid the olive and lemon trees hidden away in the trendy converted warehouse environment, smugly relishing that inner city vibe whilst the more conventional classes retreat to their staid suburbans refuges!

    Just a word of warning: street parking is at a premium, and the parking in surrounding warehouses is overpriced. Be prepared to have to park a couple of blocks away, in which case, don't pay the (self appointed) parking attendant in advance, and rather incentivise him by telling him that you'll give him a 'good bonsela' (bonus) if your car is still OK on your return.

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    Dutch/Flemish paintings in Johannesburg

    by Moirads Written Jan 15, 2012

    The Johannesburg Art Gallery (JAG) is exhibiting some of its historical Dutch collection in three of the gallery rooms between 13 November 2011 and 25 March 2012. This exhibition is being curated by Sheree Lissoos, the Historical Curator. There is an 1985 catalogue written by Jillian Carman which is still good, no, make that excellent, for this exhibition, as well as a new book on the subject of Dutch/Flemish art in South Africa.

    The collection of “Golden Age” is representative of a time when the Dutch Republic was the most prosperous country in Europe. This small Dutch collection of paintings was acquired from 1947 onwards, beginning with a bequest of seventeen paintings from Eduard Houthakker. Our Dutch/Flemish collection is not grandiose by any standards, particularly not European ones, and I don't think that there is a need to feel intimidated by this. South Africa is one of the many countries which felt the impact of Dutch colonialism and it is certainly part of the South African heritage. However, the Cape of Good Hope was a minor vegetable station blip on the radar until the Dutch left and diamonds and gold were discovered up north.

    Apart from the etchings by Rembrandt van Rijn and Albrecht Durer the names of the artists tend not to be very well known – Esias Boursse, Pieter Claesz, Gerrit van Deurs, Jacob Duck Lambert Jacobsz, Ludoph de Jongh, Frans de Momper and Anthonie Palamedesz don't jump out at me.

    The Dutch works have not been seen for a while as JAG has been concentrating on more contemporary aspects of South African history and culture, so it is good to be able to see it in new light and with the specialist comment about the differents between Holland (secular, Protestant) and Flanders (Catholic) as well as the different genres of paintings which are represented.

    These paintings can be narrative (historical, biblical, mythological, allegorical) in nature, or they can be portraits (well represented in this collection), still life with a moralistic message or a vanitas theme concerning the brevity of life or landscape. One of the ones I remember best is a riverscape entitled “Scene in a Dutch Town” by Jacobus Storck. The curator has got all these categories on display.

    There are six of the many original Rembrandt van Rijn which JAG owns on display, and if anyone missed the exhibition of the full collection of these a few years back, this is an opportunity to see a few of them. There is a warning associated here. They are small etchings, not grandiose works. Be mentally prepared for this. I remember being a little disappointed when I saw the full exhibition.

    The rest of the gallery is still filled with items from its permanent displays such as the Foundation Room, the Jackson Hlungwani Room and with a large exhibition by Mbongeni Buthelezi and the photographic exhibition by Pierre Crocquet. Also to be seen is an exhibition by Vasco Futscher in the Project Room.

    The Johannesburg Art Gallery is situated in King George Street, between Wolmarans and Noord Streets, Joubert Park. Entrance is free. The gallery is open from 10h00 to 17h00 Tuesdays to Sundays. Secure parking is available. There is always an exhibition of some kind available, usually different ones upstairs and downstairs, as well as permanent exhibitions. There is a research library and appointments can be made to view specific works held in the JAG's collection of over 10 000 pieces. The Gallery conducts regular free art classes for local children. There is a small restaurant upstairs. For more information contact 011 725 3130.

    Address: Johannesburg Art Gallery, King George Street, JHB

    Directions: The southern end of Joubert Park. Metered taxi or private motor vehicle.

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    BHP Billiton building's Art Deco frieze

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Oct 5, 2012

    The BHP Billiton building occupies a small city block and from its flanks on the Fox Street and Marshall Street, it is an unremarkable structure, somewhat precariously topped by a helipad. But take a few steps around the corner into the Hollard Street Mall and the building presents a whole different perspective.

    It's certainly an unexpected place to come across a massive Art Deco bas relief which gives a potted version of South Africa's history from the arrival of the first white settlers. The tale casts Afrikaners and the mining industry in a starring role in South Africa's development. This is not surprising because BHP Billiton's precursors - General Mining and Federale Mynbou, which merged to form Gencor - were companies whose establishment was intended to counter what was perceived as the English speaking stranglehold on the South African mining industry established by the likes of the Oppenheimer family, who controlled Anglo American and De Beers.

    In 2003, this building was awarded the Colosseum award by the Johannesburg Heritage Trust in recognition of its sensitive restoration and heritage conservation.

    Oh yes, this is yet another on the list of Johannesburg buildings that I have worked in - only this time, on a visiting basis, when I was worked in one of Gencor's regional offices and was only summoned up to The Temple of Doom on high days and holidays!

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    Holland Street Mall: Johannesburg's mining history

    by CatherineReichardt Updated Oct 5, 2012

    In tandem with the adjacent Main Street precinct, the Hollard Street precinct (between Fox and Main Streets) is part of the highly successful urban renewal project that has been undertaken to celebrate Johannesburg's extraordinary mining history.

    The Marshalltown and adjacent Ferreirasdorp areas - now part of the Jo'burg CBD - were key to the development of the Witwatersrand gold mining industry and still house the South African headquarters of several international mining houses. Companies such as Anglo American and BHP Billiton were founded in South Africa and have used their South African assets as a springboard to develop truly international portfolios. Virtually all of the major South African mining houses are now listed on international stock exchanges as well as the local Johannesburg Securities Exchange (JSE) which used to be located in Diagonal Street, but which sadly joined the exodus of companies to the perceived safety of the Sandton CBD in 2000.

    Hollard Street was named after an Austrian-born lawyer who settled in Pretoria. It is extremely short and houses only two buildings with stunning Art Deco credentials: the BHP Billiton headquarters and the Chamber of Mines building, which forms the backdrop to this photo.

    This piece of equipment is a stamp mill, which was steam driven and used to crush the rock as the first step in extracting the gold. The stamp mills were imported and transported to the Witwatersrand by ox cart, and within a few years of the first gold find, over 10,000 were operating across the region. This particular stamp mill was commissioned in 1886 at the Robinson Mill at Langlaagte and was one of the earliest on the Rand. It was displayed at the Empire Show in 1939, and was subsequently donated to the City of Johannesburg.

    The Hollard Street precinct extends over onto the northern side of Fox Street, where you'll find an interesting collection of mine locomotives and cocoa pans (used to move men and materials underground) as well as the gorgeous replica of the Mapungubwe rhino.

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    Downtown Jo'burg - CBD, Hillbrow, Berea

    by catherineneill Written May 1, 2011

    If you're feeling adventurous (or brave) or if you're like me and are going stir crazy walking around in secure malls then there's always a city center tour to do.

    Whilst that seems the normal thing to do in any city bear in mind the center of Johannesburg has seen a flight of businesses from the CBD to the northern suburbs of Sandton which has led to the deterioration of the city centre to a no go area.

    Recent govenment initiatives to redevelop and re-attract business to the area are having some successes, but the area is commonly cited as one of the most dangerous on the planet! If you are going, go with a reputable tour guide or a local you trust. It's actually not that bad and I was glad to have seen it eventually

    Address: Johannesburg

    Downtown from a distance

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