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  • Last Updated: 25th July 2013

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Johannesburg - Sightseeing

Shopping

Increasingly, Johannesburg is becoming a city of shopping malls. South Africans have taken to their air-conditioned convenience in a big way. As good a place to start a shopping trip as any is the gaudy and individually styled Oriental Plaza, in Fordsburg, an upscale mall combining big name stores with engaging independent retail, bright fashions and African crafts.

In the upmarket suburb of Sandton, the Sandton City Mall is replete with top-end fashions, accessories and stores hawking African diamonds and gems of every hue.

44 Stanley, in Milpark, is the latest must-visit shopping destination - set in a disused warren of abandoned industrial units and is home to boutiques, street art, jewellers and metalworkers, batik and crafts galore.

Cresta Mall, Cresta, is where the city’s financial district workers come to splash their cash. You can stroll the streets here to find international chains, designer flagship stores, coffee shops and gift parlours.

Thankfully, Johannesburg hasn’t sold its shopping soul completely to the mall developers. This is still a city with a thriving street scene and plenty of neighbourhoods where the big name chains have still to make any impression at all. The city’s flea markets are still well patronised and definitely make for a far richer shopping experience all round. Try Mai Mai, on Anderson Street, for traditional herbs and crafts, and the Rosebank Rooftop Flea Market, on the top level of the car park, for more of the same.

African Craft Market, Rosebank Mall, is the place to head for the best souvenirs of your Jo’burg holiday.

Principal Sights

Soweto

Increasingly on the tourist trail, the township of Soweto is a must if you’re to get the complete picture of life in Johannesburg. This densely populated shanty town’s history is vividly brought to life on a guided tour, which would include the Mandela Family Museum, the Apartheid Museum (a must see) and Newtown’s vibrant crafts centres, cafes and squares.

Lion Park, Honeydew

Ever wanted to cuddle a lion cub? This is the safest place we can think of to try it out! This award winning conservation/ecology centre features a game area (antelope, zebra, giraffe, buffalo), a safari-park ride, gift shop and cafe. Great fun for the family.

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens, Malcolm Road

While Johannesburg is developing at a rate of knots, it’s good to get the chance to escape into one of the city’s few protected green lungs. This lovely botanic gardens is the place to head for a sunny afternoon spent admiring the region’s colourful native flora, and, with the brightly-winged birds who call the Botanic Gardens their home, some of its fauna too.

Montecasino Bird Gardens, Montecasino Blvd

If birds are your thing, this is the place. With vividly-coloured parrots, eagles and finches, this is the best spot for those keen on experiencing South Africa’s many transitory and endemic species of exotic winged life. Talks, birds of prey demonstrations and a great conservation programme make this a must-visit.

Origins Centre, Braamfontein

A fascinating journey of discovery from the dawn of time to modern day South Africa. The Origins Centre combines art, history, geology and audio-visual displays to present a unique experience that’s part cultural celebration, and part academic insight into this land’s vast legacy.

Gold Reef City

The place where South Africans come to play, Gold Reef City is a theme park with a decidedly African twist, centred around a 19th Century Gold Mine, and complete with twisting and turning roller coasters, white water rapids, a casino and plenty of eating and drinking options.

Constitution Hill

Rising from the Old Fort prison complex, where many thousands of South Africans were brutally punished before the abolition of apartheid, the South African Constitutional Court contains a courtroom, museum and art gallery telling this harrowing - but essential - story.

Northcliffe Hill

The highest spot in the city, Northcliff Hill has, as you’d expect, some of the best views of Johannesburg. Also known as Aasvoels Kop (Vultures Head), the viewpoint enjoys 360 degree panoramas, quiet pathways and picnic spots.

Soccer City Stadium

The gleaming centrepiece for the 2010 World Cup, the city’s very proud of its impressive new football stadium, a 97,000 capacity construction shaped like a traditional African cooking pot. You can take guided tours, or, if you’re lucky, you may even catch a match featuring one of the Soweto based Premier League teams.