Architecture Walking Tour (Self Guided), Johannesburg

Johannesburg is a well-known African city, having the tallest skyline on the continent. Many of old buildings have been leveled making way for modern buildings representing a new epoch of development for the whole continent. Take the following tour to discover the most popular and beautiful architectural buildings in Johannesburg.
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Architecture Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Architecture Walking Tour
Guide Location: South Africa » Johannesburg (See other walking tours in Johannesburg)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 8
Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.4 Km or 4.6 Miles
Author: jenny
1
Carlton Centre

1) Carlton Centre

The Carlton Centre is a skyscraper located in Johannesburg’s Central Business District, the commercial capital of South Africa and one of Africa’s most important financial centres. Standing 730 feet tall, the building has been the tallest in Africa ever since it opened in 1973. It was designed by Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, an American architectural firm. Credited with creating the modern glass and steel skyscraper, they also designed the Sears and Willis Towers in Chicago, and the current tallest building on Earth – the Burj Khalifa in Dubai.

The tower is at the heart of a city centre that has suffered in the past from high crime and suburban expansion. It is still open, though the adjacent Carlton Hotel closed in 1997. A mixture of offices and shops, it also features a viewing platform, which is a great spot to look out on this sprawling city and the Highveld countryside beyond. First conceived in 1967, the scale of the Carlton Centre is impressive to this day. Whilst the main tower rises over 200 metres in the air, almost half of the floor space is actually underground, within a large subterranean shopping centre. Built by Anglo American Properties, the building is now owned by Transnet, South Africa’s main railway operator.
2
Ansteys Tower

2) Ansteys Tower

Ansteys Tower is a historic gem amongst the modern skyscrapers of Johannesburg’s Central Business District, known locally as Newtown. Opened in 1937, it is an 82 metre high, asymmetrical art deco construction. The stone clad frontage has a cubist element, resembling an abstract stack of bricks. It is named after Norman Anstey, the owner of an elegant department store which once occupied the first four floors of the building. Anstey’s was renowned for its elaborate window dressings, seen through plate glass shop frontages. Whilst the store has now closed, many of the fittings still remain, including floor to ceiling mirrors and brass shop fittings.

The building was the tallest in Africa when it was first opened, and is now a National Monument, meaning that its architectural features are protected by the government. In addition to its aesthetic value, the tower has also played a minor part in the troubled history of South Africa. The residential portion of the building was once home to Cecil Williams, an actor, playwright and a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe – the radical wing of the African National Congress (ANC) political party. Nelson Mandela was also a member, and it was whilst posing as Williams’ driver in 1962 that he was captured and imprisoned.
3
Johannesburg Art Gallery

3) Johannesburg Art Gallery (must see)

Johannesburg Art Gallery is located in Joubert Park in the city's central business district. It is the largest gallery on the subcontinent with a collection that is larger than that of the Iziko South African National Art Gallery in Cape Town. The building was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens and consists of 15 exhibition halls and sculpture gardens. It houses collections of 17th-century Dutch paintings, 18th- and 19th-century British and European art, 19th-century South African works, a large contemporary collection of 20th-century local and international art, and a print cabinet containing works from the 15th century to the present.

The current collection includes works by Auguste Rodin, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Pablo Picasso, Camille Pissarro, Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, Herbert Ward and Henry Moore, and South Africans such as Gerard Sekoto, Walter Battiss, Alexis Preller, Maud Sumner, Sydney Kumalo, Ezrom Legae and Pierneef. It also houses an extensive collection of the work of contemporary local artists.

Tip:
The place is filled with wonderful art and talents but the environment around it is not so safe.

Opening Hours:
Tue-Sun: 10am-5pm
Free admission
Sight description based on wikipedia
4
Johannesburg Fort (South Africa's Constitutional Court)

4) Johannesburg Fort (South Africa's Constitutional Court) (must see)

Situated on Constitution Hill, the Constitutional Court of South Africa is a building that maps the turbulent recent history of South Africa. The modern courthouse is built from bricks first used to build a wing of Johannesburg Fort, one of the most notorious prison complexes in the world. The fort was first built in the 1890s by German colonel A.H. Schiel. Initially an armed garrison, it was intended to keep order amongst the transient early mining communities. The fort was first used as a prison following the conclusion of the Boer War. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned here, and Nelson Mandela was held in the prison hospital before being interred at Robben Island.

As much as the now-closed fort and surrounding prison buildings are reminders of South Africa’s troubled past, the Constitutional Court points to a bright, stable future. South Africa only received its first constitution in 1994, in an effort to reverse years of institutional discrimination under the apartheid regime. The court is a modern building fashioned from the rubble of the fort, and the judgments passed within it have enhanced its reputation as a symbol for a modern South Africa. The death penalty was abolished here in 1995, and homosexuality made legal in 1998. The courthouse is open to any visitors that would like to sit in on a session, and guided tours are also available.

Opening Hours:
Mon-Fri: 7:45am-4:15pm
5
Telkom Joburg Tower

5) Telkom Joburg Tower

The Telkom Jo’burg Tower is a telecommunications tower, situated in the affluent northern suburb of Hillbrow, close to Constitution Hill. It is known locally as the Hillbrow Tower, but was for many years named after JG Strijdom, a former South African Prime Minister. The current name refers to Telkom, South Africa’s largest telecoms company, and Jo’burg, a popular informal name for the city. The tower is the tallest structure in the entire continent of Africa, at 883 feet. Completed in 1971, it was also the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere for seven years, before being overtaken by the Mount Isa chimney in the Australian outback.

Like similar towers in many other world cities, the Telkom Jo’burg Tower was required to be significantly taller than all other buildings at the time. At one time, it was one of the city’s biggest tourist attractions, and housed a revolving restaurant at its summit. Sadly, the tower has been closed to the public since 1981 for security reasons. It is still one of Johannesburg’s most recognisable landmarks. In 2010, when the FIFA World Cup was staged in South Africa – with the final played in Johannesburg – a giant soccer ball was fitted to the middle of the tower.
6
Ponte City

6) Ponte City

Located in the northern suburb of Hillbrow, the Ponte City apartment building is a symbol of both the city’s ambition and the urban decay of the 1980s and 1990s. A futuristic, cylindrical building, Ponte City is the tallest residential building in Africa. Standing 54 stories and 172 metres tall, it is topped by the largest billboard in the southern hemisphere. Costing $2.5 million dollars, the apartment block was completed in 1975. In order to allow light to reach all areas of the apartments, the tower was designed with a hollow core and an outdoor rock garden at the ground level.

A floor filled with shops on the 8th floor, plus a raised walkway to the nearby university campus, demonstrate that Ponte City was designed as a gleaming living city. By the late 80s, gangs had begun to populate the building, taking over empty apartments. The block became extremely unsafe, and there were even controversial plans to convert it into a city centre, high rise prison. There are currently ongoing regeneration plans, under the working title of ‘New Ponte’. A famous Johannesburg landmark, Ponte City is widely seen in District 9, a hugely successful home-grown science fiction film set in the city.
7
Johannesburg Stadium

7) Johannesburg Stadium

Johannesburg Stadium is located in the Doornfontein region of the city, close to the central business district and transport connections. It forms part of a sporting campus which includes Ellis Park rugby stadium, a tennis arena, and an Olympic sized swimming pool. Johannesburg has a number of other top class sporting venues, including Soweto’s Soccer City, which hosted the 2010 World Cup final. The city has also hosted a cricket world cup final and the 1995 Rugby World Cup final, won by the host nation. These arenas have made Johannesburg one of the world’s most successful sporting cities.

Johannesburg Stadium has a capacity of 37,500 and is notable for its sweeping single roof. It is primarily used as an athletics stadium. Constructed in 1995, it hosted the Athletics World Cup in 1998 and the All-Africa Games a year later. It is also used by two of South Africa’s most successful sports teams for training and practice matches. Orlando Pirates, a successful soccer team known for their cross-city rivalry with Kaizer Chiefs, train here and play at nearby Ellis Park. The Lions, a regional rugby union side representing Johannesburg and the Gauteng area, are also based here. They play in the Super Rugby tournament, contested by 15 clubs from South Africa, Australia, and New Zealand.
8
Bertram's Mosque

8) Bertram's Mosque

Bertram's Mosque is attended by the Bertrams/Bez Valley Muslim community. This stunning design, by architect Haroon Joosub, contains a large floor area with blue carpet for worship and Arabic calligraphic inscriptions adorning the ceiling and murals.

Walking Tours in Johannesburg, South Africa

Create Your Own Walk in Johannesburg

Create Your Own Walk in Johannesburg

Creating your own self-guided walk in Johannesburg is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Museums and Galleries Walk, part II

Museums and Galleries Walk, part II

Johannesburg is known as an important and rich South African city. There are a lot of museums and mines providing information on the methods of gathering gold and other precious metals. It is also an important cultural city with museums and galleries presenting the history of Johannesburg’s formation. Take the following tour to discover its best known and most beautiful galleries.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 8.2 Km or 5.1 Miles
Museums and Galleries Walk, part I

Museums and Galleries Walk, part I

Johannesburg is a city known for its gold mines and other precious minerals. It is also an important cultural city with museums and galleries presenting the history of Johannesburg’s formation. Take the following tour to discover its best known and most beautiful museums and galleries.

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 Km or 4.3 Miles
Landmarks Tour in Johannesburg

Landmarks Tour in Johannesburg

In recent years many of Johannesburg’s old buildings have been the subject of renovations, preserving them as national monuments. Some of the structures are still utilized and some have become tourists sites, attracting visitors to the city. The city’s landmarks include towers, cemeteries, a fort, the Gandhi Square and the old post office. Take this tour to discover the most well-known...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 7.0 Km or 4.3 Miles
City Orientation Walk

City Orientation Walk

Traditionally not known as a tourist destination, in recent decades Johannesburg has seen the development of several attractions for tourists. Today's Johannesburg is the largest, richest and one of the most developed cities in South Africa and Africa, in general. It is home to some of the continent's tallest buildings, such as the Hillbrow Tower, the Carlton Centre and the Ansteys...  view more

Tour Duration: 3 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 6.3 Km or 3.9 Miles
Souvenir Shopping

Souvenir Shopping

It would be a pity to leave Johannesburg without having explored its specialty shops and bringing home something truly original. We've compiled a list of gifts and souvenirs, which are unique to Johannesburg, that a visitor might like to purchase to reflect their visit.

Tour Duration: 2 hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.3 Km or 2.1 Miles

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