Johannesburg Introduction Walk (Self Guided), Johannesburg

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 Tower. The city is closely associated with Nelson Mandela, who had spent here many years, in memory of which some of the local landmarks now bear his name. Take this orientation walk to explore these and other attractions of Johannesburg.
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Johannesburg Introduction Walk Map

Guide Name: Johannesburg Introduction Walk
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: 6.3 Km or 3.9 Miles
Author: jenny
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Gandhi Square
  • Carlton Centre
  • Ansteys Tower
  • Johannesburg Art Gallery
  • Joubert Park
  • Telkom Joburg Tower
  • Constitution Hill
  • The Nelson Mandela Bridge
Gandhi Square

1) Gandhi Square

Gandhi Square (formerly Van Der Bijl Square and Government Square) is a plaza located in the Central Business District of Johannesburg. It is named after the political activist and pacifist, Mahatma Gandhi. In 1900 on what was then called Government Square near the Court House, on 31 May Field Marshal Roberts accepted the surrender of the city from Z.A.R. Commandant, Dr. F.E.T. Krause. Judge Krause had been put in command of the city and had earlier prevented the dynamiting of the goldmines. The British allowed them a day to evacuate Johannesburg provided they did not set off the mines. The square is just off Rissik Street and it was a corner of Rissik and Andeerson that Mohandes Gandhi once had his legal offices. Today there is a life size statue of Gandhi in the square.
Carlton Centre

2) 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.
Ansteys Tower

3) 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.
Johannesburg Art Gallery

4) 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.

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
Joubert Park

5) Joubert Park

Joubert Park is one of Johannesburg’s first parks, located in the center of the city. It is a beautiful park with great views and a wonderful place to relax.
Telkom Joburg Tower

6) 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.
Constitution Hill

7) Constitution Hill (must see)

The Constitution Hill precinct is located at 11 Kotze Street in Braamfontein, Johannesburg near the western end of the suburb of Hillbrow. Constitution Hill is the seat of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

The hill was formerly the site of a fort which was later used as a prison. The Old Fort Prison complex is known as Number Four. The original prison was built to house white male prisoners in 1892. The Old Fort was built around this prison by Paul Kruger from 1896 to 1899 to protect the South African Republic from the threat of British invasion. Later, Boer military leaders of the Anglo-Boer War were imprisoned here by the British.

The Old Fort prison was later extended to include "native" cells, called Section 4 and Section 5, and, in 1907, a women's section was added. An awaiting-trial block was constructed in the 1920s. Both political activists opposed to apartheid and common criminals were held at the prison. Mahatma Gandhi was imprisoned here in 1906, and striking white mineworkers in 1907, 1913 and 1922.

Under the apartheid government, only whites were held in the Old Fort itself, except for Nelson Mandela, who was given a bed in the hospital section when he was as an awaiting-trial prisoner in 1962 prior to the Rivonia Trial. Joe Slovo, Bram Fischer, Albert Luthuli, and Robert Sobukwe were also inmates. The site housed prisoners until 1983 when it was closed.

Nowadays the site hosts the Women's Gaol Museum, Number Four Museum, and the Old Fort Museum with exhibitions on history and human rights in South Africa.

Why You Should Visit:
You can go into the cells, see and touch. There are signs everywhere in English to give you more information, as well as an orientation film to start. There is also an exhibition on Mandela and Gandhi.

Go for the guided tour. You'll get so much more out of it (and it's only a few bucks extra)!

Opening Hours:
Daily: 9am-5pm (final tour at 4pm)
The Nelson Mandela Bridge

8) The Nelson Mandela Bridge

The Nelson Mandela Bridge links the city’s two main business areas – Newtown (the CBD) and Braamfontein. An elegant suspension bridge, it is 284 metres in length and opened in 2003. Unlike many major road bridges, it does not cross a river or lake. Johannesburg is one of the largest cities in the world not to have been built on a river, lake or coastline. It instead crosses forty-two railway lines, as they converge, leading into the main railway station. Since the bridge opened, it has greatly improved traffic connections in this expanding, disparate metropolis.

A bridge, linking the two areas, was first suggested by town planners in 1993, as part of the city centre’s regeneration plan. Developers Steve Thorne and Gordon Gibson suggested the bridge be named after Nelson Mandela, who at that time was uniting the nation through his election campaign. Whilst the project was shelved for many years, the name has remained.

The bridge was designed by Dissing & Weitling, and is built from concrete and steel. A road and pedestrian bridge, it was renovated prior to the 2010 World Cup, when new lights were installed. The new lights, alternate through the colour spectrum, created one of the city’s most attractive landmarks once the sun goes down.

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.
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
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: 8.3 Km or 5.2 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: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.9 Km or 3 Miles

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