Johannesburg, aka "The City of Gold," started life as a small 19th-century gold-mining settlement. Today, this home of the Cradle of Humankind shelters millions of people. In fact, Joburg, as it is commonly known, is classified as a "megacity" and is the largest city in South Africa.
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Johannesburg was once home to anti-apartheid giants Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, and visitors to the city can get a glimpse of how these luminaries lived at the Nelson Mandela National Museum, also known as Mandela House, and Tutu House. Both sites are located in Soweto, a sprawling township of Johannesburg, on Vilakazi Street, believed to be the only street on Earth where two Nobel Laureates have lived.
Johannesburg also contains the Apartheid Museum, widely considered the world's pre-eminent institution concerning 20th-century South Africa.
For the center of all things cultured, creative, and caffeinated, head to Maboneng. Once a nondescript industrial district, today Maboneng, which means "place of light," is known as one of the hippest neighborhoods in the country and is overflowing with coffee shops, clothing boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants.
What To Do
The Cradle of Humankind, located near Johannesburg, is a paleoanthropological site and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here you will find an intricate system of limestone caves that have been a treasure trove of early hominin fossils. Its Maropeng Visitor Center, which resembles an ancient burial mound, takes visitors on a 14-billion-year evolutionary journey.
Historic Soweto is South Africa's oldest township. Founded in the 1930s, it is home to over a million people and in 2010 hosted the FIFA Soccer World Cup final. Soweto is also home to the former homes of Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, both located on Vilakazi Street, and the Apartheid Museum, where you can learn about the rise and fall of apartheid via film footage, photographs, artefacts, and more and view a world-class Mandela exhibition.
Maboneng has been dubbed "the coolest neighborhood in Johannesburg." Maboneng is a Sotho word that means "place of light," and it has brought light to a once dark part of the city. Modern Maboneng is renowned for its nightlife, one-of-a-kind cafes, eclectic restaurants, art galleries, and overall creative energy.
When to Go
The best time to visit Johannesburg is during shoulder season, March to May and September to November. Keep in mind that Johannesburg is in the Southern Hemisphere, so summer begins in December and lasts through February and winter begins in June and lasts through August.