South African Holidays in Gauteng

Gauteng, South Africa.

Capital: Johannesburg or "City of Gold"
Population of Johannesburg: More than 7 million
Provincial population: 8 million
Area: 17 010 km2
Percentage of the total area of South Africa: 1,4%
Percentage of GDP produced in Gauteng: 37,73%
Principal economic sectors: Mining (diamonds, iron ore and manganese), grape and other fruit production for drying, large-scale sheep farming, tourism

Gauteng is South Africa's smallest, richest, most urbanised and most frenetic province. Gauteng is known more for its business opportunities than for its tourism offerings. Although its scenic beauty does not rival that of Mpumalanga or the Western Cape, its draw cards are no less significant, even though they centre around heritage and urban culture. Its frenetic pace, gleaming shopping malls, trendy spots, and strange mix of ultramodern and traditional shops, makes Gauteng a fascinating place for visitors wanting to immerse themselves in South Africa.

Gauteng was the stage upon which the great drama of South Africa's freedom struggle was played out, and where the peaceful transformation to democtracy took place, allowing the county to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2004.It was here that Nelson Mandela and his colleagues acquired their political education in the 1940s and 1950s, and where their world-famous notions of leadership and democracy were formed. Gauteng has thus been at the centre of the "ideas revolution" and that tradition continues today. Ever since the great gold rush of 1886 in the Witwatersrand, Gauteng has been South Africa's foremost industrial centre.

Gauteng houses one of the world's great cities - energetic, inventive, endlessly creative, sybaritic, vibrant Johannesburg. For many people, Johannesburg and Gauteng are synonymous. Jo'burg, Jozi, Egoli - call it what you will this dynamic city is a great place to do business.It's the place to go for a real urban buzz. Everyone is on the move doing business, making money, making music, jogging, "gymming", cycling, partying till late, eating out, watching shows, movies and exhibitions - and shopping, shopping, shopping!

The older part of the city is developing an interesting character that hums with a new vibrancy - thanks to visionary inner city renewal projects. There are interesting nightlife venues in the centre of Johannesburg that offer restaurants, theatres, museums, craft markets and much more. outh African music is as diverse as the variety of cultures in this country. There are several live music venues in and around Joburg featuring everything from jazz and R&B to hard rock and traditional African music which itself has many sub cultures.

Soweto, one of Johannesburg's "satellite cities" is home to two million people living in an array of dwellings from large, modern homes to makeshift shanties and "matchbox" houses. A tour of Soweto is unforgettable for most visitors who will drink with the locals in a "shebeen", try the latest dance moves at upmarket nightclubs, soak up the national passion at a football stadium, or visit sites where epic struggles for freedom once raged. Tour guides will explain the fascinating history of Soweto, reliving highlights of Nelson Mandela's life there, as well as the 1976 uprising or "Children's Revolution". Day-trips out of Johannesburg are very popular.

There are some beautiful landscapes just an hour away such as the Magaliesberg Mountains and the Hartbeespoort Dam. There are wonderful country hotels and leisure pursuits such as horse riding, hiking, luxury spas, or hot air ballooning in this area. An interesting day trip is one to Pretoria, which is glorious in October, when the lilac Jacaranda trees are blooming. Another highlight is the Cradle of Humankind, near Johannesburg, which is a World Heritage site.

Pretoria

At the other end of the scale, Pretoria (now called Tshwane) has retained an air of genteel elegance, lounging under its cloak of purple jacaranda trees. It's a much quieter city than Johannesburg and somehow things do seem a little less frenetic. This is the seat of national government and where you will find most of the foreign embassies and consulates. Although Gauteng is very urbanised, there is much you can do to get away from the hustle and bustle. On a Sunday morning, you could watch a performance by dancing Lipizzaner horses - the only show of its kind outside Austria.

Soweto

Once home simultaneously to two Nobel Peace Prize winners - President Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Soweto is not only filled with famous people and historical events but is a bustling metropolis larger than the citycentre in terms of residents and sheer size. Here you will get a true feel for African hospitality, be able to indulge in the rich cuisine, stay in one of the many bed-and-breakfasts, and enjoy a cold beer at a "shebeen" while listening to some jazz.

Tourist sites linked to the anti-apartheid struggle Other key places to visit are the Apartheid Museum, Museum Africa and Constitutional Hill.The Apartheid Museum captures the major political events that took place in South Africa in the 20th Century, using dramatic techniques such as iconic images, TV footage, film and many artifacts. The story, effect and reach of the apartheid system is, for most, a moving experience.

Although it is termed a museum, visitors are given an opportunity to interact; creating a true-life experience that will be remembered long afterwards. At Constitutional Hill, visitors are able to tour the prison where many of South Africa's struggle heroes were imprisoned. Museum Africa gives a true reflection on the history of Johannesburg, with reproductions of a shack as found in informal settlements, a mining shaft and a collection of very early photographs of Soweto.

The Cradle of Humankind

This World Heritage site near Johannesburg, brings the remnants of early man to life. The fossilised remains of early man-like creatures from which human beings evolved were discovered in the early 20th Century at the Sterkfontein limestone caves in this area. The Cradle of Humankind rates as one of the best-preserved World Heritage sites. The area has been kept in its natural form, with little-to-no development.

Experience The Urban Buzz

Immerse yourself in the Jo'burg vibe (consult a Johannesburg guide) and get out and about! There are plenty of sophisticated restaurants, slick hotels, flea markets, trendy boutiques, art galleries, craft markets, bars, clubs, cafés and a brilliant music scene. For professional shoppers, Sandton City, Sandton Square, Rosebank Mall and Hyde Park Corner are some of the shopping spots to visit.

For the trendy set looking for pavement cafés and exciting music venues, Melville is one of the places to go, while the more elegant might prefer Parkhurst, which also offers great antique and décor shops. For those with more upmarket, but equally trendy tastes, fashionable Melrose Arch has much appeal, with great dance venues, exotic restaurants and sexy sidewalk cafes. Those in search of contemporary African culture and theatre scene should head for the Newtown precinct where the legendary Market Theatre puts on the finest productions.

Gold Reef City

The discovery of gold in Johannesburg made it one of the wealthiest areas of land in the world. Visit Gold Reef City and enjoy a trip down a 220m deep mining shaft, to what was one of the richest gold deposits ever found.

Interesting Day Trips

  • Hiking and hot air ballooning in the Magaliesberg Mountains.

  • Lesedi Cultural Village offers an authentic experience of South African culture and traditions.

  • Melville Koppies Nature Reserve has a first-hand stunning view of the city and offers a fun and informative walk through indigenous scrub, veld flowers and Stone as well as Iron Age ruins.
  • The Rosebank Craft Market offers a laid-back vibe where authentic African curios can be purchased, and outdoor restaurants that have live street entertainers.

  • The Union buildings, designed by the celebrated colonial architect, Sir HerbertBaker, were completed in 1913. Today they are home to government, set in spacious gardens with great views of the city of Pretoria.
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