Museums and Attractions
- Constitution Hill with the new Court, the old Fort and the old Prison Buildings - excellent introduction to the geography and lay-out of Johannesburg from the Fort ramparts and the history of Johannesburg and South Africa. There are organized tours every hour on the hour. And of course the Constitutional Court judges, in choosing to locate their court at this symbolically charged site, have invested this dark place with a sense of hope and optimism. 011 381-3100; www.constitutionhill.org.za Closed Sundays and Saturday afternoons.
- Apartheid Museum www.apartheidmuseum.org 011 309 4700. A very 'text-heavy' museum lots of reading and videos with very few objects. Need a couple of hours to go through the space.
- Hector Pieterson Museum, one of the first museums in Soweto, it opened in 16 June 2002 two blocks away from where Hector Pieterson was killed on 16 June 1976. A small, manageable and moving museum. 8288 Maseko Street Orlando West 011- 536 0611; open 7 days a week.
- Mandela Museum the house that Mandela lived in from 1946 to 1962 and which Mandela donated to the Soweto Heritage Trust (of which he is the founder) on 1 September 1997, to run as a museum. Extensive upgrades were made to the museum which re-opened to the public in March 2009. 011 936 7754 www.mandelahouse.com. I think the changes were so radical the original character was destroyed – but can still get a good sense of the restricted spaces and poor facilities.
Origins of humankind
- Origins Centre Rock Art Museum, Wits www.origins.org.za 9-5 daily; excellent museum - well-conceived and one of the few museums that is still well-maintained. Guided tours provided plus taped tours available in English, French, German, Afrikaans, Zulu and Sotho
- Cradle of Humankind (40 minute drive) Comprises the Maropeng Information Centre which is about a 10km drive from the caves themselves (at Sterkfontein). There are tours through the caves at Sterkfontein during the day; check times before going. There is a small but very good museum at the Sterkfontein site 011668 3200 www.discoveryourself.co.za
Places of Interest
- A little jewel of a museum is Satyagraha House in Orchards. Little known even to Joburgers, this house is where Mohandas Gandhi lived while in Johannesburg from 1908-9. It is here that the future Mahatma developed his philosophy of passive resistance known in Sanskrit as Satyagraha. And it was this pacifist method of protest that he employed in India to lead the country to independence. www.satyagrahahouse.com.
- Newtown Cultural Precinct see www.newtown.co.za includes MuseumAfrica - Closed Mondays 011 833 5624 exhibits from the Stone Age to the present day; It has an amazing historical collection but like the Johannesburg Art Gallery below, is under resourced and is a shameful embarrassment. So until the standard of the Museum improves it is not recommended.
- SciBono Discovery Centre; Closed Mondays; Excellent museum and is well worth a visit if you have older children/young teenagers. 011 639 8400 www.sci-bono.co.za
- Although this isn't a museum as such, if you can, visit the Anglo Gold Headquarters cr Jeppe and West St. Enter from West St. It is a wonderful example of adaptive re-use of an industrial building - the old turbine hall which housed the turbines for the electrical power station which supplied much of Johannesburg's electricity. For more see my blog.
- The Wits Art Museum, known very zappily as WAM, opened in May 2012 at no 1 Jan Smuts Ave. This contemporary space, home to a collection of about 9000 art works, is the first Museum in South Africa dedicated to African Art. Unfortunately finding parking remains a challenge. It is well worth the visit though, both to see the permanent display as well as current exhibitions. See www.wits.ac.za/wam/. On the second floor of WAM is one of Jozi’s best kept secrets. The huge collection of artists’ books ie art made in the form of a book. For more information, see here.
Other cultural experiences
- Lesedi Cultural Village is a 50 minute drive from Joburg on the R512 towards Hartebeespoort dam - 082 523 4539 www.lesedi.com. Here mock villages introduce you to 5 of the rural ethnic groups of South Africa whose traditional rural cultural practices are theatrically re-enacted: amaZulu, Pedi, amaNdebele, Xhosa and Sotho (no reference to urban living here!) Very touristy but well-done. 2 shows a day 11.30 to 2.30 and 16.30 to 19.30; advisable to book. If self-drive rates for show and including lunch/dinner R430 pp; excluding lunch/dinner R265 pp. Do the late afternoon show when it is not mid-winter and stay for dinner at Nyama Chomo. Very touristy but well done and well worth a visit.
- Gold Reef City: Theme Park of early Johannesburg and early mining adjacent to the amusement park 011 248-6800 Closed Mondays Open every other day 9.30-5. (Next door to Apartheid Museum) www.goldreefcity.co.za. Well worth it to go down a mine.
- Johannesburg Art Gallery, Joubert Park Closed Mondays. Like MuseumAfrica, it is city funded and is embarrassingly under-resourced and under-funded. An excellent collection with totally inadequate human and financial resources to maintain and display it as Johannesburg's flagship of South African art should be. It doesn't even have a website. What more can one say? And in a very edgy area of Johannesburg seething with taxis, informal traders and general chaos!!
- National Museum of Military History: Situated next to the Zoo. 011 646-5513 Open Daily 9-16.30 I'm not a military machinery person but it provides an interesting overview of South Africa's military history including resistance movements and the integration of Umkonto we-Sizwe (MK) post 1994 www.militarymuseum.co.za
- Walking tours of the early mining days and colonial history of Johannesburg: join one of the Parktown Westcliff Heritage Trust walking tours - they are interesting although the content is not always rigorously critical. Visit joburgheritage.org.za for the programme and prices.