For many people coming to Southern Africa, a visit to Johannesburg at the beginning or end of their trip is mandatory as it is a major travel hub for the entire region. However, a stop over for a few extra days in the city is really fulfilling, since it is more than just a ‘concrete jungle’ and has a lot to offer in a historical and cultural way. Before digging deeper in to what the city has to offer and the things to do in and around, it’s good to get to know some facts about Johannesburg which are not always found in every guide book. If you are planning a visit to the city of gold check out this post about the best things to do in Johannesburg.
13 Interesting facts about Johannesburg
- Johannesburg was founded in 1886, after gold was found on a local farm in 1884. This discovery started the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and attracted 1000’s of early settlers. In a matter of only 10 years, the city grew to 100.000 inhabitants. Currently, the greater Johannesburg area has just over 8 million residents, making it the largest city of South Africa. Johannesburg is also affectionately known locally as ‘Jo’burg’, ‘Jozi’ or ‘Egoli’, the latter meaning, quite appropriately, ‘Place of Gold’.
- The largest man made “Urban” forest is located in Johannesburg. There are over 6 million trees in the city. The area of Jo’burg used to be grasslands, so most of the planted trees are not indigenous. After the discovery of gold, lots of trees were planted for the props of the mines, many of those planted were blue gum trees.
- O.R. Tambo is Africa’s biggest and busiest airport. The airport used to be called ‘Jan Smuts Airport’. A first name change came in 1994, just after Apartheid ended, to ‘Johannesburg International Airport’. In 2006 the airport changed names a 2nd time to ‘O.R. Tambo International Airport’. (Named after one of the former presidents of the ANC political party, Oliver Reginald Tambo).
- Contrary to what many people may believe, South Africa actually has 3 capital cities, but Johannesburg is not one of them. The three capital cities of South Africa are: Pretoria (administrative), Bloemfontein (judicial) and Cape Town (legislative). Johannesburg however is the largest city of the country.
- The Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital is the worlds third largest hospital, with over 3200 beds and 6760 staff members. The facilities are housed in 429 buildings and are located in the suburb of Soweto (South West Township).
- The Mponeng Gold Mine is the worlds deepest mine and extends down to 4 kilometres below the surface. A trip to the bottom of the mine takes about an hour.
- Another interesting fact about Johannesburg is that it is the the city with the most amount of tallest building structures on the African continent. Such buildings are clearly visible when looking at the skyline. Amongst the highest are the Hillbrow Tower, Sentec Tower and the Carlton Centre.
- Johannesburg is not located near to any ocean or sea, nor close to any navigable river. Over 50% of its cargo arrives through the ports of Durban and Cape Town (both located by the ocean). The container terminal ‘City Deep’ in Jo’burg is the largest ‘dry port’ in the world. It was developed in 1977 by the South African Railways.
- According to the MasterCard index rankings, Johannesburg is the most visited city on the African continent. A large amount of museums, iconic sight seeings, business and culture drives yearly a few million visitors to the city.
- When arriving in Johannesburg, you might need a day or 2 to fully acclimatize, depending on where you have come from. The city is located on the Highveld plateau at an altitude of 1753 metres above sea level. Since the city is not surrounded by mountains, you will not immediately realize that you are at this high altitude.
- Vilakazi Street in Soweto (South Western Township) is the only street in the world to have had 2 Nobel Peace Prize winners living there. Namely, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela. A visit to Soweto either by bike or as part of a day tour is one of the highlights of a holiday in Johannesburg.
- At 269 metres, the former Hillbrow Tower is the tallest structure on the African continent. The tower is located in the Hillbrow neighborhood, hence its original name. The tower was constructed by the South African Post and Telecommunications company, now called Telkom. In 2005 the tower was renamed the ‘Telkom Jo’burg Tower’.
- The Cradle of Humankind and the Sterkfontein Caves, situated in the near proximity of Johannesburg, has been a Unesco World Heritage site since 1999. A 2.3 million year old fossil was discovered there, nicknamed Mrs. Ples. More than one third of early hominid fossils ever found prior to 2010 have been discovered in Sterkfontein.
As you can see, there are lots of interesting facts about Johannesburg and it is a fascinating city. We can easily say that it is one of Africa’s most important economic, cultural and business hubs. Some of these Johannesburg facts are generally known and others are interesting to know when visiting the city.
Have you ever been to Johannesburg? Do you know some more interesting facts about Johannesburg?
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Day Tours in Johannesburg
If you would be interested in visiting the city, we would highly recommend taking a tour with a qualified guide. They will take you around to the most important sights and will supply you with lots of interesting facts and history about Johannesburg. For more information, do contact us here for some great deals.
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