Are you planning on visiting Johannesburg as part of a holiday in South Africa? Would like to know more about Joburg before travelling there? Or would you like to know some interesting and fun facts about Johannesburg most people don’t know? You’ve come to the right place as we have some interesting Johannesburg facts to share.

people rowing in boats on a lake with text overlay 13 Interesting Facts about Johannesburg
13 Interesting Facts about Johannesburg

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For many people coming to Southern Africa, a visit to Johannesburg in South Africa 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 of Joburg 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 and around, it’s good to get to know some fun facts about Johannesburg which are not always found in every guide book.

If you are planning a visit to the city of gold, also check out this post about the best things to do in Johannesburg. So, what is Johannesburg known for?

History of 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’.

woman standing Overlooking the city from Zoo Lake in Parkview
Overlooking the city from Zoo Lake in Parkview

Johannesburg Facts

Johannesburg has the largest man made “Urban” forest

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 Airport

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).

Nelson Mandela bridge in Johannesburg
Nelson Mandela bridge in Johannesburg

Is Johannesburg the capital city of South Africa?

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.

Hani Baragwanath Hospital

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 Orlando Towers in Soweto are famous for bungee jumping in johannesburg
The Orlando Towers in Soweto are famous for bungee jumping

Johannesburg is the place of gold

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.

Johannesburg has the tallest building structures

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.

Worlds Largest dry port

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.

Johannesburg tourism

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.

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens with green grass and waterfall
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens

Johannesburg height above sea level

When arriving in Johannesburg, you might need a day or 2 to fully acclimatise, depending on where you have come from. Located on the Highveld plateau Johannesburg is located at an altitude of 1753 metres above sea level. Since the city is not surrounded by mountains, you will not immediately realise that you are at this high altitude and that Johannesburg is this high above sea level.

Famous Street in Soweto

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.

Johannesburg skyline at sunset
Johannesburg skyline at sunset

The Hillbrow Tower

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

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.

Johannesburg freeway road sign
Johannesburg freeway road sign

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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