One of the wealthiest regions on the entire African continent, Gauteng Province is the smallest, most populous and most affluent of South Africa’s nine provinces. It is home to three of South Africa’s largest cities, namely Johannesburg,Pretoria (Tshwane) and Soweto. The name Gauteng was given to the region after the first democratic elections in South Africa in 1994 and is of Sotho origin, meaning “Place of Gold”. It was here in Johannesburg in 1886 that gold diggers settled in droves to mine for the fortunes which were buried far below the burgeoning city.
Gauteng Province is dynamic, diverse and bustling with robust economic and transport infrastructure - this is undoubtedly the economic powerhouse of South Africa. Recent figures suggest a population of 9.5 million, which grows by an astonishing 100 000 people every year! It’s a truly cosmopolitan, multi-cultural region – you’ll be able to hear all of South Africa’s 11 languages spoken here, as well as the native tongues of many African residents and refugees who have been drawn here to find the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Not forgetting the residents from around the world who have been enticed to Gauteng’s mild climate and economic allure!
The multiculturalism of the region is celebrated through numerous art galleries. Among the most notable cultural, historical and artistic sites are Johannesburg’s Newton Cultural Precinct, which gives visitors and residents a glimpse into the diversity of the history and culture of the area. Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg was recently completed - here art, history and law assemble in an impressive development, and the Apartheid Museum outside Jo’burg’s city limits is an absolute must-see. The Union Buildings in Pretoria were designed by Sir Herbert Baker and attract visitors from across South Africa and the world to wander through the beautiful, tiered gardens and marvel at the impressive architectural structure.
Enjoy Gauteng travel and all the excitement of this South African province - from the shimmering skyscrapers of Johannesburg’s city centre to the leafy suburbs of easygoing Tshwane (also known as Pretoria) this region epitomizes city life and its diverse moods.
And wherever your Gauteng travels take you, Portfolio can guide you to the best, quality and luxury Gauteng accommodation in a range of B&Bs, guest houses, farm stays and safari lodges in this South African province.
Slap bang in the middle of the Highveld (Johannesburg at 1753m and Pretoria at 1370m above sea level) with nippy, frosty winters; summer weather is characterized by dramatic late afternoon thunderstorms.
An attractive city bursting with Jacaranda trees, Pretoria is the administrative capital of South Africa. Currently it’s going through a bit of an identity crisis – the name Tshwane has been imposed upon the greater metropole with businesses and residents in the city itself sticking firmly to Pretoria. The matter is still officially undecided, and is a fiery talking point amongst residents!
Tshwane / Pretoria's charm lies in its harmonious blend of African roots and European traditions. It is a progressive city where history meets 21st Century style and development; where vibrant township scenes compliment modern shopping centres.
It is a cultural city with a variety of museums, monuments and historical buildings that offer the visitor a glimpse of the city's colourful history. Art centres and craft markets add a contemporary dimension to the city's rich history. Make sure your Gauteng travel plans include a visit to Pretoria.
The Garden City Route includes the classical terraced gardens of the Union Buildings on Meintjieskop, offering dramatic and panoramic views of the cityscape. The stately Union Buildings - designed by Sir Herbert Baker - are famous for their well-kept, abundant gardens. This route also includes visits to a formal Victorian garden in the Burgers Park, as well as the Melrose House, Church Square and the Old Cemetery.
Pretoria is also home to the National Botanical Gardens and the Voortrekker Monument, the Magnolia Dell and parks in Arcadia and Hatfield. Also visit the nearby Atteridgeville Moroe Park and Ga-Mothakga Park. A drive through Pretoria will reveal many grand Colonial houses as well as the pride that residents have in their rose gardens. Hatfield is the trendiest part of town with charming coffee shops, a vibrant nightlife and creative characters.
The Sammy Marks Museum, 25km from the city, is an impressive Victorian mansion well worth a nostalgic turn. Some of the Pretoria suburbs you might visit include Waterkloof, historic Brooklyn, Wapadrand, Magalieskruin, Mucklenuek, La Montagne, Queenswood and the outlying areas of the Crocodile River Valley.
Johannesburg (Also affectionately known as Jozi and Jo’burg)
Pulsating, vibrant and fast. Stop for a moment in Jozi and you’ll surely get left behind! It’s that kind of city. Built on gold, also known as eGoli (city of gold), Jo’burg was established in 1886 and its early history was famously characterized by the “Randlords and Rogues”. Although the role players might have changed, the politics of Johannesburg remain, to a large extent, the same: exceptionally wealthy areas with high-rise walls and private security guards contrast with impoverished squatter camps. The Apartheid Museum on the outskirts of the city is an excellent and interactive testament to the horror of Apartheid.
Today the inner city has a distinctly African feel with many hawkers selling their wares, including fruit, on the sidewalks. In the northern suburbs of Sandton, Rosebank and Houghton suburban bliss abounds with tree-lined avenues and gated suburbs. The Market City Precinct is THE Arts and Cultural Centre of Gauteng Province.
The city is the largest and the wealthiest in South Africa and is literally packed with shopping centres, theatres and cinemas. Many fabulous restaurants, bars and coffee shops abound – after all Jo'burgers love company and the finer things in life! Sandton, Bryanston, Darrenwood, Melville, Craighall Park, Morningside, Halfway House and Houghton are popular residential and lifestyle suburbs. All this under the canopy of the largest man-made forest in the world since the earliest settlers were obsessed with planting trees on the stark Highveld plains.
Look out for Jozi’s Rea Vaya bus rapid transit system, which is due to launch in 2009 and is on track for the FIFA 2010 World Cup. Coupled with the Gautrain (high speed rail network), Rea Vaya is scheduled to revolutionise the city’s public transport system.
Darrenwood, Cresta and Northcliff
Darrenwood, Cresta and Northcliff are small suburbs of Randburg where you will find numerous houses and apartments dating back to the 1960s. There is the Darrenwood Sports Centre, the Darrenwood Dam and numerous sports clubs and bowling clubs. Just to the South of Darrenwood are the Johannesburg Botanical Gardens and the Emmarentia Dam and Sailing Club.
The nearest large shopping centre to Darrenwood is the Cresta Shopping Centre, which is situated just a few blocks away to the West. Darrenwood is also home to the bird sanctuary at Victory Park, and to the south the Alberts Farm Sanctuary. Darrenwood is only a few minutes’ drive away from the N1 Highway. Overlooking it all is Northcliff where many of the original homes have sweeping views to the distant Magaliesberg mountains.
At one stage in its past Fourways was a rural area centred around a four-way stop street. No more! Today, Fourways is a sprawling suburban landscape of townhouses and cluster homes and is also home to Johannesburg’s most popular casino – Montecasino.
Undoubtedly Houghton’s most celebrated resident is Nelson Mandela, and it’s easy to understand why he chose Houghton. It’s a tranquil, affluent suburb, with plenty of birdsong, large trees, generous old homes and swimming pools. Golfers can walk in the footsteps of golfing legends such as Ernie Els and Gary Player at the lush, scenic Houghton Golf Course.
The vibrant, historic town of Magaliesburg is less than an hour from Johannesburg and is geared towards tourism. The ancient, magical Magaliesberg Mountains are a popular holiday destination and weekend getaway for the Gautengers (inhabitants of Gauteng) and are filled with abundant wildlife and birdlife, waterfalls and dramatic kloofs and gorges. Popular with hikers and mountain climbers, these are some of the oldest mountains on the planet – they’ve been here for more than 2 billion years, and are even older than Grandpa Everest.
Meet the relatives at the Cradle of Humankind – it was here that the legendary “Little Foot” footprint (humankind’s closest relative) was found in the Sterkfontein Caves. The caves, of significant archeological and anthropological interest, are spectacular and well worth a visit. The Magaliesberg is a beautiful wooded region – a perennially popular antidote to the city life of the Gauteng region.
The trendy darling of Johannesburg is jammed with delightful restaurants, quaint coffee shops, bookstores, art galleries, junk shops and uber-hip bars. Seventh Avenue is where it happens – so much so that there’s even an Afrikaans soapie (7de Laan) that’s set on this street! The surrounding suburbs are full of enchanting houses, where Jozi’s hippest residents dwell. There are some great views of Jo'burg’s skyline from the Melville koppies (hills).
A suburb of Midrand, Halfway House is, as its name implies, half way between the Rand (Witwatersrand) and Pretoria and used to be very rural with plenty of smallholdings. Developers have moved in en-masse and most of the rural atmosphere has been transformed into trendy, modern townhouse complexes and various shopping centres with voguish restaurants. Midrand and Halfway House are built around the N1 and house large-scale industries, i.e. textiles and motor vehicles. With all the developments in Midrand, there is little break between the outskirts of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Gallagher Estate is a large and popular conference venue, and Kyalami Race track is the home of motor racing in Gauteng. Look out for Lipizzaners in the area – the South African Lipizzaners have earned the honour of being the only performing Lipizzaners outside Vienna, recognised by and affiliated to the Spanish Riding School.
The northern segment of Gauteng includes Tshwane (Pretoria lies within that metropole), Midrand, the charming Victorian town of Cullinan, as well as the picturesque town of Irene. In this region you can go from the city bustle to rural rustle in a short space of time. Cullinan is home to the premium diamond mine where many famous diamonds have been discovered, including the Cullinan diamond which sits in the crown jewels of the British Royal Family.
Randburg occupies the northwestern segment of Johannesburg and contains several established, well-off suburbs. Here you’ll find many shopping malls and thousands of billboards. The Randburg Waterfront is centered around a little lake and is a popular after work drinking haunt. The area is full of businesses - including many large media and television companies. Darronwood, Cresta and Northcliff are suburbs of Randburg.
Rosebank has it all: movies, shopping malls, upmarket hotels, fine dining, old homes, top art galleries, night clubs, businesses... And that’s just for starters! It’s an attractive and popular hangout for many of the city’s dwellers and visitors – there are some lovely open verdant squares offering sidewalk restaurants. Every Sunday, the Rosebank Rooftop Market above The Mall of Rosebank is full of stalls selling an array of goods from ceramics to clothing, from jewellery to pancakes!
Welcome to some of South Africa’s wealthiest square miles, but make sure you don’t get lost – take a streetmap or you could end up down one of the gated roads and you’ll be frustratedly zig-zagging your way up and down shut-off streets. Head for Sandton City - a popular shopping and entertainment centre. Sip a cappuccino in Nelson Mandela Square and marvel at the 6-meter tall bronze statue of the iconic statesman – and remember as you do, that the Rivonia farm where Nelson Mandela and other freedom fighters were arrested in 1963, is not far from here. Today, Lilliesleaf is home to an outstanding museum, where visitors can witness how the Rivonia Trialists were captured by the police – the old house remains and interactive displays make the museum well worth a visit. Sandton is a thriving business hub – over the years many high profile banks and businesses have migrated here from Johannesburg’s city centre.
Previously perceived as the steel and smog belt, the greater Southern Gauteng region bloomed about nine years ago when some local artists and crafters pooled ideas to bring visitors to this area, enticing them out of the hustle and bustle of city life to more peaceful and tranquil surroundings.
This southern segment of Gauteng is bordered by the pretty Vaal River which, with its water sports, is a popular weekend retreat for the city slickers. The Vaal Meander offers plenty of arts and craft factories and a myriad of restaurants and tea gardens. For motor vintage car enthusiasts, Heidelberg has a popular Motor Museum – which even has a few Formula One racing cars. On the outskirts of Heidelberg is the Suikerbosrand Nature Reserve – explore the reserve on foot or bicycle or in your car and catch the herbivore grazers in action.
Soweto acquired its name during Apartheid and stands for South Western Townships. It became known throughout the world following the tragedy of the Soweto uprising in June 1976 when black school children, frustrated at being forced to learn in Afrikaans, took to the streets to protest. The police fired shots to disperse the crowd and many children and adults were killed. Hector Petersen Square in Soweto honours those who were slain during the uprisings.
Today, over 3 million people live in Soweto - there are some affluent neighbourhoods, and some incredibly poor areas where shantytowns prevail. It’s not unusual to find a large mansion-like home just across the road from rows of shacks! The biggest post-Apartheid challenge has been to deliver basic services to residents – water and electricity as well as parks and community centers. Poverty in Soweto is exacerbated by the area’s high unemployment and HIV/Aids rate.
Visitors to Soweto are drawn to Nelson Mandela’s bungalow where he and his former wife, Winnie lived in the 1950s and 60s before he was incarcerated for 27 years. The African Institute of Art & Funda Community Centre supports local artists, and the eKhaya Soweto Neighbourhood Museum showcases artworks and crafts – many of which have been created using recycled goods such as plastic bags and tins.
Visit Maponya Mall, a shopping centre in Soweto. The 65,000 square-metre development, costing R650 million, was opened in September 2007 by Nelson Mandela, and is the first such shopping centre in a township.
Experience township life. Portfolio has visited and selected township homes which have opened their doors to guests. Hosts extend an arms-wide welcome and offer modest accommodation with private or shared bathroom. Breakfast is enjoyed in generous African style with the family.