All about Gauteng
Gauteng has a unique geography, offering a combination of natural beauty and mineral wealth. Situated on South Africa’s Highveld, a high-altitude grassy plateau, the province is home to the picturesque Magaliesberg and Witwatersberg mountain ranges. The province is also the site of coal and diamond extraction operations, but it is best known for its gold deposits. The Witwatersrand (“ridge of white waters”), which runs through Gauteng – meaning “place of gold” in Sesotho – is famous for being the source of 40% of all the gold ever mined from the Earth.
Gauteng is the economic powerhouse of South Africa, accounting for a third of the country’s gross domestic product. Politically, the three metropolitan municipalities – the cities of Johannesburg and Tshwane (Greater Pretoria)and Ekurhuleni (East Rand)– have come together to build a globally competitive city-region.
Gauteng also boasts a rich history.Our unique heritage revolves around the origins and evolution of humankind, mining and politics, especially the legacy of the system of apartheid.
Getting to Gauteng is simple enough: fly to OR Tambo International Airport – the gateway to Africa – catch a bus or train from anywhere in South Africa or, for the brave at heart, take an overland trip through Africa!
Once here, getting around the province is easy. Gauteng has a well-designed road system and hiring a car from a major rental agency or organising a reliable and safe transfer or lift is straightforward.
South Africa has a well-developed mobile telecoms infrastructure and four national operators: Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and the newly launched 8ta service. Visitors to the country can rent phones linked to local service providers or utilise roaming facilities, should their home providers offer such a service in the country.
Things to do in Gauteng
There’s never a dull moment in Gauteng, and visitors to the province will not be short of activities to fill their hours. Whether you enjoy exploring heritage spots, absorbing arts and culture, trawling the markets and malls for interesting memorabilia or simply soaking up the sunshine in the great African outdoors, Gauteng’s sure to have something to suit your tastes. Sample traditional cuisine, enjoy local theatre or music or get your sports shoes out for some more vigorous activities.
Safety and security
Despite alarmist travel guides and negative press, tourists should not feel fearful in Gauteng. The provincial authorities have put various initiatives in place to improve security, such as installing surveillance cameras and increasing the visibility of police.
Johannesburg is situated 1 700m (about 5 580ft) above sea level. It is separated from Pretoria (1 330m or 4 400ft) by low parallel ridges and rolling hills. The north of the province is more subtropical, due to its lower altitude, and is always a few degrees warmer than Johannesburg.
Brief afternoon thunderstorms are common in summer, but the humidity level rarely becomes uncomfortable. Winters are crisp and dry, with frost occurring in the southern areas. Snow is rare, but has occurred on some occasions in the Johannesburg metropolitan area, usually in September.
Johannesburg averages January: maximum 26°C (79°F); minimum 15°C (60°F) June: maximum 16°C (61°F); minimum 4°C (39°F) Annual precipitation: 713mm (28in)
Pretoria averages January: maximum 29°C (84°F); minimum 18°C (64°F) June: maximum 19°C (66°F); minimum 5°C (41°F) Annual precipitation: 674mm (26.5in)
Most of the province’s rainfall is recorded in the summer months, from October to March, which see temperatures in the high 20s. The ultraviolet radiation (UVB) sunburn index can be very high and it is advisable to apply sunscreen regularly.
Winter – from June to September – is relatively mild but sunny. It is cold in the mornings and evenings.
Sports and outdoor events
With favourable weather throughout the year, sports and outdoor activities are a favourite form of relaxation in Gauteng. The province also has an abundance of world-class conference and exhibition facilities, which can host any function from a small gathering to a large international musical event.
Gauteng has hosted many international conferences, performances and summits, proving it is a prime destination for local and international meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions (MICE). The largest event to date was the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, which drew tens of thousands of delegates, including heads of state. Notable international sporting events that have taken place in Gauteng include the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the 2003 ICC Cricket World Cup, the 1998 All Africa Games, the 1995 Rugby World Cup and a 1993 Formula One grand prix. Gauteng has also hosted concerts by famous international bands including U2, REM, Salif Keita, UB40 and our very own Johnny Clegg, to name a few.
In Gauteng there is no shortage of sports and activities. Soccer is extremely popular and Orlando Pirates and Kaizer Chiefs, both from Gauteng, are among South Africa’s two most popular teams. Clashes between these arch-foes are a spectacle not to miss, and usually take place at the magnificent FNB Stadium. If you want local colour and culture, make a point of attending one of their games. Soccer matches take place almost all year round
Sports grounds are dotted throughout the main cities and are kept in good condition. Two of the main rugby stadiums in South Africa are in Gauteng. Loftus Versfeld in Tshwane, home of the Blue Bulls, offers spirited games, a very partisan crowd, cheerleaders, indigenous dancers and a whole lot of atmosphere. Ellis Park in Johannesburg is hallowed ground for supporters of the Golden Lions. It was here that the Springboks won the Rugby World Cup in 1995.
The Wanderers Club in Johannesburg is the official home of Gauteng cricket. Together with SuperSport Park in Centurion, Tshwane, and Willowmoore Park in Benoni, Ekurhuleni, it played a significant part in the success of the 2003 Cricket World Cup.
There are a number of beautifully designed golf courses in Gauteng. Grand Slam winner Jack Nicklaus designed Pecanwood Golf and Country Club.
For the racehorse lover, Gauteng is the place to be. The province boasts three racecourses – Newmarket Turf Club in Ekurhuleni, Turffontein in Johannesburg and The Vaal in Sedibeng. South Africa has internationally recognised breeders and trainers. Equestrian sports are also popular and Gauteng has produced world-class showjumpers and hosts a series of equestrian events from showjumping and dressage to cross-country. There are also a good number of riding schools in Gauteng, particularly in the Kyalami area, famous for its motorsport racetrack. South Africa’s famous Lipizzaners perform for the public at their Kyalami showground.
Swimming pools – as anyone flying into OR Tambo International Airport can attest – are simply everywhere. Most major hotels and resorts have a choice of pools where visitors can make the most of the sunshine. There are also a number of public pools for the more serious trainer. The Vaal River offers water sports such as jet skiing, water skiing and motor boating that will keep both families and serious sportspeople entertained for hours.
Adventure sports offer visitors to Gauteng some interesting options. Skydiving is very popular, if falling out of a perfectly good plane is your idea of an adrenaline rush. You can join the Johannesburg Skydiving Club, and the Pretoria skydiving club at Wonderboom offers paragliding, hang-gliding and skydiving excursions.
For all other sports lovers there is a wealth of recreational facilities to choose from for almost every sport under the African sun. After a day of sporting fun, you can soothe aching muscles at one Gauteng’s world-class health spas.
If you are more of a fan than a player: cricket teams tour the country in summer, and winter brings our favourite rugby foes to these shores – the famous All Blacks and Wallabies – for the Tri-Nations. Provincial teams from Australia and New Zealand play in the Super Rugby tournament. A local rugby derby between provincial teams fills any remaining gaps on the calendar.
From the majestic Magaliesberg mountain range in the north, to the Vaal River in the south, and along the meandering Crocodile River, a tapestry of resorts and activities awaits. This region is gaining increasing popularity and, as ever more discoveries are made, prepares to welcome the world as the Gateway to the Cradle of Humankind.
As with the dramatic golden sunsets, the area simultaneously reflects the warmth of its natural wonders and the charm of its friendly and diverse cultures.
Western Gauteng is a less-than 45-minute drive along excellent highways from Sandton, (N1), Pretoria (R28), and Johannesburg, and is close to international and local airports.
Tshwane is the capital city of South Africa and the seat of government administration. Established in 1855, the city has grown into a bustling metropolis.
Hooting taxis, buses crammed to capacity and hawkers selling an array of fresh fruit and other articles at intersections and on pavements are in stark contrast to the chauffeur-driven vehicles of diplomats and the upmarket shops and boutiques where the well-heeled shop. And when buying spices from the Asiatic Bazaar or admiring the beautiful Miriamman Temple, the oriental atmosphere is tangible.
Tshwane is often referred to as the Jacaranda city because of the 70 000 Jacaranda trees that line the streets and blossom in October.
Explore our colourful and often turbulent history in our many museums and at heritage sites. You can also view the art and the crafts of our talented people, relax in our parks and gardens and learn more about our history at places like The Cradle of Humankind and the Tswaing Crater.
Tshwane is host to the imposing Union Buildings, where the advent of democracy was ushered in with the inauguration of former president Nelson Mandela in 1994. You can also visit Freedom Park, a symbol of our people’s struggle for freedom and a tribute to the truth and reconciliation process.
Tshwane’s zoo is the largest in the country and our botanical gardens are spread over 76ha, virtually in the centre of town. We boast a fig tree older than 1 000 years in the Wonderboom Nature Reserve and the Groenkloof Nature Reserve, which was proclaimed a game sanctuary by Paul Kruger in 1895, making it the oldest sanctuary in Africa. In the early 1900s, the Premier Diamond Mine in the town of Cullinan yielded the largest gem diamond ever found, and is still in production.
The list of attractions is endless and, coupled with our excellent tourism infrastructure, makes us a holiday and business destination that will not disappoint. We look forward to welcoming you in Tshwane.
Sedibeng is the most southerly region of Gauteng, stretching from the Johannesburg Metro district in the north to the Vaal River in the south. The region is known for the Vaal River, a popular weekend destination for water sport lovers. The Vaal Dam, a source of hydroelectric power, is also a hot tourist attraction. The Emerald Safari Resort and Casino offers entertainment and leisure for all the family.
A visit to Sedibeng is incomplete if one does not recognise the rich talent of African sculptors. The African craft markets in most tourist host areas offer the perfect choice to buy souvenirs from this region, which is so rich in its diverse heritage.
The Sedibeng District Municipality consists of three local municipalities: Emfuleni, Lesedi, Midvaal
Metsweding, in the north-east corner of Gauteng, is where South Africa’s biggest diamond was discovered and the area sparkles with natural and historical attractions. The region has many game reserves and conservancies, which are being linked together and restocked with game, with the potential to form a large “Big Five” game reserve in the future.
Against this backdrop of natural beauty, Metsweding offers a melting pot of history and culture. The area’s history is of particular significance to the Tswana, Pedi, Ndebele and Tsonga-speaking people, many of whom can trace their roots back to the ancient bush and rolling grasslands.
The present-day region, established in 2000, is developing a project known as “Dinokeng: Africa in One Day”. You can explore traditional Ndebele culture, go on a game drive, take in a shebeen and explore a diamond mines all in just 24 hours. Dinokeng was financially developed by the Blue IQ initiative to establish a premier tourist destination close to Gauteng, and it is a good example of tourism transformation aiming to create jobs and encourage social upliftment.
The development of Dinokeng is further underpinned by the fact that many South Africans are now able to experience tourism for the first time. The Metsweding region is a great value destination, with a variety of reasonably priced places to stay. There are superb hotels and game lodges, homely chalets, charming bed and breakfasts and rustic self-catering camps, all offering a warm welcome and great value for money.
Being so close to major urban areas means that even those people living in Gauteng can afford a weekend – or even a day – away from the hustle and bustle of city life. This region offers the spiritual retreats of Bronkhorstspruit, Gauteng’s only wine estate – Loopspruit – and numerous picnic spots at dams and nature reserves.
The quaint Victorian mining town of Cullinan is a treasure chest of history. The Cullinan experience includes visits to stone-built miners’ cottages, a turn-of-the-century station and authentic trading centre buildings, jewellery shops and museums, and surface and underground tours of the mine.
The City of Johannesburg is South Africa’s largest and most vibrant metropolitan area. Not only is it an area of commerce and industry, generating more than 35% of the country’s gross domestic product, it is also an area of friendly people, large open spaces, sports and culture; truly a sunshine city. Placed at the heart of South Africa’s communications network and boasting excellent infrastructure, Johannesburg offers easy access to many of the country’s major tourist attractions.
Johannesburg and the surrounding area offer a large selection of recreational options ranging from hiking and mountain bike trails for the outdoor enthusiast, to elegant theatres and art galleries catering for the culturally refined. Other attractions in and around Johannesburg include the Apartheid Museum, the Ann van Dyk Cheetah Centre, Melrose Arch and many, many more.
The city, especially the northern suburbs, hosts a large selection of comfortable and attractive accommodation facilities, ranging from budget backpackers and self-catering establishments to luxurious five-star hotels and lodges, while the gourmet diner has a wide choice of excellent restaurants with cuisine ranging from family fare to sophisticated a la carte menus.
Ekurhuleni means “place of peace” in Xitsonga. The region is comprised of several towns, including Alberton, Benoni, Brakpan and Tembisa. Ekurhuleni is known for its strong manufacturing capacity, employing a significant portion of the regional population. It is not uncommon to find an idyllic farm situated next to a frenetic factory, Ekurhuleni offers the visitor a glimpse of life in South Africa, in all its forms.
Shopping, dining and entertainment
Home to world-class entertainment venues, fine restaurants, day spas, boutique hotels, authentic African craft markets and fantastic jazz venues, Gauteng has it all. From shopping malls and African street markets to a cafe society, from restaurants and upmarket shebeens to the great outdoors – this is a province that offers instant gratification and no dull moments. Why not hang out at a cigar bar in Tshwane, pop into the African market in Ekurhuleni, rediscover your soul in Metsweding or head off for some bona fide township hospitality in Jozi?
The store owners and street vendors in Rosebank, Johannesburg, are a prime example of European sophistication and African ingenuity complementing each other. At the African Craft Market crafts and curios, porcupine quills and traditional carvings vie with nearby shopping malls offering gold jewellery, diamonds, artwork and designer couture.
Visitors are often dazzled by the quality of Gauteng shopping malls, declaring them some of the best in the world. Sandton City is one of the most upmarket shopping centres in the southern hemisphere. The centre features two of the country’s most luxurious hotels and over 200 shops. In fact, it is a covered village where you can park, bank, do business, dine, relax, shop, pamper yourself and go to the movies – all under one roof.
Most visitors would not want to miss the many craft markets where a strong local and African flavour dominates goods on offer, whether they be art, carvings, colourful caftans, beadwork, leather footwear or interior design items. Some of the bigger permanent markets are Bruma Market World, and the African Craft Market in Rosebank. Others are the Rosebank Rooftop Flea Market, which operates on Sundays and public holidays, and the weekly Michael Mount Organic Market in Bryanston, which sells only organically grown products and items made from natural materials. The Irene Village Market in Tshwane is held weekly and sells only handmade articles. Saturday is market day in Edenvale at Horwood’s Farm Craft Market. The Faraday Market in central Johannesburg is Gauteng’s only informal street market for herbal medicines.
On any journey through Gauteng you will find a variety of wonderful farm stalls selling fresh produce and homemade foods. Readers of out-of-print books can take advantage of a fine selection of second-hand bookstores where you can find everything from old classics to nearly new editions by young African authors.
Gauteng is known for its restaurants and authentic local fare. You will find anything from Thai, to Portuguese, to Cape Malay, to Italian (the real thing), to home-grown boerekos and authentic African cuisine.
To understand South African food it is important to know that a number of very distinct communities live within Gauteng’s borders. Africa features heavily as can be expected, and a few very famous names specialise in the continent’s unique cuisine. The Moyo group of restaurants serve modern, pan-African food in a theatrical setting that includes face painting and storytelling. Gramadoelas, meaning “Out in the sticks” and conveniently situated in the Newtown Cultural Precinct, offers traditional African food including fried mopani worms and crocodile meat.
Authentic shebeen restaurants in Soweto and Thokoza serve traditional specialities such as tripe, wild spinach, great T-bone steaks and the African maize meal known as pap. The Carnivore in Muldersdrift, on the West Rand, serves exotic meats, such as eland, crocodile, kudu and ostrich. These are grilled over open fires on large spears, which are brought to the table when ready. Diners are then invited to carve off choice bits to be enjoyed with typical accompaniments and local wines and beers.
Uniquely South African and very much in evidence in Gauteng is African-inspired Portuguese cuisine. It is unlike anything you are likely to encounter in Portugal itself. Chilli features heavily in this tradition, as do seafood dishes such as prawns, crab, calamari and codfish.
Cornuti in the Cradle is a tantalising restaurant overlooking the African bushveld in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site on the West Rand. Enjoy your designer Italian/French cuisine while viewing zebra and antelope.
Good Indian cuisine is served in abundance in Gauteng, particularly North Indian food. Dishes like rogan josh (mild but spicy lamb), tandoor (cooked in a clay oven) and korma (cream and cashew nuts, with the meat of your choice) are all available. Fordsburg, in Johannesburg, is home to the finest Indian restaurants. Kapitans Cafe in the city centre was one of the few multiracial restaurants during the apartheid era and offers traditional Indian fare.
Don’t forget to pop into Chinatown (near Cyrildene in Johannesburg) for the best Chinese food this side of Beijing.
An absolute local institution when it comes to dining is the outdoor barbecue, or braai as it is known locally. If you are not invited to a private home or game farm for such an experience, fear not. Make a reservation at one of Gauteng’s top-notch steakhouses and revel in the combination of fine wines served with the very best quality prime beef available.
Oh, and don’t forget to try Gauteng’s only wine farm – the Loopsruit Wine Estate in Metsweding.
A night (or day) on the town
Gauteng knows how to celebrate urban life and offers a wide array of experiences, from cigar bars, theatres and jazz cafes to weekend music festivals and an annual gay pride parade.
The Soho Suburbs: Melville in Johannesburg is a village within in the city – home to the artistic, the creative and the offbeat. Small hole-in-the-wall venues feature great live music as well as local colour of the Greenwich Village variety. Another Johannesburg “village” worth exploring is Norwood. Noodle shops, kosher delis and fusion foods are all around, interspersed with quirky shops and nightspots. The leafy suburbs of Parkhurst and Greenside offer excellent roadside dining and some of the best cuisine in town.
In Hatfield, Tshwane, a healthy student population from the nearby university residences keeps the nightlife going till the wee hours of the morning. Over 50 restaurants and a few music venues cluster together in a collection of non-stop entertainment.
Soweto is also fast-becoming a favourite nightspot for visitors to the province, with a number of excellent shebeens and home-grown restaurants on offer. Celebrate urban jazz and find out more about kwaito, a raucous music style that defines current South African youth culture. Why not extend your stay by spending the night enjoying true African hospitality at a local bed and breakfast?
Emperor’s Palace in Ekurhuleni is built on the site of the former World Trade Centre, where the Convention for a Democratic South Africa (Codesa) was held. As with the Gold Reef City, this project juxtaposes entertainment – theatres, spas, restaurants, gambling and shops – with a sense of history in the form of the Ubunye Museum, where the Codesa story is told.
Newtown is a highlight on every Gautenger’s calendar. Cross over the Nelson Mandela Bridge and discover a world of authentic African urban culture. For a week in August, the Newtown Precinct plays host to Johannesburg’s biggest annual jazz festival – the Standard Bank Joy of Jazz, which features over 200 local and international artists.
Also in August is the Cellar Rats Wine Festival where you can taste South Africa’s best wines in the tranquil outdoor setting of the Magaliesberg mountains. Winex in October is a highlight on any wine-lover’s calendar – boasting some of South Africa’s best wines (and a variety of new wines too). The ever-popular Jazz on the Lake at the Zoo Lake is held on the final day of the Arts Alive Festival in September. Also not to be missed is the annual Joburg Gay Pride Festival.