Johannesburg: Gold coast, Township and in-between



A few years ago, I was traveling with my daughter Janneke in South Africa. An amazing trip and one of the highlights of the last few years. So, you can discover unfamiliar places. Johannesburg: Gold coast, Township and in-between is a good example of the differences in one country! I was amazed and surprised by all those different sides.  

I will tell you more about our trip with my Covid19 motto in mind: “Looking forward, by looking back”. I hope we are all soon able to travel again. 


Arriving at OR Tambo International Airport we arranged a cab at the airport desk. They bring you to the cab, a comforting feeling (two women traveling). It took about 35 minutes because of heavy traffic but otherwise it is about 20 minutes to Melrose. By train takes also about 20 minutes for about 15€. But after 6 PM it was dark, so we preferred a cab. We also used Uber and that worked well). 

On all our other trips we used Gautrain, a rapid rail network that took us around town in no time.  

We withdrew some money from an airport exchange point. If possible, postpone your first withdrawal. For security reasons be careful. 

What to visit 

  • We always like to start -in a new city for us with a red bus tour for city sightseeing. It is good to get a first impression and visit the interesting parts later or just to get an overview if you have limited time. The audio explanation tells you all about the city highlights, history and where to be careful when walking around. 
  • During the tour we visited the Carlton tower (Before 2019 the highest building of South Africa) and saw from the rooftop the town with about 5 million inhabitants. The building itself is a bit of faded glory. 
  • Sandton is the commercial center of South Africa. Banks, head offices, the stock exchange, a genuine business hub. But we visited it because of the Nelson Mandela statue (big) the restaurants and shopping possibilities.  
  • Mining district, the discovery of a gold mine in 1886 was the first step to the growth of Johannesburg. Within 30 years it was the biggest city in SA. Nowadays the mining business in the Gauteng area is still key but sectors like manufacturing and financial services are increasingly more important.

Soweto Tour 

  • From Johannesburg you can do an extended tour to Soweto (Southwestern Township). We did it the day after our Johannesburg sightseeing tour. It was an impressive but also cheerful tour. This was due to the guide, a young, funny resident who is proud of Soweto. We started the tour at Gold Reef City Theme Park of Gold Reef Casino on the corner of Northern Pkwy and Data Cres. Soweto has about 1.5 million inhabitants living in informal basic housing but without water. The little brick houses with water or even up-market wealthy homes.  
Gold Reef
Gold Reef, Johannesburg South Africa
  • First stop at the Fiva World Cup 2010 Stadium. The beautiful colors give great photo opportunities. (And I remember the final in which Spain defeated our Dutch team in the extra time with 1-0 😏).  
Stadium Johannesburg South Africa
  • The cooling towers of an old mine are now a sporting attraction. You can bungee jump in a 40 m free fall or swing between the towers. 
  • Vilakazi street, with the houses of Nelson Mandela (you can visit it) and Desmond Tutu. We were lucky to enjoy a performance of traditional dancers.  
Nelson Mandela House, Soweto South Africa
Nelson Mandela House, Soweto South Africa


Dancers in Vilakazi street, Soweto South Africa
  • Soweto the Hector Pieterson Memorial, the memorial is named after the 14-year-old boy, who was the first who was killed by the police in 1976 Soweto student’s uprising. The memorial was created to “honor the youth who gave their lives in the struggle for freedom and democracy.” It was very impressive to hear the story of their courage. In South Africa June 16th is since that time youth day. To read more about their protest click here  (and see picture on top of this post).


Because we were only a few days in Johannesburg we did not have much time for shopping, but some suggestions: 

  • Rosebank Mall is a beautiful mall with lovely stores from jewelry to fashion to home décor. (I read some negative reviews in 2020 Please let me know your updates). 
  • Rosebank Mall also offers two markets. Rosebank Art&Craft market open daily and the Rosebank Sunday Market on the rooftop, open every Sunday from 9:00 – 16:00h. 
  • Maboneng Precinct is an urban neighborhood in downtown Johannesburg, an innovative and creative area. Home to art developments but also to flagship fashion stores.  
  • Nelson Mandela square, with a big, big statue of Nelson Mandela. Tasty food and about 90 shops.

“Goeie dinge is op ons almal se pad… Moenie ophou om te stap nie”

“Good things are on our path… Do not stop walking”

Bonus Tips 

  • Rosebank and Melrose are described as the safest areas of Johannesburg 
  • For “insiders”: Johannesburg is informally known as Jozi or Joburg 
  • Joburg: Hotel: We stayed in Melrose Place 
Melrose Place, Johannesburg South Africa

“Melrose Place is one of the finest boutique hotels in Sandton, providing upmarket business and leisure travelers with stylish accommodation and personalised service. We are conveniently located in the heart of Melrose and are only 3km from Sandton, Hyde Park and Melrose Arch. Our elegantly styled guest lodge is also within walking distance of the hub of Rosebank.” 

  • Because South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are opposite to Europe: winter falls in the months of June – August and summer in December – February.  

Enjoy Joburg


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Packing for Johannesburg

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