Johannesburg has not traditionally been known as a tourist destination, but the city is a transit point for connecting flights to Cape Town, Durban, and the Kruger National Park. Consequently, most international visitors to South Africa pass through Johannesburg at least once, which has led to the development of several attractions for tourists. Recent additions have centered on history museums, such as the Apartheid Museum (with related visits to Constitution Hill) and the Hector Pieterson Museum. There is also a large industry around visiting former townships, such as Soweto and Alexandra. Most visitors to Soweto see the Mandela Museum, which is located in the former home of Nelson Mandela.
Visitors can get a feeling for the layout of the city by visiting the Carlton Centre, in the south-eastern area of the CBD, which has an observation deck on the 50th floor. At 223 metres (732 feet), it is the highest office building in Africa and affords sweeping vistas of the city and surrounds. The nearby Museum Africa covers the history of the city of Johannesburg, as well as housing a large collection of rock art. Also a large draw for tourists is Gold Reef City, a theme park which offers a depiction of mining life at the turn of the nineteenth century, including an underground mine tour; other attractions include a large amusement park and a popular tribal dancing show.
On the culture front, the city has several art museums, such as the Johannesburg Art Gallery, which featured South African and European landscape and figurative paintings. The Market Theatre complex attained notoriety in the 1970s and 1980s by staging anti-apartheid plays, and has now become a centre for modern South African playwriting. The Joburg Theatre is South Africa’s foremost “receiving house” of live entertainment—presenting world class theatre, both local and international. The suburbs of Melville, Newtown, Parkhurst, Norwood, Rosebank and Greenside are popular for their bohemian atmosphere, street life, and many restaurants and bars.
Shopping is often popular with tourists, as the city offers a range of venues and experiences, from numerous upmarket shopping malls such as Sandton City, Mall of Africa, and Nelson Mandela Square, to various markets and flea markets, such as the Oriental Plaza and the Rosebank Flea Market; the latter are popular for souvenirs and African art. See above. (Cultural) tourists also visit the “Mai Mai Market” (“Ezinyangeni” – the place of healers; located on the eastern wing of the city centre) dedicated to traditional herbs and traditional healers.
The Cradle of Humankind a UNESCO World Heritage Site is 25 kilometres (16 mi) to the northwest of the city. The Sterkfontein fossil site is famous for being the world’s richest hominid site and produced the first adult Australopithecus africanus and the first near-complete skeleton of an early Australopithecine. Other attractions in this area include the Lesedi Cultural Village, while Magaliesburg and the Hartbeespoort Dam are popular weekend (and holiday) destinations for Johannesburg residents. The Origins Centre Museum, see below, covers the origins of humankind in Africa, and houses an extensive collection of rock art.
Johannesburg and environs offer various options to visitors wishing to view wildlife. The Johannesburg Zoo is one of the largest in South Africa. The Lion Park nature reserve, next to Lesedi Cultural Village, is home to over 80 lions and various other game, while the Krugersdorp Nature Reserve, a 1500 ha game reserve, is a forty-minute drive from the city centre. The De Wildt Cheetah Centre in the Magaliesberg runs a successful breeding program for cheetah, wild dog and other endangered species. The Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve, situated in the “Cradle of Humankind” on 1200 ha of “the typical highveld of Gauteng” also runs a breeding programme for endangered species including Bengal tigers, Siberian tigers and the extremely rare white lion. To the south, 11 kilometres (6.8 miles) from the city centre, is the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve home to large mammals and hiking trails.