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24 Hours in Johannesburg

South Africa’s largest city and the seat of its apex court, is also a fun and vibrant destination for holiday makers. From historic monuments such as Apartheid Museum to amusement parks such as Gold Reef City, from the administrative nerve centre Constitutional Hill to plush casinos like Montecasino, Johannesburg combines a bit of the old and the new for the wanderlust

Architecturally interesting and packed with thoughtful exhibits, Apartheid Museum sheds light on the most shameful episodes of the country’s modern history, the now defunct Apartheid system. The museum allows visitors to experience firsthand the various means of racial segregation adopted during the Apartheid era. Permanent exhibits to the museum include those dedicated to the rise of Black consciousness, the 1976 uprising, when South African youths took to the streets protesting about racial laws, Nelson Mandela’s rise to power, his imprisonment and subsequent release, and finally the formation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to promote forgiveness among the perpetrators and victims of racial violence. Unlike other museums of the world, the Apartheid Museum invites its visitors to immerse themselves in the faithful recounting of history as participants rather than as observers.

Packed with movie theatres, adrenaline-pumping rides, snazzy casinos and restaurants serving mouth-watering delicacies, Johannesburg’s biggest amusement park, Gold Reef City, is a sheer delight for the whole family. The theme park offers 16 thrilling rides, 14 of which are for the kids. If you want the fun to continue, then spend the night at one of the luxurious hotels in the park, such as Golden Reef City Theme Park Hotel or Southern Sun Gold Reef City Hotel. For movie buffs, there is The Barnyard Theatre, while for theatre aficionados, there is The Lyric, which hosts world-class theatrical productions.

The Constitutional Court in Johannesburg, Thursday, 11 August 2011 where Chief Justice Sandile Ngcobo passed down his last judgement in the court. Picture: Werner Beukes/SAPA

The highest court in South Africa, which today stands as a symbol of South Africa’s journey from an authoritarian, racist polity to a constitutional democracy, is also a brilliant architectural specimen, combining exhibits steeped in symbolism and rich artworks. The court complex, although situated in the place where the Old Prison Complex stood, is open and inviting. Visitors can take guided tours and brush up their knowledge about the tumultuous phase of South Africa’s history. 

Former South African President Nelson Mandela lived in this house from the 1940s to 1990s, after which he donated the house to Soweto Heritage Trust. Today, the house is a world-class tourist attraction meant for the preservation of the Nelson Mandela heritage. Tourists would love the rare old photographs of Mandela and his family and the inspiring quotes which are printed on huge posters that grace the walls of the house. A trip to Mandela House is perfect if you wish to give your child a hands-on lesson in history.

Nature lovers who cannot visit the Serengeti could make do with the world-famous Johannesburg Zoo, an extensive property featuring 320 species of mammals, birds and reptiles. It is the only zoo in the world that has successfully bred exotic and endangered species such as the white lion (a genetic mutation of the African lion) and Siberian tigers, the largest cats in the world. However, the most famous resident of the zoo was undoubtedly Max, the gorilla, who sadly died in 2004. Visitors can now admire the lifelike bronze statue of Max that graces the precincts of the zoo, which offers a number of dedicated tours for senior citizens, kids and even night-time safaris.

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