Gauteng is the economic powerhouse of South Africa. It’s the country’s smallest, but richest province, containing both Johannesburg and Pretoria within its boundaries. It’s pronouncedGhow-teng, with a guttural growl.
It doesn’t have the spectacular beauty, the abundance of wildlife and the excellent vineyards of other parts of the country, but Gautengers like to think it has the brains and the balls.
Both Jo’burg and Pretoria have good roads heading north to reach the malaria-free Waterberg area, which is rich game viewing territory with numerous excellent lodges.
Johannesburg is a cultural melting pot, with migrants from almost every nationality arriving in search of work. Glitzy Sandton and Rosebank are its main business centres and shopping hubs. They have five-star hotels, great restaurants and flashy shopping malls. The Rosebank Mall has an excellent crafts market in the basement and lots of restaurants in some very pleasant squares.
It’s in downtown Johannesburg that this city built on a gold rush is finally regaining its sparkle with several areas enjoying a major regentification.
For visitors, the Apartheid Museum is the greatest tourism attraction, as well as Soweto township tours. Also worth visiting is the popular market at Maboneng’s Arts on Main every Sunday. The Maboneng district is worth visiting at night too, for its quirky independent cinema, The Bioscope, and a host of Afro-ethnic restaurants in the surrounding streets.
On Sundays the action shifts to the Neighbourgoods Market in Juta Street, Braamfontein, another revitalised area where a few cafes and boutiques are bringing life back into the city centre.
For nightlife, Parkhurst, Greenside and Melville are the places to be, with bars and restaurants spilling out onto the streets until the early hours of the morning.
Pretoria, directly north of Jo’burg, has a few good museums, but lacks the pace and vibe of its rougher, rowdier neighbour. You can spend a pleasant few hours in Pretoria National Botanical Gardens, which include a rare succulent garden, a herbarium and a medicinal garden. The Pretoria Zoo is another great day out, and one of the best zoos in the world. To see animals in their natural habitat, heading west out of town will lead you to Pilanesberg Game Reserve in the North West province for some excellent game viewing. Pilanesberg is right next to Sun City, a great family resort with a casino and a bunch of attractions for the kids.
For an unusual outdoors experience, drive 40km north of Pretoria to the Tswaing Crater, a ring of hills 1km in diameter and 100m high. These hills are the walls created when an asteroid slammed into Earth 200 000 years ago. The crater is now full of salty water and there’s a small museum on the site. A path leads you around the rim and down into the centre.