Johannesburg City Tour

In my last post I covered Lion park & Sterkfontein caves which was a wonderful & unforgettable experience, now let’s explore the city too.

We came out of Sterkfontein caves and proceeded to the Johannesburg city. The road was smooth and was not crowded untill we reach the main city.

On the way to Johannesburg city

First we went to Sandton City centre which is located at the centre of Sandton – Johannesburg . It is a huge mall adjacent to Nelson Mandela square with more than 290 shops / restaurants and entertainment venues . Half an hour we hanged out there and then moved towards Nelson Mandela square which is very close to Sandton city centre.

Nelson Mandela Square

When Sandton Square – Johannesburg was celebrated its 10th anniversary of democracy in South Africa, it was renamed the Nelson Mandela Square.

Nelson Mandela Square is surrounded by world-class hotels and restaurants. The popular Sandton City Shopping Center is adjacent to Nelson Mandela Square.

Nelson Mandela Square is dominated by a massive , bronze tribute to the moral voice of South Africa’s struggle for freedom and reconciliation. The statue, nearly 20 feet tall, dominates one end of a square in Sandton, the posh white suburb of Johannesburg that has emerged as the nation’s post-apartheid business capital. Unveiled in March 2004, this is the first public statue of Mandela. But it doesn’t stand in the forecourt of a government agency. It marks the entrance to a fancy mall, built in the 1990s and renamed after Mandela in 2004.

The statue is known to be higher than the world’s tallest giraffe, weights 2.5 tons, the statue was sculpted by Kobus Hattingh and Jacob Maponyane.
The intention of this statue is not only to honour the former president’s vision of a free and just South Africa, but also to create a focal point where local and foreign tourists can reflect over the events that led to the creation of the Rainbow Nation. Here, you will always see tourists desperately trying to get a photo of themselves standing next to this tall statue.

An already fashionable area with its sidewalk cafes, fine dining and some 93 exclusive shops, Nelson Mandela Square has become one of the most popular venues in South Africa.

We clicked couple of pictures along with the Nelson Mandela’s statue and moved towards our next destination “Carlton Centre – Top of Africa”

Carlton Centre – Top of Africa is located in Downtown which is most happening place of the Johannesburg city.

After parking the car , our driver took us to the ticket counter , to visit “Top of Africa” – 50th floor of the building. The entry fees for adult is Rs.15 and for children Rs.12.

view from top of Africa

The top of Africa is open for public from 09.00 AM to 06.00 PM (Mon to Fri.) , 09.00 AM to 05.00 PM (Sat.) , 09.00 AM to 02.00 PM (Sun.)
After buying tickets we proceeded towards lift ,it took us hardly one min to take us to the top floor.

This building was built in 1973 and has 50 floors It has been tallest standing building in the whole Africa. The height of the building is 223 meters. It has a mix of the major retail outlets found in most shopping malls, as well as several office suites. Top of Africa remains open to those seeking an uninterrupted view of Johannesburg.

The centre complex was once home to the five-star, 30-storey Carlton Hotel. The Carlton Centre was designed by the American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill. Anglo American Properties which began construction in the late 1960s by demolishing the old Carlton Hotel.

From the 50th floor which is known as Top of Africa gives the visitor a panoramic view of the City of Gold. We captured the view in our camera from all directions.

There is very little description about Mahatma Gandhi, though exhibition of photographs depicting the famous satyagraha movement led by Mahatma Gandhi we can see there.

Exhibition on satyagraha movement

Now we were feeling very hungry, the restaurant on 50th floor was very expensive so we came down to ground floor and had our lunch at Nando’s .
After that we moved further for our last destination “Constitution Hills” before going to Airport.

Constitution Hill has following places to visit:-

1. The number four (Jail)
2. Old fort
3. Women Jail
4. Constitution court
5. Great steps of Africa
6. Constitution Square

Constitution Hill remembers the horrors of the past, and yet embraces the promises of the future, marrying them with the reality of the present. It is home to the Constitutional Court, the birthplace of SA’s democracy and protector of human rights.

Quote by Nelson Mandela “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens but its lowest ones.”

After buying ticket we first saw a small documentary about the injustices of South Africa’s past while observing the process by which freedom was won and is now protected.


By the time documentary was about to end, our guide came back and took us to Number Four which is the place where thousands of blacks were imprisoned and brutalised, but it is also the place where many learned to survive and defy their jailors. Many of the prisoners were guilty of non-political crimes. But many tell foul of race laws or were guilty of resisting these laws, such as Mahatma Gandhi and Robert Sobukwe. A visit to the Number Four exhibition raises the question of who is a criminal and evokes the experience of what it was like to be imprisoned in this place of darkness.

Number Four (Jail)

Overcrowding was a constant problem in Number four. These communal cells housed double the numbers of prisoners they were designed for.

Blanket Sculptures were the best time pass for the prisoners , every Sunday prison officials used to carry out inspection of the Number four. Prisoners with most creatively decorated cell used to get reward such as cake or extra breads.

Blanket Sculptures

Some more Blanket Sculptures

No words for those Talented prisoners

White prisoners would eat like they were in a restaurant where you can have menu and choose what you wanted to eat. Blacks would get filth food, beds , blankets , toilets , utensils & clothes due to which most of the black prisoners suffered from enteric fever , typhoid etc.

Utensils used by the prisoners

In Number four we visited an exhibition hall on Gandhiji .He was first arrested on Jan 10th, 1908.

Gandhiji sent a pair of sandal to General Smuts which he made when he was in prision. Smuts wore them for 25 years and then returned them to Gandhiji saying “ I am not worth to stand in the shoes of such a great man”

There prisoners were kept in separate cells (Kal Kothari) where they were not allowed to mingle with other prisoners.

Separate cell (kal Kothari)

After taking a round of Number four we came out and visited women jail which was built in 1910, the grace of this Victorian brick building obscures the pain and humiliation suffered by the many women detained within it. The jail held black and white women in separate sections. The infamous murderess Daisy De Melker was held here, as were prominent activists Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and Albertina Sisulu. Ironically the vast majority of inmates were neither murderers nor activists. They were women arrested for past offences or illegal occupation such as beer brewing.

way to Women jail

After that we left for Constitution Court , You enter the constitutional court building through massive wooden doors that have signs, symbols and words engraved in the 11 official languages as well as sign language and Braille. It represents the 27 rights in our constitutional Bill of Rights.

Sign board with 11 official languages

Wooden Door

South Africa’s new and elegant Constitutional Court is also based at Constitutional Hill and stands proudly over the once embarrassing and undignified prison complex and marks South Africa’s brave and ultimately triumphant battle to end segregation.

Constitution signed by Nelson Mandela

Bricks from portions of the Old Fort that were demolished were used for the construction of the inner walls of the South African Constitutional Court. This is in stark contrast to the vibrant African art exhibited in the ultra-modern building.

The court consists of eleven judges, headed by a Chief Justice and Deputy Chief Justice.

inner view of the court

When the Constitutional Court was created, there were some unique features to the place. Between the prison and the Court are the African steps, a walkway to act as a “bridge from the oppression of the past to the hope of the future”.

Sitting inside the court

The Great African Steps were built with the bricks of the demolished Awaiting Trial Block, where black male prisoners were kept awaiting trial. The steps will take you up the hill, between the solid-stone wall of the notorious Number Four prison to the right and the open glass and light of the Constitutional Court to the left.

Great African Steps

The open area in between Number four, constituation court & old fort is known as Constitution Square where people can meet, talk, relax.

There is a flame of Democracy in front of Constitution hill.

Flame of Democracy

We were not able to visit Old Fort due to time constraint, which is situated in front of Number four Old Fort which was Built in 1893.This is one of Johannesburg’s oldest buildings and was used as a fortress by Paul Kruger during the Anglo Boer War. This was a prison for white male prisoners, with Nelson Mandela being the only black prisoner to be held in this “whites only” prison.

Opening times
Mondays to Friday 08.30 to 17.00
Saturday’s operation: 10.00 to 15.00
Sundays: Closed

After that we left for Airport, by the time we reached there it was 6.30 and our flight was scheduled at 10.30. After doing necessary formalities we reached boarding area.Luckily we got the chance to see folk dance of Africa inside the airport as South Africa was celebrating tourism week.

Talented drummer and dancer

You too enjoy the folk dance clip which I made for you guys.

I hope you guys enjoyed the post on South Africa trip.


  • Wonderful trip Mahesh jee

    And once again a very precise post covering the town. I specifically liked the details of Mahatama Gandhi shared.
    Thanks for the lovely tour.

    Where are you taking us next ?

    • Mahesh Semwal says:

      Thanks Vishal for your comment !

      Johannesburg , Pretoria & Soweto are the three main cities. My wish is to visit Soweto (South Western Township) . May be next time if get the chance.

  • SilentSoul says:

    Good description Mahesh. Glad to see that Gandhi is still respected there. Kruger park film created waves on youtube and National Geographic. Did you visit to Kruger National park too ?

    • Mahesh Semwal says:

      Thanks for going through the post !

      Due to time constraint we were not able to visit Kruger National Park as it required one full day for (3.30 – 4.00 hours journey from Johannesburg)

  • Harish Bhatt says:

    Nice write up about Johannesburg, Semwal Ji… The pictures are complimenting the description.

    Thank you for sharing,

  • SilentSoul says:

    The scene of Kruger park where one calf of buffaloes is attcked by 5 lions and one crocodile and still his life is saved. 6.7 crore people have seen this clip and was a big hit on NGC

  • ashok sharma says:

    Congrats for coming out with such a nice post.South Africa with Gandhi,Mandela and apartheid in the past and now a vibrant economy with blooming democracy and its variety of flora and fauna is unique, incomparable.

  • Surinder Sharma says:

    You describe Johannesburg city and Gandhiji so good. Photos are also looks good thanks.

  • AUROJIT says:

    Hi Mahesh,

    NMSquare seems to be the happening place there.

    Info on Gandhiji were quite interesting, aptly supported by relevant pics.

    Enjoyed Johannesburg.



    • Mahesh Semwal says:

      Thanks Auro for enjoying the post !

      Gandhi’s contribution to the struggle for liberation and justice has been acknowledged by the City of Johannesburg. The 8 feet bronze statue of a young and determined lawyer (most of the places you will find old Gandhi ji statue) has been placed on Gandhi Square.

      The square, first known as Government Square, Later, it became Van der Bijl Square & then in 1999 it renamed Gandhi Square.

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  • Nandan Jha says:

    Very useful log Mahesh and it would definitely be very helpful for a fellow traveler, planning a trip.

    Only the other day, we were having a conversation when my friend’s father shared with us the feelings around Gandhi’s assassination. Very shamefully we learnt that the place is right in the heart of Delhi and though we have been to Rajghat (where Father was cremated) and some of the closeby Gandhi related places, we didn’t even know of this place. Hopefully we would make a visit someday. It is now called ‘Gandhi Smriti’ is on 30 Janwary Marg, close to India Gate.

    The folk dance is pretty peppy. :-) Looks more like an airpot/new-age version to me. He he.

    • Mahesh Semwal says:

      I have been to Gandhi Smriti long long back but yes you are right we don’t know about most of the historical places around us or we know but we don’t go their.

      Thanks for liking the post !

  • Naveena Israni says:

    Very informative and interesting post. Enjoyed the entire series!

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  • D.L.Narayan says:

    Great series, Mahesh.
    Thanks for the virtual tour of Jo’burg.
    However, what I loved most was the homage paid to two outstanding apostles of non-violence: Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
    What Nelson Mandela said about judging the greatness of a nation by the way it treats its lowest citizens is very relevant to our own country. Our record is abysmal in this regard and some people are always more equal than the rest in our democracy.

  • Mahesh Semwal says:

    Thanks a lot DL for liking the post.

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