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Historical and Cultural Sites | Significant places in and around Joburg

While Gauteng is the smallest South African province, it nonetheless overflows with history and an abundance of cultural colour. It is the most densely populated province, contributing to its rich trove of stories. Here are just a few sites for you to visit if you ever find yourself in or around South Africa’s largest city, Johannesburg.

Just an hour’s drive from Joburg lies the Cradle of Humankind. Named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, it is recognised as a source of many fascinating artefacts and fossils, as well as a place of natural beauty that affords visitors peace and a chance to connect with the serene environment. The Cradle spans 47 000 ha across the Gauteng and North West provinces and is peppered with limestone caves holding a plethora of historical puzzle pieces.

With their captivating calcium carbonate stalactite and stalagmite formations and underground lakes, the Sterkfontein Caves offer a spellbinding experience through an otherwise dark and hidden world. The caves have been illuminated in different colours to highlight their features, affording visitors the chance to take in the splendour of each cavern.

Due to roof collapse, caused by consistent erosion, there are several vertical shafts in the caves through which bones, rocks, soil and vegetation would have fallen, leaving behind the many fossils that have been discovered to date.

58 Collective and FARMHOUSE

The Cradle has also become a place for people to come together and simply enjoy being people.

The 58 Collective, is based on the sharing of culture and an appreciation for life in a region so rich with history. 58 makes room for all aspects of life, including nature and conservation, human well-being, community, art, and food!

As part of the many initiatives 58 has brought about, FARMHOUSE is one that offers visitors accommodation in minimalist, gently designed spaces that allow time to rest and simply soak in nature. FARMHOUSE is an opportunity for people to submerge themselves in the landscape, with guided hikes, various wellbeing activities, art performances, and a farm to table menu.

In the spirit of Ubuntu (I am because we are), Lesedi Cultural Village is a tribute to the diverse cultures alive in South Africa. Zulu, Xhosa, Pedi, Basotho, and Ndebele tribal traditions and folklore are shared, making the Village a site of song, dance, stories, and education. In a country where indigenous knowledge and experience has often been undermined, places like Lesedi Cultural Village aim to highlight and celebrate the value and richness of African roots and culture.

Much of South Africa’s economic history lies in mining. Gauteng, meaning ‘Place of Gold’ in Sotho, got its name because of gold being one of the greatest raw materials hidden in the country’s soil.

Kromdraai Gold Mine is among the oldest mines in the country, located on the Witwatersrand. Its age, and the fact that it mined gold before the gold rush began, makes this a fascinating historical site to visit. Visitors are taught about the history of mining and traditional mining methods, while being afforded the opportunity to do some exploring underground, through various tunnels.

Opened in 2007, Freedom Park is a site that emphasises remembering and consciousness of the South African story. It honours those who laid down their lives in the fight for freedom and represents a commitment to human rights and dignity.

Located on Salvokop Hill in Tshwane, Freedom Park creates an immersive journey through the country’s history by means of architecture, sculptures, visuals, and creative landscaping. The Mveledzo spiral walkway connects each element, bringing together five key themes: culture, heritage, history, indigenous knowledge, and spirituality.

Tswaing Meteorite Crater

One of the most mystical sites to visit in Gauteng, is the Tswaing Meteorite Crater.

Scientists believe that a meteorite the size of half a football field crashed into earth, leaving behind the 1.4km wide and 200m deep crater we see today. At the centre lies Tswaing Lake, which was once high in salt and soda ash concentrations. This sparked the development of a salt mine, which was active for 44 years, until 1956.

Now, the area is well conserved, protecting a delicate wetland system surrounding the crater. Many beautiful forms of life are found in Tswaing, including a large array of bird species, reptiles, frogs, otters, genets, brown hyenas, civets and steenbok. Three main trails lead to the crater and make for an interesting and enriching nature experience.

Just five minutes from Joburg’s CBD, in the heart of the Newtown Cultural Precinct, lies Museum Africa. A cultural and historical memory bank, Museum Africa is housed in one of the city’s first fruit and vegetable market buildings, constructed in 1913.

In a time where the country was undergoing the early phases of a political transition into democracy, this architecturally majestic building was reimagined into an exhibition of the past. In 1994, the year of South Africa’s first democratic elections, Museum Africa was opened to the public. It displays a wide range of memories, visuals, and artefacts surrounding Johannesburg’s complex history. Albeit small, Gauteng hosts myriad stories, sewn deep into its kaleidoscopic fabric. Take a drive, and explore a historical and cultural journey.

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