Situated in the Highveld, Gauteng is the smallest province in South Africa, accounting for only 1.5% of the land area.
Nevertheless, it is highly urbanised, containing the country’s largest city, Johannesburg, its administrative capital, Pretoria, and other large industrial areas such as Midrand and Vanderbijlpark. As of 2015, it has a population of nearly 13.2 million, making it the most populous province in South Africa
History of Gauteng
Gauteng, formerly known as Pretoria–Witwatersrand–Vereeniging (PWV), was carved out of the old Transvaal province in 1994, although the terminology “PWV”, describing the region existed long before that.
The history of the area that is now Gauteng can be traced back to the early 1800s when settlers originating from the Cape Colony defeated chief Mzilikazi and started establishing villages in the area. After the discovery of gold in 1886, the region proceeded to become the single largest gold producer in the world and the city of Johannesburg was founded. The older city Pretoria was not subject to the same attention and development. Pretoria grew at a slower rate and was highly regarded due to its role in the Second Boer War. The Cullinan Diamond which is the largest diamond ever mined was mined near Pretoria in a nearby town called Cullinan in the year 1905.
Gauteng has only been properly documented since the 1800s and as a result, not much information regarding its history predating the 1800s is available. At the Sterkfontein caves, some of the oldest fossils of hominids have been discovered, such as Mrs. Ples and Little Foot.
Many crucial events happened in present-day Gauteng with regards to the anti-apartheid struggle, such as the Sharpeville massacre of 1960, the Rivonia Trial in 1963 and 1964 and the Soweto Uprising of 1976. Today, the Apartheid Museum stands testament to these struggles in Johannesburg.
The undulating hills that form part of the rural areas in the province just north of Johannesburg. Although Gauteng is a heavily urbanised province much of its area extensively cultivated for agriculture.
Gauteng’s southern border is the Vaal River, which separates it from the Free State. It also borders on North West to the west, Limpopo to the north, and Mpumalanga to the east. Gauteng is the only landlocked province of South Africa without a foreign border. Most of Gauteng is on the Highveld, a high-altitude grassland (circa 1,500 m or 4,921 ft above sea level). Between Johannesburg and Pretoria there are low parallel ridges and undulating hills, some part of the Magaliesberg Mountains and the Witwatersrand. The north of the province is more subtropical, due to its lower altitude and is mostly dry savanna habitat.
The climate is mostly influenced by altitude. Even though the province is at a subtropical latitude, the climate is comparatively cooler, especially in Johannesburg, at 1,700 m (5,577 ft) above sea level (Pretoria is at 1,330 m or 4,364 ft). Most precipitation occurs as brief afternoon thunderstorms; however, relative humidity never becomes uncomfortable. Winters are crisp and dry with frost occurring often in the southern areas. Snow is rare, but it has occurred on some occasions in the Johannesburg metropolitan area.
Gauteng is considered the economic hub of South Africa and contributes heavily in the financial, manufacturing, transport, technology, and telecommunications sectors, among others. It also plays host to a large number of overseas companies requiring a commercial base in and gateway to Africa.
Gauteng is home to the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, the largest stock exchange in Africa. Some of the largest companies in Africa and abroad are based in Gauteng, or have offices and branches there, such as Vodacom, MTN, Neotel, Microsoft South Africa and the largest Porsche Centre in the world.
Although Gauteng is the smallest of South Africa’s nine provinces—it covers a mere 1.5% of the country’s total land area, the province is responsible for a third of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP). Gauteng generates about 10% of the total GDP of sub-Saharan Africa and about 7% of total African GDP.
There’s never a dull moment in Gauteng, and visitors to the province will not be short of activities to fill their hours. Whether you enjoy exploring heritage spots, absorbing arts and culture, trawling the markets and malls for interesting memorabilia or simply soaking up the sunshine in the great African outdoors, Gauteng’s sure to have something to suit your tastes. Sample traditional cuisine, enjoy local theatre or music or get your sports shoes out for some more vigorous activities
Gauteng also boasts a rich history. Our unique heritage revolves around the origins and evolution of humankind, mining and politics, especially the legacy of the system of apartheid.
Gauteng’s main attraction is big business, but there is so much more … museums, galleries, historical battlefields. Gauteng is also an entertainment playground offering world-class restaurants, shebeens, shopping malls and music venues.
Gauteng is the country’s busiest province by far – it seems that no one rests in Gauteng, and the culture is one of urban indulgence and a work hard, play hard mentality. In Johannesburg the nightlife is excellent, with many of the countries hottest bars, restaurants and clubs located here. It is also a shopping haven, with malls offering international designer wares alongside locally produced fashions – an ideal destination to pick up some proudly South African haute couture.
10 unusual things to do in Joburg that won’t cost a fortune
Stuck on something to do in Joburg this weekend, but don’t want to break the bank? Then you’re exactly like me and I’m taking a stand. I’ve compiled a to-do list and found there’s plenty to do in the Big Smoke.
City Sightseeing Joburg
- Climb to the top of Africa at the Carlton Centre
- Go beer tasting at SAB World of Beer
- Check out the James Hall Transport Museum and look out for the extremely rare collection of steam vehicles.
- Go back in time with archaeology and rock art at the Origins Centre at Wits
- Learn about South Africa’s history at the Apartheid museum
- Walk around Constitution Hill and take in the great art next to the justice court, visit jail cells that held South African heroes and see the Old Fort built by Paul Kruger.
- They also have a great new restaurant because as you’ll probably be hungry by now.
- If you want to splash out, go on a hair-raising ride at Gold Reef City
Montecasino Bird Garden
I don’t know why more people don’t visit these incredible bird gardens. There are beautiful walkways past countless exotic birds, an impressive cycad garden, a frog room and the longest snake in the world, plus other unusual mammals like the sloth and lemurs. My favourite though is the walk-through aviary filled with dozens of bright pink scarlet ibises and over 60 other bird species.
The bird show is really interesting too and you can feed the lorikeets on your way out which is always a scream. Literally, when they land on your head and walk up the back of your neck.
TIP: If you want to save cash, join the Montecasino Rewards Programme. You just sign up for a card in the casino section (I’m guessing they’re hoping you’ll drop some dollar while you’re at it) and use it for the cinema too because then movies are just
Zoo Lake Swimming Pool
I haven’t visited this pool yet but I’ve had various friends take picnics there and used it as a base to celebrate birthdays. I know we’re not really in the age of using public pools anymore, but I’ve heard it’s beautifully maintained and kept looking fresh.
Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens
Founded in 1982 this nature reserve is perfect for your next picnic. One of South Africa’s eight botanical gardens, you can snack on sarmies beneath the waterfall, watching the Verreaux’s Eagles perched at the top with binocs, walk through the succulent rocket and fern garden or look down on the sprawling lawns from the top of the waterfall. It’s a great time to go with all the recent rains too.
If you’re that way inclined (like me, I love rocks) the self-guided JCI Geological Trail offers the opportunity to learn about the interesting geology of the area, or you can arrange a guided tour of the gardens.
Past Experiences Walking Tour
I put this on my list of 15 incredible Southern African experiences to try in 2015 because walking through inner city Johannesburg is fascinating. Past Experiences run a variety of themed tours – from shopping to graffiti to a spicy Fordsburg tour – and I went on the Ka’Ching Tour concerned with the birth of Johannesburg as a mining and wealth-oriented town. A walk through the dawning of the City of Gold, so to speak.
Led by our incredibly knowledgeable guide, Jo Buitendach, we were taken through the old banking district past a number of public art sites, restaurants and gorgeous old buildings. I’m looking to try Jozi’s Chinatown tour next.
The Living Room
This awesome rooftop venue in Maboneng overlooks the gorgeous city skyline and feels like you’re sitting in a nursery – hence its name, The Living Room. Eat tapas surrounded by an abundance of plants and sip on cocktails as the sun goes down.
I’m ashamed to say I’ve lived in Johannesburg my whole life and never been to Meville Koppies. A 58-year old Nature Reserve and Joburg Heritage site right on our doorstep, the last of Johannesburg’s remaining ridges according to Gauteng Tourism and I’ve been too lazy to investigate. Well, enough is enough.
Over 200 bird species have been recorded in the reserve and a variety of small mammals such as slender mongooses, civets, genets and hedgehogs. Hedgehogs have to be the sweetest animals and we have them right here in Joburg. Melville Koppies Central has controlled access only, so you can either go on a Sunday group guided tour or Sunday group hike
Author’s aside: I’ve yet to visit Melville Koppies to make up my own mind about the place, but I am definitely still going to go. After reading some of the comments below it’ll more than likely be with a group. Everyone seems to have their own experience of the koppies, ranging from hiker’s paradise to absolute no-go and I had a scroll through TripAdvisor which confirms this. Although he probably didn’t have a funny experience, I loved this tongue in cheek review titled ’Test your street survival skills‘. The best characteristic a traveller can have is a sense of humour.
Mountain Sanctuary Park
One of the best ways to while away a day is swimming in the natural rock pools at Mountain Sanctuary Park in the mountainous Magaliesberg area. The 1000-hectare property, which has been open to the public for 37 years, is renowned for its hiking trails and is a popular day visit destination for nature-hungry Gautengers needing fresh air. The closest set of natural pools is just a 20-minute walk and the waters flow generously after summer rains.
There’s also a well-kept pool and grassy picnic area with a viewing deck if you want to braai. Book in advance because the park limits the number of day visitors.
I specify Sunday because this is when the Market on Main comes alive, but there’s plenty to do in this renewed inner city area that’s brimming with the trendy on any other day.
Visit Africa’s first design museum MOAD, take in a movie (that you won’t find screening at Ster Kinekor) at The Bioscope or sip a cocktail at The Living Room There are plenty of restaurants to check out if the market is a bit full and a number of coffee stands to get your fix. You can even swim at the newly opened Poolside Cafe.
Hennops Hiking Trail
I’ve already ticked this one off the list and absolutely loved spending a day walking in nature on the Hennops Hiking Trail.
There are two main hikes, plus a shorter trail suitable for kids with plenty of scenery to soak up and a swimming pool to splash in post-hike. The range of landscapes is enough to get the soul stirring – from lush river-side gorges to rocky plateaus, giant aloes the size of small trees and easygoing grassland strolls it’s a beautiful day out and not too difficult.