The Gauteng Province, South Africa

Stretching all the way from Pretoria in the north to Vereeniging in the south, Gauteng (Sotho for place of gold, although the ‘gaut’ is also thought to originate from the Dutch ‘goud’ for gold) was created by the ANC in 1994 after the country’s first all-race elections, uniting six regions, including part of the old Transvaal province, into what might be the smallest South African province, but serves as the gateway into Africa.

Did you know? Gauteng is said to offer one of the world’s best climates: summer days are warm and wind free and winter days are crisp and clear. Johannesburg and Pretoria differ in temperature by about 2% (Pretoria being the warmer of the two).

Whilst Gautengs history lies embedded in the discovery of gold, today Gauteng not only has one of the best infrastructures, but its population of over 9 million people form part of a vibrant mix of energy and diversity that make it one of the wealthiest provinces in Africa, and the entertainment epicentre of South Africa. The energy of the Highveld, with its intense summers broken only by intermittent electric storms, is echoed in the sheer buzz of the place. In Johannesburg people walk and talk fast, they drive at high speed too, and the ever increasing skyline - as glass and chrome structures rise like mushrooms seemingly overnight - reflects the rapid development that has taken place in the city in the last 10 years.

There is more to Gauteng than the art of business and money-making. The Johannesburg Metro and the City of Pretoria - the two major cities in Gauteng - are diametrically opposed, and Pretoria provides a more laid-back, gentrified alternative - its jacaranda lined, wide streets and lovely old buildings a more sedate choice for many who readily make the daily commute to Johannesburg. The Vaal River, which separates Gauteng from the Free State, provides a number of avenues of escape; the Magaliesberg Mountains, virtually on Johannesburg’s doorstep, another effortless flight into days of heady blue quiet spaces; and Limpopo - just to the north of Gauteng, with its allure of game reserves, waterfalls, forests and streams - one more escape of note.

Did you know? Once you've booked your hotels or accommodation in Gauteng, explore the destination pages for info on attractions, activities and things to do when you visit the Gauteng Province in South Africa.

Whilst the region around the city of Johannesburg is incredibly ancient and includes the discovery of a 3˝ million-year-old Australopithecus africanus in a cave near Sterkfontein, just outside Jozi, the city’s exciting history began only in 1886 with the discovery of gold and the Witwatersrand reef. It didn’t take long for the population of the city to explode from a few shanties into what became, and has remained, the largest city in South Africa. Today Johannesburg is one of the world’s youngest major cities and the powerhouse of the African continent.

The discovery of gold in the region of Johannesburg spurred a mass migration to the area of people wanting to try their luck. The resultant settlement that mushroomed within the space of three years was named by two men, with the first name ‘Johannes’ in common. It leaves little to the imagination then, as to the origin of the city’s name. ‘Burg’, the second syllable, is the Afrikaans word derived from the Dutch ‘village’, similar in some ways to the English word ‘burgh’ meaning ‘town’.

Racial segregation had already become firmly entrenched in the country between the world wars – blacks and Indians were heavily taxed, barred from holding skilled jobs and forced to work as migrant labour – hence the emergence of squatter camps that sprung up around Johannesburg as blacks headed to the city in the wake of industrialisation. These camps developed by all accounts into well-organised cities, and perhaps due to this, were destroyed, forcing people to move to new suburbs known as the South-Western townships, leading to the emergence of Soweto.

Today Jozi is free of discriminatory laws. The inner city is awash with hawkers and street stalls, completely multiracial, and undergoing a total regeneration. Most whites have escaped to the leafy northern suburbs, the sprawling malls and restaurant-lined avenues attractive to visitors and residents alike.

Did you know? The leafy city of Pretoria in Gauteng serves as one of the country’s three capital cities, officially the executive or administrative capital - the other two are Cape Town, the legislative capital, and Bloemfontein, the judicial capital.

Pretoria suffers from an almost menacing image as the former capital of apartheid, and is involved in an ongoing battle over changing its name to Tshwane - controversial to most inhabitants of the city, and, for the moment, left to lie ‘under consideration’. The municipality refers to it as the City of Tshwane, whilst residents still largely refer to it as Pretoria. It appears that in history there has always been some difficulty over naming the city. Pretoriusdorp, Pretorium, Pretoriusstad and Pretoria-Philadelphia were among early suggestions, from which Pretoria was finally selected by Marthinus Wessel Pretorius in memory of his father, Andries Pretorius.

But Pretoria is not just about government. It is also a place of culture with a series of theatres, museums and monuments – Church Square, Union Buildings, Melrose House and the Voortrekker Monument to name but a few. Roses grow beautifully in the city’s climate and it was known early on as the ‘city of roses’. Add to this some 50 000 Jacarandas that line the streets and one can understand how it became known as the ‘jacaranda city’ or ‘jakarandastad’ in Afrikaans.

The city has access to a number of Nature Reserves that include Groenkloof, Rietfontein, Faerie Glen and Wonderboom nature reserves, as well as the Pretoria National Botanical Gardens.

Gauteng as a destination

Must See in Gauteng

World Heritage Sites / Landmarks / Archaeological

Cradle of Humankind

The Cradle of Humankind Site comprises a strip of a dozen dolomitic limestone caves containing the fossillised remains of ancient forms of animals, plants and most importantly, hominids. The dolomite in which the ...

Museums

Apartheid Museum

The Apartheid Museum is the story of the triumph of the human spirit over adversity. Beginning in 1948, the white elected National Party government initiated a process which turned over 20 million people into 2nd class citizens, damning them to a life of ...

Landmarks / Memorials / Museums

Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill tells the fascinating, often tragic, story of the real South African history; a history in which injustices abounded on social, cultural and political levels. However, this is also a story of victory, as South Africa won back its ...

Memorials

Hector Pieterson Museum

The Hector Pieterson Memorial and museum opened in Soweto in 2002, not far from the spot where 12 year-old Hector was shot on the 16 June 1976 during the Soweto uprising that today is a symbol of resistance to the brutality of the apartheid government ...

Landmarks

Nelson Mandela Bridge

The largest cable-stayed bridge in South Africa, the 284 metre long Nelson Mandela Bridge, starts virtually at the end of Jan Smuts Avenue and links the Constitutional Hill precinct in Braamfontein to the Cultural precinct in Newtown, in the heart of the ...

Landmarks / National Monuments

Union Buildings

Designed by Sir Herbert Baker and completed in 1913. Considered by many to be the architect's greatest achievement & South Africa's architectural masterpiece. This was the setting for President Nelson Mandela's historic inauguration in 1994. The ...

Landmarks / National Monuments

Voortrekker Monument

The huge monolith that is the Voortrekker monument stands as a major landmark on a low hill, just outside Tshwane (as Pretoria is now called). Depending on who you are, the monument that has some of the finest sculpture work in the country is either a ...

Landmarks / Memorials

Freedom Park

The Freedom Park opened its doors in December 2007. It is a space where South Africans and visitors to the country can reflect on the past, and is an inspiration for the future. It is regarded as one of the most ambitious heritage projects the government ...

Outdoor Activities

4x4 Trails in Gauteng

Gauteng is the smallest province in South Africa. Gauteng is a large industrial hub but is also home to the beautiful Magaliesberg which is a popular holiday destination. There are very few 4x4 trails in the Gauteng ...

Outdoor Activities

Hiking in Gauteng

Get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and enjoy hiking in Gauteng. Relax and unwind as you admire the wonderful game, mountains, waterfalls and indigenous vegetation. It is a pity however that this region does not offer that many hiking trails ...

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