Johannesburg History City Tour
Johannesburg City Tours cover the economic growth of the powerhouse of South Africa. Johannesburg Cultural and Historical Tours.
Apartheid City tour – Covering Johannesburg’s history from its start as a segregated city, then Johannesburg’s connection to the origins of Apartheid, then the city during Apartheid – to today, the most multiracial city of South Africa
Private – Professional – fully guided tours – 7 days a week.
Items covered by Ekala Eco Tours on our Johannesburg day tours
Our tours are done Private (not mixed groups) – as such each Johannesburg tour can be uniquely designed for an individual experience. If you have only one day available for a Johannesburg tour, we structure the tour around the key sites and your time available/time allocated to the tour.
We prefer to use our experience of Johannesburg to create a suitable day tour, including the most significant items in the area and the best use of time. However if you have specific requirements or places you wish to visit, Ekala will create a tour around this. This should be supplied to us at the time of quoting.
Ekala would always endeavor to include in our Johannesburg tours, the most important areas, including the Johannesburg city centre and historical buildings, Ferreirasdorp, Mining areas and our gold history, Soccer City – FNB Stadium, poor areas, wealthy areas and Nelson Mandela/Oliver Tambo’s legal practice – Chancellor house in downtown Johannesburg.
Experience the vibe of the Rainbow Nation in Johannesburg. A view across the Johannesburg central business district and Hillbrow with their stark contrast and living conditions. Tour the up-market suburb of Houghton and the forest like area of Rosebank.
Townships within Johannesburg (Soweto and Alexandra): To give the full understanding of Johannesburg, both need to be included, however as a day tour only, generally not possible. We will then include Soweto and the possibility of a drive through Alexandra – simply to give a perspective of the full Johannesburg.
However items to be covered depends on time available and other items that may have been specifically included in the day tour, as Soweto, Apartheid Museum, Constitution Hill, gold mine tour and areas of greater Johannesburg (covers over 1 600 square kilometers).
Apartheid Museum – Soweto – Constitution Hill
Johannesburg as a day tour, the only Museum to be included would be the Apartheid Museum – unless other museums specifically required.
Apartheid Museum, Soweto and Constitution Hill: We include these in most of our Johannesburg tours. Unless you are to be doing these on another day, then we exclude these.
Ekala offers half day historical tours covering some of Johannesburg’s significant sites, to a comprehensive Johannesburg tour lasting 4 days. Most common however is a full day Johannesburg tour covering the most important items as can be done in the time available.
Your hotel location has an impact on the route used on the day and the amount of traveling time. We create our routes to cover the most that may be possible in the time available and not using the same road or going through the same area more than once on any day tour.
Johannesburg – City built on Gold
Johannesburg inner city and historical buildings including City Hall, Old Post office, Supreme Court, old Stock Exchange and many others.
Mining areas and Johannesburg’s gold history.
Johannesburg’s poor areas and wealthy areas.
Nelson Mandela/Oliver Tambo’s legal practice – Chancellor house in downtown Johannesburg.
A view across the Johannesburg central business district and Hillbrow, including Hillbrow tower (Telcom Tower) with the stark contrast and living conditions.
Up-market suburb of Houghton and the forest like area of Rosebank.
Sandton – now the financial district of Johannesburg and the richest are in Africa and Johannesburg’s second – “city centre”
The 360 panoramic view of the city from the “top of Africa” – the 50th floor of the downtown Carlton Centre.
Newtown and its inner city revival with a drive across the Nelson Mandela cable-stayed Bridge and a view of the early 1900 Johannesburg train station.
Soccer City – FNB Stadium – outside visit for photos – unless booked as an inside tour.
Historical area of Sophiatown/Triomf and Mayfair, Brixton with the Brixton (Sentech) tower.
Old Johannesburg station – Dutch structure and excellent example of a late nineteenth century structure.
De Beers corporate head office.
Ferreirasdorp: an area rich in Johannesburg mining history – including the old gold mine stope, with original pick marks on the tunnel walls, of the Ferreira gold mine. A mine headgear and the original Langlaagte 10 stamp battery, used in the early years for the crushing of the gold bearing rock.
Johannesburg’s Art Deco architectural splendour and Sir Herbert Baker buildings around the city.
Chancellor House: Law firm set up by Nelson Mandela and Oliver Tambo. Directly across from the busiest court in South Africa – the Johannesburg Magistrate court.
Faraday herbal market.
Newtown: Museum Africa, Market Theatre (originally the old fruitmarket) , Mary Fitzgerald square, Railway Sidings and potato sheds
Electrical Precinct (Workers Museum, Electric Workshop and the turbine hall)
Mine workers museum.
SAB World of Beer. South African Breweries – brewing since 1895. The first industrial listing on the Johannesburg stock exchange.
Cemeteries of Braamfontein and Brixton – Johannesburg’s forefathers. Pauper graves and graves of the 1922 Rand Revolt. Amazing what a walk through the cemeteries can tell a visitor of Johannesburg history.
Our tours are designed to offer choice and flexibility. Combining tours to suit your personal preferences, available time.
The Walking Tour
Some of the above are include in the walking tour of Johannesburg. (Not always available and must be booked as a walking tour). On these tours however, only a very small area of Johannesburg can be covered.
Freedom Struggle Tour – Nelson Mandela Road to Freedom Tour
Ekala specializes in a freedom struggle tour – Journey to Freedom – Walk in the footsteps of Nelson Mandela through greater Johannesburg, Soweto and Pretoria.
More information on separate Journey to Freedom page.
Mahatma Gandhi’s Johannesburg heritage tour
Story of the life (in Johannesburg) of a religious man, a philosopher, an activist and world-renowned pacifist leader for free society, Mahatma Gandhi.
Tour covering the places of importance to Mahatma Gandhi in and around Johannesburg during his stay.
Gandhi’s political Baptism was in Johannesburg – Birthplace of Satyagraha.
More information on separate Mahatma Gandhi’s Johannesburg heritage page.
Johannesburg Gold History Tour
Specialized Johannesburg Gold History Tour. Johannesburg’s growth from farmland into a tented town becoming the gold capital of the world. Main gold reef find, Anglo Boer war, miners strikes including Rand revolt when war came to Johannesburg’s streets and changed the course of South Africa’s history.
Three historical gold mines, Johannesburg’s earliest mine stope and Johannesburg’s landscape of gold mine shafts, headgear’s and gold mine waste dumps. Extravagant taste of early Johannesburg’s wealthy and current environmental mining issues.
More information on separate Gold History page.
These are specialised tours not covered in a standard Johannesburg tour, although parts may be included, dependant on tour time/option.
Nomadic Bushmen inhabited the area around 100 000 years ago. Around 1060 AD people migrated into area. Europeans later arrived and started farming the area known as the Witwatersrand. 1886 saw the first major settlement of Johannesburg, with fortune seekers from all over the world descending to find their share of the gold. In three years of rapid growth, from a tent town to iron shacks, the settlement became the biggest in South Africa. Partnerships, coalitions and later the mining corporations took control of mining operations.
These corporations were predominantly English speaking; this in itself caused friction with the Boer (Afrikaans) government in Pretoria. With British colonial aspirations and mining restraints in Johannesburg, led to the Anglo Boer War of 1899. By its end, 1901, the British were in control of the Transvaal (this included Johannesburg) and the Orange Free State. In the early 1900, blacks were forcibly removed from the city centre by the British colonial government.
Johannesburg 1922 Rand Revolt – with implications for South Africa for the next 70 years.
White Johannesburg miners had returned to Britain for the first world war. On returning found that the Johannesburg mines had replaced them with “Black workers”. Compounded by the fall in the gold price at that time, and the mines then able to pay the black workers significantly less than the white mine workers. Government not prepared to get involved and led to the strike in 1920. With further agitation from the white miners, a general strike resulted in 1922 – the Rand Revolt.
Marshal law later declared and eventual bombing and shelling of miners in Fordsburg and Brixton. Members of the communist party were hung at the fort (now Constitution hill).
Over 200 people losing their lives around this Johannesburg revolt.
During the Second World War, with many white workers in the military, a greater influx of blacks resulted. The black population in the area doubled, leading to overcrowding in the black shanty town.
This was one of the catalysts in formation of many Black Nationalist movements with roots being put down in these squatter camps. Government instituted a policy of forced removals from all cities leaving the cities “white”. This was also applied to Johannesburg where most of the black population was moved to the South Western Township – Soweto – with their movements controlled by strict enforcement of the pass laws, allowing the holder into the city for work only.
Johannesburg township protests 1976 to 1984.
Failure to produce this pass or being in an area where you were not allowed meant instant arrest and in most cases a stay at the “fort”. Johannesburg went through turbulent times up to the scrapping of apartheid in 1990 when international sanctions combined with black militancy led to the collapse of the regime and the democratic elections of 1994. Milestones on this road were the month long Soweto student protests of 1976 and the ongoing violence in Johannesburg’s black townships including the massive protests of 1984.
Built on profits of gold – on the richest reef in the world, celebrated its centenary in 1986 It is the most densely populated and urbanized city of South Africa and one of the 40 largest metropolitans in the world. With over 8 million citizens, Johannesburg is a lively metropolis offering a wide spectrum of culture, including European, African and Asian. Almost half of the 7 million live in Soweto and Diepsloot. Johannesburg is the financial hub of South Africa, an Economic powerhouse producing 20% of South Africa’s gross domestic product. This is over 40% of Gauteng’s gross domestic product.
The large metropolitan area is one of the largest in the world, built on neither an ocean nor major river. Banking, mining and investment institutions and most South African companies have their head office in Johannesburg, or at least would have a branch in the city or surrounding areas. The city boasts over three million households. Johannesburg is now completely multiracial; however Soweto’s residents are over 99% black. Johannesburg’s economical drive has moved away from gold; however the mining industry has etched its mark on the landscape.
Johannesburg mine history clearly visible in the mine/slag dumps.
The numerous yellow man made hills scattered around Johannesburg, will have an impact on the appearance of the urban landscape for decades to come. The mine dumps are a reminder of our heritage and are viewed as a monument to gold mining past. The dumps are being removed, as small amounts of gold, about a third of a gram to every ton of sand can be recovered. Once removed the site is made available as prime real estate. Mine dumps/slag dumps. Part of the Johannesburg city skyline for many decades and an integral part of the cities heritage. The many dumps, over 200, are currently being re-processed to recover minute amounts of gold.
Safety in Johannesburg
Safety is a concern in Johannesburg; however the city’s reputation as being the crime capital South Africa is incorrect. At end of the apartheid era, crime did rise dramatically, with the worst hit areas being in and around the central business district. With the installation of over 200 video cameras in this area, covering most streets and with a good police response time, the inner city crime rate has dropped considerably and is continuing to improve.
As most major cities, it is advisable to take sensible precautions with some extra care.
Please note than in a limited time tour – we do not spend time in museums.
Museum Africa a cultural history museum located in Newtown, Johannesburg. It houses an impressive collection of items covering Johannesburg’s economic and social history, which tell the story of South Africa. There is also a display covering the 1956 treason trail of Nelson Mandela.
SAB World of Beer tells the story of South African beer industry and the history of the largest brewer SAB.
AECI Dynamite Factory Museum: the history of explosives, with particular emphasis on their design and use in the South African mining industry. Housed in an original mining officials house, built in 1895.
Adler Museum of Medicine: illustrates the history of medicine with a focus on South Africa’s medical past and our achievements.
James Hall Transport Museum: From ox-carts to the model T Ford, bicycles, motorbikes, tractors, fire engines and even buses and trams. Not only is this the largest collection of land transport in Southern Africa, it is also the most comprehensive.
The collection of over 44 000 items covers over a 100 years of South Africa’s military history including the Anglo-Zulu war, Anglo-Boer war and the resistance movements in South Africa. An extensive archive of photographs, journals and books. Uniforms, medals and if it relates to the military, the chances are you will see it here. Read more on the National Museum of Military History.
Take a sightseeing Helicopter flight over Soweto and Johannesburg.
Helicopter flight over Johannesburg and/or Soweto. Great opportunity for photos and a greater view of the area. Generally only available over weekends.
Ekala Family & Guides
Ekala Family & Guides
We pride ourselves on our extensive knowledge of South Africa’s history, culture and wildlife.
With our vast experience and expertise, we will ensure you leave with a camera full of memories.
We will endeavour to personalise your tour according to individual time and requirements.
We personally conduct and organise all our tours and safaris as highly experience and professional guides.
Get an enhanced understanding of South Africa’s wildlife, history and diverse cultures.
Enjoying and respecting South Africa’s national assets – wildlife, environment and the people.
An Historical/Cultural tour and Safari to remember for the right reason
Follow in Nelson Mandela footsteps:
Robben Island – you can visit his prison cell.
However – Johannesburg/Pretoria:
Nelson Mandela came to Johannesburg as a young man.
Became an activist in Johannesburg
Entire focus of his defiance campaign – Johannesburg.
Became a lawyer in Johannesburg.
Ran his law firm (and that of Oliver Tambo) in Johannesburg.
All time spent in prison before the Rivonia trail – in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
Once released from prison – returned to Johannesburg.
Inaugurated as President in Pretoria.
While President – office in Pretoria.
While President – main residence in Pretoria.
After retiring (as president) still had an office – in Johannesburg.
Still today – his office – now the Nelson Mandela centre of memory - in Johannesburg.
Spent the last 23 years of his life in Johannesburg (apart from a limited amount of time in Qunu).
Hospital while ill – Pretoria.
Passed away in Johannesburg.
Thus if you wish to WALK in the footsteps of the Great Man and to truly experience his life, it needs to be in Johannesburg and Pretoria.
No prices on our website due to the unique, individual and specialised requirements for each tour.
We structure our tours/safari's around our client’s individual requirements.
If time is limited:
We will structure the tour from arrival to departure – including airport collection and drop off.
Using all time available as a fully guided professional tour.
Not simply a point to point mixed group drive around.
We quote based on your specific requirements.
Our tours are non-invasive.
Cultural tours/township tours as Soweto/Alexandra:
We do NOT go into private houses.
Or invade the township resident's privacy in any way.