Posted by: Gideon | September 8, 2010

Johannesburg with Kids: To Visit or Not (+ the World Cup Soccer Final!)

Johannesburg is not high up on any tourist agenda.

But maybe it should be. It is a perfect example of modern Africa.

Cooling Tower - Soweto

It is a very pleasant city to visit for a couple of days. Surprisingly, it is very green. It has excellent hotels and excellent roads. It has the new Gautrain, a superfast railway connecting the airport to major areas.  It has world class shopping, great sports and authentic markets. It also has some fascinating museums and nearby Soweto.

Apartheid Museum

We flew to Joburg for the Final but we did have a couple of days free before the big game. We went to the Apartheid Museum, which tells the story of the suffering of the black population of South Africa under white rule. This proved to be mind bogglingly thorough and in three hours we did very little justice to it. It probably needs a whole day, maybe longer. We visited the Rosebank market, one of many excellent markets selling African artifacts from all across Africa. We popped into Johannesburg’s latest mall – not something we would have gone out of our way to do perhaps, but it was nearby and it is state of the art.

Nearby is the Unesco World Heritage “Cradle of Humankind” site, and the incredible Kruger National park is only about four hours drive away. Soweto, the largest township in South Africa, is a city in its own right and fascinating tours are available. One can even stay at B&B’s in Soweto itself.

I’d say, don’t automatically discount Johannesburg as a waste of time – it is the beating heart of what is perhaps Africa’s most vibrant country.

Big Funny People

Johannesburg was gearing up for the big night. Holland vs Spain – neither team had ever won the cup before and the city was at fever pitch.

We parked at the University and went by bus to the stadium – the “Giant Calabash” (African gourd used as a drinking vessel) – we were there hours before the game but what an evening – entertainment and fun outside, followed by a glimpse of Nelson Mandela (who has achieved almost mythical status throughout th entire world), the opening ceremonies and then the match itself. One doesn’t always expect outstanding soccer in the fInal – after all, no team can afford to lose, but it was tense and Spain won in fine fashion.

All in all, one of the best World Cup’s in history!

PS These days I am planning great trips for families to South Africa. If you’d like to find out more, click here.

The Dutch fans arrive


Spain Victorious



  1. Does anyone have an idea on how they rate Cape Town and Johannesburg Hotels and if the grading system is similar to the system used in Europe. I really an keen to get some commentary on the standard of accomodation in south african hotels. and a general View of the nighlife.
    hotels in south Africa

    • Hi Pete

      I am not sure how the grading system works in SA exactly, but the standards are really very high. Certainly any three star hotel will be clean and comfortable, and the better hotels are great. There are excellent bed and breakfasts and guesthouses too. As for nightlife – go to Long Street in Cape Town – it’s amazing – a fantastic atmosphere, lots of bars, music venues and restaurants all along the street! Take the kids there by day for sure, but leave them behind at night.

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