A Tale of Three Cities

By Graham Howe

Top Sights and Activities
 

JOHANNESBURG  
When soccer fans are not watching the big game at Ellis Park Stadium and Soccer City in Soweto, they’ll find lots to do in the ’hood. One of South Africa’s best-loved venues—now rebranded as COCA-COLA PARK—Ellis Park has had a multi-million rand makeover. The stadium is a sporting shrine. Who could forget the scene of reconciliation in 1995 when President Nelson Mandela, in the captain’s jersey, cheered the Springboks on to win the Rugby World Cup?

On the way to Ellis Park you’ll pass through DOORNFONTEIN, one of Johannesburg’s oldest suburbs, founded in the halcyon gold rush days. Mine dumps and mining towns are a unique backdrop to the Johannesburg landscape. Visitors can relive the early pioneer days at GOLD REEF CITY, an amusement park and casino set on an old mine.  

The struggle for freedom in South Africa is realistically recreated at THE APARTHEID MUSEUM at Gold Reef City, a state-of-the-art museum with 22 exhibition areas. Visitors experience what is was like living under apartheid through documentary film and displays.  For a taste of township life, take a SOWETO TOUR

Tours visit the Hector Pieterson Museum, which chronicles the student uprising of the 1970s, Nelson Mandela’s former home, and the Credo Mutwa cultural village. And you can enjoy authentic local fare at shebeens on Vilakazi Street.  Within easy reach of Ellis Park Stadium, fans will find many diverse SHOPPING EXPERIENCES. While shoppers trawl the mall at the vast Eastgate centre, bargain-hunters browse at Bruma flea-market and the 360 shops at the Oriental Plaza. Or take the Nelson Mandela Bridge to NEWTOWN CULTURAL PRECINCT.

This is home to the renowned Market Theatre (and Gramadoelas, a landmark for African cuisine), Museum Africa (which tells the multicultural history of the city of gold), SAB World of Beer tour, jazz clubs, art and craft shops.  

Founded in 1904, THE JOHANNESBURG ZOO in Parkview makes for a great family outing. The green 54-hectare park in the northern suburbs is home to more than 360 different species, including elephants, gorillas, chimpanzees, hippos, crocodiles and antelope. The zoo has successfully bred white lions and Siberian tigers in captivity—and children can take night safaris and sleepovers, camping under the African stars, serenaded by the roar of lions. Or head east and take an extended game drive through legendaryKRUGER NATIONAL PARK to see the free-roaming big five. 

CAPE TOWN

On the way to the brand-new FIFA World Soccer Cup 2010 stadium at the sea, fans can explore Cape Town’s prime attractions—from the adjacentV&A WATERFRONT to THE CAPE QUARTER. A good place to start any orientation of the mother city is the lookout on SIGNAL HILL, which affords tourists a vista of Table Bay, Table Mountain, Lion’s Head, the city bowl and the Atlantic seaboard. Another great way for newcomers to see the town is to hop on and off the CITY SIGHTSEEING BUS. 

 

 

The familiar red open-top double-deckers have onboard commentaries in over a dozen languages. Founded centuries ago as a refreshment station for the Dutch fleets on the fabled spice route to the East, the picturesque vineyards, beaches and natural beauty of the Cape of Good Hope have made the region a tourist Mecca. 

 

When you’re not watching the action in the stadium, make sure you:
  
CATCH THE CABLE-CAR UP TABLE MOUNTAIN. The revolving gondolas of the aerial cableway offer great views of the city bowl and Table Bay. Sunset over sundowners at the restaurant deck is an unforgettable experience.  

GO WALKABOUT AT THE V&A WATERFRONT. Shop, wine and dine on the quayside, from Victoria Wharf and Red Shed Craft Market to the Clock Tower Centre and world-renowned Two Oceans Aquarium.  

TAKE A WALK ON THE SLOPES OF KIRSTENBOSCH NATIONAL BOTANICAL GARDENS. You can see Van Riebeeck’s Hedge planted in 1660 as the boundary of the Cape colony, the camphor avenue planted by Rhodes in 1898, and the protea and fynbos gardens.  

TAKE A DAY-TRIP ON THE CIRCULAR DRIVE AROUND THE CAPE PENINSULA. You’ll reach Cape Point in the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve, where you can ride the funicular up to the lighthouse. Take Chapman’s Peak Drive. Lunch on seafood at the seaside restaurants in fishing villages like Kalk Bay and Mariner’s Wharf in Hout Bay. Explore Boulders penguin colony and the naval museums of Simonstown.  

TRAVEL BACK IN TIME AT THE CASTLE OF GOOD HOPE. It’s the oldest building in South Africa, completed in 1679. Cross the moat and explore the cobblestoned complex of ammunition store, garrison, granary, dungeon, torture chamber and museum. 

TAKE A FERRY-RIDE TO ROBBEN ISLAND. The ferry starts in Table Bay from the Nelson Mandela Gateway. Ex-political prisoners conduct tours of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, which held Nelson Mandela, the world’s most famous political prisoner. 

TAKE A TOUR OF GREEN POINT STADIUM. The mega sports facility and epicentre of the FIFA World Soccer Cup 2010 in the Cape. A unique tour includes a view from the third-floor deck and a virtual 3D fly-through.    

BASK ON THE BEACH OR WINE AND DINE ALONG THE ATLANTIC SEABOARD. From Clifton and Camps Bay and Llandudno, join the joggers on Sea Point promenade, surfers at Muizenberg, St James and Fish Hoek—and horse-riders and kite-flyers at Noordhoek Long Beach.
   
DURBAN

It’s not inside, it’s on top. A high-tech cable-car ride to the viewing platform atop MOSES MABHIDA STADIUM—an overnight landmark on the city skyline—is a great place to get a 360º bird’s eye-view of surf city. The super stadium, which is one of the epicentres of the action in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, is a spectacular architectural masterpiece—like Sydney Opera House, London’s Wembley Stadium or Paris’s Eiffel Tower. When 70 000 fans fill the seats and those vuvuzela trumpets resound around the stadium, the rainbow nation will again speak with one voice. 

When you’re not watching the soccer, there’s plenty to do in the city and surrounds. Durban or ‘Ethekwini’—meaning place of the sea in Zulu—is famous for its beaches. Hop on a TRADITIONAL RICKSHAW drawn by men in colourful costumes for a ride along the golden mile in the grand old colonial style.

A rickshaw ride is a unique way to tour the promenade where informal African craft markets sell baskets and beadwork. You’ll also see swimmers, surfers, body-boarders and kayakers making their way to the waves. 

After paddling in the warm waters of the Indian Ocean, take a look beneath the surface of the sea at USHAKA MARINE WORLD, a world-class theme park. Sea World Aquarium, the world’s fifth largest aquarium, has a 1 200-seater dolphin stadium, seal arena, penguin rookery, wild water rides and shark dive tanks. This is as close as you’ll get to a shark on the city’s blue-flag beaches, protected by shark-nets and lifeguards.  

Serious shoppers should head for the GATEWAY SHOPPING WORLD in Umhlanga Ridge, one of the biggest malls in Africa, with 280 shops and the only IMAX theatre in the region. Thrill-seekers come here to ride THE WAVE HOUSE SKATE PARK designed by skateboard champions for novices and experts. Surfers come to ride D-Rex, the largest man-made stationary wave in the world, and climbers to abseil the highest indoor climbing wall in the world (24m high). The kids ride the water slides.  

Durban is a rich melting pot of African, European and Indian cultures. Look out for the purple minarets of VICTORIA STREET MARKET—which replaced the old Indian market, which burned down in 1993.  Couch potatoes should take a break from soccer on the big screen and join a GUIDED ORIENTAL WALKABOUT of the city, which is home to the third largest Indian community outside India. Or join a tour of the INANDA HERITAGE ROUTE in the footsteps of Mahatma Gandhi. 

The Best Spots for Food, Drink and Entertainment

JOHANNESBURG

Johannesburg is renowned for the most vibrant nightlife on the African continent. Visitors are tempted by sophisticated night clubs, jazz lounges and fine dining restaurants and funky bars, bistros and sidewalk cafes in the Soho-type villages of Norwood, Parkhurst and Greenside—and in Sandton City, Nelson Mandela Square and Rosebank Mall (home to one of the best African markets).  Made up of many ethic communities, Johannesburg is renowned for its multicultural cuisine. 

Make sure to have a table reserved at one of the CITY’S TOP TEN RESTAURANTS by critical acclaim—Auberge Michel (French), A Churrasqeuira (Portuguese), Adega (Mozambican), Assaggi (Italian), Beirut (Lebanese), Bismillah (Indian), Butcher Shop and Grill (South African meat), Lai Lai Gardens (Chinese), Moyo (Pan-African) and Linger Longer (continental).        

Rated one of the top 20 BARS in the world, the Radium Beer Hall in Orange Grove is the oldest bar in Johannesburg and one of the most famous pubs in Africa. Opened in 1929, this beer hall lived a double life as an elegant European-style café during the day and an illicit speakeasy at night. Soccer fans should check out the old photos of soccer teams and bands on the walls. 

MUSIC FANS should check out the gigs at The Bassline, the city’s top live music venue in Newtown, which has showcased top South African artists such as Vusi Mahlasela and Jimmy Dludlu over the last two decades.  

CAPE TOWN

A melting-pot of African, Cape Malay, slave Creole, Dutch, French and English settler stock, the region tempts visitors with the unique cuisine of ‘the rainbow nation’. 

Try the TOP TEN CITY RESTAURANTS with a contemporary South African flavour—Aubergine, Baia, Belthazar, Bizerca, Cape Colony, Five Flies, Ginja, Jardine, The Roundhouse and Savoy Cabbage—as well as a range of unique African restaurants like Africa Café, Addis, Marco’s, Mzoli’s and Nyoni’s Kraal.

DURBAN

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After working up an appetite, indulge in a fiery Durban mutton or prawn curry at one of many superb INDIAN RESTAURANTS—say Jaipur Palace, Jewel of India, Kashmir, or The Ulundi Room at the Royal Hotel—or try street food like a roti wrap or Durban’s famous Bunny Chow (curry served in a hollowed loaf of bread) at Patel’s on Grey Street, The Victory Lounge, Taste of India or Little Gujerat.  After the final whistle has blown, night hawks can discuss the day’s scores with the locals at the quirky BARS, BISTROS AND PUBS on Florida Road. 

FOODIES should head for Morningside and Berea, a culinary zone lined with good restaurants like 9th Avenue Bistro, Bean Bag Bohemia, Butcher Boys, Café 1999, Harvey’s, Joop’s and Manna. The Point and Wilson’s Wharf are great waterfront settings for sundowners over a shellfish or sushi platter at Cargo Hold, Charlie Croft’s, Oyster Bar and Phantom Ship.  
What to See and Do in Surrounding Areas

What to See and Do in Surrounding Areas

JOHANNESBURG

Take a daytrip to the West Rand and descend 60m underground into the fossil sites of Sterkfontein Caves and the Wonder Caves at the CRADLE OF HUMANKIND—a UNESCO world heritage site. These are among the most important palaeontological sites in the world, yielding vital clues about pre-historic man two to three million years ago—from Little Foot to the Taung Child and Mrs Ples.  The MAGALIESBERG and HARTEBEESPOORT DAM on the West Rand are a playground for city dwellers and tourists a mere hour’s drive from Johannesburg. Watersports, hiking, game viewing, bird watching and steam train rides on the Magalies Meander are popular tourist activities. The HIGHVELD BUSH is the ideal habitat for wildlife destinations from the Rhino and Lion Nature Reserve to game lodges like Ka’Ingo in the Magaliesberg.   

CAPE TOWN

Take a day-trip to the big five wineland attractions, within easy reach of Cape Town. 

CONSTANTIA WINE VALLEY: Constantia is the cradle of viticulture in the Cape. Governor Simon van der Stel planted the first vineyards on the mountain slopes in the late 17th century, which grew into seven cellars on the Constantia Wine Valley Route today. Do a wine tasting at Buitenverwachting, Constantia Glen, Constantia Uitsig, Groot Constantia, High Constantia, Klein Constantia and Steenberg—and dine at renowned restaurants like Catharina’s, La Colombe and The Greenhouse.  

FRANSCHHOEK WINE VALLEY: Settled by French Huguenot emigrés in 1685, the Gaelic heritage runs strong in this valley of wine cellars, vineyards, restaurants and guesthouses. The gourmet capital of the Cape is home to ‘the big five’ of South Africa’s most renowned restaurants—Bread & Wine, Grande Provence, Haute Cabrière, Le Quartier Français and Reuben’s—as well as artisanal cheeseries, charcuteries and chocolatiers. Visit 45 cellars—or go trout-fishing or horse-riding. Boschendal in nearby Simondium is another top attraction, with historic Cape Dutch buildings and a 1685 cellar, renowned restaurant, and picnics on the lawns.  

HELDERBERG WINE ROUTE: This historic settlement lies thirty minutes from Cape Town in a panoramic valley between three mountain ranges—the Helderberg, Stellenbosch Mountains and Hottentots Holland. Named after Lord Charles Somerset, Somerset West is home to a handful of exclusive wine estates in the Cape—including Vergelegen, Morgenster and Lourensford. 

STELLENBOSCH WINE ROUTE: The second oldest city in South Africa is a bustling university town of churches, museums, art galleries and authentic Cape Dutch restaurants like De Volkskombuis. ‘The city of oaks’ is named after the venerable 200 year-old oak trees that line the old-world Cape Dutch and Georgian avenues. Explore showcase wineries like Spier—and dine at the ‘big five’ cellar-door restaurants and wineries in the golden triangle: Bodega at Dornier, Guardian Peak, Rust en Vrede, Terroir at Kleine Zalze and Overture at Hidden Valley. 

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PAARL WINE ROUTE: Paarl is ‘the pearl’ of the Boland. Named after the cluster of granite domes that loom above the genteel town, it has the longest main road (twelve kilometres) in South Africa. Quaint Cape Dutch and Victorian homes line jacaranda and oak avenues, leading to the famous cathedral cellars of the KWV, the biggest wine co-operative in the world. Take a tour of the Afrikaans Language Museum, the Taal Monument and the domes of Paarl Mountain Nature Reserve. On the Paarl wine route, don’t miss highlights like the wine and cheeses of Fairview, the Cape Dutch showcase of Laborie, and the spectacular views at Seidelberg and Rhebokskloof.
   
DURBAN

Set in the scenic Valley of a Thousand Hills, PHEZULU SAFARI PARK is a colourful showcase of Zulu culture built around a traditional African village with arts and crafts shops. The Gasa clan perform traditional dances daily, offer game drives, and serve crocodile steaks for adventurous taste buds. If you’d like to try a market with an authentic African vibe, head downtown to WARWICK JUNCTION MARKET. This is one of the largest medicinal plant markets, which sells traditional muti—and indigenous street foods like amagwinya (Zulu vetkoek), umngqusho and shisa nyama (grilled meat).  

UMHLANGA ROCKS to the north of Durban is a seaside resort renowned for its beaches and luxury hotels. A popular destination with an all-year-round holiday feel, Umhlanga village teems with restaurants, sidewalk cafés and bars. If you’re after a secluded beach, head further up the north coast—called THE DOLPHIN COAST—to the popular family beaches of Ballito, Umdloti, Salt Rock and Zinkwazi.  Head out to the spectacular scenery of the UKHAHLAMBA DRAKENSBERG PARK, declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its rich biodiversity of flora and fauna. Called uKhahlamba (the Barrier of Spears) in Zulu and Dragon Mountain by the Voortrekkers, this 200-kilometre range of massive basalt cliffs is one of the top ten destinations in South Africa—with world-class reserves, hotels and guesthouses.