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

September 8, 2010 at 7:12 pm

Johannesburg is not high up on any tourist agenda.

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

Johannesburg streetlife

Johannesburg streetlife

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.

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.

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.