Johannesburg’s Central Business District (CBD) was once the heart of gold rush pioneer town Johannesburg. This is where all the biggest, best and most beautiful buildings were built. Many years later, after first the rise and then fall of apartheid this area deteriorated significantly. Residents and businesses moved out in droves as buildings were hijacked quickly becoming overcrowded with squatters. The area became a dangerous and crime ridden no-go zone in the 1990’s.
But what’s it like today? I joined an inner city walking tour to find out more.
You might want to watch your handbag (but that’s something you need to do in most big cities) and you need to be particularly vigilant for potholes and other trip hazards when walking the pavements. There are still abandoned and neglected buildings like the ghostly post office with its vacant clock tower, but there is also an eclectic mixture of architecture charting the rise and fall and current rise again of the CBD.
Within the space of just a few blocks, you can see smart office blocks and European style street cafes in Marshaltown, the financial district. There are hints at Johannesburg’s mining origins dotted about. You can see graffiti, government buildings and the ANC headquarters. Keep an eye out for the bustling Johannesburg City Library. You can also see the controversial, but fascinating vestiges of the colonial era embodied in the famous Rand Club. There is plenty more to see, but these are just a few of the highlights.
The easiest and safest way to explore has to be with one of Johannesburg’s inner city walking tours. The tour I went on was organised by Past Experiences and led by Jo Buitendacht who shares both her passion for Johannesburg and her extensive city knowledge. For such a young city, Johannesburg has a rich and fascinating history that is well worth discovering.
Johannesburg’s CBD: Avoid or explore? You decide. (Hint – try the second option).
Do the photos tally with how you imagined Johannesburg’s CBD? Have you been to the CBD? What did you think?