15 Interesting Facts About Johannesburg, South Africa [Explained]

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Johannesburg, also known as Jozi, is the financial and cultural hub of South Africa. The city’s airport is the busiest in the entire African continent, reflecting both its popularity and importance. Therefore, you can be sure there are plenty of interesting facts about Johannesburg through its years of development.  

Historical Facts About Johannesburg

The Gold Rush In Johannesburg

An Australian by the name of George Harrison discovered gold in Johannesburg in 1886. The South Deep Gold Mine is the largest in the world in terms of reserves. 

One of the main reasons that Johannesburg is such a successful city is because of this great gold rush of 1886. After the discovery, the population of Johannesburg rose significantly. 

People and businessmen from all over the world made their way to the city to take advantage of the blossoming new opportunities.

Johannesburg Is The Cradle Of Life

This is one of the most fascinating Johannesburg facts of all, and it relates to the origins of human beings. 

An astonishing 40% of all the world’s human ancestor fossils and remains have been discovered in areas around the city, specifically at archaeological sites near the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site. These excavations have told scientists a lot about human evolution.

It Used To Have The Tallest Buildings In Africa

Another proud fact about Johannesburg is that they have one of the highest buildings in Africa. The Leonardo, which stands at 234 meters, actually was the tallest in the continent from 2019 to 2023, until the Iconic Tower in Egypt dethroned it.

In fact, the Iconic Tower is the first building since 1965 to hold the ‘tallest building in Africa’ label outside Johannesburg. Before the Leonardo, five other buildings in Johannesburg held the status of the tallest building in Africa.

Cultural Facts About Johannesburg

The city has one of the most vibrant local cultures in South Africa so you can uncover many fun facts about Johannesburg from just walking around. .

Kwaito Music Originated In Johannesburg

Kwaito, a uniquely South African style of house music, emerged from the streets of Johannesburg in the early 1990s. Blending house rhythms with African drums and chants, Kwaito gave voice to disaffected black youth struggling under apartheid (more on this further below). 

Local artists pioneered this gritty, uplifting sound that resonated in clubs and taxis across the township of Soweto and beyond. Kwaito became the soundtrack of freedom for young South Africans yearning for change.

It Is A Great Destination For Sports Lovers


Johannesburg holds the distinction of being the only city in the world to have hosted the finals for the FIFA World Cup, Cricket World Cup, and IRB Rugby World Cup – three of the largest international sporting events.

The 2010 FIFA World Cup final featuring Spain and the Netherlands was played to a capacity crowd at Johannesburg’s Soccer City Stadium. In 1995, the Rugby World Cup finals took place at Ellis Park Stadium when South Africa defeated New Zealand 15-12. 

The Wanderers Stadium hosted the ICC Cricket World Cup final in 2003, seeing Australia defeat India. 

These major events solidify the city’s reputation as a world-class sporting destination. It is one of the impressive facts Johannesburg locals are super proud of. 

Comedian Trevor Noah Was Born Here

The famous comedian and talk show host, Trevor Noah, was born and raised here before eventually relocating to the US. 

Noah started his entertainment career in South Africa and carried on doing what he loved, even after he moved to the US. The world’s richest man, Elon Musk, was born and raised in Pretoria, South Africa, which is just 45 minutes away from Johannesburg.

Useful Johannesburg Facts For Travelers

O. R. Tambo International Airport, which serves Johannesburg and Pretoria, is the busiest in Africa. Millions of people travel to and from Johannesburg every year because it is a beautiful place with a lot of fun things to do. 

Let’s take a look at some useful Johannesburg facts to help travelers in their visit.

The Maboneng Precinct Is One Of The Best Places To Visit In Johannesburg

Maboneng is a vibrant arts and culture district located in downtown Johannesburg, known for its galleries, shops, restaurants, and street art. 

The precinct spans several blocks that were once deteriorating, but have since been refurbished and transformed into a trendy creative hub. It has become a prime destination for experiencing Johannesburg’s cosmopolitan energy.

The Apartheid Museum Is An Important Historical Site

South Africa has had a very turbulent past that is riddled with racism issues. This unfortunate Johannesburg fact is something that the locals aren’t very proud of. Nonetheless, they serve as great learning lessons as the nation progresses.

The Apartheid Museum, located in the city, documents the 20th-century history of South Africa under apartheid, which was the system of institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination that existed in the country from 1948 to the early 1990s. 

It provides visitors with an in-depth look at the separation and oppression faced by non-white citizens during apartheid rule. The museum plays an important role in educating new generations about this troubling period.

It’s The Home Of Africa’s Fastest And Tallest Rollercoaster

Thrill seekers flock to Johannesburg to ride the Tower of Terror, Africa’s tallest and fastest rollercoaster. It is located at the Gold Reef City theme park just south of the city. 

Towering over 111 feet, the Tower of Terror is a great ride for anyone looking for an adrenaline rush. It is one of the reasons why Johannesburg is sometimes also known as a destination for extreme amusement rides.

Simple Facts About Johannesburg For Kids

Here are some facts about Johannesburg that children might enjoy learning about.

There Is Another Johannesburg In America

There is a small mining town in California also named Johannesburg. It is located near the Rand Mountains. 

Many miners who worked in this mining district also worked in the gold mines in South Africa’s Johannesburg. The Johannesburg in California was thus named in tribute to these miners.

It Is The Most Populous City In South Africa


One very well-known fact about Johannesburg is that it is the largest city in South Africa when it comes to population. With over 6 million people, it is also one of the most populous cities in the whole of Africa. 

By land area, Johannesburg is the third largest city in South Africa, after Pretoria and Bloemfontein respectively.

It Has One Of The Largest Man-Made Forests In The World

Johannesburg is home to one of the world’s largest man-made forests, with over 10 million trees having been planted throughout the city’s many parks and green belts. 

Today, the lush urban forest acts as the “green lungs” of Johannesburg, improving air quality and providing habitat.

Common Facts About Johannesburg

Curious to know more? Here are some other tidbits and facts about Johannesburg to broaden your knowledge base.

Nelson Mandela Lived And Died In Johannesburg

Nelson Mandela lived in different places in South Africa throughout his life. His private residence, Mandela Mansion, is located in Johannesburg, where he lived out the last days of his life. He spent his final months receiving intensive medical care in this home. 

Mandela’s official memorial service was also held in the city of Johannesburg. His burial site lies on a hilltop in the rural village of Qunu.

The Johannesburg Stock Exchange Is The Largest In Africa


The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) is the largest stock exchange across the entire African continent. 

Founded in 1887, around the same time as the discovery of gold in the region, the JSE had a major role in funding the subsequent mining boom. It has grown substantially to become one of the top 20 exchanges globally based on market capitalization. 

The JSE is Africa’s premier exchange for trading stocks and securities. It operates across multiple asset classes; from equities, derivatives, and bonds; to commodities, interest rates, and currencies. 

For a developing region, the JSE provides crucial access to capital markets.

Africa’s Largest Hospital Is Located In Johannesburg

Another great fact about Johannesburg is that it’s home to the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital – the largest hospital in Africa. It has over 3,400 beds and over 6,500 staff members. 

Considering that healthcare is still very much underserved in Africa, this facility is an important landmark that plays an essential role.

The massive tiered facility was built in 1942 under apartheid for the segregated black population. It is speculated that around 2,000 patients visit the hospital every day.

Discovering More Fun Facts About Johannesburg

Johannesburg is one of the best places to visit in Africa. If you are an avid traveler who loves to discover different cultures, then a visit to Johannesburg is an absolute must. It is a beautiful city with much to explore and plenty of opportunities for memorable experiences. 



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Welcome To NomadsUnveiled
This is Rax. For over a decade, I have traveled to over 60 countries - from a budget backpacker to a business traveler, expat and then a digital nomad. You can find insights and perspectives from myself and other world travelers that will inspire your journey of discovery.


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