The Nelson Mandela Bridge

The Nelson Mandela Bridge is a relatively new addition to the Johannesburg skyline, but has already gained iconic status, with an impressive 248m span that is lit up in all the colours of the rainbow at night.

Mandela Bridge at night. Photo courtesy Gauteng Tourism Authority

The bridge, which spans the railway which separates Newtown and Braamfontein, near the city’s central business district, was built in 2003 at a cost of R38-million.

Blue IQ, the brains behind the project, was intent on building a bridge that would modernise and rejuvenate the inner city, and inspire locals and foreigners alike with its impressive design. The aim was to link the vibrant Newtown precinct with the Braamfontein business area, providing easy, safe access to the outskirts of the central business district.

Mandela Bridge at sunset. Photo courtesy Gauteng Tourism Authority

Construction of the bridge proved to be operationally and logistically challenging: the engineering team had to devise a way to construct the bridge across 42 railway lines without disrupting rail traffic.

The Nelson Mandela Bridge, which was designed by architectural firm Dissing and Weitling, is the biggest cable-stayed bridge in Southern Africa. It was specially designed to be lightweight – a combination of structural steel and concrete composite deck ensures that it is as light as possible while offering stability and strength.

Panaramic view of Nelson Mandela Bridge. Photo courtesy Gauteng Tourism Authority

According to Engineering News, about 4 000m3 of concrete and 1 000 tons of structural steel were used to construct the bridge, with about 500 tons of reinforcing steel cast into the concrete.

The bridge honours the name of South Africa’s first democratically elected president; and the structure itself is symbolic of Nelson Mandela’s role in bridging the apartheid divide.

Walkway on the Mandela Bridge for pedestrians. Photo courtesy Gauteng Tourism Authority

You can enjoy views of the city when driving across Nelson Mandela Bridge, or walking on one of its two pedestrian lanes. There is also a bicycle lane to ensure that cyclists are safe while navigating this busy city route.

The bridge is a great way to see the city for free, but it is recommended that visitors who want to explore the bridge on foot do so only during the day.

Crossing the Mandela Bridge towards Newtown and the CBD. Photo courtesy Gauteng Tourism Authority



Visiting hours

The bridge is open all hours, but it is advisable to visit during the day


Take Jan Smuts Avenue (M27) in the direction of the Johannesburg city centre. Drive straight through Braamfontein. Keep right at the fork to drive over the bridge