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.
The bridge, which spans the railway that 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.
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.
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 doesn’t only honour the name of South Africa’s first democratically elected president; the structure itself is symbolic of Nelson Mandela’s role in bridging the apartheid divide.
Nelson Mandela Bridge is a fantastic place to enjoy views of the city. You can drive across it or, if you prefer to appreciate the view at a slower pace, take a walk on one of the 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 we encourage visitors who want to explore the bridge on foot to do so only during the day.
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