Explore the colonial gold-rush era



Sitting on top of the world’s largest gold reef, Gauteng is a province that has long been shaped by the search for gold. To understand how the discovery of gold made Gauteng what it is today, follow this gold-rush trail. If you have only one day, combine a tour of Pretoria’s grandest colonial buildings with a visit to the Cullinan diamond mine. On a two-day visit explore the museums and streets of the historical Johannesburg city centre, while three days will allow for more time to discover the hidden treasures found in Johannesburg’s suburbs.

Day 1

Start the day with breakfast at Cafe Riche, on historic Church Square in the heart of Pretoria’s City Centre. This is the oldest cafe in Pretoria and still retains many art nouveau features.

After breakfast make a visit to the beautiful Victorian mansion (now a museum), Melrose House. It is here that the accord ending the Anglo-Boer War (the South African War) was signed, a copy of which can be viewed in the ballroom.

Take a 30-minute drive east of the city to the Premier Diamond Mine in Cullinan. Take a two-hour tour of the working diamond mine where the world’s largest diamond was discovered.

After the tour take time out to enjoy lunch on Cullinan's pretty main street lined with quaint colonial-era mining houses.

Back in Pretoria follow the Antique Route 6, a collection of 12 antique shops that sell everything from furniture and ceramics, to old books, maps and other curios.

Before the sun sets head to the iconic Union Buildings, Pretoria’s most famous landmark, designed by Herbert Baker to mark the Union of South Africa in 1910. Although you cannot go inside the building you can admire the expansive views over the city from the lovely terraced gardens.
Make a booking for dinner at the delightful Ritrovo Ristorante, a busy restaurant in the Pretoria suburbs serving delicious southern Italian food run by a charming father and son team.

For after-dinner drinks visit the Capital Craft Beer Academy in Menlo Park, a large beer hall-style bar that sells dozens of different kinds of local and international craft beers.

Day 2

Constitution Hill

Constitution Hill

The little breakfast bar Post, in student hangout Braamfontein, is an ideal place to start your first day in Johannesburg, the gold-rush city. Although the area is now filled with modern skyscrapers, it still retains evidence of a colonial past visible in historical buildings such as the Kitchener’s pub.

From here it is a short distance to Constitution Hill, a large colonial-era fort and later prison complex that now houses an excellent museum. Don’t forget to take a walk around the old fort ramparts for a great view over the city's skyscrapers before you leave.

The very first settlements surrounding Johannesburg’s mines were established in Newtown and along busy Diagonal Street. With its hawkers, traders and traditional medicine shops, you can still get a sense for what life might have been like in an earlier Joburg.

Stop at Newtown’s SAB World of Beer for a fun and interactive tour dedicated to all things beer. The tour even includes a drink at a recreation of an 1890s Johannesburg saloon.

For lunch head to Fordsburg, the city’s Indian quarter and scene of the first miner’s revolts in the early 20th century. Fordsburg's mix of Indian, Middle Eastern and Muslim East African residents make it a great place to find delicious spicy food. Look out for the many blue plaques marking Fordsburg’s heritage buildings along the main streets, Central Road and Mint Street.

Step back in time to the Victorian period on a visit to the Four Seasons Hotel The Westcliff. Perched high on one of the city's ridges, you can almost imagine yourself as a gold-rich Randlord as you look out over the leafy suburbs below.

For dinner and drinks head over to nearby Melville, popularly known as Johannesburg’s Bohemian suburb. It has plenty of quirky restaurants to choose from and a lively nightlife scene centred on the main strip, 7th Street.

The African Lion bar at the SAB World of Beer

The African Lion bar at the SAB World of Beer

Day 3

Start the day with breakfast at Delta Cafe, a laid-back cafe located in an old farm building overlooking the wide green spaces of Johannesburg’s Delta Park.

After breakfast visit the Ditsong National Museum of Military History, which contains a fascinating collection of thematic displays that cover key events in South Africa’s military history, such as the armed resistance to apartheid and the Anglo-Boer War.

Feed the ducks, row a boat or just a take a much-needed rest at Zoo Lake, one of Johannesburg’s most popular and oldest parks just a short distance from the National Museum of Military History.

For lunch visit Parkview’s Tyrone Avenue, a quaint suburban high street that has some excellent cafes and gift shops selling high-quality local crafts.

Make your way to the Carlton Centre in the Johannesburg city centre. The 50th-floor viewing deck is a great vantage point to get a sense of the scale of the city and to spy the distinctive mine dumps that are all that now remain of the city’s gold mines.

From the Carlton Centre take a stroll through pedestrianised Main Street, a historical street lined with the grand headquarters of the world's leading mining companies, as well as old mining relics such as stamp presses and wagons.

With prior arrangement you can drop in for a drink at the nearby Radium Beerhall in Orange Grove. Although the surrounding area has seen better days, the pub retains an old-fashioned charm and its platters of peri-peri prawns are famous.