11 facts you didn’t know about Joburg

It was only after I returned to South Africa in early 2012 – after living abroad and travelling for two years – that I truly began to explore Johannesburg as a tourist would. And that’s when my love affair with this city began.

Here are 11 things you probably didn’t know about Joburg (with an extra fact about another Johannesburg).


1. O.R Tambo International Airport – named after the former African National Congress (ANC) president – is the biggest and busiest airport in Africa. More than 50% of the country’s air passengers pass through the airport and it serves around 17 million passengers each year.


2. South Africa’s city of gold welcomed 4.3 million international visitors in 2013, making it Africa’s most-visited city. And 2014 was the second year in a row that Johannesburg clinched this title.


3. The tallest building on the continent is – yip, you guessed it – right here in Joburg and which is it? The Carlton Centre (with the Transnet logo), which stands at 223 metres.


4. Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa and the second largest city in Africa, after Cairo in Egypt. It covers an area of 1 645 km squared.


5. It lies at an average altitude of 1753 metres and its highest point is Observatory Ridge (1 808 metres), not pictured here though.

Joburg6. There are 2 343 parks, 22 nature reserves and 15 bird sanctuaries in and around Johannesburg. That equates to 22 278 ha of green, open spaces in the city. There are over 10 million trees planted around the city and it’s possibly (there is no definitive tree census, you see) the world’s largest URBAN man-made forest. Interesting reading about that topic here and here.

Joburg7. Though Gauteng, where Joburg is located, is the smallest province in the country (it only makes up 1.4% of the country’s land mass), on average it contributes 33% to the country’s GDP.

Joburg8. The province has a population of 12.7 million and well over 4,434,827 people live in Johannesburg, according to the latest census.

Joburg9. This metropolis is believed to have derived its name from Johhanes Rissik and Johannes Meyer, who were land surveyors during the gold rush era, when the city was established on 04 October 1886 after gold was discovered on Langlaagte Farm.

Joburg10. Johannesburg has the second highest number of small-scale Art Deco buildings in the world, after Miami in the United States. The largest concentration of Art Deco buildings in the city can be found in Springs.


11. It’s also the largest city that’s not built near a waterway or water source.

Joburg12. BONUS FACT: There’s another Johannesburg in California, United States. Though considerably smaller in size and population, it was established by miners who came from the original Joburg to mine gold. That Johannesburg is found near the Rand Mountains and Randsburg ridge.

Which other cool facts do you know about Joburg?

Iga Motylska

Iga Motylska is a Johannesburg-based freelance writer, photojournalist, sub-editor and blogger. She is published in numerous local and international publications, including: Forbes Africa, Forbes Woman Africa, Forbes Life Africa, CNBC Africa, Ventures Africa, Marie Claire, Sawubona, AA Traveller, Fastjet inflight magazine and Seoul Magazine among numerous others. Her editorial interests range from documenting the entrepreneurial spirit to women's and human rights issues, environmental affairs and of course travel writing.


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  6. Thanks Iga, I’ve lived in Jo’burg most of my life and didn’t know some of these facts.

  7. Lovely post! :) Scary how few of us tour our home city.. And so interesting that there’s another Johannesburg in California!

    • Thanks Leandra! Yeah there’s so much to see and do, in fact there’s an instawalk happening this Sunday in Fordsburg if you’d like to join us. :)

    • Thanks so much Meruschka! I really enjoyed writing it, although it was tough only choosing 12 of my favourite Jozi pics, but I’m keeping some of the others for another post. :)

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