7 Ways to Discover Gauteng: South Africa’s Place of Gold (+Photos)

As a proud Gautenger myself, it often feels like I’ve seen it all in my home province. But when I start rounding up things to do in Gauteng for foreign visitors, I quickly realize that the country’s smallest province packs quite a punch!

monument of Mandela in Pretoria

Gauteng is the smallest yet most densely populated province in South Africa and is largely characterized by Pretoria and Johannesburg. Pretoria, the capital of South Africa, is a suburban type city with golf courses, tree-lined streets, and malls on every corner. Johannesburg on the other hand, is its edgy, fast-paced sibling, a true millionaires playground.

This province is often overshadowed by the Western Cape with its beaches and wine farms but Gauteng is a horse of a different color altogether. From vibrant markets to breathtaking nature reserves, and rich historical sites to fascinating caves, Gauteng offers something for everyone. So let me take you on a journey through the eyes of a local to see the true magic that awaits you in Gauteng.

Skip The Malls and Head To The Markets


Gauteng sadly breeds a lot of mall rats but for every mall, there is also a market! One of the top weekend activities in Gauteng is strolling around markets and browsing all manner of hand-made goods and delicious food.

A firm favorite of mine is the Pretoria Boeremark (Farmers’ Market). This Saturday morning institution has been going strong for more than 30 years and it is your top supplier of all things traditional. Eat your heart out to classics like vetkoek, jaffels, braaibroodtjies, and melkkos, staples that don’t stand back to hip fusion flavors that seem to dominate the space these days.

Farmers Market

But if a more contemporary take on markets is your vibe, perhaps Joburg icons like the Fourways Farmers Market or The Playground is more your speed. The Fourways Farmers Market is rife with artisanal food vendors, crafty cocktails, and organic produce, everything the chic Jozi folk need. At The Playground, you can sip Champagne and or chow down on charcoal burgers while DJs the vibe electric against the colorful Braamfontein backdrop.

PRO TIP: Keep an eye out for special night market editions. These are great alternatives to the usual weekend night pastime of bar hopping in Gauteng.

Take a Hike

Take a Hike

Although Gauteng is full of city slickers, these folks still value getting out of traffic and into nature. You can find some epic hiking trails right in the heart of the city or venture out to some more challenging day hikes on the fringes of the city.

In Pretoria, Moreleta Kloof Nature Reserve comes out on top time and time again for me. It is a free hike with 5 and 10-km routes where you walk among zebra, ostriches, and impala right in the center of Pretoria East. For a more challenging hike, head to the Faerie Glen Nature Reserve, known for its rugged terrain and panoramic views of the city once you reach the top of the rocky hill. Wolwespruit is also a highly popular hiking, trail running, and mountain bike location with various routes depending on your fitness level.

In Johannesburg, discover the natural beauty of the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve, home to an extensive network of trails that wind through grasslands, rocky outcrops, and indigenous forests. Alternatively, explore the Melville Koppies Nature Reserve, a tranquil oasis nestled within the urban sprawl, offering sweeping vistas and a glimpse into the region’s geological history.


PRO TIP: If you are seeking adventure further afield, the Magaliesberg Mountains beckon with their rugged terrain and breathtaking vistas. Lace up your hiking boots and embark on a journey through this ancient landscape, where every trail promises a new discovery.

Get Wild in Gauteng’s Nature Reserves

Gauteng's Nature Reserves

If a short hike isn’t enough nature for you, Gauteng also has fantastic Game Reserves where you can see some of Africa’s majestic wildlife during a day trip or you can quickly escape for a weekend with less than an hour’s drive.

Safari Lodge

Dinokeng Nature Reserve is Gauteng’s only Big 5 game reserve and with its slogan of “Africa in a Day”, it quickly became my home away from home. Here, you can embark on guided game drives or cruise on your own through their self-drive routes. For a special treat, stay overnight at one of the reserve’s luxurious lodges, such as Chameleon Bush Lodge or Mongena, for an unforgettable safari experience under the stars.

For birdwatching enthusiasts, the Rietvlei Nature Reserve is a must-visit destination. Situated on the outskirts of Pretoria, this expansive wetland area is home to over 200 bird species, making it a paradise for avian enthusiasts and photographers alike. The most famous residents of the reserve are their rhinos and cheetahs who can be spotted from the safety of your car.

PRO TIP: If you are making a day trip to Dinokeng, visit the day visitor’s area of Dula Nokeng with your own picnic basket or dine at any one of the lodge restaurants in the reserve.

Take a Walk Through Formative History

Voortrekker Monument

Gauteng is steeped in history and is arguably the best place to discover the formative past of the Rainbow Nation. Begin your historic journey at the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, a towering edifice that pays tribute to the Voortrekkers who fled from the colonial Cape region into the unknown in search of a new homeland.

Tough as it may be, it is important to acknowledge and explore South Africa’s dark past too. For a poignant reminder of South Africa’s turbulent past, visit the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, where interactive exhibits and multimedia displays provide insight into the country’s journey from apartheid to democracy.

Apartheid Museum Entrance
Apartheid Museum Entrance

You should also visit the corridors of power at Constitution Hill, a former prison complex that now serves as a symbol of South Africa’s struggle for freedom and justice. Take a guided tour to learn about the landmark cases and historic events that have shaped the nation’s legal system and see where activism heroes like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi were imprisoned.

PRO TIP: Visit the Union Buildings in Pretoria for one of the best views in the city. This is especially true from late September until November when Jacaranda trees are in full bloom, painting the city purple.

Dig Into the Prehistoric Past

Cradle of Humankind

Although recent historical events have left deep imprints in Gauteng, its prehistoric roots are also mighty impressive. The Cradle of Humankind just outside of Krugerdorp is one of 10 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country and offers a fascinating journey through the origins of humanity. This expansive area is home to a wealth of archaeological sites and fossil-rich caves that provide valuable insights into our evolutionary past.

At the heart of the Cradle of Humankind lies the Sterkfontein Caves, a network of limestone caves that have yielded some of the world’s most significant hominid fossils. Explore the depths of these ancient caverns on a guided tour, where you’ll marvel at the spectacular rock formations and learn about the groundbreaking discoveries that have shaped our understanding of human evolution.

Inside the cave , stalagmite

After exploring the caves, venture out into the surrounding landscape to visit other notable sites in the Cradle of Humankind, such as the Maropeng Visitor Centre. The tour starts with an entertaining boat ride taking you through the ages of the world’s existence. You then move into interactive exhibits and multimedia displays that bring the story of human evolution to life, allowing visitors to embark on a virtual journey through time and space.

PRO TIP: The Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens is only 20 minutes down the road of the Maropeng Visitor’s Center. Combine these activities for a fantastic day out of the city.

Search for Gold or Diamonds


The name Gauteng translates to “place of gold” in Sotho and Tswana so it is only right to learn a little more about South Africa’s biggest export when visiting. The province was largely industrialized off the back of the gold mining industry that was established in the late 1800s and it is still going strong today. You can choose between thrilling rides at the prospecting-themed theme park, Gold Reef City, or go underground with mine tours at Kromdraai, one of the country’s first gold mines.

The charming town of Cullinan just outside Pretoria is a day trip favorite of mine. The town formed around the diamond mine where the largest diamond in the world was found, the infamous Cullinan Diamond that now sits in the royal crown jewels. Descend into the depths of the earth, tracing the footsteps of miners past as you witness firsthand the journey of raw diamonds from underground veins to polished gems. After exploring the mine’s tunnels, wander through the town of Cullinan itself, where Victorian-era architecture and charming streets echo with tales of diamond fortune and fame.

PRO TIP: Cullinan is very lively on weekends and a popular spot for breakfast runs with motorcycles. Keep an eye out for markets hosted regularly or go for a beer tasting or pub lunch at one of the quirky restaurants in the historic town.

Get Creative with Ceramics


With the hectic 9-5 lifestyle that undoubtedly rules Gauteng, locals live for the weekends and finding fun ways to blow off some steam. A craze that seems to be standing the test of time is ceramic painting with several establishments popping up in recent years.


I am a regular at the Clay Café in Pretoria and their immersed-in-nature setting is just what the doctor ordered. Here you can enjoy brunch with a side of painting and pick up your baked artwork in a few days. The Big Red Barn in Irene was one of the first pottery painting venues in the province and its reputation remains steadfast as a sanctuary for creatives under the shade of their eucalyptus trees.

PRO TIP: If you are looking to do a ceramic session, phone ahead and ask how long the firing process takes. During holidays there is usually a long waiting period and you could miss picking up your piece if you are only in town for a short while.

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