Johannesburg: 20 Facts You Might Not Have Known

Johannesburg is one of the biggest and buzzing cities on the African continent. There’s a lot more to this city than just a name and probably a lot of things that you did not know about it.

Here are 20 facts that you might not have known about Johannesburg

1. It’s the biggest city in South Africa

According to 2016 estimates, Johannesburg has a population of +/- 4.4 million people. It’s one of the 40 largest metropolitan areas in the world. It’s also the biggest city in Sub-Saharan Africa and 2nd biggest city in Africa.


2. The Johannesburg Zoo is more than 100 years old

The zoo was founded in 1904 and covers 55 hectares of land. The zoo used to house the only two polar bears in Africa.

Johannesburg Zoo

3. The city was rebuilt four times in the span of one century

First, Johannesburg was a tented camp. Then it was a town of tin shanties. Next it was a town filled with four-storey Edwardian brick buildings and finally, it became a city of modern skyscrapers. Johannesburg in 1900

4. OR Tambo International Airport is the busiest airport in Africa

It’s estimated that more than 28 million people pass through this airport’s terminals every single year. OR Tambo International has also been around for more than 60 years – it was opened in 1952.

OR Tambo International Airport

5. 40% of the World’s Gold is found in the greater Johannesburg region

The fact that Johannesburg is also referred to as ‘Egoli’ (meaning the ‘Place of Gold’) makes sense, right?

Johannesburg Gold Mine

6. It’s not the only place in the world called Johannesburg

There’s a town called Johannesburg in California in the USA. It was named by miners who worked the gold mines in Johannesburg, South Africa and has an estimated population of less than 2,000.


7. 40% of all the world’s human ancestor fossils have been discovered in and around Johannesburg.

Most of the fossils were found in the area which is now known as the Cradle of Humankind. It was declared as an UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. The site currently occupies 47,000 hectares and contains a complex of limestone caves.

Cradle of Humankind

8. It’s the home of Africa’s fastest and tallest rollercoaster

This title is held by Gold Reef City’s Tower of Terror. This vertical-drop coaster has a 47-metre drop and generates a G-force of over 6 Gs.

9. The city is very leafy

According to the City of Johannesburg website, there are 1.2 million trees within parks and on pavements and an estimated 4.8 million trees in private gardens.

Many regard the city as the world’s biggest man-made forest, but this fact is disputed. Unofficial claims say that Johannesburg has 10 million trees. In 2013, New York City had 5.2 million trees and was planning to plant another million by 2017. New York City has a population of more than 8 million people.

Johannesburg Skyline

10. Chris-Hani Baragwanath is the world’s third largest hospital

The hospital (which is located in Soweto) has over 3200 beds and 6760 staff members. Facilities are housed in 429 buildings.

Chris-Hani Baragwanath

11. Johannesburg is more than 130 years old

The city was founded on the 4th of October 1886. It’s one of the youngest world cities though.

Johannesburg in 1900

12. Mponeng Gold Mine is the world’s deepest mine

The mine is located on the outskirts of Johannesburg (near Westonaria). The mining shaft of this mine extends down to 4 kilometres below the surface. A trip to the bottom of the mine takes about an hour.

Mponeng Gold Mine

13. The Leonardo is the tallest building in Africa

The Leonardo is located in Sandton. It’s 55 storeys tall (234 m high). This building was completed in 2019. It’s not the tallest structure in the city though. The Hillbrow Tower (located in the CBD) stands 269m tall. Before the Leonardo was completed, the Carlton Centre (also located in the CBD) was the highest building in Africa.

The Leonardo

14. City Deep is the world’s largest dry port

Johannesburg the world’s largest city that isn’t located near a coastline or navigable river. City Deep was developed 1977 by South African Railways to accommodate 50% of the city’s cargo (which comes from ports in Cape Town and Durban).

City Deep

15. Johannesburg’s traffic is brutal

According to figures released earlier in 2018, the city is the 2nd most congested city in South Africa (behind Cape Town). It’s the 44th most congested city globally. Johannesburg residents spent an average of 46 hours in peak traffic in 2017. The city has more than 7500 km of roads.

Johannesburg Traffic

16. Vilakazi Street in Soweto is famous for having 2 Nobel Prize winning residents

Former South African president Nelson Mandela and former Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu lived on this street.

Vilakazi Street

17. The city has hosted the finals for the FIFA World Cup, Cricket World Cup and IRB Rugby World Cup

The 2010 FIFA World Cup final was played at FNB Stadium. A large soccer ball was fitted to the Hillbrow Tower during this time.

The city also hosted the 2003 Cricket World Cup final (at The Wanderers) and the 1995 IRB Rugby World Cup final (at Ellis Park Stadium). London is the only other city in the world that has hosted all 3 World Cup finals.

2010 FIFA World Cup Final

18. FNB Stadium is the largest stadium in Africa

The stadium has 195 executive suites and a capacity of 94,736. The stadium was completed in 1989 and renovated in 2009 just in time for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.

FNB Stadium is the home ground of Kaizer Chiefs FC and has hosted various sporting events and concerts. Guns N’ Roses, Foo Fighters, Rihanna, Bruce Springsteen, Kings of Leon, Linkin Park, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Eagles, Neil Diamond, Coldplay, Metallica and a long list of other famous artists have performed here.

FNB Stadium

19. Boiling an egg takes one minute longer in Johannesburg than on the South African coast

The reason for this is because Johannesburg is located at 1753 metres above sea level. The air is not dense.

Boiling Eggs

20. Johannesburg has a massive infrastructure

The city has more than 8000 km of water pipes and more than 8000 km of sewage pipes. It has more than 180,000 streetlights and more than 100 water towers and reservoirs. The city also has more than 1700 traffic lights.

There are more than 120 community health clinics, 10 environmental health clinics, 35 cemeteries (which cover over 600 hectares) and 59 public swimming pools.

The city has 106 dams, 394 public sport facilities and 98 public recreation centers. Despite the fact that there’s a huge amount of infrastructure, Johannesburg still has more 1000 hectares of green space in an around it.

Johannesburg Skyline

Bonus Facts:

21. Johannesburg Station opened in 1897.

22. Electric trams operated in Johannesburg between 1906 and 1961. Before this the city used a system of horse-drawn tramcarts.

23. The Johannesburg Stock Exchange (or JSE) has been operating since 1893. It’s currently headquartered in Sandton.

Well, there you have it, interesting facts that you might not have known about Johannesburg. If you haven’t been to this city and you want to visit it, book accommodation, there are plenty of options to choose from.

If I’ve left out something important, feel free to comment below. Feedback is appreciated and welcome here.

Feel free to check out my post featuring 101 Interesting facts about South Africa.

Watch this space for updates in the Facts category on Running Wolf’s Rant.

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Henno Kruger

Blogger, Desktop Activist, Twitter / Facebook Addict, Music Festival Addict, Avid lover of South African music, Founder and owner of Running Wolf's Rant

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