Constitution Hill#3 in Best Things To Do in Johannesburg
Located in the city's Braampark neighborhood, Constitution Hill provides travelers with a mix of old and new Jo'burg. For those looking for historic Jozi, there's the Women's Gaol, the Old Fort and Number Four, three former prisons that were used to separately house female, white and black political prisoners until 1987. Famous inmates of Number Four include Mohandas Gandhi and Robert Sobukwe, while the Women's Gaol once held prominent female activists like Winnie Madikizela-Mandela, Fatima Meer and Albertina Sisulu. And iconic anti-apartheid leader Nelson "Madiba" Mandela holds the distinction of being the Old Fort's only black prisoner, kept here because of his status and escape concerns.
Also within steps of the former prisons is the Constitutional Court. Known as South Africa's highest court (much like the United States' Supreme Court), the Constitutional Court was founded after apartheid ended in 1994 and continues to serve as the highest court in important legal and constitutional matters. The property also features several noteworthy elements, such as a low-lying window that allows people to look into the court from outside (which represents the court's transparency) and an eye-level judges podium decorated with different Nguni cowhides (indicative of the diversity of the bench and equality between judges and lawyers).
According to past travelers, a tour that includes visits to the prisons and Constitutional Court is your best bet. While the prisons – which recent visitors said reminded them of concentration camps – left some feeling disheartened by the city's past, exploring the neighboring Constitutional Court can provide a sense of hope and amazement at how far South Africa has come.
To visit Constitution Hill, expect to travel by bus – there are five bus stops (four Hillbrow and one Braamfontein) within a few blocks – or by car. City Sightseeing South Africa's Red City Tour also includes Constitution Hill as one of its tour stops. An admission fee of 50 rand (around $3) for adults and 20 rand ($1) for students and children is required. A discounted 25 rand rate is available for senior citizens. A 90-minute tour is included in the entrance fee; other tours, including one offered at night, are available for an additional fee. While hours vary depending on the day, all of the property's attractions typically open at 9 a.m. However, expect shorter hours on Wednesdays, weekends and public holidays.
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#1 Apartheid Museum
For a thorough understanding of South Africa's appalling apartheid era, a visit to Johannesburg's Apartheid Museum is a must. The museum features a series of graphic yet informative exhibits, including an array of hanging nooses that represent the execution of 131 government opponents and a series of televisions that show footage of anti-apartheid residents being attacked and killed. The museum also features several interactive exhibits, such as a room where visitors are invited to move a stone from the right to a pile on the left to show their commitment to fighting discrimination and racism. There's also two museum entrances – one for whites and one for nonwhites – to denote the physical separations once apparent during apartheid.
Although several recent travelers warned that you will feel emotional while making your way through this attraction, many agreed that the Apartheid Museum's heartbreaking atmosphere is necessary to help you truly understand what occurred during this period. And remember to take your time here. With so much information to digest, at least a few hours (if not a full day) is recommended.
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